Vignette of the Day: September 7, 2009

An interesting conversation came about at our dinner table tonight. Homosexuality.

The conversation didn’t delve into the specifics of it, but more danced around its semantics. And it’s not like my wife and I just decided that this was a great topic of conversation at the dinner table with our seven and nine year-old sons. One set of our neighbors is a gay couple, and something happened today that lead to my wife commenting during dinner, “Well, they’re gay.”

Our oldest replied, “Mom! You can’t say that!”

She asked, “Why not?”

Well of course we knew that we were catching him in a little bit a trap, knowing that even in fourth grade if he wasn’t doing it, at least someone he knew had periodically called someone on the playground gay, using the term in the most derogatory of ways. And obviously he – and hopefully his friends – had learned that using such a term in a derogatory fashion was cruel.

Seeing how kids learn about language – its power and its function – is fascinating. As we were driving home from something the other day our oldest reveled in the idea that he could use the word “bitch” in a way where I would not get angry with him: referring to a female dog.

Just like when our oldest learned that “bitch” can be used in a way that would a) not get him in trouble, and b) not be considered a bad word, he marveled that the word “gay” could be a constructive word, that defined what two people were, and that this was OK.

So as my wife finished the definition of “gay” in ways that our seven year-old could grasp, about how someone who was homosexual was someone who has a crush on someone of the same sex – a boy will have a crush on the boy, and girl will have a crush on a girl – our youngest chimed in, “let’s call it “G,” and I’m not that.”

He’s like that. Emphatic. I guess we know where he stands now, don’t we. But we also know we need to work on his acceptance of the full word.


RJ Lavallee is the author of IMHO (In My Humble Opinion): a guide to the benefits and dangers of today’s communication tools on sale at, Barnes and Noble, and


Leave a Reply