How You Play the Game - Michelle Shocked (mp3)
The following is a reader comment following an interesting NYTimes blog about gender and homophobia:
Homophobia itself, like sexism, needs to be eradicated. And children need to learn (this must be taught by parents + in schools) that “masculine” and “feminine” may be descriptive (what the terms actually mean should always be open to question), but they must never be prescriptive. All children should be free to grow into whatever man or woman they want to be. And both parents and teachers have a moral obligation to facilitate this growth.
I will attempt to explain why the comment above begs me to differ, but first, I must offer some background.
Here's the next thing to make clear: I am fairly open-minded when it comes to sex and love and gender preference and all that jazz. Gay men in general bother me far less than NFL athletes in general or glam rock stars like Bret Michaels in general. I'm not the least bit uncomfortable around most gay men... be they my next-door neighbors or one of our fantasy football team owners or even a student who might or might not have begun to openly admit it to his peers or teachers. Just because I'm open-minded and comfortable, however, doesn't mean I can proclaim that famous ironic statement, "I don't have any problem with them gays."
Seems to me we all have problems with everyone at some point or another. We have problems with our parents, with our kids, with our coworkers, with people in the news, with homeless people, and so on. Some of these are excusable while some less so. But inevitably, our problem with a particular person will inevitably collide with a part of them that ain't like us. Their gender, their race, their sexual preference, their religion. And when that happens, we must ask ourselves how much of that different part plays a role in the conflict.
Put another way: "Am I annoyed by that guy because he's annoying or because he's gay/black/Moonie and annoying?"
Let's use "YouTube Fred" as another example. I don't care whether that kid is gay, het, or hermaphrodite, Fred annoys every last nerve ending in my entire body. (Yes, I know he's TRYING to be annoying, but he's also, like, annoying in ways that are beyond intentional.) Is it because he's effeminate? Probably. I can't deny that possibility. Am I bothered by effeminate males? At times... well, yes dammit, yes. But I'm also bothered by beefy guys who jiggle their man-boobs back and forth to show their amazing muscle control, and by manly men who constantly call everyone "fag" in deep baritone voices. I'm not a fan of ditzy bottle-haired model wannabes with boob jobs and collagen-injected lips who think it's cute that they can't spell simple words and don't know how many states make up the U.S.
Further, when it comes to essential differences in people such as race or religion or the like, there will always -- ALWAYS -- be some key moments where one side can't quite understand the other. It's a black thing. It's a gay thing. It's a teenage girl thing. It's a horny older married guy with children thing. You wouldn't understand. You're right. I probably wouldn't. Cut me a little slack then.
But then I read a comment like the one this dude wrote: "All children should be free to grow into whatever man or woman they want to be. And both parents and teachers have a moral obligation to facilitate this growth."
How, exactly, is that to be orchestrated?
I'm just not sure we can raise our children in a gender-identity vacuum. Am I supposed to feel somehow uncivilized if my son just so happened to start obsessing over bulldozers and trucks before he was a year old, in spite of living in a house with two older sisters and being surrounded by their dolls and stuffed animals? Am I failing my daughters that they love horses and American Girl crap and iCarly? While I don't believe my wife and I shoved them in these directions, I can't exactly say we've been guilt-stricken or spent time trying to expose them equally to what might be gender interests on the other side.
Could I, like the father in Heathers, proudly and mournfully proclaim the words, "I love my dead gay son!" (Except maybe I could mean it?) I think so. However, I'm not sure that how I raise my children from day to day would get some Good Gay Housekeeping Seal of Approval or anything, since that's not really something I worry about very often. And to follow the "moral obligation" this guy mentions, wouldn't I have to be conscientious of all that stuff all the time?
No thanks. As Lloyd Dobbler said, "I can't figure it all out tonight, so I'm just gonna hang with your daughter."