Recently, while playing outside, Dude got into a confrontation with some neighborhood kids and was called ‘gay’. He came in the house and told me about the scuffle. He was upset about the taunting and physical aggression that went along with the exchange but was confused about the insult ‘gay.’ He didn't understand why the boys used that word.
I sat there for a moment, looking at my boy and realised it was time for a life lesson I wasn't sure how to approach. My mind was spinning through the complicated issues of homosexuality, sin, choice, accountability, nature verses nurture and the millions of ways this conversation could go off track. I have to tell you, I panicked for a minute.
Then, I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and realised that only one thing really mattered, there was only one lesson he had to learn from this experience.
"What does gay mean?" I asked him
"I don't know. I think it maybe means dumb or something but that doesn't make sense."
"Why doesn't that make sense to you?"
"First, if it does mean dumb then they picked the wrong word. I'm not dumb, I'm very smart. But I don't think it means dumb because I saw one time a thing on the newspaper that said 'Gay Pride' and I don't think someone would be proud of being dumb."
"You're right, it doesn't really mean dumb. When those boys called you 'gay' that's probably what they meant but that's not really it means."
"What does it mean then?"
"The word 'gay' has had different meanings over time but right now, in our culture, 'gay' is the word that is used to describe men who love men."
"Like, love them like brothers?"
"No, Buddy. Love as in boyfriends."
"Mom, is that okay with God? Y'know for men to love men like that?"
"Honestly, Dude that's a pretty big question. Some people think that being gay is a sin and that if someone is gay then they are going to go to hell and that, understandably, makes gay people really hurt and angry. There's a lot I'm not sure about but I know that to God sin is sin, there is no sin worse than any other kind of sin. I know that the Bible says that if you ask Jesus into your heart then you get to go to Heaven. And I know that God wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. That's what I know, so that's what I try to do."
"Do you know any gay people?"
"Yes, I do. I have some family members and some friends who are gay."
"What are they like?"
"They are just like me and you. They are smart and funny and kind and loving. Sometimes they are angry and mean and say the wrong things or do the wrong things. They are just regular people."
"So is calling someone 'gay' wrong?"
"If you are trying to hurt or embarrass someone, then yes, it's wrong. Whenever you take something that is a part of a person, part of who they are and what they believe is right and good and use it to hurt them its wrong. Everyone deserves to be respected."
"Everyone deserves to be respected. Got it."
Everyone deserves to be respected, got it?