Over Thanksgiving break I relished in being able to see my friends from high school as often as possible. After having successfully wolfed down two turkey drumsticks, sweet potatoes, squash pie and of course, hummus (what a meal would be like without the Middle Eastern staple at my house, I shudder to think) I went over to my friend Brit’s house in order to partake in some late night debauchery, where I am always assured to be welcomed by her mother and six-year-old brother, Blake.
Brit and I were just having a conversation, when Blake happened to walk into her room. At that point I decided to play with him while I continued having my conversation with Brit, although understandably, we had to temper our topics of discussion. I took part in games such as “Big Meal Café” where he takes my orders and shuttles between rooms to serve me my requested meals (future husband, are you listening?), looked up different cars on the internet and talked about different breeds of dog he wanted his mother to buy him. He loved playing with me so much, he wouldn’t let Brit and I have any true conversations of our own. As I spent time with him, however, I couldn’t help but admire Blake’s precocious nature: his inquiring mind constantly questioned the nature of things around him, and all too often, his grasp for complex issues never ceased to impress me.
When we finished playing I gave him a pat on the back, but he quickly winced with uneasiness. I had seen his sister and mother do the same thing though, how was what I had done any different? It couldn’t be because he felt uncomfortable with me. Not only have I been in Brit’s home more times than I can count, but we just had the greatest time playing “Big Meal Café”, perhaps the greatest restaurant-simulation game ever invented (© Blake Lippman). At that point, he looked at me and said “Do you know why Adam Lambert got in trouble on the TV? It’s because boys don’t kiss boys! I don’t let boys touch me”
Well, I can confidently say that what I had done was not predatory in nature, and at six years old, he doesn’t know that I am gay. Blake followed his quip with, “You know, if a boy in my class said he was in love with me and he wanted to kiss me, I would say to him, NO!”
To evince the matter, I wasn’t expecting a resurgence of kindergarten gays and allies to pop up and give a clear explanation as to how being gay, for lack of a better term, “works”. However, it made me realize that no matter how precocious Blake may seem, he still lacked the knowledge to understand how some social norms are revealed to be more complex than originally taught.
Can we really explain away Blake’s comment as child homophobia? Of course not. But his quick response begs the question, how do we, as liberals, progressives, allies, gays, however we like to describe ourselves, expect children to understand the intricacy of homosexual relationships? In a country that is increasingly tolerant of gay people on their neighborhood streets and on their television sets at home, is it fair to try and make children understand such a complex issue at such an early age? When does childhood naïveté end and homophobia begin? The slippery slope of trying to change a child’s current understanding of the world, as it seems to make sense to them, poses questions of whether trying to teach the term “gay” is important in ensuring that the term is not only ubiquitous, but also, socially understood. When we hear conservative pundits pose the notion that we must “protect our children from the increased toleration of the homosexual agenda from our children” is there really something here to consider? This question creates a bigger issue for those of us who plan to have children of our own.
I don’t suppose Blake will be “homophobic” for too long, especially in the household he grows up in, and especially if I have anything to do with it. It is interesting though, to see how a more understanding society will cope with the increased visibility of gay people in all facets of life and how this acceptance will be reflected in children. As for now, all I know is that those lessons will not be taught at this year’s Super Bowl. For that, you will still have to wait.