Yesterday, as we were talking about school, he said that one of his friends was asking people if they were happy. If they said "Yes," his friend would laugh and say,"Haha! You must be gay! Happy means gay!" Another friend would tell someone to watch his upraised index finger, which he would slowly move from near his face to his crotch and then say the person was gay because they were looking there.
I asked The Rationalist what he thought his friends meant by their jokes. He said he wasn't sure; saying that maybe "gay" meant "dumb".
We haven't really covered heterosexuality with him, let alone homosexuality. I was pretty sure that he had no idea what "gay" meant....and he didn't. Needless to say he wanted to know what it did mean. He looked it up in the dictionary and asked what homosexual meant, giggling at the fact that sex was in the word, a word he knows usually provokes his parents into changing the channel when they hear it on TV and the kids are in the room.
I gave a simple response about boys "liking" boys instead of girls, but knew it wasn't a complete explanation.
I was disturbed by the whole thing, not just because of having to discuss it with The Rationalist, but because of the use of "You're gay!" as a bandied about insult.
A few weeks before I had heard one of the school's patrols bickering with another child and shouting "You're gay!" at him.
1. How did a term about a person's sexuality becomes a common insult for elementary school students? I know kids tease and say stupid things to each other....but how have things gone from "You're dumb!".....to "You're gay!"....not that calling someone dumb is acceptable.
2. It reminded me of this story about Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11 year old child who killed himself after constantly being subjected to these kinds of taunts.
I wonder whether the very prominent conflict between gay rights activists and cultural conservatives is somehow trickling down into our children's lives. It seems as if the rhetoric is creeping into their consciousness and becoming a weapon, an insult, and an epithet.
If elementary students, 9 and 10 year olds, are using these words then I can only imagine what middle school and high school students are saying.
How did we get here?