In a Grade 5/6 split class this year, my daughter is one of the leaders of her school. She and her classmates are occasionally tasked with teaching the younger children about specific school-wide initiatives as a way to foster leadership, public speaking, and mentoring skills. Today, they split into teams and visited the younger grades to discuss the Day of Pink, happening Wednesday, April 10. As this is an International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia, I was thrilled to hear that her school was encouraging the students themselves to take the lead in promoting a culture of acceptance and resistance against violence. She talked about how one of the kids in the Grade 2 class she talked to spoke about her moms, and how they weren’t bullied for being lesbians.
As these things often do, her telling me about her day led to an interesting conversation.
“Hey, mom? Have you ever dated women?”
I answered that yes, I have, though not in a while.
I said I wasn’t sure, but a few.
“So… three? ‘Cause that’s a few.”
Eh… probably more than three, depending on how you define dating, but I’m pretty sure the play by play wasn’t her focus. About 20 minutes or so passed, and she came to me again:
“Did you date any girls in high school?”
Oh, what a complicated question. I explained that no, I hadn’t dated any girls in high school, because I attended a Catholic school in the 80s and early 90s, and that time and place just wasn’t safe for girls to date girls. She asked if I’d wanted to, and I said that of course I would have loved to have been able to. But it just wasn’t safe.
“What do you mean?” she asked. She thought that maybe I was afraid of people making fun of me or not wanting to be my friend. She was shocked when I told her I was afraid of being beaten or murdered for dating girls. (I didn’t mention that I was also very afraid of being raped for doing so, because, well, baby steps.)
It had never occurred to her that someone would be so filled with hate and feel so threatened by the act of two women or two men dating that they would react so violently. When I was in Grade 5, I already knew it wasn’t safe to talk about being anything other than interested in boys. With a solid majority of the regular adults in her life being out as some flavour of queer, this is not her experience at all.
I genuinely hope that her perspective never changes, that she doesn’t see the violence that can come from people’s homophobia and transphobia, that her peers and those who follow are those kids who say that enough is enough, and who change the world.