Letting kids be kids: the fig leaf of the homophobe

We all discover our sexuality at very different ages. It’s not a thing that happens all at once, of course, but an ongoing journey from early childhood, through adolescence and right into our adult lives. At some point on that journey, however, a moment of realisation occurs about who we’re attracted to.

As children, we’re absolutely bombarded with information about relationships. Our own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. TV, films, books, and other media. All, overwhelmingly, reinforcing the same simple message: the default relationship is one that occurs between a man and a woman.

This is probably fine, of course, if at the aforementioned moment of realisation, you find you’re attracted to people of the opposite sex. Job done. Identity affirmed. Congratulations! You’re normal.

But what if you’re not?

What if you realise, at some stage along that journey of discovery, that you’re a boy who likes boys, or a girl who likes girls? Or what if everyone thinks of you as a girl, but somewhere deep inside you is the knowledge that this is not who you really are? And what if this happens when the only information you’ve received about relationships and identities from the day you were born has been almost exclusively cis-heteronormative?

I’ll tell you what happens, because I was that child. I knew I liked boys before I’d even heard the word ‘gay’, or had any idea what it meant. I had no language to describe my feelings, and no reassurance that what I was experiencing was ok. When I was eventually introduced to the concept of gayness, it was made clear to me that being gay was a Very Bad Thing, so naturally, I began to hide my feelings away.

I was no more than six or seven when I learned that it was wrong to be who I was, and the psychological damage this knowledge inflicts on a child is profound and enduring. It was a mantra that was repeatedly hammered home through what remained of my childhood and into my early adult life, the fallout from which I don’t know if I’ll ever really finish dealing with.

Sadly, this intolerable situation remains the case for so many LGBTQ children today, and there are those who are fighting with every fibre of their being to ensure that another generation of young people continue to be subjected to this gratuitous emotional barbarity.

“Stop sexualising our children!” they scream. “Let kids be kids.”

Bizarrely, they only seem to have this reaction to the suggestion that children should be taught about LGBTQ relationships and identities, and never in response to the constant flow of heteronormative ideas, which tends to make me think they might just be homophobic cunts who don’t actually give the first fuck about protecting children.

They’re perfectly happy, for example, for children to catch up on the escapades of Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, but if a programme existed in which Peppa (or some other character) had two daddies, that would apparently be no better than teaching five-year-olds about the intricacies of glory holes and rimming.

And this gets to the heart of the matter. 

To those who aren’t hateful fucking trash, queer folk are just normal people. We go to work, we pay bills, we watch TV, we go for walks, we enjoy opera or sports or books. We have friendships, relationships, families. We fall in love and we break up and we’re flawed and messy and fragile and damaged and…human. 

To those who want to confine us to the shadows, we’re reduced to mere sex acts. We’re deviants, hell bent on corrupting young minds and ‘turning’ them gay or bi or trans.

Childhood should be the best time of our lives. We should be happy and carefree, unencumbered by day to day grown-up worries about paying the mortgage, buying food, getting a job, raising a family or whether we’re going bald. We are, as it happens.

‘Letting kids be kids’ means preserving this feeling for as long as possible, and how can we possibly hope to achieve that if 5-10% of them have no information to say that who they are is valid and normal, and the other 90-95% aren’t taught to respect, or indeed celebrate, this wonderful diversity that enriches all our lives?

‘Waiting until they get to secondary school’ is like waiting until someone is three months pregnant to teach them about contraception. By the age of 11, the vast majority of children will have experienced an attraction of some sort to one of their peers, and will be beginning to develop an awareness of their gender identity. If all they’ve known about queerness until this point is rooted in hate and negativity, the damage is already done.

And if you’re the kind of blistering fucking arsehole who wants to inflict this psychological cruelty, emotional insecurity, constant bullying and poor mental health on today’s children as it was inflicted on yesterday’s, at least have the courage to cease using those same children as a fig leaf for your repulsive bigotry, and just admit that you don’t like queer people.

Knowing that Josh has two mums will not prevent ‘kids being kids’. Sarah knowing that her crush on Jenny is perfectly normal isn’t ‘sexualising’ anyone. Saying, ‘Last term you used to know this person as Erica, but now he’d like to be known as Eric and please respect his pronouns,’ isn’t going to ‘corrupt young minds’.

No one is getting ‘turned into’ anything they weren’t already. If 30-odd years of believing that being gay was about the worst thing I could be didn’t turn me straight, I’m pretty fucking sure a storybook about a boy with two mums isn’t going to turn a whole generation of children into rampant homosexuals.

All that will happen is that these children will feel safer knowing that LGBTQ identities are just as valid as cis-het identities, that they’ll be given the love and support they need to be who they really are, and that their peers will be more tolerant and accepting of their differences.

That sounds like a pretty fucking great childhood to me.

It’s not ‘Gay Pride’, and it’s ok to say so

I have a confession to make: I’m a pedant. I am the sort of person who will react like a steak-deprived Jeremy Clarkson at the sight of an erroneous your/you’re, and who will beat his fist on the desk like a millionaire Tory MP who’s just been told about a proposed £3 per month increase in the rate of disability benefits at the use of the word ‘I’ when it should rightly be ‘me’. For many of you, this will hardly come as a surprise, but it did give me cause to stop and think about my reaction over the past few days to the persistent use of the term ‘Gay Pride’ by a range of news outlets and social media users.

