Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Beware of Wildcat

I have three children, two sons and a daughter, in that order. My daughter is the only one left at home. Her two brothers are away at college.

My daughter and I have a relationship pretty typical of other mother/daughter relationships that are at this stage in the game. One day I am her hero and best friend, the next day the worst person in her life. Thankfully, I can say that with each passing year our relationship becomes closer and more special and the major meltdowns between us are fast becoming long ago memories at which we can both shake our heads and laugh.

She is a wonderful kid and I am very proud of her. She is an amazing student with grades that would make any parent beam. She juggles an outside job, community service, student council, and devotes time to several pet causes. She is a great athlete and is always on one team or another. She has wonderful friends and manages to balance social life and school and do well in both. Sometimes when she is totally immersed in something like a good book, or a silly phone conversation, or an aggravating physics problem, I just stare at her and thank God that she is my daughter. She is a beautiful blossoming young woman one moment and an awkward, easily embarrassed kid the next. She is at a funny juncture in her life, on the one hand working towards more independence and responsibility and actively pulling away from us and on the other hand working her way through some of the usual awkward stages that come with being a teenager who still needs parental guidance. It can sometimes feel as though we are living with two different people.

I would describe my daughter as a very sweet, low-key, (and most of the time) quiet girl. At social gatherings I observe her and she is polite, respectful, actively partakes in conversations, but exhibits no signs of needing or wanting to be the center of attention. She can easily be embarrassed (usually by one of her parents) and will go out of her way to avoid being confrontational with anyone (except of course one of her parents). In fact for most of her young life she has been content to just blend in with her group of friends, be normal, and not draw unnecessary attention to herself. BUT a lot of things changed once she learned one of her beloved brothers was gay. I saw a side of her emerge that truly made my jaw drop. Now, if someone makes a derogatory remark or tells a joke about gays she is the first one to step up to the plate and put the offender in his place. I was shocked the first time I witnessed it. She reminded me of a wildcat. My sweet little girl, who can be so easily embarrassed at the most benign things, had found her reason to step out of her comfort zone and be the center of attention. All her inhibitions evaporate, her face turns a little red, her eyes have fire in them, and she speaks her mind in a no nonsense voice making it absolutely clear that NO ONE is going to tell a joke or make a snide comment at the expense of a gay person in her presence. And on those occasions that I have had the pleasure of witnessing, the offender (usually twice her size) takes a step or two back, literally shocked at the sudden transformation of this quiet little girl to wildcat in attack mode. I, was utterly taken aback the first time I witnessed it, she had found the courage to do what I could not. She speaks up, she does not agonize in silence, she makes it clear that it is never funny to make gays the punch line of a joke. Her message is loud and clear: gays are not the joke, homophobes are.

And I have to wonder, how many more sisters and brothers are out there ready to pounce? This generation is different. They are not going to be silent or easily intimidated by the pulpit bully crowd. They are the generation that actually has friends who are gay. They are the generation that understands that gays are really no different than themselves. They are the generation that considers this issue a non-issue. They are the generation that is not going to tolerate the homophobic jokes and bigotry. They are the generation that is going to speak up.

So let this be fair warning to the Dobson, Falwell, Robertson crowd. Your days of using homophobia, hate, and fear to fatten your bank accounts and destroy families like mine are numbered. It is not going to wash with this next generation. They are too smart to buy your hateful hogwash nonsense. Share

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