Protecting our children…

I’ve always told my children that we’re lucky to live in Canada, with our Charter of Rights and our focus on prevention of hate crimes instead of freedom of speech. I was even happier and more proud the spring Jeremy turned seven as our province became the first in Canada to legalize equal marriage. I looked at Jeremy and was glad that zie’d be able to marry whomever zie fell in love with. This was important as Jeremy had crushes on two boys and a girl that year and had told me mere weeks earlier that zie was going to marry zir male classmate when they grew up.

My kids were safe and protected.

A couple of days ago I discovered that there are only two doctors in all of Ontario that are able to approve sex reassignment surgery. Granted, this doesn’t affect Jeremy as zie seems fairly happy with zir body but it was still a surprise. Ontario’s a huge province, just over a million square kilometers, and has a population of 13.6 million people. It would take close to 30 hours to drive from one side of the province to the other. Then came the bombshell. The two doctors, Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley, both favour reparative therapy for trans kids. Zucker asks “parents to take away their child’s “feminine” toys and instruct the child not to play with or draw pictures of girls” (obviously focusing on MtF children *cough* homophobia *cough*) and goes on to claim that parents who fail to force their child into gender norms are offering “some type of emotional neglect.”

Jeremy during a short hair phase proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal.

Jeremy during a short hair phase, proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal while drinking zir favourite princess punch. Zucker would definitely disapprove.

Suddenly I was looking at Jeremy and feeling like zie wasn’t quite so safe.

Immediately after reading this, I discovered that only four provinces in Canada have gender identity down as a reason for protection against hate crimes (Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories) and only Ontario and Nova Scotia include gender expression. And then came the real shocker… House Speaker dismisses bid to vote again on transgender protections.

From what I understand by reading this article, NDP MP Randall Garrison created a bill called C-279. This bill requested protection, based on gender identity, to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Now here’s the kicker. Bill C-279 PASSED by twelve votes! Three months ago the Conservative government decided to re-vote on this issue but by committee instead. The committee held only nine members, five of which were conservative. At the time, one of the committee members was David Wilks, one of a mere handful of Conservatives who voted yes for protection. He got swapped out of the committee. It doesn’t say who voted for which side but with five Conservatives and five no votes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess. Conservative Senator Don Plett is the one who moved to have the bill sent to committee, saying that he was concerned that the bill would allow abuse of laws and let “pedophiles take advantage of legislation that we have in place”. He went on to claim he was trying to protect “the rights of five- and six-year-old children”. How the fuck is saying that someone can’t beat the shit out of a person because they look male but are wearing a skirt going to protect a five year old child?

I was reading a post on the blog Raising my Rainbow last fall. The post talked about how Lori’s six year old son, CJ, was scared to use the bathroom because the other boys kept trying to check his genitals to make sure he was a boy and not a girl. He was so scared, he ended up wetting his pants while waiting for the dismissal bell. He hadn’t used the toilet in over six hours. I read this post to Jeremy and was surprised by zir answer.

“Mom, you have to write to her. How old is CJ again?” I said six and Jeremy thought a bit more. “Okay, tell her he’s probably still young enough to use the kindergarten washroom. That might be an option. But if it’s not, tell her he shouldn’t use the stall. It’s not safe. What he needs to do is get right close to the urinal so the little walls on each side will offer some protection. Maybe his Dad could show him how, if he’s got a Dad.”

Zie watched as I dutifully typed the information down. Meanwhile I tried to hide my surprise. Jeremy hadn’t given that information as someone trying to think of something that might help. Zie’d given that information as someone who’d been through the exact same situation and had come up with something that helped zir. And I’d never known. Apparently Jeremy found it so commonplace to have fellow classmates checking to see if zie had a penis that zie didn’t even mention it to me; at least not until Jeremy had discovered someone zie might be able to help.

The sad thing is these aren’t isolated incidents. But apparently the Conservatives are only interested in protecting the rights of most five or six year olds. And that makes me furious. Both my kids deserve to be protected.

