05 July 2015

Just Say No To Compulsory Heterosexuality

Humans of New York posted a photo two days ago of a young teenager near tears. The caption: "I'm homosexual and I'm afraid about what my future will be and that people won't like me."

If you have a child, you've seen compulsory heterosexuality at work. A girl baby and a boy baby combat-crawl around, trying to get a handle on mobility, and someone says, "oh look, she's flirting with him." A boy toddler makes friends with a girl toddler, and someone talks about his "girlfriend." And so on, until she's thirteen and realizes she's attracted to girls and thinks she's the only one in the world.

Did you ever hear someone talk about a boy having a "boyfriend" at three?

Yeah, no, didn't think so.

But you know what? If you have kids, or work with them, you can push back. No, you don't have to suggest that a girl who can barely walk and talk has a girlfriend: why sexualize tiny kids? I'm in favor of letting them be kids.

But we can make sure our kids know gay adults. We can give them books about trans kids. We can model a variety of expressions of gender identity. Dads can take 3 a.m. feedings and clean toilets. Moms can assemble the furniture from Ikea.

When we talk with kids about their futures, we can be neutral about whether they'll be gay or straight or bi. With little kids, that's fairly abstract, though if we talk about marriage, we don't have to assume they'll marry someone of the opposite sex.

As they get to be pre-teens and teenagers, there are those important conversations about dating and consensuality. During those conversations, we don't have to assume, and speak as if, their explorations of physical intimacy will only be with people of the opposite sex.

The photo of that boy gets me all choked up. But we don't have to keep perpetuating a culture that makes young people feel so isolated and afraid if they realize they're not straight.