"Gay Marriage? I'm fine with it. "

And with those words uttered from the mouth of my 14 year old son, I feel like I won the lottery of parenthood.  

It’s an extremely personal issue to be sure.  I knew when I sat down to write this that what I consider a triumph in parenting, others might consider a travesty.  Everyone will have their opinions, but I see it as more than this one issue.  To me it’s all about how we view and treat other people in general, regardless of anything that might make them “different” from ourselves. 

The truth is, I never really sat down and talked specifically about gay marriage with my son until now.  But it didn’t seem to matter. 

Me: “So, how do you feel about gay marriage?”

Zach: “Why? Are you going to blog about this?”  He knows me too well…

Me: “Yes, it’s for something I’m writing, but it’s important, just answer the question.”

Zach: “Well, I don’t know mom, it’s kind of awkward, I like girls you know…” 

Me: (laughing) “I’m not asking you if you want to marry a boy, I’m asking how you feel about people who happen to be gay being able to get married just like everyone else.”

Zach: “Oh, yeah, I’m fine with it.”

Me: “Really? You can’t think of any reason they shouldn’t? Any reason it might be wrong?”

Zach: “No.”

Me: “If you were invited to a wedding of a gay couple would you go?”

Zach: “Sure.”

Me: “If you were old enough to vote and our state was asking if gay marriage should be legal, would vote yes or no?”

Zach: “I’d vote for it, yes.”

Me: “Thanks, hon, that’s all I needed to know!”   And as he went off to do some 14 year old boy thing, I couldn’t stop smiling. 

Zach is very fortunate in several ways.  He has a brother with special needs.  His brother is “different”.  Zach has been acutely aware of the disrespect and and ignorance of others because of this.  Zach knows what it’s like when other people treat you like you shouldn’t be allowed to do what they are doing just because Josh isn’t like everyone else.  These experiences have not been lost on him.  He also has extended family members on both sides that are gay, and married to their partners.  This has never been  discussed or presented to him as anything other than a matter-of-fact and he has spent time with both couples over the years. 

I think my own upbringing and experiences have helped guide his acceptance as well.  And I very specifically use the word “acceptance” and not “tolerance”.  Although there are several meanings for the word, some of them involve “suffrage” and “endurance”, both of which cause me a lot of difficulty when we are talking about people.  There are those in the world who do see themselves as “putting up with” those different from themselves as though somehow they are better and those people would describe themselves as “tolerant”.  To me this is wrong.  So I use acceptance, as there is no suggestion of superiority or someone else’s beliefs/practices adversely affecting me in any way.

Growing up, I never once heard either of my parents utter a negative word or thought against any group of people.  Ever.  We traveled a lot so I was exposed to many different cultures and practices.  I grew up in the 70’s, when we were singing about peace and love in the school choir.  And as it happened, there was a gay couple  that lived in our neighborhood.  As a child, I didn’t know them as “a gay couple”, I knew them as Jope and Herman, the artist and the piano teacher who lived a few houses away from us.  No one ever talked about it as anything out of the ordinary, these two men living together, so I never thought twice about it.  They were in fact, our favorite place to trick-or-treat at Halloween because instead of giving out candy, they always gave us little bags of art supplies, which was incredibly awesome.  I never heard any of the other kids or parents say anything to indicate they were bothered by them or that there was anything unusual about their being together.  So this was my template, the basis for which I lived my own life once I was old enough to do so.  I’ve had many “gay couples” as friends over the years, though I never differentiate them as “gay couple” unless I need to for purposes such as this.  To me they’re just couples, like any other couple, because that’s how I saw my parents accept it and subsequently how I’d accepted it from childhood. 

I’ve always tried to be straight forward with Zach about things without bringing too much of my own judgement in to whatever it is we’re discussing.  I want him to make up his own mind, trust his feelings.  I have explained that there are people who feel it’s wrong, usually for religious reasons, so he does understand that there are people who see the issue differently.  But, being the accepting person that he is, he passes no judgement over them either. 

I love that he’s able to do this.  I hope that down the road, he can be the example for his children.  Even as we do our best not to force our own opinions on to our kids, we do influence them by example - so maybe I’ve done a thing or two right along the way after all…