Thursday, January 10, 2013

Telling My Eight Year Old Godson I'm Gay

Three days after I came out to my students, my friends Jen and Jon and their eight year old son and my godson, Jonah, came to my house to celebrate my forty-third birthday.  While the four of us were eating, we started talking about my blog and the thousands of people who had read it because of the link on Out.  Jonah asked his dad, “What was his blog about?” 

Jon said, “James told his students something and wrote about it.” 

Jonah asked, “What did you tell them, James?”

Jen and I looked at each other and, like the moment where I knew with my students that now was the time to tell them, now was my opportunity to tell Jonah I'm gay.  You might wonder why he didn't know.  The reason is there was never a good opportunity to tell him.  It never came up in conversation.  I haven't had a boyfriend that would make it obvious to him.  I could have deliberately told him, but that felt contrived. 

Unlike my middle school students, I never worried about telling Jonah.  Jen and Jon know I'm gay; many of their friends are gay.  They would have been and are fine with Jonah knowing I or anyone else is gay.  I think it's like this for a lot of gay people.  Finding a natural  moment to tell someone you're gay if you've not made a comment that reveals it doesn't always  present itself.  The alternative is saying that no matter what on this day and at this time and in this situation you will tell someone you're gay. 

I smiled and said to Jonah, “I told my students I'm gay.”

“Do you know what gay means, honey?” Jon asked.

“It means a boy wants to marry a boy and a girl wants to marry a girl,” Jonah said. 

So simple. So beautiful.  Out of the mouth of an eight year old boy.

Jonah said, “I voted no.” 

“We all voted no,” Jon said, “Mommy and daddy, and James, and if you could vote, you would have voted no too.”

“They weren't going to let a boy marry a boy if he wanted to or a girl marry a girl is she wanted to,” Jonah said. 

What Jonah referred to was the Marriage Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would have defined marriage between a man and a woman.  Minnesotans United for All Families, the organization against the amendment created a Vote No campaign that featured bright orange and blue yard signs.  Many people in Minneapolis where Jen, Jon, and Jonah live placed them in their front lawns.  Jonah saw the signs and Jen and Jon explained the signs.  They also explained gay in a way that he would understand in conjunction with these signs: gay means a man loves a man and wants to marry that man or a woman loves a woman and wants to marry that woman.  Not letting them do this is wrong.  This is what two gay accepting parents can teach their child.  This is the future generation if we, straight and gay people alike, continue to teach children that gay people deserve acceptance and awareness and respect and rights. 

We finished our meal and went into the living room.  Jonah said, “Mom, can you take a picture of James and me on the couch?”

I'm not sure why he wanted a picture of the two of us right at that moment, but I like to think that he wanted to capture the moment and create a memory:  when James told me he was gay.  Or at least that's how I look at the picture now:  when I told Jonah I'm gay.  He looks content. I look happy.  That’s the way it should be when you tell a child you’re gay. 

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