19
   

Avoiding Heteronormativity

 
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 03:57 pm
@Sturgis,
OK, maybe that's something I can clarify.

My intention -- and how she took it, I've found out in a follow-up -- was to introduce into this talk of crushes the idea that it's likely that not all of her peers are straight. She knows most all of the kids in her grade well. She knows a lot of kids from the grades above and below her quite well. In those three grades, there are probably at least 120 kids she knows well. So if 5% of those are or turn out to be gay, that's six kids. It's more likely than not that it will come up.

Whether Ryan is one of them, who knows. I think it's more likely that Ryan's straight than that he's gay. That's what she thinks too. We didn't spend a lot of time on it though.

Kids are not just small adults, they think differently. There are logical conclusions that aren't reached.

Even when they know that there are gay adults, and even when they know that kids are having crushes and dating, they don't really put things together. She hasn't known anyone who's come out -- she's just known adults who identify as gay or lesbian.

I again could see the same shift in her thinking re: the idea that, as a concept, some of the people she knows now either are or will turn out to be gay. (That's an awkward phrase, but some people know they're gay when they're 11, some of them don't figure it out until later, so neither "are" nor "turn out to be" seems to cover the whole group, used alone.)

That's more general than Ryan.
Sturgis
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 04:01 pm
@sozobe,
That gives me a slightly better understanding of it. Not saying I fully agree with all of it; however, a better understanding.

Thank you sozobe.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 04:03 pm
@Sturgis,
Oh good! You're welcome.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  4  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 06:15 pm
As a number here know since I've posted about it before, I grew up in an extremely anti-sex, even anti sexuality, microculture, with the primary anti-business happening in my high school years. Was taught that pleasure in marriage was a sin when I was fourteen or fifteen, not that I had any clue what sex in marriage or out of it meant. I was, looking back, astoundingly ignorant. Wish someone had talked to me besides that movie in sixth grade.

I'm on the old end of things now, and am glad I finally broke out of those tunnel views with some vigor. Sexuality is one of the richest of human experiences. I think it is fine to talk about in situations such as Soz is describing with her child, and as I did with my niece, given that child and that niece... relating the richness, sans a lot of detail depending on age and existing understanding. Talk is part of learning. Silence is deadening.
0 Replies
 
jcboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 07:20 pm
The demographics have changed for me, and I’m a gay man. In Ca most I knew were straight. Here in St. Pete it’s just the opposite. I’ve met at least a hundred close friends in this town and four of them are straight.

I’m not sure how I feel about that, in CA there was a lot less drama when most of my friends were straight. Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps the drama isn’t sexual preference, just human nature?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 07:29 pm
@jcboy,
Interesting.

Could it be just a small community thing?

Even though most of your friends are gay, it's still a small community of people ( the gay ones I mean). In my experience smaller communities generate more angst. Also, I wonder a bit if there might be less acceptance of gayness where you are now, forcing a tighter gay community? That can add some pressure.

Of course, I am just speculating.

I also note that some gay men seem to do bitchy as kind of a preferred persona. It's funny, but it's still, well, bitchy!

Also....wondering if there's a lot of sexual tension going on in your group? That'll create the drama!
jcboy
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 07:47 pm
@dlowan,
I’m not sure. I’ve never experienced this before.

It seems gay’s have flocked to this area. They have moved in and bought the older style craftsman’s style homes and restored them. This city has turned into a gay Mecca since I moved here.

I’ve met a lot of gay couples that have been together for years, that’s not where the drama comes from, its from the single gay men that want that type of relationship but can’t seem to find it.

This video I posted in the dinner thread pretty sums up the area of St. Pete.


dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 08:09 pm
@jcboy,
Looks a great place to be!

I have to say that Florida is on my list of places I don't give a damn if I never see.....though I have been told some of the architecture is wonderful....you may be changing my mind.

We have lots of areas of old houses, too....I used to live in one of them.
Sounds as though you have a great community.

I dunno...maybe the mix of gay and straight makes for a calmer time? It's always great having lots of gay male friends for me, because you have the otherness of the male bit, plus the lack of sexual tension of the gay bit.

Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2012 08:48 pm
@dlowan,
It's been my experience that in any community where there is a clearly defined majority, minorities suffer a certain amount of discrimination. It might be subtle, it might be violently overt. But usually it's there. If a minority is powerful enough to fight the discrimination, it tends to lead to a certain amount of acceptance and even equality in the long run. That's why -- imo only -- it is better to have a fairly large gay community in a mostly straight neighborhood and vice versa. I've seen this work well in places like New York (Greenwich Village, mostly straight, accepts a sizeable minority of gays without batting an eyelash) and San Francisco (the Castro district, mostly gay, does not particularly discriminate against straights).

What I love about where I'm living now (among other things) is that there is no such a thing as a clear-cut ethnic majority in Hawaii. Certainly not European-descended whites; most certainly not native Hawaiians. There are probably more people of Asian descent than any other race but they are in no sense a cohesive group. The Japanese do not consider themselves as part of a group that would include Chinese and Koreans and Thais, for example. And this feeling is reciprocated by the Chinese, Koreans etc. As a result, no ethnic group in this state can claim to have a 51 percent majority, not even close. It works awfully well, partially due to the fact that there is a great deal of intermarriage and interbreeding between the various races. You're hardly likely to call someone a 'nigger' or other disparaging name when you know that your own great-grandmother was dark-skinned.

Sorry for the digression but I think you can see the relevance of the ethnic distribution to gender-based distribution.
OmSigDAVID
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2012 03:25 am
@Lustig Andrei,
Lustig Andrei wrote:
You're hardly likely to call someone a 'nigger'
or other disparaging name when you know that your own great-grandmother was dark-skinned.
That seems to be untrue.
I remember riding in an elevator a few years ago.
About 8 very dark skinned blacks got on, in a group.
Thay appeared to know one another.
One of them was in a rage, ranting against an absent individual
who had somehow abused him. The infuriated ranter,
addressing the other blacks in his group,
called the perpetrator a "damn NIGGER!!!" many times,
within about a minute or 2, raising his voice for emfasis, each time,
without disapproval expressed from his fellows.

There is a pretty good chance that his great-grandmother was dark-skinned.





David
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  -3  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2012 03:30 am
@Linkat,
Linkat wrote:
well on Senfield George had a man crush on the Mimbo
so I guess yeah - there are men on men crushes and not necessarily gay.
I hold George Washington and James Madison in the very highest esteem!





David
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2012 07:06 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
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.

I'm not questioning your motivation, or the values you are trying to impart to your daughter--I agree with you about those things.

It's your logic that is alluding me.

Your daughter was talking about a boy who seemed to like her. Where is the logic in suggesting to her that he might be gay? What behavior was Ryan exhibiting toward your daughter that would justify your speculation that he was gay?

Had your daughter said that the reverse was the case--she really liked Ryan but he wasn't at all interested in her, your response would make more sense to me. Or, had she said that Ryan seemed to have a crush on Tom, your response would make considerably more sense to me.

Do you really want your daughter wondering that boys who seem to like her might really be gay? What would that mean for her? Or do you really want her to concern herself, at all, with the fact that the boy who likes her today might later in his life realize he is are gay or bisexual? Is that of value to her in understanding this boy's feelings toward her right now?

It seems to me that you wanted to find an excuse to introduce the topic of possible peer homosexuality with her and chose an inappropriate moment, and illogical example, to do that.
Quote:
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.

I don't completely agree with you about that. Attraction and "crushes"--particularly in that age group-- are not necessarily related to what we think of in terms of adult sexual orientation. These feelings may not have a sexual basis at all, in the sense of being connected to any desire for physical sexual contact, beyond maybe a kiss. And children that age may experience strong feelings for a close friend of the same gender, or hero worship or idealization of a celebrity adult of the same gender, and this may also be normal and indicative of nothing about their sexual orientation, or later sexual orientation. And the main pop star heartthrobs for girls in that age group have always been asexual or slightly female appearing males, of the Justin Bieber type.

