Because my baby deserves it too.
Over the past 24 hours I have been able to observe and contribute to discussions carried on about my post “Where, oh, where are the queer children?” Some readers suggested that I am overreaching that my daughter is gay or that I am reading her behavior with some wish for a gay child. Fortunately, the bulk of the readers recounted their own stories of being 4, 5, and 6 and having a first gay crush. Most of those who told such stories recounted that they just didn’t have the concepts or the language to describe how they felt.
The dialogue that has started is exactly what I hoped it would be – people contemplating and raising awareness that kids are coming out earlier than ever before. It is vital to know that these kids exist and need their own support.
Save Your Two Cents
Nevertheless, I would like to convey is that until you are in the shoes of a parent whose child does not fit society’s notion of “appropriate” it’s probably better to default to grandma’s old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Writer and mother Sarah Hoffman’s column today on the Gay Voices page of the Huffington Post addresses comments made by Fox News’s on-air psychiatrist Keith Ablow about a transgendered child and his belief that her parents are failing her and in fact may be unduly influencing her desire to be Tammy, not Thomas. In “Keith Ablow: Until You Have a Gender-Nonconforming Child, Stop Condemning Those Who Do” Hoffman describes her own life as a mom of a gender-nonconforming child and reveals:
that when you have a child who defies expectations, you find yourself making choices you never thought you’d have to make.
Parents, most parents at least, love their children deeply and want the very best for them. What’s best for an individual child may take many forms and be decided under extreme cultural pressure. Yet parents nurture children, sacrifice for them so they have every opportunity and live the healthiest, happiest, and safest life possible. Why would any parent choose to forge an identity for their child that would put them at odds with society and expose them to prejudice and danger?
Hoffman goes on to say:
A bigger mystery is why Ablow thinks any parent would want their child to be different in this way. Parents like Tammy’s are demonized; children like Tammy are ostracized and bullied. The notion that parents would try to make their children targets galls many parents.
She touches on two points here. First, most parents are floored to be accused of crafting their child’s identity so they are singled out for ridicule and aggression. Secondly, when children are very young the parents bear much of the brunt of the prejudice. C.J.’s mom at Raising My Rainbow recounts many stories about all kinds of strangers weighing in on her son’s gender-nonconforming clothing or toy choices and her parental failings.
Out in Front
The parents of a child who is gender-nonconforming, transgendered, or vocally outspoken about their lgb identity endure scrutiny, disdain, and outsiders telling them how they are failing as a parent. As a parent I want to be on the front line. I want people to question me or criticize me, because I don’t want my daughter questioned about her identity. I want her to enjoy being a little girl without being harassed for being who she is.
Raising kids is hard enough without bigoted strangers offering ignorant opinions about how to parent our kids.
School principals set the tone for the culture of the school. This situation is disgraceful.
Sequoyah High School student Chris Sigler were seeking to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. Sequoyah principal Maurice Moser thwarted their efforts at every turn.
The Sequoyah High School GSA should have been a done deal by now…if it weren’t for the principal, Maurice Moser. When they circulated a petition to show support for the GSA and got over 150 signatures, students say Moser banned petitions about the GSA at the school. Then, when Chris and two other students put together an application for school recognition of the GSA, Moser wouldn’t even take it from them because they hadn’t named a faculty sponsor. At least three teachers have expressed interest in sponsoring the GSA but then changed their minds after meeting with Moser about it. We’ve read that Moser has admitted that in the past, when other clubs needed sponsors, he helped them out – but this time he refused to help.
When Sigler wore a t-shirt emblazoned with “Gay Straight Alliance: We’ve Got Your Back” the principal told him to change his shirt, turn it inside out, or go home.
Chris ignored that [demand], because he knew his shirt was fine under the Sequoyah dress code. Later, Moser charged into Chris’s economics class, interrupted the students in the middle of taking a test, and ordered everyone except Chris to leave. What happened next is a matter for the criminal justice system. But putting aside the assault and battery allegations against Moser, it’s unconstitutional and totally inappropriate for a high school student to be punished for speaking his mind peacefully through the words on a T-shirt. The Supreme Court says that students can express whatever ideas they want through their clothing as long as they don’t cause a “substantial disruption,” and it sounds like the only person causing a substantial disruption at Sequoyah last week was Moser.
Stories like this not only anger me, but they make me wonder what the future holds for our family. My daughter is just the kind of person who’d start a GSA if the school didn’t already have one. In fact, if she knew about them now she’d probably try to start one in her elementary school.
The sense of clarity and resolution that I used to have about my daughter’s public school education, like she’ll go to X Middle School and then onto Y High School, has completely disappeared. Now I know we’ll play it by ear and try to find the most nurturing/least hostile environment for her.
All of a sudden the grade on her last spelling test doesn’t seem so important.
This story “Lessons from Sharing the Story of my (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son” is simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking. It is so fascinating (and sad) that people both cannot believe that children can know their identities from a young age.
This story is wonderful because provides additional support for the argument that if children have positive role models and understand the very real concepts of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, trans, etc. they will be able to recognize themselves from among these identities.
And thank goodness for Glee!
“Amelia” writes: “It got me thinking and after awhile I started to feel like I knew this big secret that shouldn’t be a secret at all: Every gay adult used to be a gay kid. It’s not as if all children start off as straight until some time later when someone flips the gay switch. We are who we are from the very moment we are born.”
Yes! And the fact that some (perhaps more) children are able to articulate their identities to parents who will listen to them and honor that knowledge is a testament to the fact that we may have actually made our society better than it was before. Nowadays, there is some legal protection for my child. There are pride parades for her to attend. There are t-shirts for her to buy and wear that speak her truth to the world in proud, bright colors.
I’m sorry that one of the messages from this article is just how much vitriol this poor mother has had to endure. I thank her for sharing her story, because lots of people spoke out in support of her too.
We aren’t alone.
I took my daughter to her first 4-H event. We hadn’t met these people before. I looked at these new people. I had to assume they are potential friends. Yet I wondered, are these people open to having a lesbian member? I listened carefully to the parents’ language for clues to their values, their affiliations, but I was still left wondering.
Will we get to know them just to have to sever our relationship with them because they are not welcoming to us?
Three years ago we lived in California during the build up to the vote on Prop 8. Over and over again I was terribly disappointed by the narrow mindedness of our neighbors. It was so hard to live with hatred and fear glaring at us from apartment windows and street corners (of course we glared back). I dread feeling that again, though I know it is unavoidable. If not in 4-H, somewhere else.
I wonder if my daughter was worrying about the same thing.