By JERRY MAHONEY
Imagine you’re at the train station, taking your kids into the city to see the Lion King. A man steps off the 6:16 from Grand Central, and two toddlers run up to him shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!” He gives out two hugs and about a thousand kisses and tells them how much he missed them while he was at work. You’ve witnessed scenes like this many times, but as always, your heart melts. Then the dad stands up, walks a little further down the platform and kisses… another man.
Well, that’s different.
“How was your day?” the first guy asks, and the other one starts talking about who got time outs, why the kids have maple syrup in their hair and who flushed what down the toilet right before they left.
OK, back to normal.
You’ve probably done the math by now — Look! Gay dads! — but there’s a decent chance you’ll feel a tug on your leg, and your kid will look up at you and ask, “Yo, what’s the deal there?”
This is the story of my life. I am a gay dad, and I confuse children.
I’m sure it happens more than I realize – at the supermarket, at the park, at MyGym. Just by acting like any other parents, my partner Drew and I are inadvertently sparking countless conversations that start with, “Where’s their Mommy?”
You’re free to handle that question however you want, of course. But if you don’t know where to begin, allow me to help.
You see, when Drew and I decided to have kids, we knew that the gay dad job description would include explaining our family to the world for the rest of our lives.
It’s also why I am kindly providing you, the sympathetic straight parent, with some guidelines. (Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm.) Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.
I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it. After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.
If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Use the word “gay”.
Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay”, but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive. We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids. That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.
“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max? They’re gay.” “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey. They’re lesbians.” “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.” Don’t make a big deal about it. Just say it. If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah? So what? So are Uncle Max and, most likely, Brainy.”
You could also use the word “queer”, I guess, but then your kids and I will just think you’re a pretentious dweeb.