Raising gay-positive children



Fri Jul 6, 2012

Proud new world

The spirit of Pride carried over into this week with a string of celebrities coming out—and thereby moving us ever closer to the ideal of raising our children in a homophobia-free world.

Long before I had a son, I used to wonder about the morality of bringing a child into a world as messed up as this one. But after a week like we just had, I couldn’t be prouder.

It began last Sunday when I took my two-year-old Emile to his first Pride Day parade. He loved it, as he is a big fan of both rainbows and parades (though the oomcha-oomcha decible level necessitated periodic breaks to blow bubbles in a nearby park). I brought him, and will continue to do so in the years to come, because I want E to grow up thinking that all sexual orientations are equally normal. But Sunday’s celebration took on even more resonance as the week rolled along first with Anderson Cooper and then, more momentously, Odd Future’s resident R&B crooner Frank Ocean coming out in cutting-edge casual style—via, respectively, an email interview on a blog and a Tumblr post.

We may not have solved climate change, defeated famine or stopped war, but homophobia took a hit this week. And this week’s events built on the momentum from this past May when Obama finally came out in favour of same-sex marriage—and found his stance immediately supported by the unlikely likes of Jay-Z, T.I., 50 Cent and others. (That same month, Tom Gabel, frontman for punk-rockers Against Me!, came out as transgendered to a wonderfully positive reception and began presenting herself as Laura Jane Grace.)

Ocean’s letter was hailed by Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons as a game-changer: “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”

(Some of those very young people have felt fear thanks to the trolling slurs of Ocean’s controversial Odd Future crewmate Tyler, the Creator. But Tyler’s supportive tweet also acknowledged this isn’t news to him—“My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That,” he wrote—which at least lets the kids who may have been negatively affected by his lyrics know that, in real life, he’s not a homophobe. And hopefully OF will smarten up much like Eminem once did.)

Also this week, an Olympic soccer player revealed she was gay, still a rarity in the sports world, and France decided to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption, joining progressive nations like Canada, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

Freedom is on the march and, as a parent, it gives me great relief to know that, as Emile gets older, this topic will become less and less of a concern.

For our part, we are totally open to all of Emile’s interests, regardless of gender sterotyping. So while he loves his dinosaurs, superhero comics and fedora hat, he also loves his doll, My Little Pony and the adorable fairy dress he’s occasionally adorned in when we pick him up from daycare.

All we want in life is for him to be happy with who he is, and while there’s a 90 per cent chance he’ll grow up to be straight, there’s also a ten per cent chance he’ll be gay. Doesn’t matter to us. Thing is, it’s easy to say that you’ll love your son regardless of his eventual sexual orientation. Love is something you can control. (Or not—I love Emile pretty uncontrollably.) But you have no power over other people, and times remain tough for gay kids.

It’s 2012 and we still have a mayor who refuses to appear at Pride and publically funded Catholic schools discriminating against their gay students. We still have homophobic bullying and a sad need for “It Gets Better” videos.

A recent report on homophobia in Canadian high-schools found that 55 per cent of “sexual minority” students were verbally harassed (including by teachers) and 10 per cent were physically harassed. Also, nearly 10 per cent of straight kids were physically harassed for their “perceived” sexual orientation.

But a week like this wonderful one provides encouragement that it is, in fact, getting better, that people are changing, that society is evolving. And, for parents, it reminds us that we need to contribute by raising out children accordingly, teaching them that who we love is who we love and helping them shape this proud new world.

In a preface to Frank Ocean’s beautiful letter about falling in love with a man—the singer never defines his sexuality, which adds to its amazingness—he writes: “We’re all a bunch of golden million dollar babies. My hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the bullshit than we did.”

That’s my hope, too, and thanks to the bravery of people like Ocean, that inheritance will one day be assured.

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