There was one time about a year ago when Brian said to the boys "You know Evan and I are more than just friends, right? We are more like mommy and your step-dad." They responded that they understood, but they have never asked about us or why we are together. Brian and I say "I love you" to each other regularly in front of the boys without hesitation. We are not afraid to show affection and they know we sleep in the same bed. The boys definitely know that we are together and I am not just daddy's "good friend."
With our civil marriage coming up, I started to ask Brian about whether or not we should explicitly bring up the fact that we are gay with the kids. I felt like we were serving an injustice by not talking about our wedding and I feared that we were adding to the possible shame they might feel about the subject because we were never talking about it openly.
A few weekends ago, we were driving Jordan across town for a birthday party. As we drove along the beltway, we had some light conversation about the party until Jordan became preoccupied with his iPod. I realized this was the perfect time to bring our wedding into discussion. It was just Jordan and we still had at least half an hour before we would arrive at our destination. I looked at Brian and he got my cue. He started the conversation like he did a year ago: "Jordan, you know Evan and I are more than just friends, right?"
Jordan glanced up from his iPod and let out what seemed to be a hesitant "yes." There was this immediate quiet, awkwardness that entered the air. Uh oh. Please, God, don't let this be traumatic for anyone.
Brian continued. "Well, do you know the best word to describe us?"
Jordan quietly replied "Daddy, I know your secret."
Uh oh. A secret? This was exactly what we did not want the boys to think of this.
"Jordan, it's not a secret."
"Well, I know you're gay."
I finally chimed in: "Right! And you know what, there is no shame in being that way. You know that right?"
Jordan looked at me through the rear-view mirror a little less awkward. "Sorry, I did not mean to use the word 'secret.' I know it's not a bad thing. I just was not sure if it was okay for me to talk about."
What?! Where was he getting that impression?
"Well, why do you feel that way?" Brian asked.
Jordan let out a sigh. "Sometimes the kids at school make fun of me and my friend at school and they call us gay because we play together."
Of course he felt this way because of his peers at school. I have always found it funny that social conservative Christians are paranoid that one day educators in public schools will teach children about gay people. Heads up, y'all! They are already learning about what it means to be gay. And they are learning it from other kids who tend to insert as much shame as possible into the subject by calling each other gay, homo, and fag without thinking twice about the damage the careless use of those words can cause.
Last summer, Jordan's mom shared a story with us where he stood up to a bully for calling another kid gay at school. This made us incredibly proud, so when we had Jordan we decided to try and ask him about it. We could not get him to openly talk about what happened, until we sort of brought up the incident specifically. He treated it like it was no big deal and it was clear he did not want to talk about. We should have had the discussion we were having in the car back then. Why didn't we?
"So what do you do about those kids, Jordan?" Brian asked.
"Well, I tell them to stop and to not use that word, but that doesn't work. So I tried telling the teachers, but they don't really do much. They just tell them to stop, too. But the kids keep making fun of us."
"Well, you know, I wish your teachers would do more. You understand that these other kids are using that word in a mean way, right? It's okay to be gay, but it's not okay to put someone down just because they are gay."
Jordan obviously understood what the kids were doing was wrong. But it seemed like he was having a hard time getting over the shame his peers were putting on the subject. I then tried to explain that there are a lot of good people who happen to be gay: the parents of the friend whose birthday party we were attending, the two moms of the twins on his old Little League team, and even the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker. When I mentioned women, Jordan looked at me funny again.
"Wait, but I thought the mayor is a girl?"
"Yes, but some women can be attracted to other women. They can be gay, too. Being gay just means you are attracted to people of the same gender." I tried to keep it as simple as possible for him. I then went on to explain that there would be a good chance he might have some friends who come out as gay when he gets older. As we talked, he slowly started to feel more comfortable about what we were telling him. When it was all said and done, Brian and I both expressed our love for him and that we cared about him.
"We want you to know that we love you, Jordan, and we wish you could be in New York with us. But we promise to do something here in town for you to see. Do you have any questions about anything?"
"Nope." He returned to his iPod game until we reached the birthday party.
Talking to Tim about us was much easier. We had the boys over last week when Tim asked about where I stood in the family. It was the perfect opportunity to explain our family. I looked at Brian. He knew this was the time to have a discussion, too.
"Tim, you know Evan and I are more than just friends, right? We are more like mommy and your step-dad."
Jordan became overwhelmed excitement when he realized what was about to be discussed. "Ooh! I want to tell him! Tim, come over here and I'll tell you!" he yelled from the kitchen table.
"It's okay, Jordan. Let me talk to him. Tim, you know how we are going to New York, right?"
"Do you know why?"
"Because Evan and I are going to get married."
Tim looked a bit puzzled. Uh oh. Was this going to be heavy like our conversation with Jordan?
"Why can't you just get married here?"
Phew. He was not confused about the thought of us being married. He was confused about why we wanted to travel over 1,600 miles to get married.
"Well, right now, Texas does not recognize gay people who decide to get married. It is not legal."
"Ok. Well, can you bring me a souvenir?"
"Of course! We'll bring you both something back." They both cheered with excitement.
I then made the same promise I made to Jordan. "You two know that we will eventually have a wedding here in Houston. That way you can be there to see it. We will even have a reception with cake!" The mention of dessert brought cheers and excitement again.
Tim then asked if he and Jordan could go with us to New York when they get older.
"Sure! We can show you everything!" I replied. (Any excuse to visit the Big Apple.)