Today Hope wanted to talk about the word “g-a-y” – and yes, she actually spelled it. She always spells these words that she comes home with whenever she’s unsure whether she’s allowed to say them. See, she spelled this one because she thought it might be a cuss word.

Let me first say that I love it most when she asks me these questions when she’s talking to me from another room, because it gives me a minute to look startled and figure out my approach before she can see me. Today was no different. I’m sure if she’d been in the same room she would have read “oh Lord help me” all over my face.

Let me also say that this is not the first word she’s asked about. We’ve had the B word (which she heard another kid say) and the F word (which she wasn’t even really sure was a word at all). In both of those cases I’ve asked her what the word was (“Mommy, are you sure I’m allowed to say it?”  “Yes, Hope, once is fine so I know what you mean”) and then we talk about it again using “the _ word”. She always wants to know what it means and why it’s meant hurtfully and this has been our approach.

Who teaches their kid that “gay” is on par with the F word? Too many people, but not me. Today, my choice approach: using “gay” in this discussion as a word, not a cuss word, not afraid of it, not whispering it, not a big-deal one-use kind of word. I’m not going to let her say the B word more than that once, but really am I going to teach her to be afraid of the g-word? no. I’m not.

The important part came after my explanation of the meaning. I asked her where she heard it and she told me that one kid called another kid gay and it almost caused a fight. So “gay” as an attack? I know we’ve all heard this before, and I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that 2nd graders are using it this way. Most likely they’ve heard some adult use it this way. Of course Hope had tons of questions, but she was asking the questions that some adults aren’t even asking. The cuss words we’ve talked about have awful meanings, but if this word wasn’t a cuss word, why did everyone act like it was so bad? Why is the word an insult? If it’s not an insult, why was it used so hurtfully?

I explained as well as I could. I’m so proud of her for asking the right questions, the helpful questions, and for her patience while I figure out the answers. I pray with all of my motherly being that she keeps asking questions – and keeps bringing them to us. And O Lord, help me.

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