19
   

Avoiding Heteronormativity

 
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 01:18 pm
@dlowan,
And while I'm here, excellent post. Says what I've been trying to say but much more clearly I think.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 01:33 pm
@sozobe,
what if he is bi and wants nothing to do with her?


just lightening up the mood...
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 01:33 pm
@Linkat,
Not excellent. But because of the wanting nothing to do with her part not the bi part. Smile
0 Replies
 
jcboy
 
  4  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 06:42 pm
I think things have changed quite a bit over the years. I’m 28 years old and of course I’ve been gay my whole life. I was born and raised in CA and being gay was never an issue. Growing up nobody assumed everyone was straight that I can remember. I honestly can’t remember it being an issue.

In CA most of my friends were straight. A lot of people I knew either had a gay relative or another gay friend so nobody really cared.

True story, once I was in South Coast Plaze and ran into Jan Crouch the Christian televangelist from TBN shopping with her two bodyguards, she shopped there quite often. She was walking around pointing out men who she thought was gay, oh he’s gay, that one sure is gay, that’s what I heard her saying.

Truth be told those bodyguards were not there to protect her, they were there to help her off the bar stool after 4 bombay sapphire martini's at Fashion Island.
CalamityJane
 
  2  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 07:19 pm
@jcboy,
That validates what I've said earlier - here in southern California it's basically a non-issue, not in my daughter's age group (teens) nor in jcboy's age group.

I do think that the geographical position makes a difference and a gay community will have a much harder time in the bible belt states as in CA or FL.
jcboy
 
  2  
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 07:26 pm
@CalamityJane,
Oh you are right about that!

You get out of this area, St. Pete, Tampa and you better be careful, deliverance territory.

0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  4  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 03:37 am
@sozobe,
Quote:
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.

Why are you concerned with impressing on your daughter that not all of her peers are going to be straight? Why encourage her to wonder whether this boy who seems to like her might be gay? Or to think about the fact that by the time she is in high school some of the friends she has now will likely turn out to be gay?

I am truly confused about your thinking on this issue.

Wondering or speculating about the sexual orientation of other people, and encouraging your child to do the same, has nothing to do with creating a climate of acceptance for people who might be gay or lesbian. If anything, you create a climate of acceptance by not focusing on other people's sexual orientation, and by not labeling or defining other people in terms of their sexual orientation.

I understand you want your child to be accepting, but you are actually encouraging her to focus on differences. Acceptance rests in recognizing basic similarities, not differences. Love is love, whether directed toward someone of the same sex or the opposite sex, sexuality and sexual pleasure/passion with a partner is essentially the same whether that partner is of the same or the opposite gender--it is the recognition of these similarities we share as humans, regardless of sexual orientation, that creates greater acceptance for those who might not conform to the societal norm of heterosexuality. But, once you say things like, "I wonder if he's gay," you're focusing on your own perception that that person somehow deviates from some norm in terms of his sexuality or sexual orientation, and you're encouraging your daughter to do the same. I'm wondering what value you see in doing that.

I realize you're not meaning to imply that being gay is in any way negative, but, realistically, it is a statistical deviation from normative behavior--a very very tiny percentage of people actually identify as being gay or lesbian. That's why it is difficult, or can be difficult, for those who are homosexual, and who grow up knowing that their feelings and attractions do not conform to the norm for their gender, because this does involve feeling different, and, in fact, it is a realization of being different, and, if that child's parents are not accepting of those differences, the child will feel even more alienated or confused or isolated, and will lack a very needed source of support. It's parental acceptance these children need, which is basically what the article you posted was saying.

We live in a society which marginalizes and may discriminate against any member of a minority group--and, in the case of the homosexual minority, that discrimination may become more vociferous, and even violent, because it can be stoked by religious fervor and/or belief. That reality can't be ignored--it can, and does, make life difficult for gays and lesbians. It isn't just that the larger society assumes that everyone is straight and will conform to certain patterns of behavior, gays have to contend with animosity, and anger, and vilification, and insult, and sometimes violence, and that makes life more difficult. And, if we want to change that, we try to raise our children to simply be accepting of other people, and their differences, and not to make any judgments about them based on their sexual orientation or sexual preferences.

