Monday, April 21, 2014

LGBT Tuesday: Parents, Please Talk to your Kids...

Welcome to Unabridged Andra's LGBT Tuesday!
This is a weekly meme designed to foster discussion about books that have LGBT main characters, or prominent side characters, and have LGBT themes in them. It is my hope that by reading about of LGBT people, a better understanding, empathy, and compassion will start to exist in the mainstream culture. Each week, there will be a discussion post that deals with issues from the LGBT community, some info on what's going on in the real-world with LGBT issues, and reviews of a book that I've read that has something to cool to bring to the table.  I also have a few of my awesome gay friends popping in from time to time to make their fabulous presence known. Rcmember to link up YOUR reviews of LGBT books, and I will go check them out! 
Hi guys, so for this edition of LGBT Tuesday, I'm going to get up on my soapbox a bit. I typically try to stay off it and let the books do the preaching talking... for the most part, but I feel like I have to share a personal experience with you all so that it might help out someone in a similar situation.  Deep breath...okay here we go......

So recently, I had the chance to visit my brother-in-law "Joe" in Washington DC and spent a month with him, my man, and our niece. While Josh and I do NOT have kids, we are always talking about parenting, and what we want to tell our kids, and how we want to deal with certain aspects of parenting when they eventually come up. Our niece, let's call her "Sarah" because I don't exactly have permission to talk about her on the interweb, is a bright and inquisitive 10-year-old. While she doesn't read nearly often enough for my liking, she is a smart kid and, as kids do, has started to ask questions about things she sees in the real world. Namely: Gay People. She would ask things like, "Why do gay people not like who they are supposed to?" and "I really like my best friend Lisa, does that make me gay?" and other questions. My brother-in-law and his wife are very supportive of the Gay rights movement, so I was really surprised that Joe simply brushed off the questions and changed the subject. Later on, we were watching TV as a family, and Joe wouldn't let us watch Modern Family because of the two gay characters, Cam and Mitchell, who are central figures of the show. We then tried to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and had to turn it off when it turned out to be an episode where Raj dates a lesbian by mistake.

I'm not hating on my brother-in-law, but this kind of behavior is SO ignorant and very destructive. The "head in the sand" style of parenting is not helping Sarah at all.  By not speaking openly in their home about gay people and topics, my dear family is accidentally turning the concept of gays and lesbians into a taboo subject. When something is taboo and just not talked about, it makes children view it as bad or wrong. Just like a teenager who isn't allowed to talk about sex and relationships at home views sex with a combination of fear, anxiety, and guilt-- when being gay, or just gay people in general are declared "improper topics", that also sends the message to a child that gays are people who are "different" and "improper". Instead of having someone's sexuality being a simple trait, like I am blonde, or Josh has hazel eyes, someone who is gay is to be feared, ostracized, and in general viewed as something "not normal". Although I was really uneasy when all of this was taking place, I didn't speak up for fear of getting my head bitten off and getting the whole lecture about, "Don't you tell me how to raise my kids...yada, yada, yada..." So I just bit my tongue and just watched Modern Family with my headphones in...

However my uneasiness never disappeared, and my fears were confirmed a week or so later. Josh and I had to babysit Sarah and her friend, so we took them to the mall. There, right in the middle of the cavernous mall entryway, was a huge, rotating digital poster for the show "The Fosters". For those of you who don't know, this ABC Family show features lesbian parents and their foster children and the various struggles and challenges that life throws their way. While I am not a fan of that show or any ABC Family show really, it is an interesting concept and does a very good job presenting issues that a family could face.  Sarah and her friend started pointing and snickering at the poster saying things like, "Ewww look, lesbians" and "That's just nasty." While I was fuming inside with the rant that I was going to deliver very loudly and passionately to my brother-in-law, my heart was also silently breaking because these two girls, who are very smart, kind, and fun in many ways, are being led towards hatred and ignorance simply because no one is willing to talk to them about what it means when a boy likes a boy or a girl likes a girl.

Also, it's worth noting how much more widely accepted gay people are in pop culture. In two weeks, there were three different shows that had prominently featured gay characters, and we BARELY watched TV while we were in DC. That's the fact about gays and lesbians. They exist! Just because you don't talk about LGBT issues at home doesn't mean the kids aren't assaulted by visuals on a daily basis. If they don't get an understanding about what it means to be gay from their parents, they are going to pick up on what other kids say, and that puts them at risk for picking up homophobic tendencies like my niece got from her friends and school. If you support gay rights, why in the WORLD would you want to leave it up to a ten-year-old to tell your child about effective and productive marital relationships? What do you think is going to happen if someone in their school comes out as gay? Will they welcome him or her with open arms because being gay is fine...or will they say, "Ewwww" and make that child feel bad? Or even worse, will they bully him or her because she is different? And on another level, what if Sarah is actually a lesbian? What kind of message is ignoring her questions sending to her at a such a young age? She is being taught to shut up, to keep her thoughts to herself, and not be "weird". This is the kind of treatment that would eventually lend itself to depression, even suicide if she were a lesbian and didn't feel like she could talk about it even to those who are closest to her. It's just that, in today's modern world with all kinds of new families springing up, no parenting option, different types of marriage, etc should be taboo.
I know, I know...until I'm a parent, I can't possibly understand XYZ about parenting because I'm not one, but please just listen to this childless supporter of equality. Just because talking about being gay may be hard for you to do, doesn't mean you can just ignore it and hope that someone else will talk to your kids and set them on the right path. Talk to your kids about being gay, about what it means to be attracted to someone for their personality, not by their skin color, gender, or body size. If you take the fear and secrecy out of being gay, and talk about it like it IS just another way for families to will become that way!  When your kids see gay people on TV and start to ask questions, be honest and open with them. Speak in a casual way, because this IS something casual, this IS something normal and there is no need to make a big deal out of it. If YOU make being gay as ordinary as a tween having a crush on like...One Direction or something...your kids won't blink twice when their classmate comes out of the closet.
If I have ruffled any feathers, please smooth them back into place. I am entitled to my opinion like anyone else, and hope that maybe this article has delivered some clarity or food for thought. I had some thoughts on the subject and I thought it would be a good discussion to have with readers and followers. I will now gladly get down from my soapbox, and open up the floor for discussion to anyone who chooses to do so. Remember that only kind words, or constructive criticism is accepted here.

Next week's Topic of Discussion: Favorite Gay Characters is Movies and TV! :) 

Are you an author of a really AWESOME LGBT themed book? Are you a reader or follower who has read a groundbreaking LGBT novel? Let me know!  Feel free to contact me at, because I am ALWAYS looking for new books to read! If you have written a book with LGBT characters or themes, you can be featured on LGBT Tuesday in an interview or guest post. Just let me know what you would have time for, and we will get things rolling! 

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