In Elementary School, I Was an Effeminate 'Honey child'

Honey Child
George Johnson

Before there was "tea," "shade," "hunty," or "yaaaassssssssss," there was "honey child" (in my Sophia from The Golden Girls voice).

It was 1992 in New Jersey. 

I was a 7-year-old black boy in second grade, doing what normal 7-year-olds do.  I played football, basketball, ran track and got good grades.  On paper I was pretty average, but to my teachers, my parents, and the student body, there was something different about me. 

Contrary to the other rough and tough boys, I was effeminate.  I had a little switch to my walk and from time-to-time my wrists were a little bent.  Oh, and there was also the fact that I called every student in my class "honey child."

My teacher called my mother because of the odd stares the other children in the classroom gave me when I called them "honey child." Although I had great grades and was a polite boy, the teacher told my mother, she was worried about my frequent use of "honey child." She said my peers wanted me to stop using the word. So, my mother told me to stop using the word.

Never again did I mouth the three-syllable phrase. "Honey child" was my "hey boo" before there was a "hey boo."  I used that word in different contexts using the inflection of my voice.  As a 7-year-old, I saw nothing wrong with using it affectionately with my peers.

It made me feel like I wasn't like everyone else. I only wish my teacher felt the same way.

It wasn’t until now that I discovered what was really going on. My effeminate character was being policed by my teacher, and my mother obliged. 

It was 1992 and there was no reference point for my teacher on how to deal with a gay black child in elementary school.  They did what they thought was best, which was to address the symptom, rather than acknowledge the root. In 2015, I am a proud queer black male.

I write this to say, that there are and will always be many boys like me. We exhibit homosexuality at a young age. And I urge that parents and teachers begin to affirm rather than condemn, that we nurture rather than shame.  Growing up gay wasn’t easy.  

At 29, I am still a “honey child."

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