I’ll admit it. It was the combination of Mitt Romney and porn that got my attention and caused me to stop and read Chris Kelly’s HuffPo takedown of Romney’s appearance at the National Right to Life convention. (His politics make skin crawl, but even I have to admit that he’s pretty easy on the eyes.) What came to mind, as I Read Romney’s rather odd rant about a children’s book was something I’d been meaning to write about for a while, but never quite got around to it.
“And parents of a child in second grade were told that their son is required to listen to the reading of a book called The King and the King (sic) about a prince who marries another prince. The school’s rationale was since same sex marriage was legal, the education system should advance the idea… I immediately drafted and introduced legislation to grant religious liberty protection, but the legislature wouldn’t even take it up.”
This is, of course, not the first time a children’s book (the mere presence of one, let alone an actually reading) has given some religious conservative parents fits. Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy’s Roommate, and And Tango Makes Three have also had that honor. And while I understand the concerns parents may have about what they’re kids are exposed to at school, there’s an underlying reality they’re missing as they get overwrought about fiction & fairy tales.
The reality is that whether your kids ever read or even hear about those books, they will encounter gay families because they’ll go to school with our kids. At some point, they’ll figure out that someone has two dads or two moms, because most of us are involved enough in our kids’ lives that we’ll actually show up for parent-teacher meetings, field trips, school plays, recitals, and little league games. We may even chaperone the occasional school dance.
Heard of the “gayby boom”? More of us are opting for parenthood these days, and even moving to the suburbs. Maybe even one near you. That means your kids will grow up next door to ours, or maybe just down the street. If they’re very young, they’ll inevitably play together because small children don’t much care who’s what color or who has gay parents. At least, not until they’ve been “carefully taught.”
They’ll probably go to each other’s birthday parties. They’ll ride the bus together in the mornings, and walk home together in the afternoon. They’ll hang out together. Who knows? Some of them might date each other, possibly even marry each other. (That means your grandchildren might also have two grandmas or two grandpas, who might also show up for family events. In your family!) And if your kid’s secretly gay themselves, they might see positive examples of the options available to them in their lives, and you’ll miss your chance to raise the next Mark Foley or Ted Haggard.
Scared yet? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. People had all of the same basic fears when schools integrated and black started moving into previously “exclusive and restricted” neighborhoods. And, yes, some people’s worst fears came to pass.
Why? Because it’s a lot more difficult to hate someone who lives next door to you, goes to your school, and maybe even dates your sister, especially after you’ve seen them go about their lives and the day-to-day business of being a family. Eventually, you realize that they don’t have horns or tails, drink the blood of Christian children, or host “Black Sabbaths” by the light of the full moon.
After all, we now live in a world where four out of ten Americans have close friends or family who are gay. Given the trends I just mentioned, that gay teens are coming out in numbers sufficient for some schools to start gay/straight alliances, and just more of us are coming out, period. And studies suggest that knowing someone gay is linked to greater support for equality. That includes your kids.
You may teach your kids whatever you want about homosexuality and gay people. They may never so much as lay eyes on the books mentioned above. But at some point they will look around them, see what they see, and make up their own minds.
And that’s no fairy tale. It does include a “happily ever after,” though, depending on which side of history you’re on.