Are You Raising a Homophobic Child?

Intolerance is like a virus spreading from one generation to the next, and parents have to examine their own biases in order to stop the bigotry.

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When I was growing up, the first sport I wanted to play was softball. My friend, who lived next door to me, played, and pangs of jealousy ran through my body every time she talked about her games. I remember one spring I begged my mother to sign me up for the softball team, but she said she wouldn’t because the coach was a “d–e.” Mind you, I was about 8 years old when she told me that.

“D–e,” “b–ldagger,” “l–bo” and “f–” where some of the terms I heard in my “Christian” household. To this day, I still don’t know from where “b–ldagger” originates, but it was my grandmother’s term for lesbians. I didn’t realize the softball coach was a lesbian until my mother told me. I was never to go near her, even though she was always outside playing with the other kids.

So here I was, the kid who wasn’t allowed to join the softball team because the coach was gay. I felt like the outsider. At that age, I did what I was told. So there was no softball for me.

It’s said that racism is taught from childhood, and I think the same can be said about homophobia. Recent comments on an article posted on The Root about having more gay couples on television brought back a lot of memories from my own childhood. There were plenty of “not in my house” or “why are you forcing gayness on us?” comments. I shuddered to think what these people were actually teaching their kids about gay people. Were they teaching them that they’re an abomination, or were they teaching that gay people should be treated no differently from everyone else? Unfortunately, if I were to assume anything, it would be the former.

The negative words and hatred I learned at home became a part of my life. I treated gay people as if they were lepers when I was a kid, and it wasn’t discouraged. But then I learned in seventh grade that my words and actions weren’t OK.

I had a friend who had two mothers. But at the time, I didn’t realize it. When they would come to pick her up from school, I always assumed one was the mother and the other was an aunt. It never dawned on me that they were actually a couple.

That was until I spent a Saturday at their house. My friend and I were playing in the living room, and I excused myself to get a cup of water. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw her mother kissing the woman who I had assumed was my friend’s aunt. I gasped and ran out.

I asked my friend did she know her mother was a l–bo. I used that exact word. My friend yelled at me. When the adults heard the commotion, they walked into the living room and looked at me as if the world were about to end.

My friend’s mothers talked to me that evening and made sure I knew that that word wasn’t allowed in their home. They explained to me that, although they weren’t legally married, they did consider themselves “wives.” I asked my friend why she never told anyone she had two mothers, and her response was that she didn’t think it was a big deal.

After our talk, the mothers asked if my feelings for them had changed, and I told them that they hadn’t. It was from that day on that I realized homosexuality wasn’t something that should be shamed or ridiculed. Unfortunately I had to learn it from people who were not in my family.