19
   

Avoiding Heteronormativity

 
 
sozobe
 
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 08:07 am
Yes I know it's horribly jargony and PC. I almost posted this a couple of weeks ago but didn't because it's so jargony and PC and I couldn't dejargon it in a quick attempt (and didn't have time for more than a quick attempt).

Then just saw this article and brought it back to mind:

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/18/when_your_child_is_gay/

An excerpt:

Quote:
You’d think that in a world where kids now have far more opportunities to see both gay and straight characters and images, when your daughter is likely having play dates with a classmate with two dads, the notion that a child might be gay wouldn’t be so strange or confusing. Yet heterosexuality is still very much the expected course. From before birth, kids are jokingly paired off in future prom dates; they still get more than their share of princesses marrying handsome princes and swashbuckling pirates saving ladies in distress. If you’re looking for indoctrination, I think the straights have that one sewn up.

Lauren, who grew up gay in Kentucky in the late 1980s, says, “One of the things that makes it hard on very young gay children is that parents have a tendency to unintentionally force this very straight narrative on them, and to do so even in the face of evidence that said children might not be straight. I was mostly just called a tomboy, and it was assumed I’d grow up and get over it.” She advises, “The best things parents can do for both their straight and gay children is just not to presume anything about their kid’s sexuality — and to admit that, even early on, your kid has one. Talk openly — and casually! — about gay people. Then, years later, if they realize they’re gay, they can just be like, ‘Hey guess what? I’m gay!’ and their parents can be all, ‘Cool!’ and they won’t build it up in their heads as some arduous, difficult task.”


While I think that's a big part of it -- some us are going to have gay kids -- the part that's been on my mind is more lateral. Kids realizing that not all of their peers are going to be straight.

But without casting aspersions. And that is what's a little tricky.

The specific thing that brought this all to mind is a conversation I had with sozlet about crushes. They're kinda breaking out all over all of a sudden towards the end of fifth grade. Some kids are actually dating, etc.

She doesn't think she has any crushes -- there is one boy who she likes a lot as a friend, and she can't tell if she likes him "more." He's smart, funny, sweet, all kinds of good things. He obviously likes her -- I've seen them together and he really looks at her when she talks, lots of eye contact, really listens to what she has to say and seems to thinks it's interesting, laughs at her jokes, looks happy when she laughs at his jokes, etc. She was trying to figure out if he "likes" her. I said that I'd noted the above, and said something like "he obviously likes you a lot, but I don't know if it's a crush or not. I've wondered if he might be gay."

She was obviously a bit taken aback at first, but then thought about it and said "hmmm, maybe," and we moved on.

She's been very aware that some people are gay and some are straight from way back. A cousin E.G.'s very close to who has a son sozlet's age is lesbian, our community has a pretty visible gay/ lesbian presence (several of her classmates have two moms or two dads), we read the marriage announcements and features in the NYT and awwwww over whomever has a sweet story, gay or straight, etc. I also do periodic reality checks when she's imagining which of her friends will go to prom together or whatever -- "remember that by the time you're all in high school, at least some of this group is likely to turn out to be gay."

But this is the first time that I said a specific kid might be gay. (He might not be, I don't have a strong feeling about it, just a maybe.)

I mentioned this whole conversation to E.G. later and he was horrified. He said something like "you told sozlet not to tell anyone else that, right?" He was worried that this kid would get branded gay and that he'd be teased/ bullied for it.

He had a point, and I hadn't thought of that. Sozlet's usually good about keeping things confidential, but I was just thinking about this weird dichotomy -- it's fine to be gay, but DON'T IMPLY THAT ANY SPECIFIC PERSON IS GAY.

What do you do about this, as parents?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 19 • Views: 10,496 • Replies: 123

 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 08:12 am
@sozobe,
...I know the obvious thing is just "there's nothing wrong with being gay but there is still a lot of prejudice out there." And I guess we do that. Just was thinking about it.
Linkat
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 08:34 am
@sozobe,
The concern is being branded gay - in other words him being called out of the closet by some one else. What if he isn't gay? I think it would be different if the boy said he was gay rather than some one else. Yeah it may not be fair in that we assume everyone is straight until they tell us other wise. But the kid, himself, too may not like it that you considered him gay.

Funny thing though - when I went on a trip to Key West, I quickly found out they think the opposite. They consider you gay, lesbian first until you tell them or show them in some way that you are straight.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  3  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:01 am
@sozobe,
I think it's safe to say that I would never openly speculate on a kid's sexuality, especially not to Mo.

Our conversations about gayness usually go like this...

Mo: Do you think s/he's gay?

Me: It's none of my business.
CalamityJane
 
  3  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:14 am
@boomerang,
I tend to agree with boomerang here.

