Fear of a name only increases fear of a thing itself. Or, to paraphrase everyone’s favourite witch (perhaps more tailored to this article), fear of the queer only increases queerphobia, systematic oppression and discrimination, while being ultimately harmful to children.
The cause of concern and the reason for this piece is that a child-friendly search engine – Kiddle – has recently been called out for blocking words including ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. Charities such as Stonewall have condemned it, as it denies access to young people seeking information about LGBT issues.
Stonewall’s 2012 School Report has bundles of incredibly worrying statistics highlighting the issue of LGBT bullying in schools and lack of education about LGBT identities and issues.
There have been suppositions that these words are too closely associated with sex education and they’re therefore not age appropriate for under-10s. There’s also been the bizarre complaint that such ‘material’ is inappropriate for ‘impressionable youths’, which is quite frankly laughable.
It’s undeniable that the concept of love is not hidden from children. In all sorts of media everywhere couples, relationships and love are presented in a child-friendly manner, with no mention of sex. It’s not only accessible to children but presented to them in books, on TV and they can see it in the day-to-day goings about of their lives.
But what’s changed recently – for the better, if I may add – is the representation of LGBTQ individuals in various forms of media. This concept might be complicated for a child to process if they’re only allowed to be exposed to the traditional heteronormative structure that is modern society.
So, overall while this is the norm I certainly don’t think it’s healthy. It leads to bullying, it leads to ignorance and it stops people being able to confidently question their own sexuality without guilt and fear. In the long run, this measure that’s been bizarrely introduced to protect children from this ‘material’ is actually harmful to them. For it could be their own lives or the life of a friend they want to better understand.
I have a niece who’s now four years old. She’s very talkative and curious as many spritely toddlers are. I have made a conscious effort as her uncle to drop feminist messages and try to counter any ‘material’ I believe to be harmful – the generic prince-saves-princess attitude bores me and I’m going to take credit for the fact that Elsa is her role model because my niece don’t need no man to save her.
But I also tell her that I’m gay. She used to ask me if I had a girlfriend and it took me less than five minutes to explain I don’t have one, I don’t want one and that who I love is different. The concept of love is probably better understood by young children than it is by most adults, so introducing them to the entire spectrum of love can only be a healthy thing. Blocking them from learning about all the kinds of beautiful, wonderful, special and colourful ways of loving is abhorrent and cruel.
If teaching my four year old niece the simple idea that love comes in many forms and each is deserving of respect is seen as taking advantage of an impressionable youth, then I would readily be prepared to retort with the dangers of talking politics or religion in front of children before they’re ready to think for themselves and decide their own identities and standing.
And to end as we began (with an obscurely placed Harry Potter reference): “HOMOPHOBIA! ON THE INTERNET! Thought you ought to know…”