“Nico! Would you please come out of the closet!” I yelled at my son.
Because, quite literally, I wanted him to stop hiding in the closet.
“Ok, Mommy! Here I am! How did you find me?” he said, running out of the closet and catapulting his small, 3 year old body into my arms.
My son is beautiful. Pretty, even. His delicate features and huge almond shaped eyes are overwhelmingly lovable, along with his high pitched and sweet voice.
He likes pink. And purple. He will clomp around the house in my high heels and walks around with cherry Chapstik in his pockets, constantly reapplying it and pursing his lips to make sure he has an even application.
While Shaila, who is 5, has always been undeniably girly, Nico has neither been extremely boyish or overwhelmingly feminine.
I don’t think he is gay. I don’t think Shaila is either. But I have thought about how I would handle it in the future if either one identified themselves as being homosexual. I want myself to remember what I believe in my heart today, so I have written a letter to myself, something I often do on my blog, to make sure that if that day comes, I remember my feelings today.
Hey gurrrl, what’s shaking? Damn! It’s been a while! So, if you’re reading me now, either one of two things has happened. Nico has informed you that he is gay. Or maybe Shaila has confided in you that she is a lesbian. In either case, remember that you made this agreement with yourself a long time ago.
You always joked about Nico crawling around the house pretending to be a pink cat. How “pretty” he was. You always knew that Shaila was going to one day play soccer like her dad, considering how much he wanted to share that passion with them one day. Maybe you didn’t expect that she would be the one bulldozing the other girls down on the field, but that scholarship to the University of Virginia, your alma mater, proved that she knew what she was doing.
Even if you were on the sidelines squealing like an unidentifiable dying animal.
Nobody noticed, I’m sure.
The thing is, you told yourself then (in the the past) that if you were in that situation now (in the future), you would handle it in a certain way. I just want to remind you of those things right now.
1) I know you’re scared. And maybe a little worried.
Just calm the fuck down and get a drink, girlfriend. Got it? Ok. Good.
Think about where your fear is coming from. You want them to be accepted. You want their lives to be easy. You don’t want them to deal with hatred or ignorance or feel the sting of cruel words – maybe even violence when someone drunk corners your child in a bar and calls your son a “fag” or your daughter a “dyke.” You have known hatred in your own life, have heard the words and have felt the venom of ignorance. You’re remembering the pain of waking up to hateful spray painted messages on your house and cars. You haven’t yet forgotten the loud shatter of glass as bricks were thrown into the windows of your parents’ Indian store.
You still haven’t forgotten how loudly hate can rings in your ears.
You have gone through feeling like an outsider. You have felt alone. Being one of a few Indian kids in a pretty white town. You also spent much of your childhood resenting the things that made you different. Resenting your Indian-American parents for not being like your friends’ parents, wishing that your skin was whiter, less foreign looking.
Though those days seem so far away, there were moments in your life when you felt shame. You felt ashamed of the things that set you apart. That made you and your family different.
Looking back now, you know that it was never YOUR shame to feel. That the shame should have been for the ones who threw stones, who called your father a “fucking Gandhi,” who assaulted Indians in Jersey City with baseball bats or shot Indian Americans to death in the wake of 9/11.
So here’s your job now. Make sure that your kids feel no shame. There is no shame in them accepting their sexuality. There is no shame in them living their lives embracing who they are, rather than running away from it. They need to know that you will stand behind them, no matter who they are and won’t have them running from the truth because of the shameful hatred of some of those in our society.
They must be 100% true to who they are. Make sure they know that.
2) You promised them you would do anything for them.
Remember when they were little? And so vulnerable? And you held them in your arms and they nestled their soft skin and their baby breath into the side of your neck and you smelled them and felt your insides turn a little?
Do you remember that feeling?
Well, I’m telling you this sister. It’s been a while, so you MAY not remember.
It was heaven. And maybe a little bit of hell. Because you knew there would be moments when your arms could not protect them from everything they would go through. Bullies. A fall on the sidewalk. The first guy or girl who makes them question if they are as lovable as you always tell them they are.
You promised them that you would do ANYTHING for them. Short of murdering someone, this meant you would be there by their side to support them every chance you could.
You can’t fight every battle for them.
But you can let them know that if you could, you would.
THAT is what they need from you. Don’t ever take back that promise.
3) It doesn’t change who they are. Not to you. Not to anybody that matters.
No matter what anybody ever says to them, make sure they know that they are amazing people. That if they are kind and loving and brave and committed in life that you don’t care about their sexual preference.
That nothing anybody ever says about their sexuality will ever change a thing for you.
They did not choose to be gay, just like you did not choose to be straight. Or Indian-American. Or a little crazy. Most of your friends who are gay have confided in you about how hard things were for them growing up. Some even have told you how they tried to change or go to “re-programming camps.” The pain in their memories of trying to escape who they were was something you could feel. The pain of their parents’ non-acceptance always seemed to be the hardest pill to swallow.
So listen, bitch. If you fucking even THINK about sending your kid to a re-programming camp, just go walk into the wall and smack your head on it a few times. Harder. Does it hurt yet?
I’m not there to do it for you, but you sure as hell need to.
I’m glad we went over that.
4) Tell them to dance like someone is watching.
There will be people who will not be happy. There will be people who will talk. Let your children know that it doesn’t make a difference. None of that matters.
They need to dance like the Westboro Baptist Church is watching. Live so fully that they will have those crazies picketing their funerals.
After they have lived a full life of happiness. And truth.
Alright, so, that’s about it. Just wanted to make sure we went over those things before you started to hyperventilate about something you always vowed you would never sweat.
Just a brief recap.
Fight for them.
You’re going to do great. I know you better than you think.
ME. Which is Really YOU. Oh Fuck it. You know what I mean.