PARENTS

Why Gay Is Not An Insult

20/06/2011 13:54 | Updated 22 May 2015
Why gay is not an insultGetty

Years ago my daughter's teacher took time each week to answer anonymous concerns from her pupils in what she called a worry box.

"Miss, I don't like the way people say gay like it's something horrible," my daughter noted in one such session.

Her teacher carefully explained that yes, it was horrible to use the word 'gay' as if it was an insult. In a simple way, she told the children that everyone was different and differences were to be respected.

I was grateful to the teacher for putting her mind at rest.

There was an awareness raising poster not half a mile from the school at the time: "Some people are gay, get over it." Sometimes I discussed this positive message with my daughters as we drove past. They must have been seven or eight. They found it a perfectly straightforward concept to grasp.

So it has always come as a shock to me when parents show prejudice against homosexual relationships, and suggest they aren't discussed by primary school age children.

People use words like 'normal' to describe heterosexual relationships while anyone who doesn't fit into such a category is at best left in limbo by such arguments, or at worst shunned and ridiculed.

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What chance do children who are confused or feel different to such ideas of what's 'normal' have if they are targeted by playground bullies spurred on by such attitudes? How can they find kindred spirits and find their own way? No wonder so many young people live in fear of revealing their feelings.

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As a mum I find this heartbreaking. I'm happy that my children heard the word gay when they were seven but disgusted that for some of their peers, learning the language of homophobia at home, it's a term used to belittle others.

Bigoted bile has now seen another public outpouring thanks to a media frenzy off the back of around 150 complaints over two men in a loving relationship shown with their tops off, in bed together on EastEnders.

According to media reports, some of the 100+ complaints received by the BBC accused the soap of confusing their kids.

One message to the BBC reportedly said: "I'm not a homophobe but really do not want to see gay men in bed naked and kissing, especially whilst my 10-year-old daughter is sitting with me, before the watershed. Might be socially acceptable to some but there is a time and place and definitely not before nine o'clock, confusing my kids. There was no warning.'

So the child abuse, prostitution, crime, violence, drug addiction and routine bed hopping, not to mention baby swapping favoured in Albert Square were perfectly straightforward to a 10-year-old were they?

EastEnders may be on before the watershed but seriously who lets their kids sit through such unremitting misery then complains two blokes with their shirts off is 'confusing'?

I'd be more vexed about questions about what so many women appear to see in Ian Beale.

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No wonder the playground is a place for homophobic taunts when grown TV viewers think the sight of a gay man's chest with another man's arms around it is cause for complaint.

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Of course I'm not alone in considering this abhorrent.

Mum-of –two and writer Alison Percival says: "My son has grown up in Brighton and we've never really had to explain being gay, lesbian, bi or any other permutation.

"He has grown up being taken to Gay Pride and seeing men holding hands in the street, and women too. When he was about five or six, he did ask what it meant, we explained and he barely batted an eyelid.

"The only time I have said something was when it was the in thing to call everything 'gay' but in a derogatory way - 'your lunchbox is so gay' as an example, and I said why it wasn't very nice to say that.

"I'm proud that he sees it as nothing unusual."

Blogger Translatlanticblonde has taken positive action to help her son respect all types of relationships.

She says: "When we talk about our son's future we always say wife or husband or boyfriend or girlfriend.

"He's only little but he'll grow up knowing that you can't help who you love. I think a lot of it will end up being correcting other children's language if they call someone "gay" or say that two boys kissing is "gross" that sort of thing.

"A lot of time if you question children and ask why, they don't really know and are just copying other people's behaviour.

"When I was a lifeguard we "benched" or made kids sit out of the pool for swearing. For me that included if they called someone a fag. Allowing children or adults to use gay or other terms with a negative connotation only reinforces the idea that heterosexual is the norm.

"Children should know that it's okay to be themselves whether that's gay or straight and you can't help who you love."

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