kids aren’t homophobic, they just don’t get it

by mattmcgotty

Recently, I began working at an afterschool program for elementary kids and it’s basically the only consistently interesting thing that has been happening to me recently. That, and the string of ghosts my mom just sent me, but I haven’t found a good place for them in my room yet, so I’d rather not make it that big of a deal. Regardless, when going back into the workforce surrounded by kids, I was preparing myself for the myriad of questions the little rascals would throw at me. Of course, there would be the classic question of my age, with answers always extending anywhere from three to ten years above how old I truly am (gonna tell that to the next cashier carding me at the Mobil down on Winooski Ave). However, the question I’ll never get over is their incessant interrogation about whether or not I have a girlfriend or wife. Now, I’m not about to tell them my whole life story and as much as I would like to tell them that I actually play for the other team, I figure I let sleeping dogs lie. But seriously, what is with this hyper-fixation on marriage? This paradoxical relationship that Christian, heteronormative values have perpetuated over the years has been to hide any mention of sex and homosexuality, yet shove down the throats of our unsuspecting youth to want nothing more in life but to get married is a headache and a half. And I would know! I get chronic migraines.

samantha stillman

           I would like to inform our readers that I completely lied about getting chronic migraines, but I needed emphasis and was getting desperate. It was only a matter of time that the nosy questions would lead these kids to asking if I was gay. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon… Some of these kids immediately clocked me and, I’m not gonna say it was the long hair or the painted nails, or even an outfit that didn’t include gym shorts, but it was definitely all of those things. As much as I was expecting this question, getting asked it is still pretty jarring, even after years of being out and talking to a human that doesn’t even know what a bong is. Especially when finding the balance between acquainting the youth with homosexuality without encouraging them to out people for looking like bottoms.

After a few days, I was starting to get a little discouraged for our kids of the future. I thought we were better than this, in Burlington no less! If these little bastards can’t get it, I don’t know who will. However, after bringing up my sexuality once more, one of my favorite kids followed up this declaration by telling me how Lil Nas X is gay as well. And something about that was particularly poignant to me. It was in that moment that I firsthand saw the way representation was opening these kids’ minds in ways that I wish I had as a kid. Here we have this artist, well known by kids simultaneously for his hugely popular music, but also as a gay icon and it was in that moment that I realized that these kids may not yet take the whole gay thing seriously, but can you blame them? We hold children to these unrealistic standards where knowing about sex is just as atrocious as 9/11 (never forget) yet most of the media they consume alludes to it in some way. Adding homosexuality just complicates this.A sexuality dependent on an inability to procreate and perpetuate the traditional family structure that straight people have been coercing kids to want before they even start thinking about themselves and their bodies in that way? Its no wonder that fully conceptualizing the nuances of being gay isn’t something they’re going to learn overnight!But this whole job is already teaching me so much. It’s stressful to imagine that I may be their only idea of a gay person for a while and trying to tell them the right things when what is right is so subjective, but I’m learning that all of that is okay. At the end of the day, kids are always going to convert their surroundings into a schema, boxing it up into bite sized interpretations that they can easily conceptualize without much thought. To them, they see me as the 29-year-old that I am and can only assume that I would be married by now. After all, what else are adults good for? I just want everyone to know that the same girl who told me how Lil Nas is gay now asks me if I have a boyfriend, following up by asking if he’s my boyfriend. In a perfect world, my queen, in a perfect world.

Categories: 8, matt mcgotty, oct. 12, samantha stillman, vol 25, wilt

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