One of the things I valued as a child was my innocence. At four years old, I wished I could be a man so I could marry a woman, because I didn’t know any other way than what I saw around me. I saw my parents and just figured that I had to be a boy to marry a girl. I wasn’t exposed to the words gay or lesbian or even knew that there was a word to describe the feelings or thoughts that I had. I only knew I liked girls.
In 1979, people didn’t get bullied or singled out for being gay or lesbian, at least not on my block. Rather for being poor, not as smart as someone else or because you weren’t great at kickball. We didn’t call people names like fag or homo or queer. We made up names like Dumb Dumb Head or Lame Brain. We didn’t have labels that specified if we were gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. We were just kids.
It’s so different now. I often feel bad for kids today because they aren’t innocent at four years old anymore. Changing times have exposed them to issues and problems that I couldn’t even fathom at that age. Media has created a frenzy around sexuality, fostering a negative atmosphere that targets our youth. It’s taught them to be afraid and to hate what is different. It creates problems that no child is prepared to deal with or should have to deal with.
At a time when the most pressing problem should be what Little League team did I make or how should I dress my Barbie today, society is forcing children to deal with adult size issues. I read an article recently about a five year old that took it upon herself to stand up against the hate mongering Westboro Baptist Church. The response from the church was to call her a Satanic Liar. While I applaud that strong girl, I am sad that at five, she has to see the hate that is bred by adults and the reason why.
Another article today mentioned a six year old transgender girl who had to go to court to win the right to use the girl’s bathroom in school. It breaks my heart that society has fostered such a deep-seated hatred and intolerance, that this poor girl, through no fault of her own, has to fight to be treated equally. She shouldn’t have to face that fight or be told that she is different. She should get to be a kid and experience all the things that come with growing up without carrying with her the feeling of being different.
Our youth should not have to be exposed to or stand up to intolerance or fear retribution from adults who blindly continue to dole out narrow-minded judgment based on ignorance and hate. The very people that grew up sharing the sandbox have forgotten the most basic principle that lies at the core of humanity, to just be a decent human being. That idea has been twisted and manipulated so much so that a large part of our population now believe and teach that that same sandbox isn’t good enough for everyone, and all to the detriment of our children.
The innocence, the naivety is gone. Our children have been exposed to the ugliness that surrounds us. When I look at my nieces and nephews, I pray that they aren’t gay because I don’t want them to have to deal with the hate. But most of all, I pray that the innocence lasts a while longer. I want them to look at Sarah and I with innocent eyes and not those jaded by society. When they do figure our relationship out, I want them to know that being gay or lesbian, bi or transgender is as normal as my brown eyes. I want their worries to be about grades and batting averages, not that their favorite aunts are lesbian and someone said that was a bad thing.
It isn’t about not letting them know what is really in the world, it’s about letting them grow up at their own pace, finding out and facing adult issues when they are adults and have the knowledge to do so. It’s about letting a six year who may have been born with different parts just be a six year old and not be told she can’t use a girl’s restroom. It’s about letting our kids get to the age where they can responsibly choose the fight that they want to be in and not forcing it on them. It’s about teaching them that no matter the differences between people, we are all just humans and we all deserve to play in the sandbox. It’s about letting them just be kids and not taking away the few years of innocence they have. They will grow up soon enough.