In Parts I, II, and III, you discovered that your children are second language learners when it comes to the rich idiomatic language of your gay culture. Have you begun your child’s Gay Language immersion yet? If not, don’t delay too much longer. Admittedly there are no workbooks at Barnes & Noble. There is no after-school Gay Language Program. And so far there are no gay language tutors out there. You’ll have to do it yourself. But if you don’t, you could pay a price.
Let’s review a favorite gay expression with literary roots, and explore the potential consequences of not teaching this expression to your children at an early age.
Friend of Dorothy
Child-friendly definition • another gay person
Synonym • a member of the tribe (See child-friendly definition)
Sample sentence • “Do you think our neighbor two doors down is a friend of Dorothy?”
Most gay people—except the very closeted, self-loathing, over-compensating, deeply in denial types (not the typical profile of a gay parent)—enjoy speculating about the sexual orientation of others using our will-honed gaydar (see child-friendly definition). It gives us a little thrill to spot one of our own kind—even if the one we’ve spotted hasn’t yet spotted him or herself.
And just because we become parents doesn’t mean we give up this little pleasure in life. Thus, one evening at the dinner table, you may find yourself saying to your partner, “I wonder if our neighbor two doors down is a friend of Dorothy.”
If you have not previously introduced this Gay Language idiom to your child, he or she may interrupt your conversation to ask, “Who’s Dorothy?” and you, wanting to deflect their curiosity, may say, “Oh, just an old friend of mine.”
Mistake! Not only have you bypassed a language teaching opportunity but you have also left your child with a misconception that could result in grave consequences. Remember, a child’s mental hard drive has a lot more storage space for trivial information than yours does. Your child will remember your passing interest in Dorothy and the neighbor long after you have moved on. He or she is also motivated by a deep desire to please you and come to the dinner table with valuable information to contribute to your adult conversations. The next time your child sees this neighbor, he or she may say, “My daddy (or mommy) wants to know if you are a friend of Dorothy.”
If your original speculation about the neighbor was correct, then there’s probably not much harm done. In fact, you might even make a new friend in the neighborhood.
If the neighbor isn’t gay and also doesn’t know Gay Language, then you have also dodged a bullet and your child may come to the dinner table and report, “By the way, Daddy (Mommy), that neighbor two doors down says he doesn’t know any Dorothy.”
If, however, the neighbor is straight and he’s more versed in Gay Language than your own child, then you may get a knock on your door. “You people are unbelievable,” he may say. “You send your children over to ask if I’m one of you? I’m no idiot. I know what friend of Dorothy means. You people shouldn’t be allowed to be parents!”
In this situation, there’s only one thing to do. Look at the neighbor and say, “Excuse me, but there’s been a terrible misunderstanding here. Dorothy is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and the other day I saw you in the grocery store parking lot talking to her—or at least I thought I did. Look, I can’t help it if my friend has the same name as a character Judy Garland once played. You know, not everyone with the name Dorothy is gay. Talk about being offended!” and shut the door immediately.
Then admit to your child that you lied–which is a very bad thing to do–and begin Gay Language instruction immediately.
© 2008 by Carrie Smith. All rights reserved.