My daughter has a few friends (boys) who are openly gay. I see that the younger generation (14 to 16) is very open about their sexuality. I am thinking especially of a boy who is in her German class, he makes sure that everyone knows it. Jane is very fond of her gay friends, they understand "girl talk" as she puts it.

wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:23 am
I think it is entirely normal when children in high school "come out" about their sexuality. Before high school, however, children should not make any such declarations. There have been unfortunate examples of children "coming out" as early as age 10.
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:26 am
@boomerang,
But that's the heteronormativity part.

The implicit assumption is that everyone is straight.

We were talking about sexuality in a general way -- crushes, who was interested in who.

So if you're already talking about Sally having a crush on Joe and Ben having a crush on Amanda, that's already "speculating on a kid's sexuality" -- just assuming that they're all straight.

I think it's a good idea to shake that up a bit as per the article so it's not a Huge Big Deal.

I just think that it's necessary laterally as well as just recognizing that our own kids might turn out to be gay.
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:28 am
@wandeljw,
I sort of agree with that, in that I think that it's not completely immutable. Some kids might identify as gay at 13 and then not at 20, for example, and I don't think they need to be locked in to any particular identity that early.

However, a lot of people know they're gay at 10. I don't think they should have to hide that.

From the article:

Quote:
All kids develop at their own paces, and that includes how they develop in their awareness of orientation. Not every 7-year-old is solid in his gayness or straightness. But what all of us as parents and educators need to do is create space in our children’s lives to let them come to their own understanding of themselves. Amelia says, “We need to start parenting equal rights. We need to ask, what kind of message am I sending my kids — and is that message harmful? I get letters all the time from people saying, ‘My dad didn’t mean to be awful.’” She reminds parents, “People have been trying to make gay kids straight for a long time and it hasn’t been working.”

It’s a sentiment that Paul echoes. “I grew up in a completely heterosexual society,” he says, “and it didn’t take. You can believe what you want, but when you’ve got 600 people on your blog telling you, ‘I knew when I was a child,’ why wouldn’t you believe them?” He adds, “Can you imagine how great and better the world will be when every kid is nurtured young, and isn’t quashed until he’s 19?”
wandeljw
 
  3  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:38 am
@sozobe,
A wise, self-aware 10 year old may be surrounded by other 10 year olds who are immature and scared about things like that.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:41 am
@wandeljw,
Sure.

Two different things here:

- I don't think sozlet should go around saying that she thinks this kid is gay. I didn't think she would in the first place (nor do I think she would go around talking about Ben having a crush on Amanda -- we were having a conversation of a type that we both know should be confidential). I double-checked with her after having the conversation with her dad, and she agreed that of course it's not something she would go talk about. Not that it was a thing really anyway -- I mentioned, in a specific relevant context, that I thought he might be gay, but I didn't make any claims that he IS.

- I do think that, as parents, when we're having conversations with our kids, we should avoid assuming that everyone is straight and passing that assumption on to our kids.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:42 am
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
I don't think they should have to hide that.


they shouldn't have to hide, but being labelled could be at least as dangerous
0 Replies
 
Sturgis
 
  4  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 09:49 am
@boomerang,
Quote:
I think it's safe to say that I would never openly speculate on a kid's sexuality, especially not to Mo.

Our conversations about gayness usually go like this...

Mo: Do you think s/he's gay?

Me: It's none of my business.
Thank you! Smile Very Happy Smile

From a personal past, I remember the 1960s and a group of us sitting around talking, not sure what else we were doing and then over on the side sat another boy. One in our group said he was gay, the giggles came along, then someone shouted it at him and asked if he was. It was the 60s things were different then and the word was less known. He said he was, of course he meant that he was happy. It took several years for him to shed that label and he went through hell during that time. His gayness factor was because he liked to cook and was well groomed.

sozobe, what little factors did you use to decide to label your daughter's friend? Did you use the Archie Bunker mentality from the All In The Family episode (Judging Books By Covers) where he labels the young man with the snazzy suit and ascot as gay and the big rough and tough man as straight (which he subsequently learns he has all wrong).

Why do we label anybody? When it comes to sexual identity this should be on an individual basis. Let children know early on that the different interests exist and that it's all good. When a person is ready, they can then decide who they are interested in and the person is either available or they aren't, whether they are looking for a same sex or an opposite sex relationship.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 10:08 am
@Sturgis,
Sozlet's friend is tall, athletic, and not particularly well-dressed.

I have known a lot of gay people (lots of overlap in gay and deaf communities) and for adults have pretty accurate gaydar. A few things about this kid have made me think he might be but I couldn't put my finger on them. Nothing stereotypical at any rate.

