Saturday, 26 October 2013

It's just their generation...so will we do better?

A common excuse (albeit a poor one) for homophobia, from mild disagreement to complete disgust, in our experience, is 'it's just how their generation was raised', or other sentiments reasoning that age plays a large part in acceptance.
I have conflicting beliefs on this. On one hand, I understand that in our grandparents youth, homosexuality was illegal, and homophobia the accepted norm. In the 1950's, when many of our grandparents were in their teens and twenties, the law prohibiting sexual activity between two men was still actively enforced, so it's a little clearer to see why a generation may find difficulty trangressing from this view, to one of acceptance for gay people.
The law was lifted in 1967, although as we are seeing now with the legalisation of same sex marriage, changes in laws do not guarantee immediate parallel changes in attitudes.
On the other hand, the world has changed a lot in many other ways since this generations youth. L's grandparents are on Facebook and a friends 80+year old father makes Youtube videos. You could say theres not really an excuse for moving with some changes and not others!
But if homophobia is a generational thing, will our generation do better? Will the generation of gay kids that has us as parents have it easier? People discover their sexuality at different ages, but for those of us who knew as young children - the memory of feeling different, not knowing why, but having a fearful certainty that the reason was not something to tell anyone about, is something that stays with you.

This powerful and in parts violent and upsetting video, aimed at showing how wrong homophobia is by creating a world where heterophobia is the norm, though dramatic at the end, the early parts where the child realises she isn't like the other people in her life, resonated with me.


I hate the question ''when did you know you were gay?'' and it's a question I usually follow up with ''probably around the time straight kids realise theyre straight'' but I guess the time I 'realised I was different' was around 7? I can't pinpoint this but I have memories of infant school (school aged 4-7) of just feeling that I felt something my classmates didn't. Girls were amazing and boys were just insignificant. I never had the dreams most little girls have of getting married, and developed huge crushes on female singers from age 8.
Thinking back to my experience of school, coming out was not even a remote possibility. Noone would have dared. Although now, thanks to Facebook I know I certainly wasn't alone in being gay at my high school, some of whom I realised at the time and some of whom I didn't. I remember one girl, who wasn't badly bullied, but was picked on a lot, with the general consensus being that she was a lesbian. She wasn't and there was absolutely no basis for this, it was just the worst insult that the kids could think of - teachers just accepted gay insults as just another form of playground banter .I kept my mouth shut, and invented boys from 'other schools' who I was interested in, or allowed people to presume that my three male best friends (two gay and one straight) were love interests.
I maintained this after I left school and through work, until I was 18 and worked with an out femme lesbian, despite having my first serious girlfriend aged 17. But are these circumstances in schools still the case?

Although we don't have children yet, we already look at schools we drive past in our area, wondering which ones are best. I also think about whether things are different at schools now. Will our kid be picked on for having lesbian mums? Or will it not be the only one? Will gay kids feel safe and comfortable in coming out at school, and at what age? Will homosexual relationships be included on lessons about families or sex education? Are homophobic insults, no matter how naively they are used, now completely unnaceptable?
One of the topics that was frustratingly bought up again and again in the debate on equal marriage was that teachers who do not agree with same sex marriages would be forced to teach children about them or risk their jobs. We found this really annoying. Firstly, anyone who allows personal prejudice or views to comprimise their ability to do their job should not be a teacher. They are there to educate, not impose personal opinion. They probably didn't agree with Hitler or slavery either but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be taught about!
Children are very accepting, and childhood is the perfect age to teach them about the fact that most families have differences aswell as similarities to other families, and that theres nothing wrong with that.
Parents who say 'they are too young to know about homosexuality' often say this as they equate homosexuality as purely a sexual preference, rather than a loving relationship. Sex, fair enough, but surely you are never to young to understand love.
Educating children on love and its various forms will not 'turn' children gay, it will merely encourage children to become non-judgmental adults, and to be comfortable about the subject of homosexuality, whether its their own or people in their lives.
We plan to embark upon the IVF process next year, and are eager to teach our child acceptance and tolerance - attitudes that we hope will be commonplace amongst our generation, and future generations.

2 comments:

  1. So much of what you've said here, I worry about and think about all the time. My wife and I are both elementary teachers in the public school system where we live, a suburb of DC in Maryland. We have often thought and talked about what it might be like to really be ourselves in the workplace yet live in the reality that we are not supposed to talk about "it". While my coworkers freely and easily share their personal lives with each other and their students, I continually remain a quiet inhabitant of a familiar silence. I am constantly aware that there are many barriers to healthy identity development for young people and that our (future) children with face many of these barriers, too as children with lesbian moms. I am always looking for the strength to be true to myself in and out of the classroom. For now, I intentionally include in my practice as a teacher a clear message that no insult is ever appropriate for any reason. From a future parent perspective, we are also lucky to be a part of a community of parents and families that "look" like us and support each other in the quest to live and raise children in a world that sees us as parents instead of gay parents. I'm sure you will find the right school for your future children and that however right, it won't be perfect. Thank you for talking about it and adding to my ability to talk about it, too.

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  2. Thankyou for your comment, it's interesting to hear from someone who gets to see progression in schools firsthand

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