Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Explanation

Another weird culture war phenomenon...how to explain homosexuality to small children? Thanks to the culturally correct, this is a big topic in the news, and precocious children may not ignore the issue. I wonder how I would handle this if I was a parent, especially with 'thats so gay' being vernacular among preteens in schools. I consider myself an open minded liberal, but not being a parent, I can't really imagine how I would feel if I had a munchkin on my own who came home from elementary school with such a question. I mean, the 'birds and the bees' talk must be hard enough for some parents, I can't imagine how difficult this topic must be for some.

I know DADvocate has discussed this before on his blog (thought my boy Jack Daniels is visiting the house right now, preventing me from a really good search), so I wonder what his thoughts on this are. I wonder what many parents, especially new ones, have thought about telling their children about this. I wonder what the more liberal like Dangerblond told her kids (or grandkids if they asked)?

I wonder about this, because of this article from Hip Mama in this week's Flagpole Magazine.

4 comments:

Dante said...

Q: “Mommy, what is gay?”

A: Tigra from the Thundercats. He's definately gay.

Simple as that folks and I even got to draw off of my own childhood experiences. When I was a kid, I didn't exactly know what "gay" was but I certainly knew that Tigra was it.

patsbrother said...

First, Justice is a girl's name. D'uh. Perhaps Hip Mama is using this as an alias.

Second, a quite similar story from my life, but sadly at twice the age of "Justice".

One afternoon, in Ms. Meadows' music room at St. Simons Elementary, my fourth grade class was learning Kukaburro. Laugh, Kukaburro, laugh, kukaburro, gay old something is he.

Ms. Meadows stood and turned from her piano with a stern look. She canted her head and in a severe voice explained that gay meant happy.

O-kay. The nice lady with the salt-and-pepper hair never explained any other word to us. But gay is happy. Good to go.

Some of the other kids snickered. Later, Mead Herndon accosted me, asking if I was gay.

Me? Not all the time, but, I guess, on the whole, sure. Why?

Laughter.

Gay is when two men love each other.

O-kay, well, I love my father, so...

Laughter.

No, it's when two men have sex.

Now, I don't remember if I had fully conceptualized sex by this point, but the basic mechanics had been explained to me. And this was a cog in the wheel. This was crazy talk. This was just Mead being silly. Because two men having sex had to be the most futile exercise imagineable. Sans vagina, what in the hell could they do? Not much, I always assumed. But then, I think it was ninth grade before I finally figured out that lesbians do more than feel each other up.

I suppose the point is you don't have to talk to your kids about homosexuality. This is one I think you can pass the buck. Let's go get some ice cream is a perfectly good answer. Just don't act homophobic, don't hide them from gay people as they grow older, and chances are they'll be cool. As the news has informed me, the younger the generation, the more at peace they are with the idea of gay people. So I say let their friends confuse the hell out of them. They're going to do it anyway. I like Hip Mama's approach: just answer the direct questions and clear up the misinformation.

dangerblond said...

My older son is stereotypical straight. Huge jock, fraternity president, liked girls early and liked them a lot. My younger son was totally different from day one. I knew there was a chance he might be gay from about 5, and sure enough he is. We had the discussion when he was 15. He's out and proud and living in New York.

I have always had gay-couple friends, mostly guys. I am liberal as you say, so I have always insisted that we don't insult people by calling them "fags" or "that's so gay." However, as a nutty family, we are not above bursting out laughing at some outrageous queen. My kids have seen good and bad examples of gay people and good and bad examples of straight people. They can see the ridiculousness of denying gay people the ability to get married while preserving the institution for people like Britney Spears.

Since my kids are boys, I have never had to get into the mechanics of sex with them, thank god. I have approached it from the angle of "respect yourself and use protection." The straight son is a little too promiscuous and there is a surplus of willing accomplices, but the gay son is kind of a prude. My gay son is very young, but he wants to have a long term relationship some day and adopt children.

I could never live with myelf if I did or said anything to make my gay son feel bad about himself. I hate it when other people do it, but, Jesus, what are you going to do? It certainly makes me identify with blacks, Jews and other groups who have had to live in a society where they are routinely publicly slandered and degraded by the people in power. Hating me is one thing, but hating my child really hurts.

dadvocate said...

I keep working with my kids at not saying "that's so gay," "he's so gay," etc. because there's no need to offend someone that doesn't deserve being offended. It's difficult because it is the "vernacular" as Pat says.

But I focus on what kind of people my kids will be when they reach adulthood and use a "successive approximation" approach, move them towards the goal one step at a time. It is a complex subject and not easily understood by preteens or teens (or many adults).