‘Hey, I don’t want to be racist but…’
A kid screeches to a stop near us. Maybe he’s ten. Maybe eleven. He’s on a bike, two friends behind him. Brown hair, easy smile. I’m holding a basketball, we’re standing in the yard of the church we cross to go get ice cream.
-Hey, I don’t want to be racist, but which one of you is the guy?
(Yeah, I know).
J and me look at each other. J says, we both are.
-So you’re gay?
-So, he was adopted? –The kid pokes a thumb over at my kid.
-…so how is that….
The other boys lean closer too. Everyone is waiting to hear the answer, but it gets hairy when you start rapping reproduction with strangers’ kids. J waves his hand:
-It’s a long story.
-You should tell me.
-Maybe some other day. We have to go now.
We walk away. In the movies, now you sit down, the violins swell up and you have the kind of talk that opens people’s eyes. In real life, you have no idea if the next time you see this kid, his parents are accompanying him, accusing you of who knows what. You figure, better safe than sorry. Not to mention, maybe that kid was a troll. Maybe he just wanted ammunition to harass your own kid at school.
Or maybe he was honestly seeking out information?
If he can’t ask the neighborhood tran about tran shit, who can he ask?
You don’t know.
My great-aunt declares that the book is HERS (read the dedication in the back), and anyone who wants to look at it must stay on the grounds of the garden (after the English version got filched and she never got to look through it.) In the afternoon, my younger cousin (still in high school) comes over too, she is bringing a friend in tow. They are both here to grab whatever’s left of the barbeque and to see The Book. As they wait in line to look at it, my mom glances at the kids sharply.
–You know that this book has BISEXUAL THEMES?
-Oh, I know. –My cousin’s friend says confidentially. –P told me ALL ABOUT IT.
Later that night, my mom tells me on Skype how my art book was the talk of the barbeque—everyone came down to see it. It’s not that it is so extraordinarily provocative—but it does display bisexuality (and some alt gender ideas) in a very casual way. I suspect my family is interested in it because I made it—but also perhaps because they are not used to seeing things displayed quite like that. My 75 year old aunt looks at it, my 45 year old cousin—and my cousins in high school. It’s weird to be the vehicle bringing these ideas to a regular Hungarian family barbeque—and it’s weirder to think that as the law stands now, my high school cousins looking at something I’ve made is illegal.
Due to a rather vague law passed last month in Hungary, it is currently illegal to show minors any material depicting alternative sexuality or gender, or to educate about such issues, in any way. The law has been viciously linked with another caveat calling for stricter sentencing for pedophiles. Challenge it, and you get asked: Don’t you WANT to protect children from pedophiles? And many who have voted for the law washed their hands, claiming it is not that they are against LGBT people—they are against those who would hurt children. They are against people’s children getting taught about things they should not know about.
But why should we still have the mindset that queerness and/or transness is an ‘adult’ issue? Why should kids not see it depicted casually? Why should they not be able to see that it is nothing particularly provocative—just another way of being. If they did, they wouldn’t have to wonder….or ask strangers awkward questions on the street.
We don’t live in Hungary, we live in Germany, the place where spectators filled the stadium with rainbow flags to show their solidarity, after Orban’s law was passed. We live in a safer place, but education is still needed.
Another day, we’re walking in our parking lot, and the kid drives by us on the bike again.
-Will you tell me today? –He asks. –How your son was born?
-Sorry, not today, -J says.
-But you said you would!
Yeah but… we walk away.