When you were a child, what do you remember most about learning about love?
Love, to me, wasn’t represented only by a man and a woman being married. Of course, I associated men and women being married with love – but I also knew that my parents loved me, for example. I had love for my childhood dog, Daisy. I loved my sister, even though we fought. And I loved my friends. All of those things represented love to me.
Today, Russia, a traditionally homophobic country, passed a bill making it illegal to tell children under the age of 18 about anything related to homosexuality. Russia calls this “homosexual propaganda” that will threaten “traditional family values”. Though homosexuality is legal in Russia, offenders telling children about it or promoting it in any way can be fined up to 5,000 roubles. If you’re an official or part of the government, the fine can be ten times that amount.
Even if I wasn’t bisexual, I’d find this incomprehensible. I don’t understand. I don’t understand how promoting or showing love of any sort can be wrong. I don’t understand how raising children to be open, accepting, and loving of their fellow men can be wrong.
There’s a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte that I live by as a nanny, and it goes like this:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
What could happen to a child who grows up learning that love of all kinds is okay? Who grows up with loving parents, maybe of the same sex, who teach him that love takes many forms, many shapes? That we, as humans, don’t have a right to deny basic human decency and rights to an entire subset of people because we don’t like who they love?
That child, with those lessons, learns to accept. He grows up normalizing love of all sorts. He stands up against injustice. He fights for the rights of his fellow man. He promotes a culture of love and equality. He makes it safe for people of all opinions and beliefs to live in the world.
I had a conversation on a nanny board with several nannies who felt that exposing children to a caregiver who is under the LGBTQ umbrella would cause the children to think that being LGBTQ is okay. When asked why it isn’t okay, these people answered that “other people can live the way they want to, but I don’t want my children thinking it’s okay to live that way.” They then expressed concern that LGBTQ people want their rights to be recognized, but no one ever recognizes the rights of the people who want to shelter their children from lifestyles they don’t agree with.
I only have this to say.
If you can marry who you love without any legal roadblocks, you have the rights that gay people are fighting for. If you can walk down the street holding your partner’s hand and not be glared at, at best, or threatened with violence, at worst, then you have the rights that gay people are fighting for. If you can be at the side of your dying partner without hospital officials stopping you because you are not recognized as an immediate family member, you have those rights already. You have basic human rights that other people don’t have because the government where they live doesn’t agree with their lifestyle.
And you have every right to shelter your children from lifestyles you don’t agree with. You can raise them to think that being gay is wrong. But I question whether that really is the best thing for them. When children grow up with criticism, they learn to condemn. They block the rights of their peers. They close themselves off from feeling and experiencing love for their fellow human being.
And if your child is gay, as a parent, do you want them to grow up feeling like an outcast? Like they have nowhere to turn? Like they’re dirty, wrong, unnatural, alien? I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine wanting anyone to feel that way . . . ever. And if I were a parent, with a child I would lay down my life for, that child is the last person I would want to feel that way – and I would be disgusted with myself if I caused them to feel that way for any reason.
Blocking out an entire subset of people who love differently than you is not beneficial to society. Traditional family values are based on love. Whether that love is between a man and a woman or two men or two women or many people doesn’t really matter. What we want to teach our children is that love is never wrong. They should strive to love in every way possible.
Love creates security. Censorship creates fear and misunderstanding. I don’t know if the world will ever be a place where love wins over hatred, but I’ll be damned if I’m a person who promotes hatred over love, especially to children.
They’re our future. We need to consider the messages we’re sending to them today.
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