Last week I heard some terrible news from a couple who are part of our same-sex parenting support group Rainbow Parents SG. Their child A (names changed to protect the young) had been punched and kicked during an enrichment class. Prior to the fight, A had been asked by his classmate Z if he knew what gay meant. A said yes, 2 men loving each other. Z then tells A that he is wrong and it means weird and disgusting and that gays have to go to the police. (Thanks for keeping 377A on the books Singapore!) Z then proceeded to attack A who was sitting against the wall. A was strangled from behind by Z who blocked him from escaping. Fortunately A knew enough self defense to keep from being seriously injured, although he was traumatised after the incident. He developed a high fever and had to be kept home from school for a couple of days. When A’s parents lodged a complaint with the school, they were told that the teacher had not noticed the fight happening, but is convinced that it was not as chaotic as reported by A. The case is still pending investigation.
A is eight years old, in a place with other eight year olds and should have been safe. Instead he was attacked by a classmate who thinks that same-sex couples are disgusting. I wonder where Z got that idea from. (I’m looking at you, Z’s parents!) The worst part is A has always been taught by his teachers that when someone hits you, you cannot hit back. If you do, you will also get into trouble. A is generally a model student who consistently keeps to the rules. However, in this case, when there was no way to get the teacher’s attention, he ended up biting Z to get released. Given that Z had A in a stranglehold, wasn’t he justified to retaliate? Apparently not, as the investigation is also looking into how badly Z was hurt, never mind that A was just trying to get out of the stranglehold so he could breathe.
I never recommend violence or retaliation to Zoey as a form of solving problems. In fact, earlier this month, there was a younger child who got too rough while playing with her, including pulling her hair. She was really patient as the other child’s parents stopped him and taught him to “sayang”(using the action of gently stroking her hair) instead. In turn, she learnt and used this strategy in school the following week when a classmate pulled her hair. She asked him politely to stop and to “sayang” her instead. Her teachers were very amused and recounted the story to me. I was happy to hear she had found a way to handle such incidents on her own.
However, when I picked her up from school on Monday, I was informed by her teacher that there had been another incident. Another child in her class had harassed her, constantly pulling her hair and hitting her in an attempt to get Zoey to share her snacks. In a fit of frustration, Zoey had screamed at her friend and hit her back. She was so ferocious that her friend instantly stopped bugging her. Zoey had made her point.
I am not mad at Zoey for hitting her friend. While I do not want Zoey to think that hitting another child is ok, I understand that she was probably really frustrated and sometimes you really just need to retaliate to get someone else to stop. This is only the beginning of many other playground and classroom incidents she will get into. I much rather she be known as the strong child who cannot be bullied instead of a weak target who is a pushover.
As parents, we never want our children to be bullied, much less be bullied because of us. I feel very much for A’s parents who are ahead of us in the same-sex parenting game. They have shared much of their experiences with us, from pre-school hopping to subconscious rudeness from other parents. Now they have shared with us the first case of their child being bullied and hurt because he has parents of the same gender. It is a terrible situation to be in and I hope that A is not permanently scarred by this incident. It has also made me think about how parents need to be careful about what they say in front of their children. Z’s parents said something that made their child feel justified for attacking A. I hope they learn their lesson and are more aware of their actions and words from now on.
For the rest of us, it is a long journey towards acceptance and understanding. Part of the reason why I write this blog is to show that same-sex families are not much different from other families. We face similar challenges in life, parenting and relationships. I would like to believe that most people in Singapore are decent human beings who would stop a fight between 2 children if they saw it. So if you are an educator, a parent or just someone who works with children, please step in when you see children who are discriminating against or bullying another child. Please help to educate them on why bullying is wrong. Each intervention will go a long way to creating a more sensible and caring Singapore.
I know our family has been fortunate so far. Zoey is still young and we have not had any unpleasant incidents, but are prepared for them to happen in the future. As part of the process, we intend to equip Zoey with as many strategies and skills as possible. Sometimes she will need to ask for sayangs. Other times she may need to hit back. The reality is we cannot be watching over her 24/7 so she will need to learn how to take care of herself. I hope she grows into a confident child who will stand up for her own rights and the rights of others. If nothing else, I intend to rise her so she grows up thinking that she breathes fire.