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Jeremy’s father…

Tomorrow is Jeremy’s birthday, which makes me introspective at the best of times. It’s a day to marvel at how much he’s grown.

Then I went onto Facebook and discovered a new Raising my Rainbow post titled This Is How A Father Should Love. I read it and cried. I am so happy for both CJ and Chase that they have such an incredible father, I just wish I could say the same for Jeremy and Emma. My introspection suddenly had a new focus.

There’s a lot I could say about my marriage but I won’t go into that much detail. The first couple of years (that honeymoon stage) were pretty good and by the time my ex started showing his true colours of emotional abuse, manipulation, and chronic lying, we had two young children. I couldn’t raise the kids thinking this was normal behaviour so I left him.

Emma is his darling daughter, his precious girl and Jeremy seems to be his afterthought. We separated permanently when Jeremy was three years old and it was soon apparent that my ex treated them differently. Often they weren’t even out of the yard before he was threatening to send Jeremy home for “misbehaving”. I’ve seen him yell at Jeremy because he’d ran out the door yelling “Daddy! I missed you!” He didn’t consider that bad behaviour if Emma did the same.

Jeremy’s birthday is two months ahead of Emma’s. I’ve lost track of the number of times their Dad has stopped by in August with Emma’s birthday present then paused and said, “Oh wait. Didn’t Jeremy have a birthday in June?” He figured Jeremy would never notice. Jeremy,  the kid who starts planning his birthday six months in advance.

Then there was the time I got a phone call from Children’s Aid over a tickle-fight incident their Dad witnessed (while they were four hours away on a family visit); one where Jeremy’s mouth accidentally grazed Emma’s chest while they were tumbling on the ground. Jeremy immediately apologized but that wasn’t good enough. His Dad told him that he was a bad boy who was going to get sent to jail forever and he’d never see his family again. He then called Children’s Aid on Jeremy, claiming he was a sexual deviant who needed intensive therapy. Jeremy doesn’t know about that part and I’m hoping he’s forgotten the things his Dad said. Jeremy was CJ’s age at the time. I think that’s what made me cry the most when I read the post. He’d only turned seven the month before.

Their Dad also took me to court to try for custody of Emma. He didn’t file for Jeremy. He also didn’t win his case. The following year was when he made that big scene over Emma’s clothes (the one I mentioned in the modesty post). I think that’s what shocked Emma the most, that her father who always acted like she was perfect had suddenly reacted like this. Sadly, if he’d treated Jeremy the same way, it would have been just another visit.

We moved two years ago and, at the time their Dad lived a five minute drive away. Jeremy was so excited; he figured this was his chance to finally get close to his father. I watched as two visits fizzled then Jeremy called his father and arranged a visit. They were to meet at the convenience store half a block away from where his Dad lived. Jeremy was going to bike over all by himself. This was a day I was scheduled to work. I called Jeremy twice while I was on the floor then got asked if I wanted to go four hours early. My paycheque didn’t want me to leave but I said yes. I called while I was on the bus and Jeremy told me he’d been waiting for his Dad for almost an hour, just sitting on a street corner by himself.

“Have you talked to your Dad today?”

“No. He’s not answering his phone.”

Ex has a cell phone that might as well be another appendage. My heart twisted.

“Oh Jeremy, just bike home,” I sighed. “I’m on the bus and I’ll be there soon.”

Jeremy never called his Dad again. I don’t think my ex has even noticed.

Jeremy saw his Dad for an hour about a week ago, his first visit since sometime last fall. I told Jeremy when he’d need to catch the last bus that drives by our home then called to remind him to go to the bus stop. I got a call from Jeremy twenty minutes later.

“Mom. I missed the last bus and I don’t know what to do. Dad said there’s another bus and kind of pointed but I don’t know which bus or where to go and he’s gone now.”

Yes, his father brought his autistic son (who reads at a grade three level) to a busy street corner in a rough neighbourhood, gestured vaguely west, said “go that way”, then left him there. I have never been so happy for Google Maps before in my life. I had Jeremy slowly read out the nearest road signs then keyed them in to find out where he was. Then, since Jeremy has a very poor sense of direction, I had him read out the next intersection to make sure he was going the right direction. He made it home just fine. I figure I earned another double handful of grey hairs.

