Published on June 29th, 2017 | by Allegra Hirschman1
I Don’t Know How to Tell My Children About Heterosexuality
As a Queer mom with young children, I eagerly await June. During Pride month the world is all rainbow displays and pronoun buttons at Target, same-sex wedding photos from around the world, and advertisements highlighting beautiful queer families. But as the glory of June fades, it also reminds me how difficult it is to be a queer parent the rest of the year when I must actively combat the overt heterosexuality that feels unavoidable in the media and beyond nowadays. As more and more corporations bend to the will of straight special interest groups it can feel nearly impossible to raise my children in a way that reflects my values and allows them a proper carefree childhood without exposure to the perils of opposite sex relations.
So now that the rainbow flags are coming down, I find that I am actually grateful for the homophobic conservative watchdog group One Million Moms. Their website’s listing of media they are taking action against is such a useful shorthand what-to-watch list. There are times when I might be too busy undermining the institution of marriage, hating men, and perfecting my hummus recipe to catch all the touching queer moments in the media. Sometimes my calendar is so full of sacrilegious acts that don’t know what corporations I want to support or what magazines to subscribe to. Although, I must say Million Moms do tend to overemphasize the queer content and I often find myself disappointedly slogging through mostly bland conservative straight content only to find a mere hint of gay that they somehow mobilized 40,000 signatures against…Anyways, especially in times marked by major political shifts that will impact our children’s lives forever, it’s nice to know that so much energy is spent on protecting children from seeing a set of loving moms in a magazine, a mom that is trans in a soap commercial, or a queer cartoon sidekick in a Disney movie and definitely not on securing them healthcare, clean air or civil rights.
As much as the Million Moms and I are diametrically opposed politically, I have to admit that I too have been struggling with my sense of how and when it’s appropriate to introduce certain lifestyles to my children. I know this may make me unpopular with fellow LGBTQ parents when I say that I actually understand the desire to shelter.
Namely, I have been struggling myself with when the right time is to introduce the concept of heterosexuality to my own children.
So I am going to be honest and say that many arguments made by the One Million Moms and their like do resonate with me as I try, and often fail, to shelter my own children from the maelstrom of heterosexual imagery. Here are just a few of the ways that advocacy groups like One Million Moms and other concerned straight parents and religious zealots talk about homosexuality and children that I feel are more logically applied to my current quandary as a queer parent struggling to discuss hetero relations. Thanks to all your hard work, I am finally able to articulate my discomfort in the following ways:
I am fine with heterosexuals, but….
I just want to clarify that I am not anti-het, and I know run the risk of sounding like a cliche when I say that some of my best friends are straight and even some family members, not my immediate family, but nonetheless. How is it that I can love these individuals but feel at a loss when I think about exposing my children to their “lifestyles”? I want to clarify that I do not blame the individual suffering from heterosexuality. I truly love my heterosexual brothers and sisters and I greet them with open arms and understand that they cannot always change. You know, love the sinner, hate the sin and all that, but…
Children are just too young and impressionable to be exposed.
The main issue I have with heterosexuality in relationship to children is simple. Heterosexuality is very, well, sexual. In fact, the ways that many heterosexuals engage in family making are so overtly sexual that they force conversations that are not age-appropriate onto young children. While I can tell my kids honest stories of how they were wanted and conceived that highlight love, community and scientific facts, heterosexuals have to talk about a bird who flies from the clouds with babies in a loosely tied sack or worse, give their children the truth. Which is what? Mommy had an extra Pinot Gris, Daddy’s favorite sports team won so we cleared the solo cups off the pool table and…now you have to picture your own parents having sloppy sexual relations. Unfortunately, my generation has often had to struggle to erase similar images from our own psyches, why would we expose our children?
I just don’t want it to be harder for them…
I am not blaming adult heterosexual individuals per se, I actually feel for them. They were unquestioningly socialized in a gender binary that made them increasingly incompatible and yet mandated their eventual partnership with each other. I cannot say that is an easy road. I am well aware of the risk that one of my own children could end up in this lifestyle. But, isn’t it my job as a parent to try and guide them down roads that can result in true partnership and happiness (read: queerness)? I watch as my heterosexual loved ones struggle to find unions that are not simply mechanical reiterations of the patriarchal rule they were raised under. This breaks my heart, it really does. But how do I explain this to a 3-year-old? How can I wish this fate upon my own children? The other day my daughter saw a picture of a heterosexual marriage and it was pretty jarring for her. She asked me if it was really a “boy and a girl” but luckily before I could answer she had decided that it was a girl who liked to wear pants and had short hair. Phew, crisis averted. But what about next time?
They know not what they do.
So when I hear heterosexuals having a moral panic about their children being exposed to alternative lifestyles, as ironic as it is, I understand. I am in constant fear that my children will become indoctrinated into the mainstream white supremacist, colonialist, heteropatriarchy if I don’t do everything I can to offer them alternatives. Now, I would never let my child watch Beauty and the Beast as anything other than a cautionary tale about Stockholm syndrome. One low-self esteem gay best friend in love with a closeted narcissist (been there) is not going to undo the damage of the general storyline. However, the fact that LeFou’s homo tendencies are enough to cause panic among certain heterosexuals is worrisome and shows just how out of touch they are with their own sad lot in life.
Ultimately, I want to uphold family values.
It’s no wonder that heterosexuals don’t know how to truly work towards their own self-interest. Heterosexuality has such a violent and oppressive history of ownership, force, and domination which is currently highlighted by the terrifying brand of heterosexual toxic masculinity that has taken residence in our highest office. I can not pretend that the relationship that my wife and I have which is based on love, shared passions, and mutual awe and admiration has any parallels in the White House/Penthouse sharing duo. I certainly cannot say they reflect the values that I am seeking to pass on to future generations. I know love is love is a quaint slogan, but when I look at a lot of the heterosexual models, I can’t really call them love. You can’t scroll through a newsfeed without seeing stories of heterosexual relationships coming undone in truly disturbing ways. It seems like married celebrity straights can not fight the urge to sleep with their nannies, housekeepers, or the next famous straight they encounter while Hetero politicians seem to spend all of their time sending off unsolicited dick pics. And these are the relatively PG stories of heterosexual failings. I know that we want to believe that #lovewins but it sure seems like something else is winning for many straights.
My kids will have to learn sometime, but…
They should learn from their parents, not from schools, or television. I am aware that there will be a time when I have to have these conversations with my children, but until then, I would appreciate it if straight folks showed some subtlety and restraint in how they present themselves in the public sphere. I would also love any resources other queer parents have found for how to discuss heterosexual lifestyles in age appropriate ways that will not cause lasting damage. This struggle is ongoing, but thanks to Million Moms I can at least find some resources for good clean family friendly models of same-sex relationships to share with my children all year round.