Reacting to Negative Comments
Reacting to Negative Comments
No matter who we are, we have all been in a situation where someone says something offensive or something we don’t agree with. Sometimes we speak without thinking, so it is good to think about situations you may encounter in order to prepare an answer that makes you comfortable. For me, I would think about different responses to this situation depending on who is saying the remark and your relationship with that person, always keeping in mind that you don’t want to out your child.
I am a music teacher at a small private school. One day, another teacher and I were discussing our own children and where they may go to college. In the discussion, she commented that she did not want her son going to a particular college as there would be a lot of gay kids there. She went on to say that she felt gay kids should all go to the same school so it wouldn’t confuse straight kids. Being the parent of a gay child, I was taken aback by her ignorance. I did not know how to respond at first. I was quiet, and even though she does not know my daughter, I didn’t want to say anything that would out my kid. But I couldn’t say nothing as I was insulted by her comment and didn’t want to be passive. I couldn’t live without at least letting her know that I was in support of the gay population.
What I finally said was, “I know lots of gay kids, and there is no reason to segregate. We can all learn from each other’s differences. Now I know you may not feel that way, but it’s more important that your son is comfortable in the environment.” In that situation, I was letting her know that I was accepting and that I did not agree with her view in the hope that she would not continue to be disrespectful. By saying, “I know lots of gay kids,” it pulled the focus off of our own children. At the same time, it gave her a reason why I felt the way I did without causing her to question whether or not I had a gay child.
Other times I have encountered people who have completely different religious and political beliefs than me. My friend Tommy, who has met my daughter a handful of times, just loves to bring up hot-button issues when he is around, just to start an argument. If someone like this says something disrespectful about gay people, I would not want to engage with them in a discussion. It’s not even about outing my child at this point. Instead of engaging, I’d suggest you say something like “We can just agree to disagree on that.” This closes the conversation. It also makes it clear where you stand on the issue, without outing your child or engaging in an argument.
You may also find yourself in a discussion with a really good friend who knows your child well. Because your child isn’t out, defending gay people may make the person wonder whether or not your child is gay. This is a difficult situation. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be silent. When I have been in this situation in the past, I have always brought up Robert, the boy I dated in high school. Robert is gay, but at the time I did not know it. I usually mention to my friends how difficult it must have been for Robert in the era we grew up in, and I’m so glad that things are changing. This lets my friends know where I stand on the issue in a personal way. It gives them something substantial to think about and lets them know how strongly I feel about the subject without giving them any reason to think that my child is gay. So if you have a close friend or family member who is openly gay who you can speak about, I would suggest focusing the conversation on them in order to explain how you really feel without outing your child.
I think the best thing you can do is have an idea of what you’d say, because it’s different for each person. By preparing a script, if you will, you can avoid saying something during the heat of the moment that you may regret later on. In addition, discussing these scenarios with your child may even help your child be better prepared if and when these situations occur for them. Good luck!
Lisa is a mother, wife, music therapist, and part-time teacher. She currently teaches music and cooking to children at various preschools and libraries. She also teaches piano to children where she focuses on the love of music and sharing it with others. In her spare time, she loves to travel, scrapbook, and make music with her two teenage daughters.