Of course there are the positives. Jeremy and I went out for dinner with my coworkers almost two weeks ago. I got off work early so we hung out in my parents’ backyard for the afternoon. We were almost late for the dinner I’d organized because I didn’t want to leave; Jeremy and my Dad were laughing and chatting up a storm. And I got a phone call from my friend P a couple of days ago. We talked for two minutes.

“Michelle? Is Jeremy there?”

I handed the phone over to Jeremy then finished my dinner and went to my room. They talked for a half hour. Then P got on the phone with me to say goodbye. P’s the one who taught Jeremy how to put his face under the water and to jump into the deep end of the pool. P’s also the one who sat down with Jeremy for a couple of hours to explain circuits (while his husband M and I watched a movie and played cards).

The good news is, Jeremy has men in his life who think he’s a great kid and fun to be around. The bad news is I don’t think his Dad will ever be one of them.

Pondering the past…

I was lying in bed one night, just on the verge of sleep, and found myself pondering toys or more specifically the toys Jeremy played with when he was a child. I tried to come up with a toy Jeremy had loved, one of those wow gifts… and failed. This wasn’t very conducive to sleep but I couldn’t stop thinking.

I remembered the car wash I’d bought him because he loved dinky cars and loved water (as long as it wasn’t on his face). I couldn’t remember him playing with it. Neither could I remember him playing with all the car tracks I’d bought him. He enjoyed playing with Lego but, again, it wasn’t an “OMG Lego” moment. The closest I could come up with were his stuffed animals and Build a Bear. Buying Pink Bear was definitely a hit. It confused the heck out of the poor teenager who helped Jeremy build it but the bear was a success.

Had he been wanting more *girls toys* and just didn’t know how to ask? I had no idea. And it was now edging close to midnight and I had to be up in five more hours. I tried to get to sleep.

It was hard buying toys for Jeremy. I remember reading a Christmas post on Raising my Rainbow with a touch of jealousy. To compare, this was Jeremy’s Christmas list when he was six years old:

Dinky cars
Lego
Ice cream
Flying reindeer
Cheese
A unicorn (note, he wanted a real one and not a stuffed animal)
The moon (also the real one)

So… dinky cars and Lego. Dinky cars were always a hit, the shinier and more colourful the better. I’ve got a video of Jeremy playing with his cars. He treated them like they were miniature people with wheels, placing them onto a bigger truck to drive them around while warning them to “be careful” and wait “just a second” until the truck stopped and they could get off. And he loved building with Lego too. The flip side was he already had tonnes of both.

It’s funny watching the video now. The whole room is a boy’s room. Navy blue comforter with cars and planes, Spiderman stuffie, big Bob the Builder stuffie, homemade Spiderman curtains, town and road play mat (perfect for driving cars and one Jeremy never used), table covered with car tracks (which again Jeremy never used). And, in the corner of the shot, you can see Pink Bear’s feet and legs, a musical wind up doll, and his favourite glittery picture frame with a picture of himself inside. Somewhere in one of Jeremy’s huge rubbermaid bins of stuffed animals, he has a stuffed unicorn. I never did get him the moon.

We went for a walk the next evening and I asked Jeremy what his favourite toys were when he was growing up. He stared at me blankly then admitted he didn’t remember. He couldn’t remember any of his toys. My heart sank.

With some prompting, he could come up with a few toys but it was obvious that none of them were his favourites. The one we both remembered wasn’t a toy, it was an online video game called Club Penguin. Jeremy could and did spend hours on this website; he absolutely adored it. He’d earn money by doing stunts on an old mine cart then he’d upgrade his house and his wardrobe. Every time Club Penguin updated their catalogues, he’d drag me to the computer to see everything he planned to buy. Unlike real life, he had extensive lists there. Light up dance floors, fancy ball gowns, toys for his pet puffles. Jeremy’s penguin was usually pink and dressed to the nines. It was a safe place for Jeremy. He could dress and act like a girl and no one would say anything. We lived in a large and rather rough complex so reality was quite different.

