© istockphoto/Kevin Landwer-Johan
However, many if not most of the other boys didn’t bring books along with them, and they didn’t quite understand Henry’s interest in reading. As they teased and asked him about the books, it eventually degenerated into his roommates asking him, “What, are you gay?”
Henry, having been raised as a Unitarian Universalist and quite familiar with homosexual couples—a number of whom are good family friends—responded to these taunts with a reasonable statement: “I don’t know yet, I’m only 10.”
In his innocence, he didn’t even realize these boys were using the word “gay” as a derogatory term, and since he is fully aware of what the word actually means, he responded as if he was being asked the question in terms of his sexual identity. And while many children already do have an inkling of where their affectional orientation lies at that age, I love the idea that he believed sexuality was something which evolves as you grow and, despite the fact that he didn’t know yet, he believed that if he turned out to be gay, that was okay.
I wasn’t there, but I imagine the boys laughed at his answer to their taunt, and most likely it was an uneasy sort of laughter. Uneasy because Henry made them think and boys (and girls) who are prone to bullying don’t like to be challenged in their thinking.
This is not unlike the comment issued by my bisexual daughter and preserved in her high school’s magazine when she was recently interviewed for a story. In talking about her own sexuality, she explains, “There’s a rumor going around that I’m a lesbian. Well, that’s only half true.”
So while Henry and other children being raised by Unitarian Universalist parents will say they “don’t know,” often times it turns out that they do in fact know a lot more than other kids around them. And who then is better equipped to educate their classmates about loving compassion and social justice?
Photo above ©2011 oneclearvision/iStockphoto
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Michelle Richards is the author of Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner House, 2010).