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Gay boys December 13, 2006

Posted by Andreas in Parenting.
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In the car on our way to school the other day, I overheard my seven year old son Joey admonish his younger brother: “No no no Ben, Brett and Trent are gay boys and they do kiss each other like mommy and daddy!” Ben got it and the conversation moved on to more mundane things: “Punchbuggy yellow, safe!”

Helping our kids keep an open mind has always been one of our major parenting missions. For me that mostly boils down to exposing them to the whole muddled wonder that is human existence (the good, the bad and the ugly).

“Exposing” seems a harsh word to use, actually, since obviously I don’t mean throwing them into the toxic sludge that is the real world so that they build up some resistance that will protect them in later life.

What I hope is for them to be able to live a life in which doors and options are open, in which they can experience the fabulous variety of what it means to be human, in which all sorts of lifestyles and ways of thinking can be explored, talked about and lived. A life of opportunities and choices and one that they have the power to shape for their own needs, feelings and desires.

Not an easy task, I tell you, in a society where proverbial doors are slammed shut in your face on a daily basis and from quite a young age. Girls run funny, old people smell odd, men drink beer, lesbians hate men, Zulu men are masculine, English spoken with a Scottish accent is quaint, English spoken with an Afrikaans or African accent is a travesty, and so on and so on.

Kids are extraordinarily receptive to the world around them. I have to laugh at folks who say things like “children don’t notice the colour of people’s skin”. My sons are extremely aware of all sorts of human attributes, including skin tone: “Ashley has golden hair and is pinkish. Alex is light brown, but not quite as brown as Joshy” etc. They call it like it is, but don’t attach bizarre, one-size-fits-all value judgements to mere physical characteristics. Society grinds those into their subconscious slowly but surely in a myriad of different ways.

A friend of mine tells a cute story about growing up in the dusty roads of Ikageng township near Potchefstroom. He came home from playing outside one day, I guess he must have been about four or five, telling his mother how all the kids, himself included, had been playing in the street naked. His mom got a little concerned and asked if it had been just boys or if there had been girls as well. “I don’t know mommy,” he replied, “none of them were wearing any clothes”. In the absence of identifying items of clothing (dresses and skirts vs pants) he couldn’t tell the difference!

CrimethInc.

A lot of the stuff I’m trying to get at is said much better on one of my favourite CrimethInc. posters (adapted from a poem by Nancy R. Smith):

For every girl who is tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every boy who is burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence.

For every girl who is tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep.

For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl who is called unfeminine when she competes.

For every girl who throws out her E-Z-Bake oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one.

For every boy struggling not to let advertising dictate his desires, there is a girl facing the ad industry’s attacks on her self-esteem.

For every girl who takes a step toward her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way to freedom a little easier.

Download the poster here.

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