And, it's in that regard I'm not sure it's helpful to encourage a child to wonder about the sexual preferences of their peers, and to think about whether these preferences differ from the norm. As long as the child is aware that people differ in how they express their gender roles, and how they express their feelings, and that there are a variety of sexual orientations, and everyone has a right to be and live as they wish, that should be sufficient in encouraging the child to be accepting. Speculating, or thinking, about specific other people's sexual or gender preferences really is none of their business. It's one thing to be totally accepting and supportive of a peer, or an adult, who is open about having a different sexual orientation, but it's quite another to be nosy or think inquisitively about someone else's orientation.

Your daughter already knows there are gay and lesbian people, and you encourage her to be an accepting person, so why do you feel you have to go beyond that? Why do you need to "prepare" her now to accept the fact that some of her peers may be gay, years from now, when they go to their senior prom--something that might not even be true? Why even point out gay marriage announcements in the newspapers to her? Why are you heightening her awareness of homosexuality, or trying to? I really can't follow your logic in doing these things.

Thank goodness society has become more accepting of gays, thank goodness there is more understanding and awareness of the problems that gay adults face if they can't legally marry, and more awareness of the problems of gay young teens, and particularly the bullying and torment that some are subjected to by their schoolmates. And we want to work toward eradicating those problems. And we want our children to accept gays for who they are as people without labeling or judging them for their preferences. But the best way to do that is to just accept other people without labeling them, without categorizing them, and without encouraging thinking in terms of those labels--and by respecting that other people have a right to privacy about such matters, if they want to keep them private.

Heterosexuality will remain the norm. Despite the prevalence of more prominent people who now identify themselves as gay or lesbian, and more gay characters in movies and TV shows, and more on-going debates about gay marriage and gay civil rights, gays constitute a very very tiny fraction of the population--about 1.7% of the adult population identifies as being gay or lesbian. In fact, given their relative very small numbers, it's remarkable how successful their advocacy movement has been in increasing their visibility and getting their issues addressed on a political level. I really applaud them. The gay community has done a great job making their voices heard and enlisting support.
Quote:
How many gay men and lesbians are there in the United States? Gary Gates has an idea but acknowledges pinpointing a solid figure remains an elusive task.

Gates is demographer-in-residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, a think tank based at the University of California, Los Angeles. For the institute's 10th anniversary this week, he took a scholarly stab at answering the question that has been debated, avoided, parsed and proven both insoluble and political since pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey said in the 1940s that 10 percent of the men he surveyed were "predominantly homosexual."

Gates' best estimate, derived from five studies that have asked subjects about their sexual orientation, is that the nation has about 4 million adults who identify as being gay or lesbian, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population.

That's a much lower figure than the 3 to 5 percent that has been the conventional wisdom in the last two decades, based on other isolated studies and attempts to discredit Kinsey.

One reason, according to Gates, is that until recently, few surveys tried to differentiate respondents who identified as gay or lesbian from those who sometimes engaged in homosexual acts or were attracted to people of the same sex. All were lumped into the gay category.

"One of the major questions, when you think about how many (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people are there, is what do you mean by LGBT?" he said. "This shows there are pretty big differences between people who use the terms to label themselves versus sexual behavior or attraction."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/gay-population-us-estimate_n_846348.html

There is no way to avoid "heteronormativity"--that will remain the norm, and it really has to remain the norm, given the statistics. But that doesn't mean that there still isn't room for other orientations, and other lifestyles, and that those who fall into the minority aren't entitled to live their lives in peace with the full benefits and privileges and respect afforded to everyone else--there is room for all of that. But none of that will change the basic norm in a society where over 98% of the population is heterosexual. Reality is reality. We just have to accept that not everyone will fit into that hetero norm, and not make a big deal of it, or try to force anyone to fit into that norm, and not disadvantage those who don't fit into the norm. If we all just live and let live we'll be fine--and that's the primary message we need to get across to children, and other adults as well.






dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 04:11 am
@Thomas,
Not so sure re red hair in Britain re witch crazes.....however, in the west witch persecution stopped a couple of hundred years ago. Persecution of gay people didn't, and hasn't.

Are you seriously suggesting that possibly preferring redheads has the same social negative loading, (speaking broadly...I'd be minorly pissed off at someone for only fancying redheads, because it's kind of exclusive) as possibly being gay?

Sure, thank heavens there are places where it seems it is not of any interest, but you're living in a dream world if you think that's very common.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:15 pm
I fail to see the harm in a discussion with one's child, the sexual orientation of a classmate, if it is based on curiosity and there isn't an assumption that if the consensus is that the classmate is gay, that he or she is defective or should be scorned.

I can't imagine the discussion lasting very long though unless it evolved into one which more broadly addressed sexual orientation and it's impact on one's place in society. That sort of discussion, it seems to me, would be beneficial.

Of course there is an assumption that every child born is heterosexual, and I see nothing wrong with it.

Estimates of the percentage of Americans who are gay run from as low as less than 1% (2000 American Census) to 10% (Kinsey in 1948) The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force estimates it at between 3% and 8%.

So, it's either a small percentage or a very small percentage.

If one accepts thats homosexuality is decided before birth then, of course, there is a chance that a newly born infant will be homosexual, but that chance is slim, and I see no plausible reason to not assume one's newborn is heterosexual until they show whatever is deigned to be accurate signs of their heterosexuality.

The trying experiences that many gay children have are sad, but so are the difficulties that many other children who are perceived as different experience. As well, there are a great many children who while not suffering from social perception issues, never-the-less have experince great difficulties, not the least of which are life threatening. The current focus on the difficulties of gay children is disproportionate to their numbers.

I can't see any real harm in being disproprtionately concerned about one very small segment of children unless it produces a disproportionate allocation of limited resources that are avalaible for all troubled children. That doesn't seem to be the case, unless one includes individuals' awareness within the resource pool.

Interestingly enough, in contrast to the far more informed, and publicized, estimates cited previously, according to Gallup, the American public estimates the percentage of gay men and women in this country to be about 25%

Why should this be the case?

It is the result, I contend, of a very effective political movement to change societal perceptions of homosexuality.

While this movement is subject to a certain degree of backlash (often warranted by excessive actions and claims) it has, very largely, been successful.

I don't fault any minority for engaging in a campaign of manipulation in order to improve, in some way, the daily lives of their members and/or to acquire political power disproportionate to their numbers, but it remains a campaign of manipulation far more than one of education -- which is what every such group will lay claim to.

I think it's worth asking though how this campaign has been able to enlist a very large and reliable group of people who do not fall within the ranks of the minority it represents, as without accomplishing this feat, it's success would not be possible.

Of course those who have been enlisted will argue that it is simply because the cause of the movement is just, but without debating whether or not it is, there are great number of just causes in this country and this world that do not attract the number of enlistees this movement has, and in such a reliable bloc.

The great trick the movement has managed is to assure that a very large political bloc in this country has adopted their cause as a litmus test for qualification.

This may be somewhat of a facile analysis, but I suspect that this has been possible because of a disproprotionate number of homosexuals among sub-groups which the enlisted bloc finds particularly attractive and authoratative.

Obviously gays exist in all walks of life but, for whatever reason, they represent larger percentages of some than others. The fashion industry is an example. It may be that the disproportion really only involves openly gay individuals (although I don't think so), but the effect is the same.

(BTW - I've used the fashion industry as an example of disproportionate gay membership, and not, necessarily, as one of the sub-groups referred to previously)

The issue at the core of this thread, by many standards, should not be a burning issue in this country and yet it is.

Unfortunately, successful causes (just or not) will take on a life of their own when effective manipulation is employed. The very notion of "heteronormativity," let alone the perscription that it must be avoided is an example of an excess of this movement masquerading as informed social commentary.

In the balance, an excess like this probably benefits rather than hurts the movement since for every person who finds the notion silly (if nothing else) that parents need to raise their children in a socially abnormal environment simply because there is a relatively slight chance that they will reveal themselves to be gay, there are many more who find it motivational and reinforcing of the mindset they have developed or adopted.

Better off to teach are children that there are a great many differences among humans, and while a few, for good reason, dissrupt society most do not and that often time there is no legitimate reason for believing some of these differences do.