I spent that night wondering what I could have done different, what toys I could have bought that would have made an impact. What affordable place we could have moved where Jeremy could feel a bit safer. Then I reminded myself, again, that I can’t change the past and slowly went to sleep.

We went out grocery shopping the next evening and, on the way home I finally asked Jeremy what else I could have done. Would he have been happier if I’d bought him more toys aimed at girls?

“Mom, I liked having Emma’s old toys because they were hers. That made them more special. Besides, I was playing with them with her. I wouldn’t have wanted new toys, it wouldn’t have been the same.”

That made me feel a lot better.

Of course now his 17th birthday is in a month and a half and once again I have no idea what to buy him. Jeremy still stinks at suggesting affordable, easy to attain gifts. He wants a brand new, top of the line computer with a web cam and video editing software… like that’s in my price range. He might as well still be asking for the moon.

At least the cake he wants this year is easy, he’s asking for an ice cream jaffa cake he saw at the British shop. Which definitely beats the TARDIS he originally wanted me to make. And, sigh, scratch that thought. I just went to the shop’s site to find a picture of said ice cream cake and couldn’t find it. Neither could I find it on the actual Jaffa Cake website. Apparently Jeremy’s more organized for his birthday than I am. Wish me luck!

And my heart breaks again…

I found a link on the Raising My Rainbow Facebook page. It was one of those links that I knew I shouldn’t click on but I did anyways. The link read Mom Who Complained Her Son Seemed Gay Is Convicted of Murder.

The mother and her boyfriend beat her son to death the day before his fourth birthday. Why? Because she felt little Zachary was going to be gay, posting on her Facebook page that he walked and talked like it and that her boyfriend was going to need to work on the boy “big time”.

They beat him then left him to die slowly over the course of his fourth birthday, taking him in the following day when he was beyond help.

This is Jeremy at three years old. He was the sweetest kid; outgoing, exuberant, and affectionate. This picture captures him perfectly… dressing up in his sister’s purple boots while playing with a pick up truck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I don’t need psychic powers to know what that mother would have thought of Jeremy when he was three. She wouldn’t have wanted him as a son, as she most vehemently showed with her own boy. And she has no idea what she’s lost.

I finished reading that article then turned and picked up one of our cats. Jeremy has taught her how to give hugs, something I never would have thought of.

Jeremy has taught me a lot of things over the years but there’s one important lesson that stands out and that’s to ask “why not?”. Just because something’s usually done one way, doesn’t mean it always has to be done that way. The world will not come to a crashing halt if he takes his baby doll to school, no accidents will occur if he wears pink flip flops on the bus, and so far everyone’s survived him having long hair.

Jeremy’s now identifying as straight and male, although even now I doubt he’d be straight or male enough for that woman.

“And this is Jeremy,” I said this afternoon as I handed my cellphone to a coworker. I have a shot of him that I love that I just took a few days ago.

“Wait? This is your son?” she said incredulously. “He looks like a gir- Oh… nice photo.”

It was almost a save.

That poor little boy. There are so many people who would have loved him. Little Zachary didn’t stand a chance.

The great toy divide

Lego Ad

This picture and article showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday. When you click, it will open in a separate window. I recommend reading the article first as it has more pictures comparing then and now of specific toys.

I’ve commented before that I read a blog called Raising my Rainbow and how Colin was a lot less girly than C.J. at that age. And in many regards that’s true. Colin loved The Magic School bus and Thomas the Tank Engine when he was little. And dinky cars (the brighter and more metallic the better). He could, and did, drive them around for hours. But, at the same time, toys were a lot more gender neutral. Lego came in bright primary colours and bicycles pretty much did too. The only real difference between a boy’s bike and a girl’s bike were the bars connecting the seat to the handle bars. Colin got Kait’s hand-me-down bikes for years without any comments.

