Childrearing

I Don’t Assume That My Toddler Is Going To Turn Out Straight

By  | 

gay childrenI always thought if my daughter came out as gay, she would just sort of flourish and be totally confident in it because my husband and I are so progressive and open-minded. Salon staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams‘ recent observations, however, got me to thinking…maybe children shouldn’t have to “come out” in the first place. Maybe we parents are failing a bit at showing our kids a world where LGBTQ people are perfectly normal.

I hate to admit it but it’s true that even those of us who are supportive of the LGBTQ community still just sort of assume our kids are going to be heterosexual. Even I’ve played along with the standard commentary even though I don’t personally assume that my toddler will turn out straight. Like when my daughter has a playdate with a little boy– “is this an arranged marriage?” “Aww, look, they’re flirting!” I even snickered when my grandpa pointed to my newborn daughter’s left ring finger and said someday, some guy was going to put a ring on it.

But would I ever dare suggest my toddler was flirting with another girl? Would I dare suggest she would one day attend prom with a girl?

I hate to say it, but in certain company, no, I wouldn’t. Although I’d be completely and utterly happy for her if she fell in love with a girl, I don’t see myself suggesting it to her in her childhood. At least not around my more conservative friends and family.

Williams quotes her friend and sexuality educator, Joey Brenneman, on the hypocrisy we progressive parents demonstrate:

“You send clear messages not just by what you’re saying, but by what you’re not saying. Assuming that everyone is hetero does not leave space in the world for the people who are not. A kid who is growing up gay is constantly hearing, ‘You don’t exist,’ and ‘That is not the norm.’ You’re limiting who this person is.”

I am so busted.

But this is completely true. I remember growing up hearing gay people described as the “other,” not necessarily a group to hate on, but a group to perceive as distant and unusual. I got over that pretty quickly in my college years, but still, it makes me sad that in these supposedly more inclusive times the vast majority of what our kids see and hear revolves around hetero culture.

I can’t name a single children’s TV show or movie that features two people of the same sex openly in love (okay, Bert and Ernie are a possibility, but they’re nowhere near as obviously a couple as say, Kermit and Miss Piggy).

But wouldn’t it be fabulous if we had two Disney princesses who loved each other? Or two princes? My guess is we’re a long way off from having that kind of diversity in the media, but I can still do my best to be inclusive when I’m guiding my daughter through her childhood.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to feel weird saying stuff like, “look honey, it’s a wedding! One day, you may get married to the woman or man you love.” And I’ll probably get some strange looks for saying it because of where I live. But that’s the thing—if nobody bats an eye at obtuse arranged marriage jokes between two opposite-sex babies, than mature, LGBTQ-inclusive sorts of comments should be even more accepted.

(photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock)