Guys, you are not going to believe this. I hope everyone is sitting down.
Fox News published an offensive, ill-informed article.
I know, right?
A psychiatrist wrote this report about a truly horrifying photo of a mother in a J. Crew catalogue painting her little boy’s toenails. She was painting them pink.
Oh wait, that’s not a big deal? No one fucking cares? It has no effect on this child, indicates nothing about his personality, and we should think it’s nice that he and his mother spend time together and not read anything into it? OK, cool.
I can’t believe we even have to have this discussion. It’s just so silly. Adults, not these children, make it an issue. Frequently, these adults are not even the people most involved in the child’s life. (Beautifully pointed out in this article.) But this is a social work issue.
So often parents come to us, wanting to know if their children are “normal.”
“She’s eating paste…do they all do that?”
“He talks to himself. And he answers.”
“She only answers to the name Twilight Sparkle.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a parent come in, concerned because their young child eschews gender norms. I worked with an eight year old girl who only wanted Spiderman toys. I agreed that this was lame, because Batman is so much cooler, but then I realized something. Mom was concerned that her daughter was a lesbian.
It’s not like the kid wanted a Wonder Woman action figure.
Child development is kind of our thing. We understand that sex and gender are not fixed as a permanent concept in children until around age six. We can help nervous parents to understand a few important things:
- Your little boy having a tea party or your baby girl wanting to be a race car driver does not indicate anything about their sexuality.
- Whatever your child’s sexuality, you better just accept it, because there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Whatever your child’s sexuality, you shouldn’t want to do anything about it. It is a part of who he or she is. One identity is not superior to another
Acceptance, treating people with unconditional positive regard, and seeing the worth and dignity in every person are all important parts of our ethical code as social workers. This includes children. And it includes helping their parents to accept them, rather than want to change them.
My brother and I both wore pink and blue. My parents didn’t care. We watched Free to Be…You and Me, where we learned that it was a-ok if William wants a doll, and that it’s all right to cry–crying gets the sad out of you! I hated Barbies and was obsessed with Ninja Turtles. I refused to wear dresses. My brother was forced to watch and sing along to the Sound of Music more times than he cares to remember by his sister and all his female cousins. We both loved writing. We grew up with gay adults in our lives, and never thought that there was anything wrong with being gay.
And yet neither of us turned out gay.
My little cousin was captured for all time at age three, happily waving the baby doll and crib that I sent him for Christmas, crying later on when he misplaced his “dolly.” He grew up to be an enthusiastically heterosexual star athlete.
Doesn’t make sense, if we listen to the good
asshole doctor in the offending Fox ‘news’ article. It’s so easy to alter someone’s sexuality! Just a nudge this way or that and it’s welcome to Gayville, population: you.
Therefore, it must be just as easy to turn someone straight. Just slap a little nail polish on the girls, and give the boys a football. (No lesbians wear nail polish, and no gay boys like sports. It’s just science.)
We all know it doesn’t work like that. In the words of a great 21st century philosopher, you were born this way…baby.
Some idiots do believe that you can turn someone straight. The National Association of Social Workers disagrees. As does the American Medical Association. And the American Psychiatric Association. Oh, and the American Psychological Association, The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants…
You know. A bunch of elitists.
Parents worry about everything to do with their kids. Are they happy, are they healthy, will they be successful, will they get hurt, don’t they ever shut up?
It’s our job to help them to understand what truly constitutes a problem. To let their children know that they are loved, and that they are worth something, no matter what. We need to help parents understand that, as much influence they have over their children, there are things that can’t, and shouldn’t be, changed.
There’s enough to worry about with kids. This stuff? Let’s just help everyone accept it.