We had dress up clothes in the living room and both my kids loved wearing them but they were odds and ends I’d collected. A sheer sequin covered shawl, a tiara, and some foam masks I picked up at the dollar store. A lavender slip and a lacy nightgown that looked a lot like a wedding dress, both bought from a second hand store. And a pair of ballerina flats because I thought the dollar store high heels were too small and slippery. Both kids had lady bug wings from Halloween costumes and there was a wand kicking around but that was it. Actual costumes were for Halloween and got packed away with the decorations.

I just went through our photo albums. The fanciest their Lego got was a set of Winnie the Pooh Duplo; that came with a handful of plastic flower/leaf shapes and a spiral slide. Otherwise they had riding sticks with plush animal heads, basic Lego, Tinker Toys, Sesame Street figures, Teletubby figures, dinky cars, a Thomas the Tank Engine set, and an Oneida tea set complete with Oreo cookies. The kids played interchangeably with all of them.

Years later, the kids and I were walking through Walmart and I was floored to see Disney princess dress up clothes mixed in with the regular clothes. The boys, of course, had super heroes. This was nowhere near Halloween, these were for every day use. I was floored.

Then my sister got pregnant with her second child. The ultrasound said she was having a girl but there’s always a possibility it’s wrong. I went to Old Navy to pick up a neutral newborn outfit only to find those didn’t exist. I could not buy a pale green or yellow sleeper. They were either pink and labelled princess or blue and red with sports themes. There was no in-between.

I like bright colours and picked bright clothes for my kids. Plus I tend to buy in second hand shops and just pick the ones that appeal to me. Not to say they never wore boys clothes or girls clothes but most of the time they just wore jeans and bright t-shirts. Last time I went clothes shopping with Colin, it was an exercise in frustration for both of us. Literally half the mens department was Duck Dynasty and the rest was camo and dreary. Colin picked out one shirt that he loved but it was hand wash and lay flat to dry, which translates to “this will never be washed”. That won’t work for him. And the younger sections are even worse.

Note, I’m not saying that the past was wonderful. I know it wasn’t. I went to high school in the 1980’s and remember overhearing classmates bragging about driving to downtown Toronto to “throw rocks at the f*gs”. No one came out in high school at all. I had a friend who everyone was pretty sure was gay, and he was, but he certainly didn’t come out then. It wasn’t safe. Meanwhile Kait went to the same high school I did, just twenty years later. She attended a school with pride flag stickers plastered everywhere, announcing this was a safe environment. Several of her friends came out in grade nine.

I can’t help thinking though that we’re making it safer for teens and adults to come out while segregating and compartmentalizing our children. Colin loved pink when he was little, it was his absolute favourite colour. He had several pink stuffed animals and a pink baby stroller for his baby. But that was pretty much it, the rest of their toys came in primary colours. Most of their clothes were in those colours too. I can’t help but wonder what his choices would have been if everything was split between blue/red and super heroes or pink/purple and glitter with nothing in between. No choice to simply be a kid.

Colin was invited to a birthday party when he was four years old. The birthday girl’s mother bought Barbie napkins for the girls and plain blue napkins for the boys. Colin insisted on having a Barbie napkin because pink was his favourite colour. I have a feeling, in this gender oriented marketing environment, he’d probably be almost as pink as C.J.

Sex Ed (aka Why Mommy Wants to Drink)

First of all, I’m going to mention that I started writing this blog because of the blog Raising My Rainbow. In it, the mother (Lori) details raising her son CJ, who describes himself as a boy who only likes girl things. While Colin is not as girlish as CJ, the blog brings back a lot of memories.

The flip side is the blog brings back memories. It doesn’t help with what’s going on now. CJ is in grade one and navigating primary school. Colin is in high school and navigating… well, he’s not navigating much. He goes to school then comes home and stays here. If I didn’t send him on errands or take him grocery shopping, he wouldn’t go anywhere.

When he was younger, he was my social butterfly. He didn’t hang out much with other kids but he was out all the time. Every shop in the area knew him by name and we couldn’t walk anywhere without someone yelling, “Hi Colin” from a car window. But he’s slowly withdrawn to home and we’ve moved since then. Now almost no one knows him.

