Ignorance is the Problem
To the Guy with Dazzling Blue Eyes and Curly Brown Hair in Ninth Grade US History:
You were wrong.
I should have told you that ten years ago, but you were cute and I wanted a love interest; after all, high school had just started, and homecoming arrives quickly. I admired you from afar for awhile. I wasn’t quiet in our class, but I didn’t really talk to you: I talked around you. I talked in a way that was meant to get you to notice me. You sang in the high school musical, you made intelligent comments, you were taller than me (a precious physical commodity, especially straight out of junior high)…you were perfect! And the day that you called someone gay in a tone that was obviously intended to make sexual orientation sound like a synonym for stupid, I tried to make excuses for you. We lived in white suburbia, and there wasn’t a lot of diversity. Maybe you just used the term because everyone in junior high did.
But then when we were choosing topics for our persuasive speeches, you wanted to know why we couldn’t argue against gay marriage, and a few kids echoed your question. What kind of teacher would prohibit us from arguing such a contentious moral point, you wanted to know? I heard you talking about your faith, about how your church said that it was wrong to be gay. No two people of the same sex could ever be in love. And that I couldn’t excuse.
I teach ninth grade English now, and no matter how vehemently I tell one of my students that her or his crush isn’t worth the time of day, they don’t listen. I was the same way: completely heartbroken, despite the fact that you were so very wrong.
I know now that you were probably parroting what you heard at church and at home without much consideration, as so many students do. If I had been perceptive, I might have wanted to meet your mother. If I could meet her today, I might ask her to imagine the most significant emotional pain that you had ever experienced as a child or teen—the way your personality suddenly changed, the way you brooded, the way that your anguish was excruciatingly visible to her, even if it went unnoticed in other realms of your life. I would then ask her what she would have done to help you through that pain. If she is similar to most parents, she would probably respond, “Anything.”
Then I would tell her about how badly it hurt when I heard you dismiss my parents’ love and lifestyle. I would tell her that my crush on you was subsequently crushed, but it still didn’t feel good. My mom noticed, and I told her what had happened. She also knew about the time that my little brother went to play with one of the only boys his age in our neighborhood, only to be told that he wasn’t allowed to play with him anymore because of our parents’ lifestyle. She knew about the time that I started attending church with my friend in junior high, completing the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation during seventh and eighth grade. She watched me grow in my faith, and though she had long ago been alienated from Christianity because it condemned her to a life of pretending she was something she wasn’t, she supported my journey and my beliefs. She was also there when my church invited a “converted” gay man to speak at our service, reminding us that homosexuals are immoral. She took my tearful phone call when I asked to leave a sleepover with the same friend who had brought me into the church because she told me that due to their unhappiness, homosexuals die far sooner than their straight counterparts. My friend said this, knowing all the while that I had two moms at home. My mom lived through the agony of watching her children suffer disappointment after disappointment, all a direct result of ignorance of those around us.
I would ask your mom: what kind of parent would CHOOSE to be gay, knowing that it would lead to struggles and pain for her children?
The answer: no parent. Clearly sexual orientation is not a choice, and prohibiting two people who love one another to marry and raise children together is morally wrong. My parents raised me in the best way possible, and the only problems caused by their sexual orientation came from those who didn’t bother to get to know us; instead, these champions of morality introduced my brother and I to the idea that having two moms was somehow different and wrong.
You didn’t know any of this, and you had probably never thought enough about gay marriage to even formulate an opinion about gay parents. I’m guessing that you probably wouldn’t have pictured my brother and I growing up to be straight (yes! Turns out our parents didn't "convert" us to homosexuality!), intelligent, well-adjusted individuals, despite the supposed “lack” of some essential parental component in our lives. My brother and I were lucky enough to have a loving, supportive childhood. Because of the confidence that my mother has instilled in me, I know enough now to say that your ignorance does not hurt me anymore. I hope that you have watched the news, read an article, or met someone who had more maturity than I did as a ninth grader. Maybe this someone has already told you how mistaken you are to dismiss the love of a family with two same-sex parents.
Even if you have figured it out, this letter doesn’t hurt, either.
As waves of change keep rolling across our nation, my most fervent hope is that children with LGBTQ+ parents experience less ignorance than my brother and I did. Other kids will notice their family dynamic, and they won’t look twice. I know we will get there. Until then, the Rainbow Letters will have to show the world that growing up in a Rainbow household isn’t so different after all.