But that's really not the main point. I'm not making any definite claims that he is or isn't.

It's actually the opposite -- all of these kids are being labeled straight, when they may or may not be.

This kid may or may not be gay. Ben may or may not be straight. Same with Amanda. Same with everyone else.

"Avoid assumptions" is the message, not "affix labels."
FreeDuck
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 11:05 am
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:

I mentioned this whole conversation to E.G. later and he was horrified. He said something like "you told sozlet not to tell anyone else that, right?" He was worried that this kid would get branded gay and that he'd be teased/ bullied for it.

He had a point, and I hadn't thought of that. Sozlet's usually good about keeping things confidential, but I was just thinking about this weird dichotomy -- it's fine to be gay, but DON'T IMPLY THAT ANY SPECIFIC PERSON IS GAY.

What do you do about this, as parents?


That was my first reaction too, but knowing sozlet, she won't say anything.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 12:04 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
But that's the heteronormativity part.

The implicit assumption is that everyone is straight.


No it isn't. It's not implying anything other than it's none of my business or his business or anyone else's business. He's a kid and he's trying to figure things out and what I want him to figure out is that its none of his business -- that it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.

And it isn't speculating either. If a boy has a crush on a girl (or vice versa) chances are they are attracted to the opposite gender.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 12:22 pm
@boomerang,
I think I wasn't clear.

In general, when kids are speculating about who has a crush on who, the implicit assumption is that everyone is straight.

That's what I was talking about, in the first place, so the "not my business" answer doesn't really apply.

Maybe this will help, maybe not:

The conversation sozlet and I were having was about crushes in general. That Sarah has a crush on Joe, and that Ben has a crush on Amanda. And on and on, including a lot of people in the fifth grade. Some of them are publicly dating, some of them are just stated, well-known crushes, some of it was just speculation. Does Dave like Marie? He sure seems to. Sozlet and her friends talk about this stuff, and she was filling me as part of a leisurely chat about her day.

I asked if she had a crush on anyone -- last I knew, she didn't -- and she said no, not really. IF she has a crush on anyone, she said, it's probably this guy. (I'll call him Ryan.)

We talked about that for a bit, and how to know if you have a crush on someone vs. whether you just like the person as a friend. She thought that she probably just likes Ryan as a friend, but then said that a lot of people think he has a crush on her.

We talked about that for a bit, and she asked me what I thought -- whether I think he has a crush on her from what I've observed. I mentioned the stuff I wrote above about how he obviously likes her, but I couldn't tell, myself, whether he has a crush on her. I also said I thought he might be gay, within that context. Definitely not "he is gay," just by the way, in terms of him having a crush on you or not, maybe gay.

I could've left it at just I couldn't tell if he had a crush on her, sure. At the time I didn't have any particular goal in mind, just was talking to her in a way we often talk.

But I realized that it's of a piece with me saying, when she does the imaginary prom match-ups (and they do that!) "remember that by the time you guys are going to prom, some of your class will probably have come out as gay," or "check out this sweet story [in the NYT Sunday paper marriage feature, about a gay couple]." (I don't do it just about gay couples, but a certain percentage of the "awww sweet story" features are about gay couples.)

I don't want her to assume that everyone she is going to school with is straight, because that's probably not the case.

Does that make more sense?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 12:34 pm
@CalamityJane,
Btw forgot to comment that I think this is cool, and encouraging:

CalamityJane wrote:
My daughter has a few friends (boys) who are openly gay. I see that the younger generation (14 to 16) is very open about their sexuality. I am thinking especially of a boy who is in her German class, he makes sure that everyone knows it. Jane is very fond of her gay friends, they understand "girl talk" as she puts it.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 01:09 pm
@sozobe,
Yeah, I get it.

Maybe it's just different with boys. Mo doesn't really chat about who likes who or prom match ups and that kind of thing. I usually know who his current girlfriend is but that's about it.

Two of my best gal-pals are a lesbian couple, Mo hangs out with their sons all the time. He sees that their house runs just like our house does, that their lives are just like ours. Their sexuality is a complete non-issue. That's the message I want him to carry into adulthood.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 01:31 pm
@boomerang,
Yeah, that's two sides of the same coin, I think.

Non-issue, on one side.

Not everyone is straight, on the other side.

I'd believe it's more a girl thing than a boy thing. On the girl side, there is an incredible amount of chatter about romance etc. already. Several of her friends have all-encompassing crushes on Josh Hutcherson, for example... one asked me to print out a picture of him for her binder, she greeted the freshly-printed image with a volley of kisses.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 01:32 pm
This thread is so gay. Or not. Whatever.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » Avoiding Heteronormativity
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 08/22/2019 at 05:55:06