“Mommy, what happens when a boy loves a boy?”
My then-2-year-old daughter and I were in the bathroom stall of a fast food restaurant when she asked me this question. I knew it was the perfect lead-in to a very important conversation about same-sex marriage, but the circumstances were far from ideal. Still, a teaching moment had presented itself, so I grabbed it.
In college, my husband and I were theater majors and had many gay friends in our theater program. Some were openly gay when we became friends while others didn’t come out to us until much later in our friendship. We were a large but tight knit circle of friends who judged one another based on work ethic, not sexuality.
Just as we surrounded ourselves with a diverse group of friends in college, we continued to surround ourselves with friends of different races, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations after school — and our daughter naturally spent time with all of them. We hoped that she’d learn valuable lessons by being exposed to different types of people, including diversity in marriage. I’m Vietnamese and my husband is black, so she’s learned about interracial marriage from us. But, at some point I was going to have to bring up same-sex marriage with her. Now, I could simply follow her lead and curiosity.
There we were in that cold public bathroom stall….and I decided to stall for a few minutes before I answered my daughter’s question. She caught me off guard, and I needed a moment to gather my thoughts. I took a deep breath and dove in.
“Sometimes when a boy loves a boy, they get married. Just like mommy and daddy.” I went on to explain that some girls loved other girls and they might get married too. She nodded, carefully digesting what I told her. I explained how many same-sex couples were not able to get married where they lived. I mentioned a close family friend who was gay. “Do you think it’s fair that he’s not allowed to marry the person he loves in our state?”
She thought carefully. I was afraid I’d given her more information than she could digest at such a young age. Maybe it was too soon to discuss the politics of same-sex marriage, but she was precocious for her age. I also knew from experience that it was best to be straightforward with her. We’d already had an intense conversation about her tan skin and springy corkscrew curls versus my pale Asian skin and stick straight hair. My husband and I had avoided discussing the differences in our skin around her — a decision that turned out to be a terrible mistake. She had full out breakdown because she didn’t understand why her skin and hair were so different than mine.
“That’s not fair, mommy!” She was mad. “You should be able to marry the person you love, like you and daddy.”
I sighed with relief. I was ready to explain how it wasn’t until 1967 that interracial couples were able to marry — that her father and I would not have been able to marry if it weren’t for Mildred and Richard Loving’s lawsuit. But now was not the time.
“I’m still confused about something,” she interrupted my thoughts. “If two boys get married, who wears the wedding dress?”
I laughed and told her whomever wanted to wear the wedding dress could wear it. She was, after all, still a 2-year-old who loved princesses and fancy dresses.
How did you explain same-sex marriage to your children?