Over the last few years as the LGBTQIA community has become stronger and gay marriage more prominent, I have heard many sayings varying from, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” to “Jesus had two dads and he turned out fine.” The controversy of gay marriage has erupted in numerous debates and the answer is still not clear to what the US plans to do. As of right now, it is legal in some states and illegal in others, which creates this sense of confusion and a loss of identity for those that are gay and want to get married.
In Erica Hunter’s “Change and Continuity in American Marriage” (NSS 308-312), she stresses the fact that marriage is so overdetermined in today’s society and is virtually everywhere. From a young age children are surrounded by the fact that they have (or are supposed to have) a mother and a father who are married because they love each other. They are taught, along the lines of heteronormativity, to fantasize about their husbands and wives and that their wedding day will be “the best day of their life.” This creates unfair expectations that are bound to be doomed, especially by the romanticized scenarios portrayed in the media today. Most importantly, children are bombarded with the idea that this institution of marriage happens between a male and a female. This promotes the idea that same-sex marriage is out of the ordinary and is therefore considered “wrong.”
When I was in first grade, I remember watching Shrek and being in awe of Shrek and Fiona’s beautiful wedding. I wanted to look as pretty as she did (yes, even though she was an Ogre), and I wanted a husband that loved me just as much as Shrek loved Fiona. In addition to my Shrek wedding fantasies, I used to play “wedding” on the playground at school and had a “husband” that I would pretend to be married to.
With all this hype surrounding weddings and marriage between boys and girls and men and women, children start thinking about this social institution at an early time. Unless these children are directly in contact with a lesbian or gay couple, they really have no experience dealing with same-sex relationships or marriages. This can lead children to associate heterosexual marriage as the norm and gay or same-sex marriage as morally wrong. We as humans are uncomfortable with ideas that are not the same as our own so naturally, a homosexual couple may put someone that is heterosexual out of their comfort zone.
I remember the first time I heard the world “gay.” I was in third grade, and we were practicing writing pre-written sentences in cursive. The sentence was, “Tommy was having a gay time dancing with all the birds.” Everyone in the class was snickering and giggling after reading this and I remember being so confused. The boy siting to my right informed that gay was, “when boys like boys and girls like girls.” The teacher then went on to explain that gay was another word for happy but that this context of the word was diminishing. Though I knew that some boys and girls were more feminine and masculine than each other, I never realized that not all boys liked girls and vice versa. This concept was very new to me and I remember coming home and asking my parents about “gay” people. At this point in third grade in social studies, we were learning about Christopher Columbus and how the Native Americans were considered by colonizers as inferior to whites because of their skin color. My mom explained to me how gay people were treated in the same way as Native Americans were treated by Christopher Columbus, and that I had to treat all people equally.
As seen in her article, Hunter believes that if exposed to children at an earlier age, the concept of being gay will be more familiar and thus gay marriage might become popularized more quickly. In the manner that society treats “gay” in general as of now, people are scared to come out in fear of how they will be treated, which no one should have to be scared of.
A common misconception that some anti-gay people may have is the worry that young children exposed to boys attracted to boys and girls attracted to girls are more inclined to become gay themselves. However, studies have shown that this isn’t true. Being gay is not a disease that you can catch, and in my opinion exposing children to this at a younger age creates the notion that we are accepting of all values even if they defy social norms.
It is now 2014. We have come so far from our ancestors and achieved many great feats and accomplishments that have led to our wonderful society today. However, we are not done progressing. On Friday when the Speak Out panel from the Office of LGBTQI Life came in to talk to us, one of the cisgender male panelists shared his story, and he talked about how often times when he is introduced to a new circle of friends, he is described as Ken (not real name), “the gay one.” He is open with his sexuality so he is fine with people knowing, but why can’t he just be introduced as Ken? His straight friends don’t have to be introduced as Kevin the straight one because in today’s heteronormative society, it is assumed that one is straight. I hope we eventually, as a nation, get to that point that classifying one’s sexuality as an identity is unnecessary.