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Pink Umbrellas

In my efforts to become a more balanced and thereby a more peaceful person, I am forever weighing my first reactions to people and situations against principles, such as withholding judgment without adequate information, treating people the way I would like to be treated, and checking personal prejudices at the door.

Some days, it’s a whole lot easier said than done. Today I let some things get under my skin. I feel compelled to rant just a bit.

Are you up for it?

I hate when people mess with little kids. Nothing is worse than being a bully. And to me, bullying around little kids takes a special kind of creep.

Be warned. What has crawled in and set up camp under my skin is partly from an individual’s reaction to a small child; the remainder is the overall damage particular institutions exact on their youngest members.

And I am coming out swinging.

First, let me explain the scenario. I was in the store earlier this week when I happened by a display of umbrellas about the same time a mother, who may be an exceptional parent any other day of the week, yelled, quite loudly, at her very small son. The way she yelled was a mixture of shock and disgust, not a simple reaction out of frustration to a small child determined to drive his mother crazy on a shopping excursion.

He told his mom that he wanted an umbrella. A pink one. And she freaked right out.

I wish I could say that the source of her frustration was the fact that the boy was asking for one more thing, perhaps after asking for every other item in the entire store. But I really don’t think this was it. She was unnerved by the fact that he wanted a pink one, and spat the words out to show her disgust.

“No! You are not getting a pink umbrella!”


Right after that he mentioned saw some rain boots with pink and yellow ducks on them. Her reaction was similar, if not quieter this time. I was in all-out stare mode. She looked at me, probably unnerved by my glare, and quickly moved on.

And my heart broke.

It was the pink. It was the fact that her boy of maybe three years wanted something she deemed as inappropriate, feminine, and wrong.

I felt an overwhelming sense of rage. I veered my cart back around, hoping to run into her again. Was it any of my business? Absolutely not. Could I be mistaken? You better believe it.

But let me tell you, at that moment, I simply didn’t care.

So, had I found her again, what would I have done? I think I would have looked straight into her eyes and said this: “Your son is young now, and let me tell you sister, if he wants a pink umbrella, there is not a single thing wrong with that. Picking a particular color is not a sign of homosexuality.

And I will tell you one more thing. If you think having a child who is homosexual is something bad, you have a lot to learn. Because no matter what, he will always, always be your child. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for reacting to him like that.”

I know I would have said as much, because I rehearsed the same speech for my husband in the check-out lane. Maybe a little too loudly. But I don’t care.

I really don’t care.

I wanted to shake her. I wanted to make her feel shamefaced for her appalling behavior.

And I was more than a little bit ashamed of how much of myself I saw in her. Once upon a time, I was exactly the same mother. And I hate, hate the fact that I ever felt that sense of dread that one of my children may be gay.

I do not have a child who is gay, but I have a heart and mind awakened to my own hateful prejudices. I see religious institutions treat subjugate gays and lesbians in the name of God, and I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of it. I just don’t get it anymore.

Preachers and self-described followers of Christ parade their love and humanity around like shining emblems of their saintly do-gooder status, but then turn right around and work to deny the rights of an entire group of people.

I just wish some of them would spend a little more time actually living the gospel they claim to embrace.

Back to the little boy. Every gay man or woman was once a small child. Each and every human being shares that common experience. We were all once small and impressionable, excited and smiling over neat things. Can you imagine the change in the collective human experience if instead of a hateful reaction to being just a tad outside of the accepted norm, someone merely smile and said, “Okay. You can have a pink umbrella if you want it.”

You can be who you are.

You are terrific just the way you were made.

You are loved no matter what color of umbrella you want.


hmsgofita said...

Amen, sista! Love it. Embrace that pink umbrella!

Just Zena said...

I have a gay son and he never asked for a pink umbrella, or anything else the color pink, and yet, he is gay! For me, it took having a gay child to understand that he was BORN GAY not made. Love your child for WHO he is, not WHAT he is. Gay or straight. Short or tall. Dark or light. Just love him.

Jay said...

This post makes me very grateful for my mother. She never balked when I asked for a hockey stick for Christmas, never attempted to stop me from wearing my uncles old army hat day and night, never said I could carry a homemade willow stick flipper in my pocket all summer - the only time she showed a bit of frustration is when we had driven 4 hours to buy material for a prom dress and I was more interested in shopping for track shoes.

Thank you Mom - I love you

Anonymous said...

I <3 this blog.

Stephanie D. Edwards said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I appreciate that very much.

Jay, it sounds like your mother is an amazing woman. What a heart she must have, thanks for sharing that.

Zena and hms, thanks for your comments as well. i don't understand why this is such a hard thing for people to get. Love, just love. That is all.

In peace,

jen said...

I love this!!
I just started a conversation about this on my facebook wall: I posted this article:

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

I'm sincerely hoping that my parents will understand what you do about the difficulty gay Mormons face-- often having to choose between two very different sides of ourselves.

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