Let’s be clear — I am not one of those moms who walks around afraid to say or do the wrong thing for fear of damaging my kid forever. Kids are resilient. But I have always been hyper-aware of not enforcing expectations of gender or sexuality on them.
As children grow up, they see and hear so many things that shape their view of the world and of “normal.” Very rarely do you read about same-sex couples in children’s literature. With the exception of Sesame Street, it’s hard to find TV shows for kids that feature gay life. You have to seek it out — and almost no one does.
Because “gay” is not portrayed as “normal” for most children (if only because nobody thought to expose them,) kids who realize they’re “different” as they’re growing up tend to think it’s bad, and that they don’t fit in. So they hide in the closet that we built them.
We build this closet with our nonchalant, off-hand comments, the things we’re saying when we’re not even thinking.
In my family, we make a point to correct each other when we say things like “I’m saving this picture to show your first boyfriend.” Our oldest is 16 and has made it clear that she is a straight woman, but teens change and she’s welcome to. Our 6-year-old has already said she wants to marry two particular men in addition to her Daddy, her brother and me. Who knows if those men are more like the person she wants to marry or the person she hopes to be? I sure don’t. And I don’t care.
By referencing future spouses of certain sexes, parents are telling their children what they expect of them.
Even if you know that being gay is not a choice, even if you are 100% cool with your kids being gay, your young child isn’t hearing “I’m keeping this for whatever wonderful human being you bring home as a young adult, doesn’t matter to me if it’s a man or a woman!” He’s hearing “I’m showing this to your girlfriend, because you’re a boy and you should be interested in girls.”
We stifle our children when we tell them dolls are for girls (um… do boys not grow up to be dads?) and superheroes are for boys. Blue is for boys, pink is a girl color. Dancing is for girls, football for boys… the list goes on.
It’s time we let human beings be who they are. If your kid is nice, shares with friends, doesn’t punch his or her sibling (too hard or too often) and does their homework (hopefully without driving you crazy in the process) … be happy. Life is short and suicide rates are high — especially for kids who feel ashamed of who they are.
Children need to feel loved. And they need to love and be accepting of others, so why not model this for them and save everyone from all the time wasted? People shouldn’t have to come out of the closet, because there should never be a closet to begin with.