There are a couple interesting things going on on twitter lately. There’s the hashtag #ididnotreport, where women (and men, and members of other genders) describe circumstances of rape or sexual assault that they did not report to police or authorities, and why. It’s a very, very chilling look at the intense social pressures that enable rape and sexual assault, and burden its victims with guilt and shame, and pressure them into silence.
Then there’s @NiceGuyBrianG, an apologist for rape and general non-consensual sexual acts, who has mocked and derided the #ididnotreport trend.
But beneath this, there’s been seething a subtler little trend that speaks volumes about where we still are as a culture in regards to homophobia and attitudes towards sexual variance, and the degree of violent (and frankly incomprehensible) hatred that is still openly stated towards homosexuality.
Recently, another hashtag, #ToMyUnbornChild has been trending, where people speak messages to their future children. And an alarmingly large number of these messages are along the lines of “If you’re gay, I’ll beat the shit out of you / kill you / disown you / etc.”
Yes. People are taking the opportunity to make their feelings towards their future children not as a chance to talk about offering them a better world, or treating them with love, or trying to suggest some scrap of wisdom they’ve managed to eke out of our confusing and strange world, but instead as a chance to iterate that they are so frightened, disgusted or hateful of homosexuality that they’ll threaten a child who does not yet exist, their child, with rejection, violence or death if they should end up happening to be gay.
And sadly, it should go without saying that this is not only a hypothetical put forward by some hateful twitter-users who have no idea what love for a child actually means. It is a staggeringly, heart-breakingly common story for queer people to have to choose between their families and their integrity, being able to be open about who they are. Those awful feelings of love for a child being conditional on their conformity to arbitrary cultural standards of sexuality and gender do not always go away when they finally look that child in the eyes or hold them in their arms. Far too often, they still hold that child and while thinking “I love you so much…” are still holding, somewhere in the back of their minds, “…as long as you’re straight, cis and meet my expectations.”
What this horrible little twitter trend has got me thinking about, though, is the number of e-mails (and sometimes comments) I’ve gotten with parents or would-be parents asking me for advice on how to go about dealing with the possibility (either concrete and suggested by present circumstances, or simply an abstract, as it always is) that their children may be gay or transgender. How do you assign a gender? Should you? How do you make sure your child receives the message that it’s okay to explore their gender (or later, sexual orientation)? How do you do this while not having them be bullied or alienated by other kids? How do you protect them from the gender-normative messages of society as a whole? And if they do begin presenting as transgender, how do we deal with that? What is the best strategy to take, and what will give them the best shot at happiness? How do we deal with all the people around us who will see any act of support for gender non-normativity in a child as “abuse”? Etc.
These parents, unlike the would-be practitioners of homophobic infanticide of #ToMyUnbornChild, are already getting it right. They’ve already accomplished the most important thing: putting the child’s happiness first, and thinking through and asking about how to ensure that happiness, and not letting these possibilities (or realities) compromise their love and support for their children. [Read more…]