Our gay son is also in town and staying with us. He is doing some post-graduate work and will need to live here in Arizona for about 6 or 7 months to complete the program he is in. And of course this has meant he had to temporarily leave his boyfriend and his home, both in California, in order to get this done, an inconvenience they agreed they'd soften by alternating visits on days off.
Yesterday my son mentioned that his boyfriend has a 4 day weekend this weekend and would be coming to Arizona for their first visit. Now ordinarily I would not even give this a second thought, but I had not yet gotten around to telling my ex-sister-in-law that my son is gay. And despite my brother's assurances that his ex-wife would be fine with their little girl being around my son and his boyfriend, I still had a nagging little worry that this could present a problem for her. After all, I had already had one brother (my homophobic evangelical brother) tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I was NOT to bring my gay son and any boyfriend he might have around him or his family, which also includes an adorable 8-year old little girl. So I admit, I was a bit skittish about telling my ex-sister-in-law about my son being gay and his boyfriend's coinciding visit - hey - once bitten, twice shy as they say.
Well I worried for nothing. Telling her was a non-event. Not even a blip on the radar. And she said it would not be an issue for her daughter either. They have numerous gay friends, including a gay couple they visit and stay with in San Diego. The conversation could not have gone better and I started feeling badly that I had anticipated trouble -- partly because she was from Alabama and partly because of my other brother's nasty reaction.
Shame on me for not giving her the benefit of the doubt - lesson learned.
But the most delightful part of this story came in an email I got from my ex-sister-in-law a few minutes ago. She wanted to let me know that she spoke to her daughter and told her that her cousin Michael and his boyfriend Kyle would also be there when she came to visit. And her response was a question: "okay, are they called gay?" to which her mother said yes. She then followed that up with another question: "so what do we call opposite gender couples?" (and yes, she said "opposite gender" and not "opposite sex" when she asked the question - smart huh?) Simple curiosity, followed by thoughtful questions, followed by thoughtful answers. No horror, no drama, no damage, no fear. This will be a child prepared for a world full of diversity and wonder.
It all goes to show you, children are very adaptable. They are born without bias or phobias. It is we adults who instill our bigotry and hate in them. And I am very grateful, and a lot ashamed, that I so misjudged my ex-sister-in-law in such a big way.
Below is a clip that this whole incident reminded me of. And it is further proof that children will not break or be freaked out if they are exposed to deviations from societal norms: