There are some conversations that are so weird that they always stick with you.
One of those conversations is a conversation that I had long ago about the children of “non-traditional” couples. Specifically, what was meant was the children of inter-racial marriages or the children of LGTBQI parents.
The objection would always start the same way, “I’m not bigoted but…” Now, in all fairness, I don’t want to write a sanctimonious post saying yes, yes you are bigoted, because it’s not really fair, and more importantly, it’s not really helpful. What I want to know is the anxiety that gets produced on behalf of kids, and why it is believed that expressing this anxiety on behalf of the kids is somehow seen as appropriate. From whence cometh this notion that somehow the parents of children can taint their kids with their marginalization and social stigma?
But whenever I hear this construction (think of the children!) in person, I get nervous when the speaker gets to “but” because the thing that follows after is always going to be some tacky defense of an unacceptable status quo.
“I’m not a bigot, but those parents should think of the children.” Ruh-roh! What does one mean “think of the children?” Response: “Oh, they’ll be bullied and made fun of.”
“Really? By whom?”
Here I am often greeted by an incredulous look as if I am missing something extremely obvious about the world. “Umm, other kids? Haven’t you heard about gay suicides?”
Here I smile at the absurd inanity of this question-begging response. This smile as makes people uncomfortable (as they should be): “And why would those kids make fun of the children for the attributes of their parents?”
::more nervously:: “Because their parent are different…”
“And how do the kids know they are different?” Usually at this point there is a moment of silence and their eyes widen in realization, but silence continues. “Because of bigoted people like you who tell these kids that those parents are different and that their children have something to be ashamed of.”
This brings me to the internet posting that inspired this. This author, a mom, says: “I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something more in-depth about my sweet boy and his choice of Halloween costume. Or more specifically, the reactions to it.”
Her son dressed up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. She wonders: “Seriously, WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF A CHILD IN A COSTUME ON HALLOWEEN?”
This mother didn’t have to wonder for very long. “The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.”
Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp. And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, “Doesn’t he look great?” And Mom A says in disgust, “Did he ask to be that?!” I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn’t I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock and dismay.
And then Mom C approaches. She had been in the main room, saw us walk in, and followed us down the hall to let me know her thoughts. And they were that I should never have ‘allowed’ this and thank God it wasn’t next year when he was in Kindergarten since I would have had to put my foot down and ‘forbidden’ it. To which I calmly replied that I would do no such thing and couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. She continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed… (emphasis added by me because the moms, not the kids, would doing all the heavy lifting in mocking this poor child)
Another mom pointed out that high schools often have Spirit Days where girls dress like boys and vice versa. I mentioned Powderpuff Games where football players dress like cheerleaders and vice versa. Or every frat boy ever in college (Mom A said that her husband was a frat boy and NEVER dressed like a woman.)…
I hate that my son had to learn this lesson while standing in front of allegedly Christian women. I hate that those women thought those thoughts, and worse felt comfortable saying them out loud. I hate that ‘pink’ is still called a girl color and that my baby has to be so brave if he wants to be Daphne for Halloween…My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.
This doesn’t just happen with children. Another of example of a ‘but clause’: “I’m not a big believer in police brutality or a defender of the police’s attitudes toward men color, but I can understand how someone could think bad things when people who look a certain way are always shooting at you.”
No, no, I can’t understand how we can defend the organizational racism of our so-called defenders because they allege that only people of color shoot at them as they loudly speak of their fears in the mostly white enclaves they call their social circle.
These are bad people who think wrong things and we have to stand up and say it.