Friday, February 27, 2015

Pop Parenting Quiz - The Gay Edition

It finally happened.

I overheard my oldest child, at nine years old and in grade four, mumble without thought, “That’s gay.”

My head jerked up from the laptop. I’d had one ear open for the boys’ voices while they shared turns on their tablet, and now my hackles were on the rise. I called over the boy-child in question—reminding myself that he is, in fact, a child—with a sinking sensation in my gut.

Here we go.

We have rules in our house. Rules for kids and rules for parents. Our parenting strategy dictates that you can’t get someone in trouble for an infraction without a warning and an explanation as to why that particular act is outlawed. Second time through? Open season.

That’s gay.

I shuddered inwardly, my mind running, scattered... Was he old enough for that to be tossed around so blithely? Did parents actually allow their children to repeat that in this day and age?

We ran over the basics—what does being gay mean?

I was satisfied with his answer that it meant a man loved another man, and added that it covered women (as lesbians), and that relationships—like families—take many different shapes.

I asked him where he’d heard the phrase. Suspicions confirmed: the schoolyard. (Gah!)

I asked him what it means when someone says something lame is girlie—they’d gotten a lecture on that a few years ago, and it had sufficiently nixed that adjective as a default negative from their vocab.

He shuffled his feet, “When said like that it’s an insult to every girl we know. Including you.”

“Exactly. And that term? Saying something’s gay? That’s horrid, to use that term that way. It’s as bad as a swear word—it sounds ugly. Disgusting. And no one should ever say it like that.”

The eyes went wide. He hadn’t considered it on a level of—oh, horror of horrors!—a swear word!

“But Mom,” he said tentatively. “You told us being gay was not a bad thing...”


Gah. The kid had me on the ropes. I had to proceed carefully...

“It’s not a bad thing. But describing things with that term is insulting to anyone who is gay. And you never know who you’re insulting. Because unlike the word ‘girlie,’ you can’t look around and see who’s gay. Because gay people look just like everyone else.

His eyes: saucers. The barbarity, of accidentally cutting someone deep without knowing the victim or anticipating the wound. Silence.

“You have better words you could use,” I offered. “Good words. Words that no one would mind hearing, right?”

He nodded emphatically. “Like ‘kabloosh.’”

Buh...? Er...

“Sure. Like kabloosh,” I agreed. “Great word. Highly preferable to ‘gay.’ And I’m sure people will know what you mean through your context.”


“You’re going to hear a lot of people use a lot of different language in this world. Kids, adults, everyone. And some people are going to say things that aren’t right. Just because you hear it doesn’t mean it’s okay. Dad and I are trusting you to use your judgement and not repeat things you can tell are bad words and sayings. And if you ever want to know what something means, you come and ask. You’ll never get in trouble for a question.”

Vigorous nodding in response.

“You will, however, get in trouble if I ever hear you say ‘that’s gay,’ now that we’ve had this chat. Understand?”

More vigorous nodding, and then he was blessedly dismissed.

Whew. I think that went okay... Except, I realized later, that I should have pushed pause on the youngest boy’s tablet turn and given them both the same lecture at once...

So I suppose I can expect a surprise retest at a later date... sigh.

Can Mr Lannis be on the receiving end next time?


  1. Well done cuz. When I was your age to be gay was to be happy and then it changed and I couldn't be gay any more, bugger. That made me think, maybe it has changed again so Dr. Google to the rescue, and guess what.....
    Bloody English language....grrrr. 👴

  2. Thanks, Gerrard!

    And while I understand the philosophy behind the reclamation/changing of language debate, I'm still not satisfied. I'll err on the side of raising adults who have better verbiage. ;)

  3. Gerrard McGuinnessMarch 2, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    Not sure that I see verbiage in a positive way.