Friday, April 17, 2015

Stories come from stories

Tonight I am weary. I write, and if I am lucky and touch someone's experience, she or he will tell me a story. And sometimes the stories make me tired. Not tired in a way that makes me want to silence the stories. No, I want the stories. But weary that the stories don't change as quickly as I would like.

My baby sister wrote to me and told me her daughter, my niece, is upset because she wants her best friend's mom to be her softball coach. Her friend's mom played softball and she was really good, but she can't coach my niece or her own daughter. She was coaching the basketball team, but she was forced to step down. The problem isn't my niece's best friend's mother ... exactly. The problem is the other mother. The problem is that she's a lesbian in a committed relationship. Other parents don't want her around their children.

I'll let that sit. Other parents don't want her around their children because she loves another woman and they are in a committed, family-cemented relationship. A marriage.

I suspect the problem isn't that she's a lesbian, but that she dared to marry, which, by the way, is legal in Iowa. She's certainly not the first lesbian coach or gym teacher in that area. When I was in junior high school our gym teacher was a lesbian. Not an out lesbian, but we all knew. Some of the girls said they didn't want her to watch them take showers, but I don't think it was a problem for most of us. I didn't take showers because I didn't want the other girls to see me naked and possibly make a cruel remark. I was shy. I didn't care if our gym teacher was a lesbian though.

Our social studies teacher was what was back then called a spinster who lived with her mother. She was probably a lesbian too. Even from my perspective now, I'm certain they were both lesbians. And people knew, but it was OK. It was OK because they didn't act like they loved anybody.

But once they fell in love, which I believe they did, they moved to another town. Together. Because it was OK if everybody knew they were "like that," but it wasn't OK if they were in love. They could be "like that," but they couldn't be a normal committed couple. Nobody wants to see that.

If my niece's friend's mother were a single mother, nobody would ask. She could just coach and everybody would be happy.

My niece likes her friend's mom a lot and just wants her to coach their softball team. She doesn't care how many mommies her friend has. She would bake her a cake though. Parents could learn from kids. I hope our younger generations will put an end to the hate. God knows we should have done it long ago.


Today most of the juniors at the school where I teach were taking an ACT prep test, so I combined my 2 with the 2 from across the hall. The 2 boys went down to join a gym class, so I just sat and talked with the 2 girls.

One of them told us how her mom makes her read aloud a nasty passage from the Bible (book of Timothy, I think) about how being gay is wrong every time she does something "homosexual-like." I asked her to give me an example. She said she had a girlfriend, and when her Catholic family and her girlfriend's Mormon family found out shit hit the fan. Her relatives came from another state to join with her local family and pray over her. She's been told all her life she's going to hell, because her first crush on a girl happened when she was in preschool.

I will tell you that she's a talented poet and singer/songwriter. That she seems more mature than the other kids, but also less carefree. That she has her own style. Those things are the most important things about her, but the reason I ended up talking about her is because she's gay. From birth. Incorrigibly gay. It's really not our business, but here I am writing about it.

So I asked if they wanted me to read to them a blog post I'd written about my brother, and they said yes. She's never been in my class, so she's never read anything I've written. I read it. I'll admit it's a little hard for me to get through, reading it aloud.

And she sat there in silence for a while. I thought maybe it missed the mark with her, which happens sometimes with teenagers. But after a minute she said, "Wow. I've never read or heard anybody write anything with that much emotion in it. With that much caring. You must have been really feeling that when you wrote it. Thank you."

I realize her parents would probably pitch an enormous fit over what happened in my classroom during that hour. But I know the statistics for gay teenagers. I recently read that 40% of homeless teens are gay. One research center reports that gay teens are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than straight teens. Family rejection not only hurts, it kills.

If her parents won't bake her a cake, I will. Maybe I could get fired for it, but I will. I'd rather risk her parents' ire than know that she was one more percentage point in the statistics.

When is it going to stop? No, seriously. When is it going to stop so I can get back to writing about vaginas again? Please. Let's move on.


  1. No words....when will we grow up?

    1. I don't know. I really can't wrap my head around it.

  2. Carol, thanks for writing about this. It may not solve the problem, but I believe that it's better to talk about it than to remain silent.

    1. I agree. I think lives depend on it.