living life in a multicultural world
So, I went to pick up my children at their elementary school the other day and saw a huge sign strung on the outside of the building congratulating a teacher from the school on their recent marriage.
“Feliciteert Meester Martin and Romeo,” it said in big letters on the school ground windows. Hmm, I guess my hunch had been correct after all. Mr. Martin is gay. He is now married to Romeo. And everyone in this very typical Dutch elementary school was congratulating this wonderful 5th grade teacher on his marriage to the person he loves. Did I mention there was also a photograph of the happy couple in the school newsletter later that week? Did I mention that the school is Christian?
It struck me as a fascinating difference between Dutch society and many other countries, including the US. France, for example, recently made headlines by legalizing gay marriage. The mayor that officiated the first gay marriage there has received death threats, insults and feces in the mail. How is it that this hatred is propagated in the name of Christianity? Why is it so difficult, in so many parts of the world, to let people be themselves? Why can’t we be happy for people when they find joy and happiness in their lives?
I am the mother of three boys. One of them could be gay. What will my reaction be if one of them comes to me and says, “Mom, I’m gay”? Will I be like the liberals in the 60’s who openly applauded civil rights but then, when a certain someone came to dinner, the real truth came out of the proverbial closet?
Hopefully not. Hopefully, because I have seen strong, kind men and women that are gay and are proud and are happy, I will just say to myself, “thanks to Mr. Martin and Romeo for being an example of life and love to my children.” Thanks to living in a society where we see and interact with strong, kind men such as Mr. Martin who are openly gay and openly accepted as gay and therefore my children have different role models and will not be afraid to be themselves.
This is not to say that among Dutch kids the word “gay” is not bantied about as a slur. It sometimes is. But because of the Mr. Martin’s of the world — young people begin to realize that it doesn’t make sense to use the word gay as an insult, because it isn’t one. Mr. Martin is a very popular teacher. Kids love to be in his class. He never discusses his sexuality because that would be inappropriate in any context. He just doesn’t hide who he is. They know he is gay and because they know an openly gay person, they have the chance to realize that just because someone is gay doesn’t mean they have the cooties. In fact, polls have shown that people who know a gay person are far less likely to discriminate against gays.
If knowledge is power, then love and knowledge together must be damn powerful. And I find a certain comfort and joy in the fact that so many conservative politicians change their tune about homosexuality when their very own children come out. It makes me have faith in humanity again. Take Dick Cheney, and most recently Republican Senator Rob Portman, who completely changed his stance on gay marriage when his son Will came out.
It makes me remember a beautiful quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:
“My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy.”
Life is a circle. Love can spring from hate. It only takes a chance encounter with “the other” to realize we are all essentially the same. Love always wins. It is never too late.
Long live the happy couple!