Once upon a time (in the ’80s), I was one of the second generation of children growing up in post-Independence India. The immediate rush of adrenaline that comes with independence from a 200-year foreign rule had died down, but the optimism that India was solidly on the road to progress hadn’t. Motivational phrases like “We shall overcome,” “United we stand, Divided we fall” and “Unity in Diversity” were routinely thrown about in school assemblies, Republic day parades etc. As children, we took these on face value and we believed them to be true.
So, why do hesitate to answer our children’s questions at face value and let them decide what they take away from it? Why do we find it so hard to answer our kids’ questions about marriage and sexuality and what it means to be gay in this world they’re growing up in? If anything, this recent zeitgeist of gay pride/lifestyle should just make it easier for us, no? Now when a kid asks, “Mom, what’s marriage?” it’s so simple to say, “Marriage is a relationship between two people who choose to spend their life with each other.” Why does the gender of the people involved even matter in the equation? When love isn’t even a prerequisite for the marital relationship to be forged (arranged marriages are as common as ever in some cultures, Indian included), who says that being a man or a woman should be?
It may help to think about it in this way:
If people were still being traded as slaves;
if women still did not have the right to vote;
if apartheid hadn’t been abolished;
if prisoners of war were still beheaded and their heads spiked on towers to be ridiculed;
if it were still acceptable to send a child with Down’s syndrome to the mental asylum;
if a low-caste person were still prohibited from pursuing a profession he wasn’t born to;
if killing a girl infant were still considered an acceptable act of defending honor, then
Where would we be?
I think it’s about time we teach our kids the value of love, commitment and family rather than focus on the femininity or masculinity of another person. If they know how to choose well, you can bet they will choose the best person for themselves.
And, in the end, what more can a parent ask for?