I realized that there was no way I’m the only one dealing with this teenage minefield and, that maybe our struggles might help someone else. I wrote the introduction and showed it to Colin. He was horrified and wanted me to delete it immediately. Why would I write that? He’d told me those things in confidence. I explained how I’d felt about reading Raising My Rainbow and he looked at me thoughtfully.

“You’re not going to use my picture are you?” he asked. I hastily assured him I wouldn’t.

“Can I read the post to you?” I asked. He nodded then started smiling as I read. Some parts made him laugh.

“Okay,” he said once I was done. “You can post it.”

Now, at one point Lori wrote a brief post on Sex Ed, mainly dealing with who gives the sex talk if one of the children is gay. There’s no discussion on who’s going to deal with sex ed in my house. I’ve raised these kids on my own. All the discussions fall onto my (woefully inadequate) shoulders.

Over the years I’ve made it a point to talk to both Kait and Colin openly and honestly, answering their questions as best I can. Since I was raising two children of opposite genders, I couched my answers in gender neutral terms. Kait was a preteen when she informed me she was straight and I could just talk about dating boys when I talked to her. Colin never commented and I still use gender neutral terms with him.

Often our conversations occur at the dinner table or out walking. And while the conversations can make me feel uncomfortable, I’m still glad we have them. Some of the misinformation they overhear or simply come up with on their own can be mind-bogglingly wrong.

We were on a walk home from the library about three or four years ago. We were chatting about something completely inane then Colin asked, out of the blue, “Mom? Why do people have anal sex when it kills them?”

My mind went right to AIDS and other STIs but I’ve learned over the years to ask questions instead of just assuming. Especially with Colin, whose mind tends to wander in some pretty odd directions.

“Umm… what do you mean?” I asked cautiously.

“Well, you know, they explode,” he replied.

His expression said he felt this was perfectly obvious and I was a tad slow. Kait erupted into a fit of giggles while I stared at him in amazement.

“Hon, no, they don’t,” I quickly assured him. He shook his head.

“But Mom, that’s where poo comes out. Nothing’s supposed to go there, so they explode,” he informed me seriously.

His sister was laughing so hard by then, she was squeaking. I began to worry she’d wet herself. We were a good twenty minutes from home.

“Colin, trust me on this. No one’s going to explode. I swear I have yet to hear of a single person exploding anywhere ever from any type of sex.”

“Dorkface, you’re an idiot,” Kait helpfully added between giggles. “No one dies from having sex.”

He eyed us suspiciously then shrugged. “Okay, I guess so,” he said grudgingly.

To be fair, it was funny as hell, but kids come up with absolutely wrong ideas and sometimes there are devastating consequences. How many young teens end up pregnant because they thought she couldn’t get pregnant the first time, or if he pulled out, or if she stood during sex or douched with pop? How many kids have tried (and failed) to make homemade condoms to protect themselves from STIs or pregnancy? I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me with questions, no matter how odd or embarrassing those questions might be.

Kait never had any issues asking me questions. Colin, on the other hand, found it quite awkward to talk to Mom. I signed him up for a comprehensive sex ed program. The good news was it covered EVERYTHING. The bad news was it encompassed two full weekends of information. Colin’s been suspected of ADHD before. He doesn’t listen to two full weekends of information.

Then one of his teachers decided to organize a sex ed class. I found the letter at the bottom of Colin’s backpack, crumpled into a ball.

“I should sign this,” I mused, smoothing out the crinkles.

“Don’t bother,” he mumbled. “I don’t want to go. I learned everything in my other class already.”

“I know you learned a lot but there’s always a chance you could learn more,” I replied and reached for a pen. He plunked himself down beside me and scowled.

“The teacher asked the class if there was anything they wanted to discuss and I said ‘gay stuff’. Then she told me not to be rude. I asked her how I was supposed to ask and she said she didn’t know but not to ask like that. I don’t think they’re going to mention anything and I don’t want to go. Can’t I just stay home?”

