Don we now our gay apparel

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook last night:

The Moultrie Middle School choir changed “don we now our gay apparel” to “bright apparel.” Is the word gay so evil that we have to remove it altogether?

A flurry of comments and dialogue ensued, including much outrage and a fair share of humor, including:

I’m offended they used the word “don” with its obvious pro-mafia connotation.

I'm gonna troll an ancient yuletide carol he can't refuse."

I’m sure they don’t use the word “don” every day, but they didn’t change that word. But by eliminating the word “gay,” they’ve sent a clear message that there’s something wrong with the word.

Let’s call the Flintstones. Maybe their theme song should say “fun old time” instead?

Reknown for having a gay old time.

Oh, Moultrie Middle School, you missed a fine, teachable moment.

Let’s rewind a bit.

Merriam Webster defines the word “gay” as:

1: a : happily excited : merryb : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits

2: a : bright, lively <gay sunny meadows> b : brilliant in color

3: given to social pleasures; also : licentious

4: a : homosexual <gay men> b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals <the gay rights movement> <a gay bar>

Can we all agree that “gay apparel” refers to clothing and accessories that are merry in mood, brilliant in color, and happy-making?

Or do you seriously think that the writer of the lyrics to “Deck The Halls,” poet John Ceiriog Hughes was referring exclusively to the clothing and accessories of homosexuals?

For the love of gay apparel, people.

Can we also agree that part of education is learning that words have multiple meanings? That words need to be viewed in the context of intent and even history? I mean, do you “troll the ancient yuletide carol?” Other than with Fred Flintstone, that is. Pray, please invite me when you do.

Look, I grew up in a generation where the word “gay” was a synonym for stupid, lame, and basically anything anyone didn’t like. Know what? We still sang the original words to “Deck The Halls” for all of my school recitals.

Now. Did some kids giggle during rehearsals? Yes.

They also giggled whenever the words gas, chest, bathroom, or but(t) (the conjunction and the body part) were uttered. (Note: this is not a complete list.) Why? Because kids are even more nervous than we are about their bodies, its functions and how and when it will grow and change. Oh, and they’re silly. They’re kids.

Did these same kids giggle during our recital performance – in a room full of people that included their parents, families, teachers, and school administrators? Of course not, because they would have died of embarrassment/been killed by their parents for not “taking things seriously.” (See above: they’re kids.)

We prove ourselves as adults when we push through our own fears, our own uncomfortable, oogey (that’s a clinical term) feelings to engage in honest, thoughtful dialogue with children. To answer their very real questions, assuage their fears, and hear them. Let me repeat that: hear them.

Cue the well-executed teachable moment.

Take two minutes to watch the video below of a lesbian couple who so eloquently and graciously confront their mayor, Joyce Daniels, who recently posted anti-gay sentiments on her Facebook page.

Mayor Daniels’s post, dated June 25, reads:

I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.

With warmth, humor and intelligence, the couple introduces their two daughters to the mayor, shares their drawings with her, and in all ways, takes the high road to understanding and acceptance.

Rather than lashing out in anger. Rather than ignoring the post, or the changed lyrics. We each, we all, have the opportunity to share our experiences with our children, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our community. We have the opportunity to engage each other in meaningful, respectful dialogue. To show our children, by example, that we all have the power to move through the oogiest of moments with kindness and grace. And, that we are all free to don our apparel, gay or otherwise.

July 18, 2011

Dear Dad,

Two years to the day that we sat in a room that smelled of newsprint and coffee as you silently slipped out the door, just as you did when I was a child falling off to sleep. I am still sometimes surprised and amazed by your absence. I am still sometimes surprised that it’s possible for me to exist as flesh and bone when you don’t.

Lately, you’ve taken form as Ella Fitzgerald crooning for the crowd at the bar where I wait for a friend. You’re the tiny end table with the hand-painted cherry design in the antique store – the same table that served as home to your ashtray, corncob pipe and lowball glass of Budweiser that I’ve never seen since. You’re the smell of Skin Bracer aftershave in a crowd, though I can never find its source. You’re the shared eccentricities infused into each of us: the lone eyebrow that raises on its own whim. You’re the harmony of the hymn sung in a rare visit to church. You’re the “do you remember” moments we share like a secret language. You’re the bend in my path that I cannot see past. You were and will always be, the moon.