A couple of months ago I posted about study claiming that children learn racism by the time their three years old. I was reminded of that post when, via Damn Straight, I came across this article about nursery schools in the UK teaching about same sex relationships, which included the idea that kids learn homophobia as early as they learn racism.
Many gay parents of nursery school children are reluctant to "come out" for fear that their children might become the target of homophobic bullying, said the union.
Young boys at primary school are also bullied and called "gay" if they do not conform to perceived male stereotypes – reflecting the union's belief that homophobic prejudice should be addressed at an early age when children are in nursery school.
The NUT said: "It is particularly important to begin to make three to five-year-olds aware of the range of families that exist in the UK today". That would includes families with single parents or those with "two mums" or "two dads", the union said.
The union added: "There will be parents who are gay or lesbian who will want to be reassured that that their children will be safe in the setting."
I'd say that's about right. In the past year it's become clear to me that Parker is aware of differences like gender and race. (Do kids learn sexism at the same age they learn racism and homophobia?) About a week ago Parker turned to me and said matter-of-factly, "Daddy, you're brown like me." I didn't say much more than "Yes, I am," but it was clear to me that he was aware of color even if he didn't appear to assign any value judgement to it. I know that somewhere down the line he'll learn that some people do assign a value judgement to race. I just hope I'm prepared to help him deal with that and be OK with himself.
The same goes for having same-sex parents. Needless to say, something like proposal mentioned above for nursery schools in the UK would probably go over like a lead balloon in a lot of places in the U.S., complete with protests, angry school board meetings, and probably even an emergency session of congress to pass some legislation preventing it.
That's why we chose to live in a community progressive enough where that's not likely to happen. So far, so good. We haven't had any problems being recognized as a family in our community. The parents and kids at Parker's day care all know he has a Daddy and a Papa, and on Father's day he makes two cards. The families in our new neighborhood are just as accepting. When we lived in D.C., nobody in our babysitting co-op batted an eye at us or the three other sets of same-sex parents. None of the kids appeared to think anything of it. One little girl did ask me about it when I was babysitting her, and it was a pretty easy conversation.
“He’s at home with his Papa?”
“His other daddy??
“How come Parker has two Daddies?”
“Well, there are lots of different kinds of families. Some have a mommy and a daddy. But some have two mommies or two daddies, or even just one mommy or just one daddy. It’s kind of like ice cream. There’s lots of flavors, like vanilla or chocolate, but it’s all still ice cream.”
“You forgot strawberry ice cream.”
“Well, then, there’s strawberry ice cream too.”
“My birthday is coming up, and I’m going to have strawberry ice cream and vanilla cake.”
And that was it. If kids learn homophobia as early as three, my experience suggests they learn it from their parents. If the parents are cool with it, so will the kids be.
What's strange to me is that there would probably be an outcry if a program like the one in the UK was proposed here. Because the reality is that gay people have kids, even moreso now that in years before. Kids are going to learn about same-sex relationships anyway, because they'll live next door to and go to school with our kids, and we'll be active parts of our kids lives as parents.
Basically, it boils down to this. We exist. We aren't going away and we' aren't going to be invisible. Kids can't help but see that. What they learn about it, and how they treat us and our families as a result, depends largely on what they're taught. If you ask me, teaching hate to a child that young constitutes abuse; or it ought to.