So, I don't think these kids are speculating on who is heterosexual when they are discussing who has a crush on who. That's you reading into it. I think they are exploring the laws of attraction, and their feelings for other people, and evaluating their own attractiveness, and figuring out to handle and express such feelings. and, while this is the burgeoning of sexual awareness, I'm not sure it is useful for adults to introduce concepts--like sexual orientation--into discussions of that sort, unless the child brings them up or the child is wondering about their own sexual identity.
Quote:
When we shy from discussing differences -- when some are discussable and some are not -- then that holds a big value judgment right there.

I don't think we should shy away from discussing differences. But I don't think we should necessarily emphasize differences either, or go out of our way to point them out. Your daughter hasn't been sheltered from an awareness of differences in sexual orientation.
But, again, your speculation about Ryan's sexual orientation, was designed to make your daughter think about his sexual orientation, and whether he differed from the norm, and that is an entirely different matter. You were planting an idea in her head--about another person--that wasn't even logically justified in the context of a discussion about a boy who liked her.
Quote:
If one of her friends are/ will be lesbian, and sozlet pipes up with something neutral or positive about lesbians...

So now you want her to feel positively about lesbians? Why? Isn't that making a definite value judgment? Is being lesbian something positive as compared with being heterosexual? Why make any judgments at all about sexual orientation/preference?
Quote:
I don't think making it taboo helps.

Who's making it taboo? Gay marriage is already an issue in the presidential campaign as well as a national issue, a gay couple is on the hit show "Modern Family", etc. and your daughter is already aware that there are differences in sexual orientations, that not everyone is heterosexual.

I guess I don't understand why it's important for you to prepare your daughter for the possibility that one day she might find out that one of her peers is gay. If that peer is a friend, I wouldn't think such a revelation would affect her feelings for her friend one way or the other. If it's someone she doesn't know well, it's also not something that should affect her one way or the other--it just shouldn't be a big deal.
If she feels that making slurs about someone is wrong, she might speak up if those hurtful slurs are made about someone's race, or religion, or appearance, or weight, or sexual activity, or sexual orientation--the issue is more how she deals with the destructive and hurtful effect of any slurs she hears, of any type, and not sexual orientation in particular.

It might be helpful for your daughter to understand why other people have negative feelings about gays, and the fact that this is often based in religious beliefs and teachings, and that those people are also entitled to hold such beliefs. This becomes the really tricky part of teaching religious tolerance when religious groups hold beliefs you don't agree with. And I think religious tolerance is arguably as important as tolerance of differences in sexual orientation. As long as there are negative feelings regarding homosexuality coming from religious leaders and pulpits, wide-spread acceptance is not going to happen, but tolerance is possible, and as long as people leave each other alone, and don't try to harm or disadvantage others whose sexual life style differs from theirs, I think we are making some progress as a society in embracing diversity, even though it falls short of the ideal.

I also think you, perhaps, might pay a little more attention to why Sturgis doesn't agree with the approach you took with your daughter rather than just trying to explain yourself to him. Particularly since he does identify himself as being gay, I think his opinions on this topic are quite relevant.


















sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2012 07:43 pm
@firefly,
Again my first response is to refer back to things I've already said. I've addressed much of your post already. But to address some of it:

firefly wrote:
So, I don't think these kids are speculating on who is heterosexual when they are discussing who has a crush on who.


Sure, not consciously. However it's there, when they say "I think Peter has a crush on Mary, what do you think? " That statement contains the speculation that Peter is heterosexual. The fact that the speculation is unconscious is in fact a large part of my point.

Quote:
I think they are exploring the laws of attraction, and their feelings for other people, and evaluating their own attractiveness, and figuring out to handle and express such feelings. and, while this is the burgeoning of sexual awareness, I'm not sure it is useful for adults to introduce concepts--like sexual orientation--into discussions of that sort, unless the child brings them up or the child is wondering about their own sexual identity.


This is another opportunity for clarification, thanks. It's something I was thinking of earlier, and this is a good jumping-off point.

What is so adult about sexual orientation?

Why are straight kids allowed to have crushes, and that's fine, but if gay kids have crushes that's suddenly something adult and inappropriate?

I started having crushes on boys when I was in third grade. From what gay friends have told me and from what I've read, gay people often have their first same-sex crushes quite early.

Gay kids who know they're gay don't necessarily go straight to sex. It's not that everyone is straight until they're 21 (or 18, or 16) and then suddenly have a revelation and plunge right into their adult sexuality. The ones who know early start with crushes, just like everyone else. It's an exactly parallel process to what straight people go through, with the only variation being how their crushes are viewed vs. how straight people's crushes are viewed.

Straight crushes are seen as sweet and cute and understandable. But any talk of gayness somehow takes it into "adult" territory?

I think this leap to "gay" = "sex" is part of the problem here. I wasn't saying anything about sex, she wasn't taking it as anything about sex. It was just about crushes, which at this point are a pretty tame, sexless endeavor. If a crush is expressed at all (the vast majority are not), it's likely to be rebuffed. If it's reciprocated, it usually doesn't go beyond the "couple" giving each other the title of boyfriend and girlfriend and going on "dates." (Pizza maybe.) A smaller subset might go so far as to hold hands. A very small percentage of her peers have so much as kissed anyone.

firefly wrote:
It might be helpful for your daughter to understand why other people have negative feelings about gays,


We have discussed this, yes.

firefly wrote:
and the fact that this is often based in religious beliefs and teachings,


We've discussed this too.

firefly wrote:
and that those people are also entitled to hold such beliefs.


However this is not something I teach. I think that it's wrong if people hold negative beliefs about gay people as a group. People are no more entitled to homophobia than they are entitled to racism.

I think that such beliefs are sometimes understandable -- given someone's background, upbringing, etc. But I don't think homophobia is excusable, or that it shouldn't be challenged.
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 12:42 am
@sozobe,
I think the rub is not that you are bringing up the concepts of gay crushes or pointing out the Sozlet that such things are out there, it was that you mentioned it in context to a specific child.

sozobe wrote:

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."

Ok, so why did you wonder about this guy and why did you plant that seed in Sozlet's brain? It's not that you reminded her that not all children are straight, it's that you made a very specific reference to one certain child, perhaps because he demonstrated characteristics not consistent with his age and gender like "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." This is where your initial post rubbed me wrong. You seem to have stereotyped him for being mature for his age. Worse (IMO), as a parent, you have a lot of influence on Sozlet's world view and the message you sent is not that "some kids might be gay" it was that "Joe might be gay". So if Joe decides to ask Sozlet out freshman year in high school, do you think that conversation won't go through her mind? For that matter, will it color her interactions with him everyday going forward? Will she be parsing his statements and actions looking for "gayness", not in hostility but in curiosity? After all, Mom saw something. It seems like you've inserted a barrier in a relationship that was otherwise going along just fine. Of course parents often make calls on the spur of the moment that we'd like to reel in later. Learning from your experience, should my daughter have the same conversation with me I might just leave it at "he might 'like' you are he just might think you're a good friend" and leave it at that. (The other point to make is that boys in the 5th grade are a lot more indifferent to girls than visa versa.) Perhaps the point to make is that not all boy-girl relationships are more than just friendships, nor should they be.
OmSigDAVID
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 01:25 am
@OmSigDAVID,

Linkat wrote:
well on Senfield George had a man crush on the Mimbo
so I guess yeah - there are men on men crushes and not necessarily gay.
OmSigDAVID wrote:
I hold George Washington and James Madison in the very highest esteem!





David
I remain straight.





David
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 01:34 am
@engineer,
engineer wrote:

I think the rub is not that you are bringing up the concepts of gay crushes or pointing out the Sozlet that such things are out there, it was that you mentioned it in context to a specific child.

sozobe wrote:

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."

Ok, so why did you wonder about this guy and why did you plant that seed in Sozlet's brain? It's not that you reminded her that not all children are straight, it's that you made a very specific reference to one certain child, perhaps because he demonstrated characteristics not consistent with his age and gender like "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." This is where your initial post rubbed me wrong. You seem to have stereotyped him for being mature for his age. Worse (IMO), as a parent, you have a lot of influence on Sozlet's world view and the message you sent is not that "some kids might be gay" it was that "Joe might be gay". So if Joe decides to ask Sozlet out freshman year in high school, do you think that conversation won't go through her mind? For that matter, will it color her interactions with him everyday going forward? Will she be parsing his statements and actions looking for "gayness", not in hostility but in curiosity? After all, Mom saw something. It seems like you've inserted a barrier in a relationship that was otherwise going along just fine. Of course parents often make calls on the spur of the moment that we'd like to reel in later. Learning from your experience, should my daughter have the same conversation with me I might just leave it at "he might 'like' you are he just might think you're a good friend" and leave it at that. (The other point to make is that boys in the 5th grade are a lot more indifferent to girls than visa versa.) Perhaps the point to make is that not all boy-girl relationships are more than just friendships, nor should they be.
That sounded like an average, ordinary, mother-daughter conversation to me, Engineer.
Such is the human condition. Soz did not condemn the boy.





