My daughter and I have always been a great team, but we became a stronger one three years ago when I told her that I'm gay. At 9 years old, she took in that information and thought about it carefully, her little brow furrowing as she thought about what I'd told her. And after some processing, she said, "Daddy, I wish you'd told me sooner."
Teaching sensitivity towards others.
All parents hope to teach their kids the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. But I'm in a good position to show my daughter what happens when we forget to follow it. Though I haven't been on the receiving end of much homophobic behavior, my daughter has been witness to the few times it's popped up. Once we were walking home from our neighborhood coffee house when she noticed that someone had randomly scratched a homophobic slur into the sidewalk. It wasn't directed at me, but my daughter still took it very personally. When we talked about it later, she declared that she was against "any word that's mean to another human." She understands how language can make others feel and she doesn't tolerate hate speech of any kind.
Making friends with kids on the sidelines.
Having a gay dad has helped my daughter become a champion of fair and equal treatment for others and a friend to those who are ostracized on the playground. A few weeks after I came out to my daughter, she heard a boy on the playground attempt to insult a smaller kid by calling him "gay." She marched right over to him, and said, "You have no idea what that word actually means!" Then she helped the smaller kid up and quickly made friends with him.
Since then, she's been on the lookout for kids who are singled out or sidelined by others because they seem "different." Anyone who needs a friend can expect my daughter to reach out a hand and help them stand up. It's nice to know that her outgoing nature is the direct result of what she's learned at home -- that everyone is special, regardless of whether or not society deems them "normal." And I couldn't be happier with her choice of friends.
Having awkward talks about boys.
Daughters are supposed to feel awkward talking about boys with their fathers, and I'm sure mine will avoid the topic like the plague as she gets older. But for now, she's pretty darn comfortable talking with me about whom she's crushing on. More interesting, she enjoys asking me uncomfortable questions about boys. During one of our weekly Saturday-night action movie fests at home, she turned to me with a mischievous grin and asked, "So, Daddy, which of the Avengers do you think is the cutest?"
And while I may get a little red-faced when I confess to her that I think Captain America is hunky, I'm grateful that she feels comfortable bringing up the topic in the first place. Our awkward chats lay the groundwork for what I hope will be honest, open conversations when she gives her heart to a cute boy for the first time.
Demonstrating the power of love.
When my daughter sees my partner and me together, she sees that real love is powerful enough to overcome obstacles. Any relationship can be difficult, but it doesn't help when some people believe that your love is wrong. My girl isn't naïve. She knows that when the three of us are out somewhere together, I can't always hold my partner's hand when I want to and that it makes me sad. But she also knows that when we do hold hands, it's because our feelings are more important than the opinions of other people. When she grows up and falls in love with someone, I want her to be proud of that love. I want her to reach out and take that person's hand without fear or shame. The best way to help her be proud of her feelings is to show her that I'm proud of mine.
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