Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Explain

I note via Drum that emaciated turtle skeleton Ike Skelton has a few things to say on the subject of repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell." What's the problem again, Congressman?
"What do mommas and daddies say to a seven-year-old child about this issue? I don't know," Skelton said. "I think it would be a family issue that would concern me the most... What they might see in their discussions among the kids."
Drum makes the obvious point in response:
WTF? Skelton thinks seven year olds are asking their parents about whether gays can serve in the military? What planet is this guy from?
This is is part of a larger problem, though, namely that even people who in all other circumstances seem to be entirely well-rounded, fair-minded individuals - including some I know personally - degenerate into slavering lunatics the very instant it is suggested someone might have to explain to their children what "a gay" is.

I must confess to be thoroughly confused as to where this comes from. "It seems incomprehensible to me", to quote Shaal Mayan. These people almost always preface (and follow) this kind of statement with "It's not that I'm homophobic, but" and I'd like to believe them - the classic nature of this obvious dodge notwithstanding - but the idea that gay people represent something children need to be shielded from leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Moreover, it doesn't make any sense the instant you start to think about it. Surely the absolute best time to explain to a child that there is such a thing as homosexuality in the world is before there's any chance they might start to experience it themselves? The realisation that some people grow up to be romantically interested in the same sex is absolutely something that someone needs to know before they discover that they themselves are in that bracket.

Note the use of the phrase "romantically interested." I chose those words very deliberately, because I think they help to illustrate what I believe is actually going on here. The best explanation I can find as to why people who genuinely are (or seem to be) fairly tolerant and liberal minded about alternative lifestyle choices have a problem over discussing it with their kids goes like this: I think there are a lot of people out there who genuinely can't make the distinction in their heads between homosexuality and homosexual intercourse. For whatever reason, they can't imagine discussing gayness with their children without it leading to all sorts of icky descriptions that they'd rather not have to articulate. The idea that you could describe homosexual relationships in whatever terms your child understands heterosexual ones doesn't seem to occur.

I'll confess up front that I don't have any direct evidence to support this theory, though there are a few data points of circumstantial evidence. Firstly, you have the remarkable similarities between complaints of exposing young children to homosexual behaviour and to overtly sexual behaviour. Secondly, to return to Kevin Drum, you have a number of otherwise incredibly intelligent, logical people who - until called on it - conflate being gay with sexual practices (in fairness to Drum, he did apologise).

In that sense, you could argue that what we're talking about genuinely isn't bigotry, or at least not "first-order" bigotry, so much as it's a misunderstanding of what it means to be gay combined with a Victorian-esque attitude to frank discussion of sex. But if all you see when you look at a homosexual is how awkward it would be to describe their foreplay to a child, there is definitely something screwy inside your brain. Sort yourself out, Skelton. After all, if I ever have children, I'd hate to be put in the position where one of them asked me to explain you.


Talia said...

I think I love you Dr. Squid. Or at least your highly intellegent brain!

SpaceSquid said...

If you're very good, I'll stick it in a jar and send you it for Christmas :)