Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"Fag. This is what I heard someone call my little boy today. I didn’t ignore it. I asked. I glared. What did you say? The kid muttered under his breath. Nothing. We walked to the car and he was quiet. He’s a boy who takes everything into himself. When he shares, it’s a gift. It has a meaning beyond what it is.

I looked at him, my beautiful nine-year-old boy who grew in my belly as I spent endless hours working with men and women dying of AIDS in Los Angeles. The baby that I jostled and jiggled when I was nine months pregnant, shaking my fat little ass at the Dance-a-thon. All the beautiful queens circled around me under the disco ball and rubbed my belly just like the old Russian women at the K-Mart by the Farmer’s Market. I remember looking at them, these glittering beautiful people smiling and wishing me luck. They are celebrating you, I said to my unborn child.They are celebrating life. It was one of the few nights that I didn’t have to face the practical realities of the other side of the coin, the side where I watched my friends wasting away to nothing.

When I had my baby shower, I was living with a friend who everyone thought was my gay lover. I never cared what anyone thought. We were like sisters. She was a nurse who worked with HIV/AIDS patients. I was a lawyer who didn’t like seeing decent people being bullied and treated like shit. We were comrades in arms. People were suffering so much, being locked out of their apartments, being fired from jobs, being dropped from their insurance, being ignored by their own families. So very few people really cared. It still makes me want to howl with the pain of it all when I remember how horrible it was, how tremendously unfair, how incredibly fucking cruel people could be. My shower was attended by four beautiful fat dykes, nine fabulously gay men, a Liberian woman whose asylum case I’d won that year, and a straight couple that I’d kept in touch with after law school. That next week, my mom came and marched at Pride. We laughed about whether I was going to deliver my baby on the parade route. It was a golden day. It shook me more than usual to hear a nondescript man hiss “faggots” as we walked back to the car with a couple of friends.

When he was a little boy, he would tell me he was going to be a girl. I told him he could be whatever he wanted. I didn’t think anything about it. Kids don’t have much of a concept of gender at two. It’s like my friend’s daughter who told him she was going to grow “big hairy breasts just like Daddy.” A few years later, he was playing the game of Life with his brother and declared that he was going to marry a boy. He was six. His four-year-old brother insisted that he couldn’t marry a boy. He has to marry a girl, doesn’t he, Mom? I told them that each of them could marry a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter as long as you are happy and a good person. He happily zoomed along in his car with two little plastic blue guys in the front seat. That was the same year that he liked to wear my lip gloss. I didn’t care. I’d hand it over any time he asked for it. There were other small but similar things every once in a while, all noted but not given much weight or concern.

So here was my golden boy, born at a time in my life when I was acutely aware of the powers of both love and hatred, chewing his nails in the backseat, trying not to cry. He looked up at me with his giant green eyes. I could tell he was phrasing his question very carefully, as he is such a precise little boy. “I’m not a fag if I don’t want to have a girlfriend, am I?” He was so quiet and serious. I pulled over and turned around to face him.

I wanted to tell him about the time into which he was born, how so many people loved him, how so many people saw him as the sign of a good and hopeful future they might not live to see. I wanted to tell him how the woman who came into my office after he was born wept with him in her arms and kissed him all over. I didn’t take him from her until he was sleeping and her tears had been replaced with a soft smile. “No one has ever let me touch a baby since I was diagnosed,” she told me in Spanish, “He’s so beautiful. Thank you.”

There are so many stories I will have for him, when he is ready to hear them. I looked at him and said, “You are not a fag, period. It doesn’t matter if you like girls, or if you like boys. It doesn’t matter at all. And you are not a fag no matter what. It’s a hateful word that stupid people use to hurt each other.”

That’s all I could say today. I didn’t know what else to say. Is my son gay? I don’t know. I don’t care. He’ll figure it out. Either way, when he’s old enough to understand, he’ll hear the stories of the year he was born. He’ll know he’s special, and he’ll understand why the word “fag” will never touch him again."



bobb said...

Thoughtful and eloquent.