My Son, The Bigot
Some years ago, when my son was in the second grade, he went through a phase where he declared things he didn’t like to be “So gay”. I considered something but figured it was just another school fad that would pass, like that goldfish swallowing thing in the 1930’s or the 60% high school dropout rate in the 1980's.
Broccoli? “So gay”.
Bedtime? “So gay”.
Baths? “So gay”.
And it wasn’t just just things that started with B, either.
So, of course, I let him get away with it for too long. But when he compared being gay to being forced to put his plate in the dishwasher, I knew I had to do something.
“Dad, stupid Youtube isn’t letting me binge watch Slenderman videos any more.”
“That’s because I turned on parental controls, buddy. Going forward, you’ll just have to use your own imagination to fuel your nightmares.”
“Parental controls? That’s so gay!”
“Don’t say that.”
“Say what?” he says, genuinely confused because, of course, he has no idea what gay even means, to say nothing of the Stonewall riots.
“Say that everything you don’t like is gay. You’re associating only negative things with gayness. You don’t say Toaster Strudels are gay or Minecraft is gay, just stuff like bedtime and putting up the toilet seat.
“My point is that I don’t say gas prices are gay or my job is gay or even the washing machine — that I’ve had to have fixed twice this month — is gay, do I?”
He thinks about it. “No.”
“Right! You have other words, use them. That’s all I’m saying.”
He stares me at me. “You don’t call that stuff G-A-Y,” he spells, carefully. “You say it is ‘Fucking bullshit’”.
I give him a hard look.
“Should I say that, then?” he says. “That stuff is…” and then he mouths inaudibly what he knows he’d damn well better not repeat.
Kid’s not crazy.
“No. Just say something else. There are lots of other words you can use besides what you’ve been saying or what I — an entire grown-ass man — would say. I suggest you find some.”
“But I still don’t know why I can’t say it,” he says.
I know that this is a teaching moment and I should tell him that, even if he doesn’t intend to be hurtful, it’s insulting to other people. And that hurtful words often precede hurtful actions.
But I’m already tired of the conversation, so instead I say, “Because it makes you sound like a dumbass.”
“Well, okay,” he says, through with it, too. “But I’m telling mom you cursed at me.”
“I don’t give a shit,” I say.