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.