By Edward Lovo
Funny story. I come home and my father is mowing the lawn. He stops to tell me that he’d like to speak with me. I start worrying. When my father needs to have a talk, something’s up.
I’m waiting inside and he comes soon after, taking a seat next to me. He asks about school and how I’m doing. I answer him. But now I’m worried that something’s up with school and somehow he knows something I don’t. Change of topic.
My father mentions a couple of comments I made on Facebook to a dear friend of mine who left to Leicester to study law. One comment was “I miss you” on his wall. The other was on his profile picture, where he’s adorned in suit and tie, and I said, “Everything that I look for in a man. Dresses sharp and takes shit seriously.”
Immediately I knew. I begin laughing uncontrollably at the thought that my parents were worried that I was gay. My parents, my mother having just joined us, chuckle with relief and seek assurance from me that I’m not gay. I assure them. My parents are relieved and tell me that the each of them had sleepless night over the thought that I might be gay. My father goes so far as to say, “That would have been the worst thing that could have happened to me: to have of one of my sons turn out gay.” My father admonishes me for my Facebook comments, saying that people will misconstrue me as gay, carrying the obvious insinuation that that’s bad.
Funny story? As you’ve gleaned from my anecdote, I’m a straight male; but I’m also an ally to the LGBTQ community. I found hilarity in my parents easily misconstruing my behaviour, but I also experienced deep disappointment in their reactions.
I wanted to get angry. I wanted to start an argument over how they neither should’ve been anxious nor relieved. I’ve already had so many arguments with my parents turn sour over similar issues. But I didn’t feel like taking up arms with my parents that day. “Save it for another day,” I thought. This ‘humorous’ incident was bound to turn into one for reflection.
I kept relating this anecdote to friends and many had a good laugh. But one friend expressed their preference for having a straight child over a gay child. My friend insisted that I’d also prefer to have a straight child, though I had to correct him and say that, for myself, it would not matter – I already have a daughter, the light of my world, whose very name is a flower and of peace: Violeta de la Paz, almost 4 years old. I said to him that if my daughter was to approach me for a talk, with an air of gravity, and if she was to then tell me she’s gay, I’d say to her, “Whew! And I thought you were going to tell me you’re religious!”
The reason typically cited for those who claim to not be homophobic, yet still prefer that their child to be straight, is that it’s easier for child-rearing. There’s truth to that. Parents of gay children have to deal with their children facing hardships just because of their sexual orientation in addition to the regular hardships of parenting.
Parents may even face some of their own hardships in virtue of being parents of gay children by other parents or other adults. However – and this is what’s important – this is something that society needs to change, not the child. The hardships that parents of gay children and gay children themselves have to face is not of their own doing, but of society’s.
In connection with this, there is a myth that Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium gives in praise of Love. There was a time when there were three kinds of humans: ones that were totally male, totally female, or the androgynous kind, half male and half female.
In these times the humans provoked the wrath of Zeus for having attacked the gods and were thus split in half to diminish them in their power by Zeus. Love, for Aristophanes, was the search for one’s other half: “And so, when a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether it’s two young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment.”
This reflected the Greek ethos of sexuality: it was taken for granted that one’s ‘other half’ might as well be of the same sex. While we must acknowledge that Aristophanes’ myth does not address the entire spectrum of sexual orientation – nor takes into account gender identity – it shows that society can be different because it has been different.
There was a time when society did not chastise persons for falling in love with one of the same sex; it was acknowledged as a possibility. Whereas in today’s society, that one has a preference for straight over gay children is symptomatic of the homophobia with which society is diseased. I, for one, refuse to be diagnosed, and I acknowledge that society needs to be cured of this disease and that the child is healthy, regardless of society’s ill condition. Society needs to change. Not the child. Let my daughter turn out to be gay and I’ll express my fury at the adversity my daughter faces; at adversity, this disease, not my daughter. Let my child be. You change.