On self-loathing, violence and children

One of the saddest things I learned in this sad week after the murder of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando was that the killer, despite his openly gay-hating rhetoric and his eventual massacre of a crowd of gay people, often went to the club and was on a gay dating site himself. Homophobia was well-named in his case. He was deathly afraid of something in himself and enraged by seeing it reflected in others. Earlier in the week, I accidentally referred to the “50 people” who were victims of this homophobic, homicidal rage, and a friend deftly reminded me that the number was 49. But my slip turns out to have been correct. All 50 were victims of a hatred of queer sexuality.

When I encounter adult homophobes, I admit I am without patience. Whatever they need to process is between them and their therapist–if only they had one, which would be good–and I don’t want to deal with it. But as out, queer parents of a school-aged child, we run into it from children more often, and it’s opened up patience and compassion in me. With them, I try to remember that when they say something like “You can’t have two moms!” or “That’s gross!” they are often begging for someone to say to them, calmly, “Yes, you can have two moms” or “There is nothing gross about two men who love each other,” because what is underneath the insults may be “I think I might be one of those. Is that wrong and bad and disgusting, the way some people think?”

I want these kids to hear, from me, from other adults, “You know LGBTQ people. You love them. I know and love them too. They’re good people.” In case their clumsy lashing out is the sign of the first stirrings of queer sexuality in them, as it may well be, I want them to know that the answer to the question they don’t dare to pose is “Yes, I accept you as you are.”

Our school is blessed with a wonderful social worker who takes homophobia seriously and responds in this loving way. When a kid wrote some homophobic graffiti and poked fun at Mookie last year, the social worker brought them in and said to him, “Do you know anyone who’s gay?” He said, “My cousin.” And she said, “When you say things like that, it hurts people like your cousin. We don’t want to do that.” I don’t know if this kid will turn out to be gay, but what he took away was surely a message that if he is, he already has friends and supporters. And if he keeps hearing that, then he will not pick up a gun to try to blow his homosexuality to smithereens and try to wash it away in a tide of blood.

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