Explaining Inequality to Children

Earlier today I was discussing with another attorney the Utah and Oklahoma Tenth Circuit appeals regarding same-sex marriage. He asked me if it was hard to explain our family to our daughter or Jodi’s role in her life since I’m technically the biological mom (As an aside, I loathe that distinction but I understood the context of his well-intended question).  I had to really think about that answer because I couldn’t recall an exact moment the Divine Miss M had to suddenly understand our family.  I do recall her telling me when she was around the age of 5 that two women should be able to get married but not two boys.  Though it made me chuckle, I believe her conclusion had more to do with two boys in kindergarten with whom she didn’t get along and her desire to deny them – well, everything – than about a person’s acceptable legal status.

I finally answered by telling him that we’ve never really had to explain our family to Miss M.  I’ve never had to ‘explain’ Jodi’s role in her life.  I’m assuming that’s because Jodi’s role in her life is defined by the relationship M has with her, which is that of parent and child.  I don’t have to explain to M what role my mom plays in her life, or her cousin’s role, or her grandparents’ role because those roles are defined by M’s relationship with them.  M knows that Jodi’s parents are her grandparents not because we told her they are but because that’s the relationship she has with them.  M is a highly intelligent child but it doesn’t take smarts for a person to understand their own family.  Indeed, regarding Jodi’s adoption of her, M matter-of-factly stated that Jodi was already her mom, this was just something we had to do for it to be official to others.

Nope, this was never something that had to be explained.

Nope, this was never something that had to be explained.

Do you know what has consistently been difficult to explain to her?  Other people’s intolerance, why we don’t have equal rights, why we can’t get married, why Jodi couldn’t adopt her in Oklahoma but can in Colorado, it goes on and on depending on what issue has arisen lately.  We have steadfastly managed thus far to keep her from hearing about Kansas, thank God.  She has asked countless questions trying to understand why people fight against equality for the LGBT community in various contexts.  We make a valiant effort to remain respectful while discussing these opposing views, including and maybe especially those based on religion.  M sees all of them as irrational and nonsensical and usually gets frustrated, angry or upset because none of it is logical to her.

I was talking to a friend in Oklahoma City once who asked about my family’s reaction when I came out to them. I explained that most were accepting but not my dad or my brother, with whom I no longer have relationships. He was startled by my brother’s reaction when he learned my brother is in his early 20s (much, much younger than I, obviously). He explained that he always just assumes the next generation will be better, that it’s like meeting a young racist – he knows they exist but they always surprise him.  (I had to begrudgingly admit, my brother’s probably racist as well.)  Anyway, I thought of that today when I was answering the attorney. I’m not wild about the analogy to the Civil Rights era in the 60s but I have to admit, explaining our inequality to M is a lot like explaining racism to her and any other child, there’s no logic to it.

As I’ve thought about that conversation this afternoon, it’s occurred to me that people who are opposed to marriage equality, who consistently point to protecting children as the reason for that opposition, would be surprised to learn those children actually see them as the real threat.

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One Response to Explaining Inequality to Children

  1. The Labor Coach, Tribal Founder :) says:

    As always, you nailed this one, straight on. And if you want to get a kick out of some 12 year old righteous indignation, ask The Little Blonde about this issue. She gets so angry it’s almost comical.

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