As beautifully stated in Jordana’s recent post, Anderson Cooper’s coming out made me think about “the rights of others to live and love as they will.” I was raised about as socially conservative as they get, attending a glaringly white high school and having never met a Jew.
Thankfully, when I was 8 my mother gave into my relentless nagging and agreed to drive me into the city for theater classes where I was able to thrive amongst the spirit and diversity offered there. The director was brilliant, charismatic, patient and loved working with children. He was also often accompanied to rehearsals by his partner. It never occurred to me, even as a pre-teen, that the director having a boyfriend was any less desirable than him loving a woman. I have no idea how my impressionable and incredibly naïve youth was somehow free of sexual judgment. It was almost as if I was born with rainbow-colored glasses and thankfully, no one–at least no one whose opinion I modeled or valued–ever did anything to change that. For this I am incredibly grateful.
I have read many heartfelt accounts of parents explaining that while they themselves would not be phased if their child identifies as homosexual, their heart breaks for the ridicule and lack of acceptance that may come with their child’s gender identification. I hardly find these stories compelling because this could be said about anything with regard to being a parent. I don’t ever want my child to have to sit alone at the lunch table because the other kids don’t feel he is cool enough. I want to shelter him from the heartbreak of his first crush or the embarrassment of not making a varsity sports team. Every parent wants to take away their child’s disappointment, and, if possible, shield them from it at all costs. But then I think about what my own life would be like without the occasional struggles I’ve endured. If every aspect of life was without set-back or sadness, what kind of people would the world produce? Pretty unidimensional ones, if you ask me.
Just by being Jewish, my child will be different. We will have to explain to him why there is hate, intolerance, and anti-Semitism. He will learn the rich history of our people and, like ours, his heart will mourn the mistakes and inhumanities of the past. But would I take away his Jewishnesss to shelter him from this reality? Never. Would I encourage him to hide his heritage in an effort to make life easier on him, or myself? Absolutely not.
I guess what I took from this week’s “breaking news” about Anderson Cooper is complete ambivalence as to why it was newsworthy at all. Maybe it would have been headline material if he managed break up Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka and ran off to some godforsaken country with their twins. But even that could probably be upstaged by another Kardashian pregnancy or an inside-look at Suri Cruise’s therapy sessions. More so, I’d hope my friends wouldn’t publish an email I sent to them in the name of “advocacy.” If I sent an email to someone about my miscarriage, should it be used in an effort to help other women who have suffered the same loss? Not if I wasn’t specifically intending it to be.
It is not any one person’s civic duty to pillory himself in an effort to change the minds of others. Rather, it is our job as responsible members of modern-day society to make sure those stereotypes and hate messages aren’t perpetuated in the first place. I pray in 15 years when my son has his first date it is of no consequence to anyone whether it is with a boy or with a girl. I hope the concept of “coming out” is as foreign of an idea to my child as smoking on an airplane was to me.
It isn’t our job to shield our children from life’s inevitable heartbreaks. It is our job to always be there and to love our children unconditionally. If we are successful as parents our actions will translate to a future of unfettered love and acceptance of one another. For my children, I hope the closet is only a place for clothing and the occasional imaginary monster and that they grow up confident in our love of them as individuals, unapologetic of what makes them who they are. I want them to unknowingly inherit my rainbow-colored glasses.