If we provide our children with a sound set of core values and encourage them to think rationally, they will likely and usually make the right decisions and choices.

I can't imagine that it is ever helpful to refuse to answer a child's question.






0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:22 pm
@firefly,
I think firefly has an excellent point. Why raise homosexuality as an issue at all unless it's brought up by the child? In that case, you explain the importance of acceptance (even celebration) of diversity, including sex-oriented diversity. For me, it's really that simple.
jcboy
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:42 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Yep and that is how it is in our home. Antonio has brought it up several times because his little friends have asked him about his two daddies. He’s too young to understand right now but he just tells them he doesn’t have a mommy just two daddies and his friends think that’s cool.
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:46 pm
@jcboy,
That is so cool, jc, and that is how it should be. Kids, as a rule, are generally very accepting of every kind of diversity. The bigots will say, "They don't know any better. They have to be carefully taught."
0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:52 pm
@jcboy,
You know - Tracy Ullman had these sketches where she had 2 daddies...
they were hilarious.

Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 12:54 pm
@CalamityJane,


Here, i fixed that for ya . . .
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 01:11 pm
@Setanta,
Thank you, Setanta! Smile
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 01:21 pm
@firefly,
firefly wrote:

Quote:
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.

Why are you concerned with impressing on your daughter that not all of her peers are going to be straight? Why encourage her to wonder whether this boy who seems to like her might be gay? Or to think about the fact that by the time she is in high school some of the friends she has now will likely turn out to be gay?

I am truly confused about your thinking on this issue.

Wondering or speculating about the sexual orientation of other people, and encouraging your child to do the same, has nothing to do with creating a climate of acceptance for people who might be gay or lesbian


Usually, if I start to respond to something by quoting myself, I decide it's not a good idea to go ahead. If it wasn't effective the first time, no particular reason it would be effective the second (or third or fourth) times.

That's assuming that you've read all that I've said here, and not just the first post? If you haven't, that's probably the best starting point.

So, I had already explained that there was already wondering or speculating going on about people's sexual orientation. Because that's what's going on when someone says "I think Peter might have a crush on Mary."

They are speculating that Peter is heterosexual -- but since that's such a baseline assumption, it's not something where "sexual orientation" jumps out at most people. It's just baseline.

Here's the new angle which might (or might not) help clarify things:

My kid and I talk a lot. Probably 98% of our interactions are just boring, baseline stuff. What happened at school that day, our schedules for the next week, what we thought about that book we both read, whether she can go on the computer right now, whether she's had enough to drink today, the funny thing her friend told her -- just your everyday usual stuff.

Probably 2% has some sort of teaching element.

For example, she recently burst an eardrum. Fluid is steadily leaking out of her ear, so she has a cotton ball in it to catch the fluid, and went to school that way. She told me that she showed her friend Nat and he was like "ewwww." It's gross, so I understood the "ewww." I was concerned about why she'd show him something so gross -- seemed like kind of bad manners. (They're good friends, but....) So I asked her about why she showed him.

She explained that they'd had a whole conversation about it, and he kept asking detailed questions, and so she finally asked because that seemed to be what he was angling for -- "do you want to see?" -- and at first he demurred but then said sure, and then she showed him, and then he said "ewwwww."

I said "OK, that makes sense. Good idea to ask him first."

If she'd said she just kinda waved it under his nose, I would have encouraged her to be more respectful of his feelings next time.

Because we talk a lot, even 2% of our total interactions adds up to a lot.

Recently we were talking about a tribe of (Amazonian Indians, I think) who have big plates in their lips. She thought it looked odd. (Again, I don't think noting difference is itself a problem -- I think what matters is what you do with it and what value judgement you assign to it.) I said yeah, it sure looks uncomfortable to me, but they seem used to it. I wonder what they think is odd about us? High heels maybe?

There was a visible shift as she considered the things we consider normal that might be odd to other cultures. We came up with a few more.

If she says that someone was really mean today, I might ask her what's going on in that person's life, if there's a reason she might be mean today.

Etc., etc., etc. There is a lot of this kind of thing.

So the Ryan conversation. In this case, I was introducing the idea that he might be gay -- no value judgment. Not a warning. Not anything negative. Just a possibility.

