Certain people will be returning the presents they bought for me for Christmas after hearing about this.
Is it too much to hope that they won’t hear about it? I don’t want to ruffle feathers again. But I also want to be very clear and it appears that to some it looks like I overreacted. Since this sentiment (you’re just overreacting to perceived traces of homophobia in the way people speak and interact with you) is what allows the radical right to make such progress in their attempts to marginalize and legislate against families like mine, (like kudzu – chopping off tendrils doesn’t eradicate the plant, you have dig out the roots) I thought I would (again) clarify just where the homophobia lay in the rhetoric behind the conversation. I’m not linking to the original post. That would be too much. If you’re so interested, and you don’t remember, you’ll have to do the work to find it in my archives yourself. Just keep this disclaimer in your mind. I love the people involved. They are good people. They have come a long way. They would never knowingly or willingly hurt me. The original post was not about calling them, individually, Bad People. It was about attempting to discuss how insidious homophobia can be and personalizing it to show how it has/is affecting me.
Standard Disclaimer: Again, like so many of my “intellectual posts” this one is long and rambling and occasionally not as focused or incisive as I’d like.
“That's not to say that any child, gay or straight will have it easy, but certainly you'd stipulate that a GLBT child will have just a little heavier burden to carry, right? So was it actually a homophobic reaction or was it wanting the easiest life for [your child]?”
Yes, LGBT kids carry an extra burden than straight kids; but in our society there are so many extra burdens to pass around: mental illness, birth defects, color, class, learning disabilities, introversion, paganism, Republicanism etc. Really, can you plan on a child never having any of them? Ever? Should you choose not to have a child because of the possibility they will have to carry one of these burdens? Perhaps, if the burden is severe, if the child would be crushed under it, if it is certain that your child would, indeed, have to bear that burden (and of course, I am thinking about Republicanism here) because the child would be born with it. Then, perhaps, it would be best not to give birth, maybe you should adopt. Or perhaps if it goes that far (if, for instance your child would be certain to have fetal alcohol syndrome -- a huge burden--) you shouldn't parent at all (because if you can't stop drinking while pregnant to create a healthy baby, then why would you think you would ever be sober enough to raise a healthy child). But not to have a child, or not to have a particular sex of child so as to avoid the possibility of that child carrying an extra burden? Does that strike anyone else as ridiculous?
Are you wondering why I am comparing a gay child to a child with birth defects and/or child abuse? Well, a) I'm trying to show how silly it is to consider gayness a burden compared to other burdens children can have and b) because many, many people consider gayness equivalent to a birth defect or a serious illness or child abuse. It's why I both hope and fear the discovery of a genetic/biological cause of homosexuality. Once it's scientifically proven to be biological it becomes harder to discriminate against us, but it also becomes a birth-defect, something to test for and (maybe eventually) abort if found. Where will the religious right stand then? Pro-life, but only pro-straight life? No, I know the answer to that question because they don't care about the quality of the life of the about-to-be or possibly-to-be-aborted fetus. If they did, they’d spend more time working to improve the quality of life for the children they “save”. No, they'll advocate against aborting gay fetuses at the same time as they advocate for gay people to be celibate, and closeted, and lonely, and quiet, and continuously trying to be "normal".
Because I believe that homosexuality is based largely on genetics (queerness is not genetic, though, queerness is placed upon/grown into) I do believe in that mysterious creature called the gay child. I have met some. I have recognized them even as everyone else is counting on a straight future for the little tyke. And I know that I have met some that I did not recognize; the way no one would have recognized me as gay at the age of 7 or 8 (though, believe me, I was). These children are not made to be gay by straight parents, they just are. And they do not have a problem with being different until it is pressed upon them that they should have a problem with it because everyone else does. Unlike some of the burdens faced by children, the extra burden gay children have is not endemic to gayness, it is a social thing. It does not arise from differences in abilities, but rather from a perceived violation of an unspoken social contract. And this burden is often placed upon the children not only by society in general, but also by family members. In their own home, children are told that they are not ok. That they will always be sad and lonely and outcast. That they would be so much happier if only they could change (a corollary to this is that society and the laws will never change, so they might as well give up and try to change themselves). So, given that, a gay child in a household headed by gay parents has less of a burden than one in a straight household (unless the gay parents are burdened and acting out their own internalized homophobia).
But wouldn’t a straight child then have that burden placed upon them? Doesn’t it follow that a person who is out and proud would want everyone else to be gay? Well, I can’t speak for all well-adjusted LGBT people, but I can say that the fight to be who we are and accepted for that means that we would never want to put someone else in the position of trying to change or hide their essential being. So, a straight child will be allowed to be a straight child without me trying to force them to try harder at being gay, though that child will have to be open and tolerant. And by open I don’t mean experimental.
The crux of homophobia is that the person is lost behind the perception of that person. A homophobe looks at an LGBT person and sees only sex acts, only difference, and often (but not always) only perversion. Even someone who “tolerates” LGBT people can be homophobic by seeing homosexuality (or being transsexual) as a problem that the person is working hard to make the best of. The LGBT person is reduced to only one note; all their actions, all their desires, all their motivations, all their plans are brought back to that one note whether the person doing the reducing sees that one note as bad or good. Hence the fact that despite everything my brothers know about me as a person, about my fierce defense of human rights, free will, freedom of expression, they would be concerned about my ability to raise a girl to be the person she was meant to be rather than a mini-me. And it is telling that they would not be concerned about my raising a gay boy. Because if I’ve been reduced to one note, my sexual and romantic attraction to women, then I cannot move beyond that enough to encourage (or actively force) a boy to be attracted to boys. It’s the same rhetoric that says that gay men shouldn’t raise boys. The fact that the original conversation I am referring to hinged on the belief that I would force a child at the very least to experiment with same-sex dating and at the most actively forbid them from being straight reduces me, as a parent, to my sexual orientation as well as making it clear that that sexual orientation is a problem that I shouldn’t pass on to my children. And it works to try to gain my complicity in making certain my children end up straight – so I won’t be seen as forcing my child into being gay. And (moving just slightly off point here) that’s what angers and bothers me about the studies on gay parents that trumpet the fact that children of gay parents are no more likely to be gay than children of straight parents as a reason to go ahead and let gays parent. As if, if it were different, if gays did have more gay children, it would not be ok to let them parent, because the last thing society wants is to have more gay children being produced. For the children’s sake, of course, because what decent person would wish such a burden on an innocent child? God, that’s like wishing them to have a birth defect so we can work towards equality for the physically challenged.
And if you’re going to tell me that I am, myself, either homophobic or heterophobic, all I can say is that you’re probably right. I most certainly have traces of these prejudices within me. But I work hard at eradicating them and not projecting them upon others. Sometimes I am more successful at this, sometimes I am less. So, I don’t think that being homophobic is necessarily a bad thing – unless one is comfortable and complacent and acting out.
Here is one of my magnificent drawings to help explain what I'm saying (and that I am not actually lumping the crazies with the ones who are just uncomfortable with homosexuality. Well, OK, I am to some extent, but I'd also like to point out that I think we all fit somewhere on The Kudzu of Fear and Prejudice (it's a big plant))
Ok, so how many people did I offend this time? Don’t tell me.
PS -- Sacha and M have 2 great posts that relate to what I'm talking about. This one and this one.