David
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  3  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 02:47 am
@firefly,
Quote:
But, again, your speculation about Ryan's sexual orientation, was designed to make your daughter think about his sexual orientation, and whether he differed from the norm, and that is an entirely different matter.


I think that may be the crux of disagreement.

As I see it, Soz is simply trying to remind Sozlet that statistics tell us that the norm IS that a percentage of her classmates are likely to be gay. That her classmate might be part of THAT norm.

Homosexuals do not differ from the norm, though they are a minority, as far as we currently know.....they are PART of the sexual norm in mammals. (Not sure about other groupings of animals.)

This is, I think, an illustration about the effects of the monolithic nature of heterosexism, if I may be so inelegant.

For so long , the assumption of at least English language was that the "norm" was male.

The man in the street.
the reasonable man.
Citizen (always male until amazingly recently in the west)
Voter(ditto)
Fireman.
Chairman
Lady Doctor
He subsuming he and she
woman police officer


When women challenged this, it was seen as crazy...often still is....but language forms consciousness and what is possible to think about. I have read good research that strongly suggests that gendered language has a profound effect upon humans.

I think Soz is simply reminding Sozlet, in a very practical and quotidian manner, that the reality is that the human sexual norm includes homosexuality as well as heterosexuality (and a helluva lot else besides, though that doesn't matter right now).






firefly
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 02:51 am
@sozobe,
Quote:
I think this leap to "gay" = "sex" is part of the problem here. I wasn't saying anything about sex, she wasn't taking it as anything about sex.

You are the one who made the leap from prebuescent crushes to sexual orientation, by wondering whether Ryan was gay. "Gay" is a label referring to sexual orientation. What did you mean when you used the term "gay" with regard to Ryan? When you said you wondered if he might be gay, what were you saying about him, what were you responding to about him?

And I'm still trying to understand your logic in suggesting to your daughter that a boy who seems to like her might be gay.

I'm not sure I would characterize prepubescent children as either heterosexual or homosexual, or straight or gay--I find those terms inappropriate for children that age. Attractions and crushes in that age group are not necessarily related to later sexual orientation, nor do they define homosexuality or heterosexuality in that age group. Children can have both same gender and opposite gender fantasies and attractions of all sorts.
Quote:
Why are straight kids allowed to have crushes, and that's fine, but if gay kids have crushes that's suddenly something adult and inappropriate?

Who said it's inappropriate for someone to have a same sex crush?

I have a problem with calling someone "a gay kid" when they haven't even gone through puberty yet. I have a problem with labeling children in that way.
Quote:
What is so adult about sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation refers to enduring patterns and identity factors that really aren't fully developed prior to reproductive maturity.
Quote:
Sexual orientation describes an enduring pattern of attraction—emotional, romantic, sexual, or some combination of these—to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. These attractions are generally subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of "personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation

I can't see where sexual orientation, as defined above, could apply to prepubescent children, and the term really isn't ever used with regard to children in that age group.
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 02:55 am
@dlowan,
Oh, re the homophobic religious.....yes, they are entitled to hold the belief that gays should be killed/rescued/shunned/made to act heterosexual etc.. However, as soon as they seek to enact their beliefs upon others in a way that encourages negative actions toward gay people, they become political activists and they are people to be opposed by all lawful means...just as those who propose that rape be seen as frequently acceptable do.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 03:00 am
@firefly,
Prepubescent children are often highly recruited into the idea that gayness is bad....and they often enact that belief upon anyone who does not exactly fit upon the template of "normality."

The bullying such kids may perform can have the most serious and sometimes fatal effects upon their targets.

 

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