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Call out Homophobia for what it is.

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I knew my son was gay for years before he told us. He just had such good taste and from such an early age. And he loved to come shopping with me 😉 I’m being flippant of course, but we just knew. When he finally sat down last year, at 16 to tell us, it came as no surprise.

“I want to tell you something,” he said, “I’m gay.”

“We know,” we said.

Then we all watched telly. Well, we did have a bit of a chat – why now? Are you ok with us telling the rest of the family? And so on. But basically it was not a stressful conversation. We laughed quite a bit.

“Emily said you’d be cool with it,” he said “she said – for god’s sake, your Mum has been practising in front of the mirror for ten years for this moment.” Emily was right.

My son is a beautiful young man with a good heart and an ability in Art that blows my mind. He’s thoughtful, kind, funny and just easy to get along with. The fact that he’s gay is completely irrelevant in terms of how much I love him. I don’t love him in spite of being gay. I don’t love him because he’s gay. I just love him and everything he is.

So when I see that a man has walked into a nightclub and killed over 50 men and women; that he targeted them specifically for being gay, it strikes a fear into my heart that is almost too much to carry. I want to keep my son home, tell him never to go anywhere where he might be targeted. But then they win, don’t they? The fear in my heart is their reward for the hatred in theirs. I can only replace it with hope if I’m to win.

We should not let the fact that this man mentioned ISIS before he targeted this group of people blind us to the fact that this was a hate crime. We should not let anyone use their religion as a shield for hatred. No religion on this earth preaches hatred and anyone who claims to be Muslim or Christian who thinks that killing is justified, is sinning in the eyes of their own God. The sanctity of life trumps all.

This was a crime of hatred. Hatred IS the thing. It’s a thing we should tackle as parents. As teachers. As human beings who want to live in a peaceful and loving world. Every time we hear a child calling another one, or even a thing, ‘gay’ we need to stop. Not stop it dead. But stop and examine it. You don’t stop hatred by driving it under ground. You don’t stop prejudice by making a child feel bad. You stop it by examining it for what it is. By talking about it. By being explicit that if you use a word to mean that something is rubbish and that word describes a group of people, you are, by association, saying that that group of people are rubbish. Is that what you really want to say? And if so, why? You see prejudice thrives in the dusty corners that we turn a blind eye to. Every “they didn’t mean it,” “it’s just a turn of phrase,” “it’s harmless” is not only a denial of the problem; it adds to the problem. I once went into my son’s primary school concerned that he was constantly being called “Gay Boy”. He was only 10. I was dismissed by a headteacher who said “Oh it’s just banter – they don’t mean anything by it.” People like him let the dust settle until it becomes a choking threat. I wish I’d said more to him.

My 9 year old came home the other day.

“Everyone kept saying my brother was gay today.”

“What did you say?”

“So what if he is!”

It’s a good answer and I’m glad he felt confident enough to say it. We need all children to be able to say ‘so what’? And to be able to do that, we need schools to be confident enough to tackle the issue in the way they would tackle racism.

By labelling this “just” another terrorist attack, we turn our eyes away from the complexity of hatred. It lives everywhere. And only by shining a light on it, seeing it for what it is, can we have any chance of defeating it. And replacing it with hope.

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Author: debrakidd

I am the mother of three boys and for 21 years was a teacher. I now write about education mostly and travel the world trying to spread the word about how children learn.

13 thoughts on “Call out Homophobia for what it is.

  1. We never actually had the coming out conversation. It wasn’t really needed. There are gender issues too. I don’t really understand. I accept my (now adult ) child for who they are. Sexual orientation is what it is & doesn’t matter to me until I have to worry about safety. Ignoring the nature of the attack is denying the problems that the LGBT community have over and above those faced by the test of us. I agree with everything you’ve said. Thank you for saying it.

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  2. Sending huge love from one mum of a gorgeous son to another xxx

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  3. I too have a child who is part of the LGBT community. They are about to fly the nest and go to University this Autumn. I have no fears about their ability to be independent but plenty about how they will be treated away from their close, supportive group of friends.
    Best of luck to your son he sounds lovely.

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  4. I’m with you all the way. My son is currently in the US, making a life for himself there. It was so hard to let him go, but he has found a larger stronger support network of friends there. That doesn’t mean I don’t still fear for him, especially when things like Orlando happen. He was bullied by his first supervisor at KMart, but of course, in such a way that you can’t prove anything; and he was 15 and not yet out to us though like you, we’d known for a long time. When he was at Uni and had a late night (studying theatre design & production) we used to drive to pick him up. I feared too much for him catching the train out to the Eastern suburbs late out night. He was abused and threatened only once on the train, I think, but that’s once too often. Best wishes to you, your son and your family.

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  5. Debbie, I wish my parents had been so cool. Your story is touching and inspiring. I am proud to be your friend.

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  6. Excellent post and we do need to do a lot more work, especially in schools where the insult “gay” is bandied about like it’s nothing. My son was bullied for over a year before he told me, and I kicked up a stink at his school, and luckily was taken seriously. He’s 11 and I don’t know if he’s gay or not, but I won’t have something totally normal and natural being used as a slur against my child or anyone else’s.

    All my kids seem to be somewhat gender fluid, and I’m just so proud of them that they are growing up confident in who they are. I hate that they might now feel nervous to go out with their friends, but I will work to encore age them never to give in to the fear, or the haters have won.

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    • That’s how it was for me too. I liked their fluidity. So far one straight, one gay and one still to find out. The headteacher of my son’s school, when I went in aged 10 said “perhaps they tease him because he spends his time playing with girls – you should get him on the field playing football with the boys!” I wish I’d been more vocal in my response to that. I just sat in stunned silence!

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