It just happened in the course of the conversation at the time -- I wasn't consciously thinking anything when I asked her what the Amazonian Indians were likely to think were weird about Westerners, either.

But it had a similar goal of getting her outside of preconceived notions.

I absolutely didn't say he is gay. And the rest of the conversation after what I transcribed here -- her "hmm, maybe..." -- was me shrugging in a "who knows" way, before we went on to talk about other things.

I think her keeping in mind the possibility that some of her peers either are or will turn out to be gay has a few different positives:

- She's more likely to stand up against gay slurs if she thinks that maybe some of the other people in earshot are themselves gay
- She's less likely to have a shocked/ negative reaction if/when one of her friends come out
- She's less likely to keep things neutral about homosexuality when talking to her peers (if she keeps in mind the possibility that one of them may in fact be/ turn out to be gay), which I think is an important part of a culture that is more accepting of homosexuality.



firefly wrote:
That's why it is difficult, or can be difficult, for those who are homosexual, and who grow up knowing that their feelings and attractions do not conform to the norm for their gender, because this does involve feeling different, and, in fact, it is a realization of being different, and, if that child's parents are not accepting of those differences, the child will feel even more alienated or confused or isolated, and will lack a very needed source of support. It's parental acceptance these children need, which is basically what the article you posted was saying.


I think there needs to be acceptance from everyone, not just parents. There are differences, of course. Whether you place a value judgment on that difference is what is important.

I'm deaf, for example. That's different from hearing. I don't somehow hide that I'm deaf, because it's shameful or bad to be different. I don't neglect to mention that her friend Nicole is deaf, because that would be insulting to Nicole.

And that's really the point, I think. When we shy from discussing differences -- when some are discussable and some are not -- then that holds a big value judgement right there.

Why can we discuss that I'm deaf, or that her friend Nicole is deaf, but not discuss whether someone might be gay?

If we don't discuss anyone's romantic inclinations at all, I get that. But these girls like to talk about this stuff -- romantic inclinations are being discussed like crazy -- just within a purely heterosexual context.

If one of her friends are/ will be lesbian, and sozlet pipes up with something neutral or positive about lesbians and the friend feels more comfortable and accepted before she's ever come out, that's a good thing.

I don't think making it taboo helps.

Quote:
And, if we want to change that, we try to raise our children to simply be accepting of other people, and their differences, and not to make any judgments about them based on their sexual orientation or sexual preferences.


Yes. (Have I at any point indicated that I think she should judge people based on their sexual orientation or preferences?)
ossobuco
 
  3  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 02:08 pm
@sozobe,
I've all along been agreeing with Soz on this thread - nothing to add, just saying so.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 02:37 pm
@sozobe,
You know it hard enough to be a straight boy at that age without the parents of another child getting the false label of gay hung on him.

Shame on that parent as it likely by a 9 to 1 ratio that the young man is not gay and gay or not no one need someone else parents putting on such a label.

If he is gay he or she have the right to come out when they are ready to do so.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 03:29 pm
@ossobuco,
Thanks osso!

Bill, yes, that's a concern, and I get that while it would be nice if everyone considered homosexuality to be a neutral attribute, that's not currently the case. That's why I made sure that even though I didn't actually "hang a label" on him (I mentioned it as a maybe, and nothing more) it would stay a private conversation between the two of us. (She understood that already, but I double-checked.)
Sturgis
 
  5  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 03:45 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
and I get that while it would be nice if everyone considered homosexuality to be a neutral attribute, that's not currently the case. That's why I made sure that even though I didn't actually "hang a label" on him (I mentioned it as a maybe, and nothing more) it would stay a private conversation between the two of us. (She understood that already, but I double-checked.)
But that is hanging a label on him. You have now placed him as 'possible gay guy'. Why? Why didn't you let him be a person. A person plain and simple, leaving the sexual part out of it? Why are you so hell bent on labeling him or anyone else? (and make no mistake about this, by saying 'maybe' you have labeled him. It's not as if your daughter had said, 'Hey mom, do you think he's gay?' You placed it in front of her and by your own admission she was taken aback. You already have indicated that your daughter knows homosexuals exist; therefore, there is no need and definitely no reason to keep pushing it.
 

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