Monday, 7 March 2011

Stop Sheltering kids from LGBT people

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

The holiday season has come and, generally, left now (though in our family it tends to linger on for a few weeks until you feel a vague need to strangle people with tinsel and doing some truly unpleasant things with mistletoe)

I can honestly say that, once I reached the age of about 13, Christmas was never really a holiday I enjoyed per se. To me the first word that appears in my mind when thinking of this season is "duty" owed to the family to be there, grit my teeth and play nice.

On the plus side there was no annual Christmas disaster this year. The oven didn't die Christmas morning. The fridge didn't explode, the freezer didn't defrost and absolutely nothing was set on fire (no! Really! Nothing. This is perhaps the first time in the history of Christmas that we haven't considered calling the fire brigade. We should mark it on the calender we should).

Unfortunately, there were clueless relatives apace. One in particular was my cousin and her children. I have an instinct here to say "well meaning" but I'm going to squash it, for I am sorely tired of the automatic attempt to lessen or mitigate homophobia (and that's a post for another time)

See, she made it clear that she'd be referring to my Beloved as my "friend" and would like everyone else to do so too because she thought her 7 and 5 year old children were just "too young to understand."

Now, I was polite and didn't say "damn, your kids don't understand love? That's awful!" which I think was wonderfully restrained of me, but I also absolutely refused to edit my marriage or accept other people doing so. This didn't go down well, as you can imagine. I am tired of being treated as an obscenity, and it's not something I tolerate. If we were shagging on the coffee table, then by all means cover the kiddies eyes and reach for the furniture polish. But the mere fact of a gay man in the room shouldn't be a reason for you to cover their ears and wail at their lost innocence. Gay people exist, the minds of your kiddies will not break upon discovering this fact.

I am not, even for one second, going to aid the destructive idea that I am a danger to kids just because of my sexuality. I have more self-respect than that.

Of course, people ask me "They're her kids, shouldn't she decide?" And I have to ask - does she have a receipt? Property deed? Something? Because these kids are people in their own right and I think a more pertinent question would be "does she have a right to keep them potentially dangerously ignorant?" as opposed to "she has the right to control her property."

Let's be clear - either of these kids could be GBLTQ. And at the moment they're being taught one of three things (or all of them):

1) Gay people don't exist

2) Being gay is shameful and should be hidden

3) Gay people are dangerous.

I grew up learning the same lessons. I adamantly refuse to do that to another child, absolutely not. I can't stop a parent wounding their child this way, I can't stop them cutting them to the bone with this cruelty, but I will not be part of it. And, on a personal note, I won't hide who I am for anyone's sake.

When it comes to kids learning about GBLTQ people, I personally want to see GBLTQ muppets. I want to a see a trans character on Sesame Street. I want Dora the Explorer to come out as a lesbian. I want Barney to have a boyfriend (hear that sound? That's the sound of the religious right having screaming meemies). I think these will do wonders to help GBLTQ kids growing in ignorance and confusion and fear to realise who and what they are - and that there's nothing wrong with that.

Because at the moment we're supposed to be telling kids that there's nothing wrong with being GBLTQ - while at the same time presenting it as something obscene, something to hide, something to fear and something to be ashamed of. These aren't mixed messages - they're colliding messages. And the kids are the ones who will be crushed between them.