TJ has been coming home from school this week concerned that other children were telling him that being gay is a bad thing. He is fairly open about most things and was quite happy to tell me that other boys had said that there was a 'gay' toilet in school and that TJ must be gay because he used it (I've no idea where this toilet is - but school can be a funny place), he then went on to say that people use the term gay in a derogatory sense in school (obviously he didn't use those exact words) but he did tell me that certain friends say that things are 'gay' when they mean they are rubbish...'That's so gay... etc'. Obviously, this is quite a common use of the word in today's youth speak but for TJ, at this current time in his life, it has different connotations. As he is coming to terms with acknowledging that his Dad's are gay and that there are gay people in his world to suddenly hear negative views must be very confusing for him.
I remember a couple of years ago I was asked to speak to our local council about bullying in primary schools - they were obsessed with cyber bullying and how to tackle that. When I brought up homophobic bullying in schools I was simply told, "That doesn't really happen in primary schools - its just a bit of banter at that age." and the conversation was moved on...
Well, as more and more gay parents send their children to state schools then schools have to recognise that the 'harmless banter' is incredibly hurtful and confusing to many of our children, especially as they become more aware of differences in family life.
TJ has been telling his friends that the reason he doesn't have a mum is because she is in prison for doing a variety of horrid things, one of which is smoking. I know this because his little friends told me and at that age they are obsessed with families that are different - be it a same sex family or a single parent family. At this stage my main concern for TJ is that he has gone from being confident about his family to lying about his background - this may also explain some of his recent 'acting out' in school.
The Sprog is getting more aware - someone said to me that children shouldn't be learning about this type of thing at such an early age, but on the flip side it is also said that if a child is old enough to ask then they are old enough to be told the truth - all be it in a child friendly way. So it was back to the book 'Let's Talk About Where Babies Come From' which covers a great range of families and how they are created. (In the USA its called 'It's Amazing') an excellent book that he can understand and which I think TJ can be introduced to now.
Interestingly today is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) and this morning I used the opportunity to broach the subject of homophobia with the children - how it was not ok to discriminate against anyone. The Sprog said, 'You mean like when people say that being gay is bad?""that's right," I replied at which point, to my horror, TJ said, "Gay... eeeeurgh! Gay is horrid!"
Wow! I had to stop, the Sprog stared at TJ with his mouth open. "You can't say that," he said, Daddy and Papa are gay, that makes them sad."
"Are they?" TJ asked and he looked at me questioningly. "Yes, we are," I replied. "What's gay?" asked TJ. "It's where two men or two ladies love each other," the Sprog told him, "It also means happy." he added. "Oh," TJ said, "I thought being gay meant being dead." He wouldn't be drawn any further on the conversation but I wonder if other kids have said 'Your Dads are gay' and he has assumed they mean dead, which again could explain some of his recent behaviours. Of course, I may be over thinking it... (that happens a lot!). But one thing is certain, homophobia and homophobic comments start at a very early age - and it needs to be discussed openly and honestly at both home and at school - after all we wouldn't allow racism at home or in school and this is exactly the same.
I sat with both boys and we talked about TJ's Godfather, who is very involved with the Pink Dot movement in Singapore and I explained that unlike England, in Singapore it is still not allowed for two men to love each other. The Sprog looked horrified, "but then Uncle wont be able to find someone he loves and get married," he said. "Well, Uncle is in love but no, he can't get married in Singapore," I told him, The Sprog ran and got his pink dot cushion that Uncle had given him, "So this means that men should be able to love each other?" he asked. "Yes, that's right," I said. "Then why doesn't Uncle come to live with us? That way he can be happy with his love." The Sprog said.
I wanted to point out that the very reason that Papa and I had come back as because we wanted to have a family and as the laws changed in the UK so it seemed the right time, Papa then got offered a job and we came. I didn't add that in Singapore our four years together were not recognised so Papa nearly had his partnership visa revoked - luckily we had friends in the British High Commission who were able to help us get together all the correct documents but it did mean that Papa and I rushed our civil partnership through in 6 weeks in order to ensure his visa was correct. To be honest his work visa would have come through in time for him to start his new career but if he lost his job then he would have had to have gone back so it was better to get a partnership visa. Once full gay marriage is approved we will have a proper ceremony as so many of our friends and family missed out on our rushed Civil Ceremony. But back to the kitchen.....
TJ was listening intently to it all... "Let me get this straight," he said in his serious grown up voice, "Being gay means two men that love each other, two ladies that love each other or being happy?" "Pretty much," I said. "So is the Candyman gay?" he asked.
The Candyman had just come on the radio - as it does every Friday on Radio 2.
I was a bit stunned... "I don't think Sammy Davis Junior was gay,"I told him. "I meant its a happy song," he said disparagingly, "and you said that gay also means happy."
"Yes, yes, this is a very gay song," I said. The Sprog looked at me, "So are you saying its good or bad?" (obviously we had gone full circle back to gay being a derogatory term). "What do you think?" I asked him.
"Its a good thing!" he replied smiling. And the three of us danced around the kitchen to 'The Candyman" - How gay is that?
In the meantime I shall keep an eye on developments in school for both kidss... and I will definitely let TJ stay up for Eurovision this weekend!