Recently, I was sitting in the kitchen, typing away at my laptop. I usually am. And my older daughter, who's 13, was making a sandwich. "Hey, Mom?" she said.
I probably grunted a reply.
"What would you do if I told you I was gay? I'm not, but what would you do?"
Well, that got my attention. I gave her an honest answer: "I'd tell you I love you and it doesn't matter to me and all that's important to me is that you're happy."
She seemed good with that. "Okay."
I asked her what had raised the question, and she said there was some TV show with a teen who came out to her parents and was rejected, and that got her thinking.
The thing is, it got me thinking too. Because my kids know I write novels with gay protagonists (the older one refers to the Praesidium trilogy as my "gay seamen" books. *sigh*). They know the main focus of my academic life is on prejudice. Over the years they have listened to my many lectures on the importance of treating everyone equally, regardless of color, origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, physical characteristics, etc. They have heard me go on and on about the insidious effects of bias. They've been repeatedly exposed to my views on the stupidity of prohibiting same-sex marriage. So I pretty much assumed that my daughter knew that if the occasion arose, I'd be a safe person to come out to (my husband, too, incidentally).
I was wrong.
And if after all she knows about me, she still was uncertain about what my response would be, that makes me wonder about all those kids out there who've heard their parents spout anti-gay messages. How must they feel?
So this has emphasized to me the importance of explicitly letting our children know that we love them no matter what, and that we support them no matter what, and that nobody should face rejection from their family (or anyone else) because of whom they love. The incident has also brought home to me the importance of safe spaces for young people.