From The Facebook Archives: A Series Of Very Short Thoughts
What do you say when you overhear elementary school students calling each other ‘gay?’
Ah, Facebook. The love-hate relationship I’ve had with you for so long. I’ve taken quite a hiatus lately, and I have to say I haven’t missed you all that much. However, there is one feature of yours that I definitely like, and that’s the “On This Day” portion that shows memories and things I posted a year or ten ago.
In today’s archives, I found this one from 2017, where I was relaying a story from the school where I worked. Reflecting on it two years later in 2019, I am reminded of the continuous, long road of upwards mobility that we still need to make. In some ways, things are worse now than they were two years ago. And I’m sure there are a few ways in which things are better…? Maybe? I don’t know. It’s hard to have hope some days. Regardless, this was my question two years ago on this day:
Yesterday I heard a 9 year old boy say to another 9 year old boy, “Naw dude! If you wear makeup, you’re gay!”
I turned around and judging from the look on his face and his friend’s, they both knew he had said (or insinuated) something wrong.
So I asked him, “Why would you say that?”
The boy answered, “because he told me I should wear makeup! He said I’d look good in makeup and then laughed at me!”
Unamused, I responded back, “You do know that makeup doesn’t make a person gay, right?”
To which he responded, “I meant ‘happy!’ Gay means ‘happy!’”
Me: “I know what you meant when you said that. I understood your tone. And I don’t think you meant ‘happy.’”
He didn’t respond to that. Long pause.
During that pause, I wondered how to handle this situation without stigmatizing the word “gay.”
Me, after a few seconds: “Let me tell you something. First, anyone can wear makeup if they like it and it makes them feel good. Second, if someone is gay, it’s their job to tell you; not the other way around. And third, being a gay person is not a bad or a wrong thing. Please stop using the word that way.”
My thoughts afterwards, reflecting on this:
1. How do we shut down this outdated, ignorant mindset? I get that some parents teach their kids that being gay is a biblical “sin,” or that it is bad, wrong, or evil. I get that it’s not my job to “morally educate” people, but to me this issue is about basic human rights, not morals.
2. What would you say? (Genuinely asking).
America, we have a looooong way to go. But for my part, I’m erring on the side of show up, stand up, speak up. Always.
Martie sir-ROY (she/her) writes a variety of (sometimes polarizing) social commentary. She is a top writer in Culture for Medium, editor of Gender From the Trenches, and has been a featured contributor for HuffPost, Scary Mommy, NPR affiliates, and SiriusXM Insight, among others. Martie is also the founder of S.E.A.R.CH., a program of her local LGBT Center for trans & gender nonconforming youth ages 12 & under and their parents. Connect with Martie on Twitter, Facebook, or follow her website & blog.