Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dog Meets Dog

A funny thing happened when I was walking our precious dog Lev this morning. Well, not really funny. Tragic, actually; all the more so because this was not the first time. Sweet little Lev loves nothing more than playing with other dogs. He is a master of the bait and switch. He lays down calmly, patiently and gently in wait when he sees a dog approaching, lures them in with his cuteness and then jumps all over them when they arrive. Dogplay always involves the dogs sniffing, maybe even licking, each other in places that make many humans a little uncomfortable. Dogs like Lev are not the least bit discriminating; they love all dogs - big, small, male, female - they just love to be loved and to give love. Lev is a smallish whitish Havanese and people generally assume he is a she. This morning, Levy was getting it on with some dog and the owner and I were chatting. The owner of the other dog - a gentleman that I would guess was in his late 50s or early 60s - kept referring to Lev as "she" as in, "she's so friendly", "she's so cute". I corrected him after the third or so reference and said, "actually, she's a he". He immediately tugged on his leash, said, "Bruiser, stop, let's go" and wished me a good day. I'm fairly certain he was concerned my dog was turning his gay. Seriously! Faced with so many levels of ignorance, I was shocked into silence, which frustrated me after I got my bearings and several good comebacks were ricocheting in my head. I can get past ignorance concerning dogs pretty easily but not blatant homophobia.

I'd like to believe that younger generations will grow up without hangups like these but if the man on the street this morning has kids of his own, who can say what messages they've been getting and disseminating? And we all know there are lots more like him. Further, we all know that gay teens continue to be subjected to unmitigated bullying by other teens. The cycle will continue until more people stand up and make an effort to end it by teaching their kids about fairness, compassion, equality and to embrace difference. For my part, I am relieved that our daughters are far more evolved that the man with the dog. When gay marriage was legalized in New York, they were confused as to how and why the law would have treated gay and straight people differently in the first place. I was stumped for a good answer.

At a diversity conference I attended last year at New York City's Hewitt School, attendees were asked what book representing diversity they would urge young adults to read. One librarian revealed that she recommends David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy to every teenager that seeks her out and even some that don't. Great choice! The story is narrated by Paul, who, like most teenagers, is preoccupied with love. The twist is that instead of the typical "boy-meets-girl" scenario, this one is "boy-meets-boy". An additional twist is the fact that though Paul is gay, he is not a tragic, rejected  figure. Rather, he's just a typical teenager, dealing with relationship woes. Paul attends what we might consider a fantasy high school where tolerance reigns and shame is banished. The extreme positivity of the school environment gives readers a chance to read a story about someone just like them but maybe a little bit different and gives gay kids a chance to read a story about someone they can relate to who is not treated like a victim - there's something hopeful in seeing yourself portrayed a little more like everyone else. It's a great recommendation that I wholeheartedly endorse.

No comments:

Post a Comment