My son Calvin, eight years old, was playing with the neighbor kid and after some altercation over whose turn it was to play the computer, the neighbor boy tells my son this. "You're gay. I'm going home. "
Truth is, I kind of can't stand this kid, but I let him hang around because I feel sorry for him. He's a real hard-knock-life case; mom in jail, foster homes, lives with grandma part-time because dad doesn't give two shits for him. Even worse, he's the spitting image of Alfred E. Newman. How can you be mean to a kid with such bad luck? You can't. You let him come to Easter, and you feed him dinner almost every night, and you try to be understanding, and remember his lack of non-meth-related role models when he calls your kids such gems as "Chinese niggers" and "faggy butt faggots".
When he calls Calvin gay, I go into instant Mom Mode. A little sensitive, maybe, because Calvin has always been what I believe is referred to in medical terms as "a little light in the loafers". He's a hand-flapper, a mincer, a high-pitched giggler. People have asked me if my young man is gay, to which I generally reply "he's eight", but the truth is, given how much of the gay is in my family and Raleigh's, yeah, the boy's probably going to be on the fruity side, like his aunts, like his gramps, like his mama, like his ABBA loving papa. And I don't want him to ever, EVER think there's anything wrong with that.
So, my dander's already up, ready to explain, once again, that in THIS HOUSE we don't use words to hurt other people, and that being GAY is totally the fucking bee knees, so there, you little ginger shit, when Calvin puts up his hand and says, "I got this, mom," and turns to his friend.
Calvin: What do you think that word means?
Neighbor Kid: What word?
Son: Gay. I'm curious to know what you think that word means, and why you think you should use it as an insult.
NK just shrugs and says, "Stupid, I guess," and Calvin launches into an explanation of homosexuality that would make both Dan Savage and George Takei burst into a million happy rainbows, followed by a discussion about love and tolerance. He uses his gay aunts, together twenty years and over at our house all the time, as examples of people NK knows that are gay, and finishes up the conversation by explaining why using the word "gay" in a negative way hurts people he cares about. NK says, "Oh, okay. Sorry." And they sit back down at the computer while I stand behind them making literally this face:
Whatever my son is--gay, straight, so intergalactically awesome he defies all labels--I am beyond proud that he would stand up to a friend for what he believes in. If that's being gay, then color me FABULOUS!
Update: I've had several emails/tweets claiming that there's no way an eight year old talks like this. Calvin is a really special kid, he was homeschooled until he was 7 and now attends Montessori school. He's very bright, but I'm not going to lie, he's also exceptionally odd. Basically, he's like if RainMan and SpongeBob had a baby. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of facts, lots of verbal skills, trouble with voice modulation and impulse control. So, yeah, he really does talk like that. :)
Double Update: My three year old, Smooth, heard Calvin lecturing his cousins on the meaning of the word gay ("it's when a man and man want to get married, or a woman and a woman"), and he rolled his eyes and said, "That's not gay. That's just love."