Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Spark of Wisdom: You’re already teaching kids sexuality

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This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

Children are too young to learn about ANY kind of sexuality. It's a common refrain, when you discuss teaching children about homosexuality or homophobia. Children are too young for that. Too vulnerable. Too young to understand. They're not homophobic, they hasten to add, oh no, they don't want to teach kids about ANY sexuality! And that includes heterosexuality!

And I really want to know where the idea came from that you DIDN'T teach sexuality (and gender identity) to your 5, 8, 10, 14 (or however old you think is too frail to hear about the GBLT folk) year old?

image Do they have a mother and father? A grandmother and grandfather? Aunts and uncles? How many couples do they know, how many husbands and wives in nicely matched pairs? How many boyfriends and girlfriends?

How many times have you spoken about "when they grow up?" How many times does that involve a partner of the opposite gender? Ever spoken about future wives/husbands?

Do you tease them and make little jokes? When you see him with a female friend do you tease him "is that your girlfriend?" Do you ask the same about his male friends?

Do they watch television? Do they see an endless stream of heterosexuals and heterosexual couples? From animated movies to those dreadfully dull child-friendly fluff - how many of them have heterosexuality craftily inserted in there? Even Peanuts had (heterosexual, naturally) love interests!

image Do they read books? How many princes rescue princesses? How many children have a mummy and a daddy? How many boy friends and girl friends are there? Even Goldilocks had a mummy bear and a daddy bear. Beauty met the Beast - but Beast was always a guy and Beauty was always a girl. The kiss that woke Sleeping Beauty was never from another woman, Prince Charming never rode to Prince Even-More-Charming's rescue.

Do they go to school? Do they learn about history - with kings married to queens? With great men - and their wives? Lots of heterosexual partners presented week after week? Do they study English and literature - and again see man and woman, eternally linked and assumed again and again and again? Have they studied religion? Do they go to church?

image Have you told them there are clothes for boys and clothes for girls? Does you son wear a dress? Does he wear pink? Does your daughter play with dolls that need burping and putting to sleep, or dolls with guns? Does she get an easy bake oven or a transformer?

Were his baby blankets blue? Were hers pink?

Does mummy do the housework? Does daddy fix the car?

See, I was taught about heterosexuality and "proper" gender presentation from a very very young age. It was taught by my family, by my friends, by my teachers, by my books and by the TV. It glared out from every corner. The lessons were impossible to miss. It was impossible NOT to learn about sexuality. Only it was never my sexuality - never me. Only "appropriate" sexuality.

And do you even begin to realise how long and how hard it was to unlearn all that?

We teach sexuality from the cradle, from the very second they open their eyes we force these lessons on our children. But for some of our kids, those lessons are just plain wrong, and for the rest they just teach them that we don't exist.

You already teach kids sexuality - but you don't tell them the whole story and that ignorance can hurt all of them - and it certainly hurts us.