The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations While We Aren’t Asking and Telling

Don’t ask don’t tell came to visit my house on Sunday.  It hasn’t been a huge issue for me.  I didn’t see where people were being hurt and we know people in the Army who are gay and we just don’t talk about it and they don’t share their lives with us but as Armando pointed out not long ago where racism and America intersects, the status quo of silence is not going to be able to stand the test of time.

On Sunday I was hurt by don’t ask don’t tell.  I was hurt in the motherhood part of my soul and that’s my most tender part.  We live close to a gay military relationship but I’m not going to give details because people could be hurt.  Funny thing is that the person I’m most exposed to in the gay relationship that lives close to us doesn’t like me and I don’t like her.  Our personalities just clash.  I respect her humanity though and her personhood and would never desire to harm her so I’m going to be mostly silent here as I am in my real life and only speak about my exposure to her life in ways that make my point and leave her and her family safe.

I have only been a military family member for 11 years.  My daughter is 18 now, but she spent her first 7 years completely civilian and being the mother that I am she grew up getting some on her.  I just don’t know how to live a healthy life without getting some on you and the gay people that I worked with were always able to share their lives with me. My daughter had them interwoven into the fabric of her life.  She’s comfortable with people in general and my mother’s heart is warm and happy witnessing her making her way around her world now.  She’s good at it!

My son was watching a Christmas movie on Showtime with me on Sunday.  After it was over previews for a Showtime series called The “L” Word came on.  The preview is little racier and sexually charged than I would like for him to take in at his age but it came on quicker than I was.  My son was extremely puzzled by the preview and he asked me what that show was about.  I told him it was about women loving women and then he told very clearly, “that’s wrong”.

I felt my breath get caught in my chest.  I felt very confused.  I rose from the bed and went into the bathroom to think for a minute and then I came out and I told him that sweetheart, it isn’t wrong it is only somewhat different to the way our family does things.  He remained laying in my bed watching cartoons while I went and sat in the livingroom in the dark with tears in my eyes searching my heart and soul trying to figure out how this happened to my child and he’s only eight years old soon and he himself is very different from what is considered the basic human “norm”.  He lives in a very sanitized environment where gender and preference is concerned…….just about as sanitized as it gets and my own child is growing up ignorant. And sharing reality with him possibly puts certain people in our lives in danger!  In our silence and sanitization the only message getting through to him is “WRONG”!

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    • kj on December 18, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t know what to say, I’m not a mother, but I’ll try. My sisters and nieces are quite conservative, a thoroughly white bread life, but gender preferences, one way or another, are okay-fine within their families.  Exposure, plain and simple, made the difference.  You son is only eight, there’s plenty of time for him to make a conscious choice on what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in his worldview.

    Even with my solidly conservative in-laws gay issues are now accepted. They didn’t feel that way just two short years ago, so something happened.

    We’re all evolving, all the time, that’s the main thing!

    • pico on December 18, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine the heartbreak when a child says something so very antithetical to a parent’s worldview like this.  But don’t be too hard on yourself: it’s not like you can sit down and transmit every single thing about your beliefs on a regular basis, and chances are good he’s getting a lot of other belief systems in a daily barrage.  There will always be something you miss, and there will be always be something else getting through.  The good thing is he’s still young and in a formative stage: there’s still plenty of time before his beliefs start solidifying in a way that you’ll have very little influence on.  

    What would I do?  I totally understand that you’re unwilling to disclose to your child about the people you know, and given their situation that’s a smart move.  Consider taking your son to a family LGBT outing, like a picnic or a get-together that involves parents and children.  I’m not sure if there’s anything like that in your area, but PFLAG is a good place to check.  The reason is that it’s a good time to have you son make contact with real life queer families, and especially to see that being around them doesn’t affect you negatively in any way.  That’s the best type of leading by example imaginable.

    By the way, this essay is a great example of why DADT is so goddamned destructive even when everyone is “following the rules”.  It’s effects everyone negatively, not just the queer servicemembers, but also everyone in their orbit.

    • jessical on December 19, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Pico had a great answer, I hope it’s possible…

    Not as sanguine as kj about society, and sanitized can mean a lot of different things…but you are, judging by your posts, an insightful and caring human being.  Methinks that counts for a lot, in the long (or even medium) term…

    • pfiore8 on December 19, 2007 at 3:28 am

    and this is truly a great one…

    The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations great and masterful. so much in so few words… i really love this.

    and i know you’ll find a way to navigate this with  your son… so everybody comes out whole.

    • Alma on December 19, 2007 at 3:53 am

    I think gender in society plays just as much on boys as girls.  Its just different things it plays on them.  Girls have to learn that they can do whatever job they want, and that they are just as good as males.  Boys on the other hand are taught they have to be tough, and love, caring and acceptance aren’t generally considered tough, or what they talk about amongst themselves.

    My daughter was just naturally accepting of love being precious no matter where it is found.  I had to have several talks with my son however before he understood that people are different without it being a bad thing.  He’s always been much more judgemental, and only sees things as black or white.  He does have a non verbal learning disability, but I don’t know if that played into it being harder to explain to him or not.  

  1. being good no matter the form it comes in is where to start. My kids at varying points in their development came home with some really nasty stuff, regarding right and wrong. Sometimes  the basics of love and tolerance cut through society’s bigotry and fear.

    My grand daughter during the height of the ‘culture’ war attended a Christian daycare. I had her three days out of the week and both me and my husband were really concerned about what was coming out of her mouth regarding right and wrong and Jesus.

    I did what Pico recommended and took her to a Buddhist festival at a temple and garden where she became fascinated with the statues and the story. From their we counter brainwashed her, by opening up other worlds rather then the narrow confines of biblical definitions of morals.

    The other day she informed me when I said God wasn’t a man, she replied “God isn’t human grandma, it’s the universe.”  So if you expose your son to views of love that he’s not seeing I’m sure he will become aware that ‘wrong’ isn’t what love between humans is about. What a world were creating!                

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