When reading “Stuff White People Like,” one of the items listed was “Gay People” with a little aside in that parents try to expose their children to homosexuals at an early age. This reminded me of a disturbing incident on IRC a few months ago, which has compelled me to write this tonight. We were in some sort of discussion when a user started talking about how him and his wife don’t knowingly expose their children (ages 4 and 7 if I recall correctly) to gay people. If there was a family event with their gay cousin, they won’t go. I was just against people would raise their kids this way. They claimed they were avoiding “awkward” moments when a kid might ask why John is kissing Jack. This isn’t any more “awkward” then a child asking where babies come from, or why John is kissing Jill. We’re all humans and we’re all sexual beings. These questions happen.
But when taking a shower tonight–I do a lot of thinking while taking showers–I was reminded of how my parents handled the “gay issue.”
As long as I can remember my parents were friends with Bruce and Kelly. They never really went into why they always came together, and as a child I never wondered it. I probably just assumed they lived together, and that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Why would I have a problem with it as a child? Bruce was an early computer user, and always had awesome games for me to play. Kelly collected McDonald’s toys, Barbies, was studying to be a hairdresser, and loved cooking. To a kid, they were just like any other adult, and were pretty much awesome to me and my sister.
Never did it really cross my mind that they were not heterosexuals. Of course, as a kid–as I expect with every other child on the planet–things like sexuality never came up in my thoughts at all until at least 10. So when in the car one day I was talking about how I had heard of a game called “Smear the Queer,” and kept repeating the name. I liked how the name rhymed and thought “queer,” was, well, a “queer” word.
Then came an awkward moment when my parents–knowing what queer meant and what the “game” started as–solemnly informed me that they would be smearing people like Bruce and Kelly. Silence. I didn’t understand why someone would try and target these cool guys who played a pretty big part in my childhood.I still don’t understand.
They didn’t seem different then, and aren’t different now. Instead of trying to avoid the awkward homosexual questions that come along with all of the awkward heterosexual questions, I was raised to treat everyone the same. There was nothing wrong with being different, and truly, they never seemed different. Raising a child this way ensures that sexual orientation is never really that big of an issue. Homosexual people were not avoided, the topic not ignored, and I did not suddenly “discover” homosexual people one day when my parent’s guard was down. At a very young age the mold was imprinted to me that didn’t treat men who liked dolls any different than one who liked NASCAR. Where difference is natural, and we have a unique contribution to those around us.
When I hear and read about parents trying to avoid any situation that might “expose” (which is a horrible term, I think) their young children to those dreaded “homosexuals,” it makes me wonder. It’s decisions like that–a decision to try and avoid any awkward question that probably won’t be any more awkward than “where do babies come from”–that breeds intolerance. As with anything, we only will treat people differently if we pick up social clues around us that say that we should. So when children realize that their parents have been avoiding those “other people,” they start to think something is wrong with being different. The cycle begins again.
Note: This seemed much better when writing it in my head.