Annette Gross

"We may be different, but we're not better"

Filed By Annette Gross | November 02, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media

When my son first came out, one of my initial thoughts was that our family was not a "typical, normal" American family. I, too, thought that a family consisted of parents, children, and grandchildren. Since my son was gay, I thought, he would not have children and I wouldn't have grandchildren. I never even thought about what constitutes a family in the larger sense.

After joining PFLAG, I did learn what constitutes a family. I learned that there are many different forms that a family can take. I thought back to my own life - after my husband, son and I moved away from New York and our family there, our friends in the various cities we lived in became our family. We celebrated holidays, birthdays and happy occasions together. I also saw that my son could indeed have children, though not in the "conventional" way.

Today my attention was brought to a video that was made by Sean Chapin.

Chapin, along with the Leffew Family, teamed up to produce a video reenactment of the children's book "King & King." The book is about a prince whose mother insists he get married. She sends word to various princesses throughout the kingdom to come to their castle so her son can choose which one he wants to marry. The prince turns all the princesses away. Finally, a princess turns up at the doorstep of the castle with her brother. The prince immediately falls in love with the brother and they get married. The video was made so the book could be presented in a positive light. "King & King" has been vilified in two TV ads from the Maine Yes Campaign.

The story is told in a simple way that a small child can understand. It shows two people who ultimately care about each other and want to be together. As a parent, I want nothing more than for my son to have a happy and healthy life, just like the Queen mother in this story. The story normalizes what others see as a different "lifestyle."

Children are very accepting creatures. They are pretty matter-of-fact, until an adult points out to them differences in people. A person in a wheelchair, a deaf person, someone with a Seeing-Eye dog, a gay couple - these are all normal to a child until an adult ruins it for them. It is our job to teach our children that even though a person or a family isn't what our society thinks of as normal, they in fact are. We need to teach them to embrace differences and learn from these differences. Just as we would not want to eat the same thing for dinner every night, it is more interesting and fun to have a variety of friends and family who do not fit into our idea of a certain mold.

Twenty years ago, our family moved to Naples, Italy when my husband was transferred there with the Navy. Living in Naples was a difficult transition for a lot of the families. My husband's Commanding Officer explained to us that, "We may be different from the Italians, but we are not better." Likewise, there are many different types of families, but none are better or worse than any other. As has often been said, we need to learn from our children how to accept others who may be different from ourselves.

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