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To Queer or Not to Queer?

Is a conversation about alternate sexuality only warranted if your child is gay, or when they express curiosity about it?

I was watching the movie Jojo Rabbit the other day, which is about a 10 year old German boy set around the time of the second World War. He has been indoctrinated to the Nazi ideology. The movie follows his journey as he realises his mother is hiding something from him, and how he deals with the secret. I sat in my living room, with my parents, younger brother, and grandmother, watching them. I observed how the absurd opinions that Nazis had of Jews made my family watch in disbelief. Scenes highlighting the unbelievable lies about Jews that the Nazis were brainwashing young impressionable children with would make my grandmother comment on how ridiculous all of it was. I couldn’t stop wondering why we don’t react with the same disbelief? When Muslims, Dalits, or Queer people are met with the same ridiculous hate, why does our righteousness falter? After all, hate is just conditioning, and conditioning can be unlearned. I saw that my 14 year old brother was able to grasp how easily people were fooled into murdering thousands of their fellow citizens, and identify it as wrong. So if misinformation at a young age can breed hatred and intolerance, then the right information communicated carefully can make love blossom too.

It is time to debunk the myth that our children cannot understand a complicated concept such as Queerness. A 2015 study explored the attitudes of young adults towards a hypothetical situation where their parent comes out as Queer. Overall, participants imagined they would have positive attitudes toward the parents’ coming out, and their beliefs predicted their attitudes. This supports the argument that we should be bringing Queer-inclusive attitudes and practices into daily lifestyles, irrespective of the sexual orientation/gender identities of the family members. Another study conducted in 2012 had found that children with non-Western ethnic backgrounds feel more parental pressure to conform to traditional gender norms. They were mimicking the parents’ more traditional gender role beliefs. Therefore, the onus of creating an attitude of acceptance that our next generation can follow is on us.

Our world is a melting pot of different identities and cultures. Queer identities are as much a contributing group in our society as any other. Some of the international and Indian personalities who have been open about their sexuality and gender identity are people like Jodie Foster. She’s an award-winning actress who has come out as gay, albiet not without having to dodge heteronormative questions about her love life throughout her career. Laverne Cox is a well-known torchbearer of transgender rights, and is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a primetime Emmy award for acting. Dutee Chand is an Indian professional sprinter and current national champion in the women’s 100 metres event. It was recently revealed that she is in a same-sex relationship. Manvendra Singh Gohil is the first Prince who is openly gay. He is the heir of the Maharaja of Rajpipla in Gujarat. Gauri Sawant is a transgender activist from Mumbai, India. She is the director of Sakshi Char Chowghi that helps transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS.

Talking about sexual orientation will not make a straight kid gay, but will definately make a closeted queer kid feel safe and loved. Incorporating inclusive language and educating our children about different kinds of love, different kinds of families, different kinds of bodies can seem very intimidating but it will fall into place when you notice how quickly children take to ideas of love and kindness. To young children, a seemingly complicated concept like transgender is easy to explain with the idea of a girl’s heart in a boy’s body or vice versa. For explaining same sex couples and marriages to children, we can consolidate the idea that Love is not bound by the body or the gender of the person, and that love exists between the souls/hearts. Another very important aspect of making a child’s growing environment queer-inclusive is to refrain from imposing gender roles on the children or the family members. Rather, allowing the child to exercise their own autonomy about the clothes they would like to wear, the hobbies they would like to explore, and the household chores they are/are not inclined towards. When we respect the choices our children make at such a young age, it instills a great sense of self-efficacy, as well as helps in the development of the child’s best potential. The child’s (and the family’s) norm becomes one of kindness, inclusion, and love. They will look at everyone with a lens of curiosity and a drive to understand rather than feel fear of the things that they don’t know or understand.

Incorporating inclusive practices and language isn’t something only young children can adapt to. Apart from educating and raising our children to be loving and open, we also need to work on helping each other unlearn the prejudice we have been conditioned to follow. The most difficult part of this would be to consistently call out hate-speech in the form of homophobic or transphobic terminology in jokes, regular banter, and arguments. Here is a resource that can help adults deal with such situations in a calm manner. As we evolve further, my only hope for the future is a world whose citizens refuse to be indoctrinated by hate. And the power to shape this future is in our hands.

Apperson, J. M., Blincoe, S., & Sudlow, J. L. (2015). An exploratory study of young adults’ attitudes toward parental disclosure of LGBT identity. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 2(4), 492–496. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000111

Is a conversation about alternate sexuality only warranted if your child is gay, or when they express curiosity about it?

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