I looked at the crumpled paper then sighed. Colin was already coming home at least once a week due to anxiety issues and I didn’t want to add any more missed days to his already spotty attendance.

“How about if I write that I want them to discuss same sex relationships and intimacy? Would that help?” I asked. He nodded then sighed with relief.

I quickly penned my agreement and note, wondering what the reaction would be then put the paper in his backpack. At least he’d brought the form home with him. As far as I could tell, the permission forms for his school field trips were going into the recycling bin at school. I never saw those.

I was talking to his teacher several days later on yet another day he was coming home early.

“Did you get my note regarding the sex ed class?” I asked cautiously.

“Yes,” she replied. “You actually didn’t need to write it. We already had that on the agenda. Colin’s very good at advocating for himself.”

Colin felt she hadn’t listened to him at all but I didn’t say that.

Once I got home from work, I told Jeremy about the call. He flashed me a mocking grin.

“I only told them I want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ to piss them off. It’s not something I’m interested in,” he informed me.

“Don’t!” I snapped. He looked surprised. “I will stand up for you but I will not play games and I will not support you teasing your teacher. If you want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ in sex ed, I will fight my hardest to get you that information,” I replied, complete with air quotes. “But I refuse to take a serious issue and use it for bullying.” He nodded.

Several weeks later, I asked Colin how the class went. He shrugged. “It was boring,” he admitted. “I learned nothing.”

“Did they discuss anything to do with gay relationships or sex?” I asked. He shook his head. My heart sank and I tried to figure out how to bring this up with his teacher.

The next day I got a call from his teacher. Colin was coming home, again. I headed into the stock room and leaned against one of the shelves. This was the most privacy I could find at work.

“Colin said same sex relationships weren’t discussed in the class,” I said hesitantly.

“Really?” his teacher replied. “I don’t know why he’d say that. This was penciled into the schedule and I was there, in the room, during that part of the discussion. He got silly for some of the talk and had to leave but he was there for that part too. It got really controversial with some of his classmates arguing that they thought being gay was wrong.”

I rubbed my head and hoped I’d remembered to put the bottle of pain pills in my purse. I knew I’d need them.

“Colin,” I said almost as soon as I walked in the front door. “I talked to your teacher and she said that gay stuff was brought up in the sex ed class, that it got really controversial and she was there when it was discussed.”

“No, it wasn’t,” he protested. “Just ask anyone like… no, not him. His parents wouldn’t sign the form. Maybe you could ask so-and-so.”

The name washed over my head. He was someone Colin hadn’t mentioned before. I wasn’t going to track down a random student.

“Honestly,” he continued. “It was never brought up. She’s lying. I don’t know why but she’s lying.”

Both of them were totally, completely serious. And both were making the exact opposite statement. I looked at my son and wondered if it was too late to start a drinking habit.

“At least you learned about same sex relationships in the class I signed you up for,” I said pragmatically. He stared at me blankly then shook his head.

“They talked about a lot in that class,” he said quietly. “I got tired of listening.”

He thought for a moment then shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyways because men and woman have a lot more sex than two men would.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked cautiously. I was reasonably sure he still didn’t think people exploded during sex.

“Because gay sex would hurt,” he replied logically.

If I wrote a book on all I know about gay sex, it would be pretty much blank. However… I used to lurk on a sex forum for parents and I did read a thread on anal sex before. It had been at least five years since I’d read that thread but I had to remember something.

“Umm… sex doesn’t hurt if you do it right,” I replied, thinking so hard I’m surprised smoke wasn’t pouring from my ears. “You’re supposed to use lube and go really slowly.”

He looked at me, his expression blank with surprise.

“This is new information, isn’t it?” I asked and he nodded. Damn. I thought hard again, remembering a scrap of information I’d seen on a safe sex notice somewhere.

“And use two condoms too,” I added, hoping I wasn’t misremembering. Another look of surprise.

I barely felt qualified to give my daughter information on straight sex. Now I’m really flying blind.