“Mommy, Can Two Girls Get Married?” :: How I’d Handle The Question Versus Three Years Ago
Almost three years ago, I published an article for New Orleans Mom entitled, “Mommy, Can Two Girls Get Married?” They reposted it recently for Pride Month and there was interest in the comment section for an update on how our family has continued to handle the situation since then. The issue at the center of the article was that my then five-year-old daughter asked her Catholic school teacher if two girls can get married and her teacher told her no.
I (mostly) stand by the way this conversation was handled. It gave us an opening to explain the LGBTQ community’s oppression to our daughter. She knew her grandmothers were in a partnership; it was never something I hid from her. However, this was the first time I pointed out to her that some people get treated differently based on who they love. I had planned to bring it up as she got a little older but I didn’t get ahead of it in time.
There were implications in the comments that this topic was not taken seriously enough. I don’t take this topic lightly, and I certainly didn’t consider it an insignificant moment when we sat her down. There wasn’t anywhere in the article where I said we grazed over the subject in a “ha ha” sort of way. Inclusion and support of ALL families is an important topic and something that’s engrained in our family. We do not miss an opportunity to reinforce this message with our children.
Like you, however, I am human. I am willing to reflect on my parenting and consider different ways of handling situations as they arise. I will readily admit that the conversation caught me off guard three years ago, not with regard to our family values but in terms of how to approach it in a way that would resonate with young kids.
So, with that said, onto the part I think I got wrong.
I do not think the right move was to ask her to keep our views on gay marriage to herself if asked about it. That was my fear talking. I’ll let you in on a vulnerable story that I eluded to in the first post that happened when I was a child. I will preface it by saying this was the 1980s and I know not every Catholic school teacher is like this. This was my personal experience and it shaped my view of gay marriage and Catholicism.
When I was in my second grade religion class, our teacher was telling us that “gay people go to hell.” A little boy in our class started crying and the teacher asked him what was wrong. He sobbed, “My mom is gay, so she’s going to hell.” I don’t recall the teacher’s response; she must have tried to backpedal in some way. I do remember everything around me got blurry, and I could feel my head burning. That was the moment I connected the dots in my own family and thought, “Oh no, my mom must be gay, too…so that means she’s going to hell.” I knew I had to try and protect my secret.
Word got out, though, and as it travelled among my sister and I’s friend groups, that’s when the bullying started. It was so bad for my sister that she had to switch to public school. These are painful memories that made me struggle with guilt and shame over for years. I should never have been made to feel ashamed of my family. I was scared my little girl may have to endure the same fate.
Times are very different now, though. It was actually refreshing to see people calling me out in the comments. (After I got over the initial sting!) Just three years ago when this article was originally posted, it got mostly positive feedback. This time, however, I was called out several times for suggesting she keep our views on gay marriage hush hush. I’ve grown enough in my forty years to be able to admit when I was wrong and apologize. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do just that. I was wrong to tell her to keep our views to herself, and I’m truly sorry.
We are now very open in our family and with others about our values. I won’t let ignorance and bigotry win. I wholeheartedly disagree with the Catholic church’s stance on gay marriage, amongst other things.
We have since relocated states and my kids now go to public school. It was important to my husband and I that we take the opportunity to explore our options other than the default Catholic school in our area. My daughter is entering fourth grade and my son will be starting Kindergarten. I’ve made it a point to start these conversations much sooner with him. My daughter is thriving at her public school. I know this was the best choice for our family.