The BBC News channel’s coverage of Belfast Pride on Saturday repeatedly referred to the event as ‘Gay Pride’ (though they also referred to homophobic fuckweasels as ‘religious conservatives’, so accuracy obviously isn’t high on their agenda); that bastion of left wing inclusivity The Guardian told us yesterday that the National Trust had reversed its decision to require volunteers to wear ‘gay pride badges’ (because even those volunteering for charities should be free to behave like arseholes, presumably); and The Star proudly reported how Michaella McCollum (no, me neither) was pictured ‘flashing her nips at Gay Pride in Brighton’, which is presumably the sort of hard-hitting journalism the author, Nicholas Bieber, feels justifiably proud of having produced. The monumental titwank.

Perhaps most worryingly, though, a quick Google search for the term ‘Gay Pride’ brought up the following result:

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I can’t even begin to explain that last one, but the organisers of a Pride event really ought to know better.

Every time I hear the words ‘Gay Pride’, my reaction is similar to that experienced when I witness ‘imply’ and ‘infer’ being used interchangeably: my brow furrows, my buttocks clench (often audibly) and I let out the exasperated sigh of a teenage boy whose parents simply won’t fuck off out so that he can have a wank. Given my self-confessed pedantry, therefore, it was only natural that I should start to wonder whether my objection to this phrase is just another manifestation of my somewhat anal commitment to linguistic accuracy.

The short answer is that it is not. Having given the matter a good degree of thought, I have reached the conclusion that my bristling is actually quite justified. Whereas the first Pride events were routinely referred to as ‘Gay Pride’, this hasn’t been the case now for many years, and rightly so. Our lesbian, bisexual, trans and other queer friends have been with us from the start, playing an instrumental role in the Stonewall riots of 1969, and in organising the very first Pride event the following year.

For the most part, LGB rights have improved immeasurably since the late 1960s, but it’s sad to say that the rights of trans, intersex and non-binary people haven’t kept pace. Whilst LGBT+ people still experience disproportionately high rates mental illness across the board, by far the worst affected are trans people, around 40% of whom will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. And far from looking upon this as a reason for attitudes to change, many a loathsome shit will actually use the intolerably high rates of attempted suicide as a stick with which to beat trans people:

“Trans people aren’t ‘stuck in the wrong body’, they’re just mentally ill – look at their suicide rates!”

What these subhuman sacks of festering excrement fail to realise (or do realise but are simply too fucking vile to care), is that trans people aren’t taking their own lives because they’re who they are, but because of the nasty, small-minded shite fountains who abuse, belittle and attack them for who they are. Their families disown them, their friends ridicule them and a rabid, unchecked right wing media portrays them as something to fear and deride. High-profile commentators, like the arse-faced, steaming bucket of pig jizz that is Piers Morgan, routinely use their platforms to make bigoted statements about trans people with little or no backlash. And whilst it would be nice to lay all the blame at the door of oily, shitty little cunts like Morgan, it’s disappointing to report that it’s not possible to do so. As I touched on in my previous article for Pride Month, casual (and not so casual) transphobia is still rife in the LGB community. All too often, I hear words like ‘tranny’ and ‘she-male’ being thrown around by assorted cis-gay fucktrumpets who, quite understandably, don’t particularly like it when they’re referred to as ‘poofs’ or ‘faggots’. It really has to stop.

Another problem we face as a community is our tendency to dismiss bisexual people as ‘confused’ or ‘undecided’, with a troublingly large minority of gays and lesbians being willing to declare that ‘bisexuality doesn’t really exist’. I have to say, I bear a good degree of residual guilt for the prevalence of such views because, although it’s certainly not an idea I subscribe to in any way, I did feed into this narrative by identifying as bisexual when I first came out. I think my reasons for that were fairly easy to justify (it wasn’t a conscious decision – I actually was a little confused), but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a gigantic twat, all the same. That said, it’s important to note that, whilst there are confused people who identify as bisexual, not all bisexuals are confused. And neither are they an inconsequential part of our community that we can simply forget about when it suits us.

Like it or not, we are in this together. From the lesbian who incited the unrest after being hit on the head by a police officer outside the Stonewall bar, to the trans women who risked everything to throw rocks at law enforcement officials and the bisexual people who fought alongside them; our pasts, and our futures, are inextricably linked. It seems a little like some in the gay community are happy to reap the benefits of the support we received from lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer activists then, and in the many years since Stonewall, without feeling the need to return the favour when it’s most needed.

So I urge you, fellow gays, to drop the term ‘Gay Pride’ from your vocabulary. It erases those members of our community who have stood up alongside us for so many years and betrays exactly the same level of privileged bollocks that so many straight people unthinkingly shit out on a daily basis (straight pride, anyone?). Moreover, if you see others referring to Pride as ‘Gay Pride’, correct them. Whether it’s a 300-follower user of Twitter, your Daily Mail-reading aunt on Facebook, or an international media outlet, it’s an exercise worth undertaking. None of us are free until all of us are free, and it’s up to us to ensure that every single part of our community is represented. It’s patently obvious that we can’t trust the media to regulate itself in this regard, so we have to accept responsibility for saying to them that it’s not ok to erase the LBTQ people upon whose shoulders we are so fortunate to stand.