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Slice of Life - September/October 2000

From the Mouths of Babes
By Clifton Spires

Well, I guess I ruined that young girl's evening. My wife and I were sitting through the annual music awards banquet at Edison High School in Milan, OH, because our youngest son was a member of the school's show choir and was supposed to receive a couple of awards.

Each member of one of the school's bands or choirs went to the stage when his or her name was called, then received a certificate or plaque. Because the School has one of the best music programs in the state and possibly the universe, a lot of kids participate.

About midway through I noticed the girls at the table next to ours. As the names were called alphabetically, one of the girls would comment on the students making their way to the podium.

"He's gay," she said, referring to a boy who looked like a young Paul Reiser.

"She's a ho," the girl said, using the short version of the word "whore" to describe an innocuous-looking, fresh-faced cheerleader type.

"He's cute but sorta gay," she said of the next boy.

"He's a hunk."

"She's a geek but could be cute."

"She's butch. A real dyke."






"Real gay."

I sat there seething, realizing that the little snob was passing judgment on other people's children, apparently to impress her friends. 

By her tone, you could tell where she placed people on her social ladder. What would she say about my kid—the straight younger brother of my older gay son?

"Stop saying that!" I told her, leaning over and putting my face directly in front of hers. No one at my table could hear what I was saying, though my son later told me he recognized "a certain dangerous look in my eyes."

"I don't want you to say another word about anyone going up to that stage!" I told the girl, who now looked like a deer caught in headlights of a speeding Mack truck. "Not another word about people being gay, or anything else about their sexuality."

"OK," she said, in a voice just above a whisper. She turned away from me and sat without moving for 15 minutes. Then she whispered something to the girl next to her and left the table. She did not return for the rest of the evening, which still had about 90 long minutes to go.

Every so often, one of her girlfriends would come back to the table and whisper something about how Muffy, or Susie, or whatever her name was, was crying and wouldn't come out of the bathroom. Then the girls would whisper something else and look over at our table, at me, the mean man who made poor what's-her-name cry.

My son asked me, "What did you say to her, Dad?"

I told him. I apologized to my son if he thought it would cause him any future hassles.

He shrugged and said, "Who cares? You did the right thing. I'm proud of you." And so it was that I got the top prize of the evening, just for losing my temper.

When we witness homophobia, we have to stand up and speak out against it. It can be as simple as saying, "Oh, shut up!"

Clifton Spires is a UU journalist and freelance writer living in Norwalk, OH.

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