Her statement came out of nowhere so it took everything I had to not spit out my mimosa, not only because it was expensive, but also because I didn’t want my friend to think that those words were appalling in any way. It was just that her statement came from nowhere.
Of course I took the approach of reaffirming that if that was the case, her daughter is an amazing young lady and deserves love and support. I also made a few educator-in-me comments that reassured her she’d be supported in school.
On the way home, I thought “What if I were in her shoes. What if one of my daughters came to me and said they were in love with a girl. How would I respond?
I’m sure I’d respond with love, support, encouragement…in a calm manner. I’d likely say, “Cool everyone deserves to be loved and even dumped at least once in their life. You’ll still want to slash a tire or two.” The more I thought about it, the less confident I became.
I am a 20 year teacher. I have seen first hand the bullying and trauma students go through when they reveal they are gay, transgender, or identify with any group that doesn’t follow ‘the norm’ society has historically deemed acceptable. I continue to read about young adults committing suicide, being brutally attacked and even murdered because someone thought they were different.
I hate saying that! Why is being gay, transgender or gender non-conforming considered different?! It should be just like if you like broccoli over carrots. Who cares?! Live your life! My students catch the fiercest version of me if I hear one of them say “That’s so gay” or “You’re so gay!” Why is that a negative thing. It’s just a part of a person like brown hair or freckles. Come on!
Okay…rant over, back to my moment of truth. Where was I?
If one of my daughters came to me and said “I’m gay.” How would I really respond? I’d hug them and tell them how amazingly courageous a person has to be to live their truth in a world of ignorance. And I’d ask all the questions and be as curious as a mother always is about the romantic interests of our children. Is she smart? Does she respect adults? Tell me about her family? When can I met her?
Deep down I’d be thinking, “Are you sure you want to take this chance?” Are you sure you are in love with her or do you just love your friends that happen to be girls. I’d be worried about her safety if she’s holding hands with a same sex partner and walking at night from a movie to the car? I’d be worried she wouldn’t get a job she’d worked for. I’d be worried family members and friends would ostracized her and I might even tell her to pray it away, as if falling in love with a person of the same sex could be.
Sexuality is so fluid among human beings now. It’s no longer you are this or that. Now you can take your time and analyze and reanalyze who you are. Maybe my child would be at the part of life’s journey of trying to figure out how to fit in when she was really made to stand out.
Maybe my friend’s daughter is gay or maybe she’s bisexual, but the one thing I know for sure is that moms (and dads) must keep our lines of communication open. Our children need and want hear we support them. I want my daughter to know that I will do everything to continue allowing her to feel safe and comfortable coming to me. Every child should be safe having tough conversations with their parents. I don’t know if my friend’s child is gay, straight, bi, trans, gender non-conforming or trans, but I do know they are loved.
Luckily everyday I have the option of talking to the greatest resource I have, students who are brave and have publicly acknowledged their love for a same gender partner. Or one who has declared they may look like one gender but identify with the opposite.
So now. What if it were my daughter? I am glad I’ve had this honest conversation with myself so I can be prepared for that day if it does happen. I’m happy I did. I’m good with it. Now, if she came home one day and questioned our shared love of Netflix cooking shows…I’d be crushed!
Here are some of the resources I go to when I have teachable moment opportunities with my students as well as to inform personal conversations:
NaShonda just recently finished her 20th year teaching in North Carolina Public Schools. Arriving by way of Pennsylvania, she enjoys working with students of all ages and abilities. She’s been featured in TIME magazine for her continued advocacy to improve public education. She lives in Wake County.