Gay people are not unmentionable

What happens when sports writing meets LGBT issues? In this case, an oblivious eruption of heterosexual privilege. AOL’s FanHouse columnist David Whitley seems to think gay relationships aren’t fit for public viewing. The issue involves the “Kiss Cam”, which scans around the crowd during breaks in the game and focuses on (usually) a man and a woman, who are then expected to kiss. This is displayed on large screens for everyone to see. Problems arose when Pride St. Louis noticed that the Kiss Cam at Busch Stadium typically doesn’t feature gay couples – only straight couples. They requested that the Kiss Cam include gay couples as well, but David Whitley doesn’t think this is such a good idea. Why?

I’d like to take the socially enlightened high road on this one, but I can’t help sympathizing with that father who’ll be sitting next to his son or daughter at Busch Stadium.

“Daddy, why are those two men kissing?”

“Umm, err, hey isn’t that Albert Pujols coming to bat?”

If you have similar qualms, does that make us homophobic? I’d like to think not, but then I’ve never sat in a gay person’s seat during “Kiss Cam.”

Does that make you homophobic? Actually, yes. And the reason it’s homophobic is because you’re holding a distinctly negative attitude toward gay couples and judging them by a separate standard from straight couples. In this instance, it’s taken the form of a notion that while heterosexuality is a very basic concept that requires no explanation, homosexuality is somehow more difficult and challenging, to the point that younger minds must not be exposed to it. This is utterly baseless, because it’s not that complicated at all. You can explain homosexuality to your children in much the same fashion that you’d explain heterosexuality to them, if they’re mature enough to understand that. It is not different in such a way as to present additional, insurmountable hurdles. A child who can understand heterosexuality can grasp homosexuality as well, without being damaged or traumatized by the mere knowledge that some people are gay.

Since you’ve never been in a gay person’s place, I’ll try and describe what it’s like. Think about the love you feel for another person. It’s something that’s fundamental to your being, it’s something that should be the simplest thing in the entire world. There is nothing wrong about your love, and there’s nothing wrong with you. You know that. Now imagine your love for someone being vilified as inexplicable, incomprehensible, and potentially hazardous to children, as if you and your partner’s mere existence and visibility constitutes a threat to their psychological well-being. As if you’re a danger to children if they so much as see you. Imagine if your love was segregated and treated differently from everyone else’s kind of love, regarded as an inappropriate subject for discussion, something that requires greater maturity and strength of mind to understand, even though you’re really no different from everyone else. Imagine your love being denigrated in all these ways, while everyone else’s love is publicly celebrated, in front of thousands, on a giant screen. A giant screen that you can’t be on.

And then everyone else would insist that it’s not because they have any particular aversion to you or anything. It’s not like they have some kind of phobia. No, they’d like to think of themselves as tolerant, as understanding, even after they’ve put you through all of that – implied you pose a threat to their children, tried to keep you out of public view – just because you don’t love the same way that they love. But actions speak louder than words, and you’d probably think that doesn’t count for much. Does that seem like a decent way to treat a person?

Whitley continues:

“Why shouldn’t we be on camera, too?”

Because I’m not ready to discuss same-sex relationships with my 3-year-old. I don’t think she’s ready, either.

But same-sex relationships don’t require any greater mental ability in order to be understood. They aren’t taxing on a child’s brain in new and different ways. They need not spark an extended discussion either, any more than heterosexual relationships would require a lengthy explanation. A child who hasn’t yet learned and absorbed the prejudices of society may very well find this easier to understand than an adult would. Why are those men kissing? The answer isn’t difficult. They’re kissing for the same reason as heterosexual couples.

Whitley tries to exhibit some tolerance, but only some:

To them, the old Shield-the-Kids excuse simply masks an underlying bias. A same-sex smooch is no different than if Nicholson had planted a wet one on Dyan Cannon. If “Kiss Cam” showed an interracial couple, would you quickly cover Little Johnny’s eyes?


The sooner my kids see examples of racial harmony, the better. But this issue has torn up entire religions. Call me homophobic, but I just don’t think a 5- or 10-year-old brain is ready to tackle those complexities.

Why would you want your kids to witness normal interaction between people of different races? Presumably, because you consider acceptance of this to be an important value to instill in them, especially to inoculate them against the pernicious prejudice of racism. But if you claim to be accepting of gay people – after all, you seem to believe you aren’t homophobic – then why not also allow your children to see normal, age-appropriate, uncontroversial expressions of same-sex love, the same kind of expressions that are completely acceptable for heterosexuals? Wouldn’t you want to raise your children to be tolerant of gay people, too? To not treat them as something inferior to heterosexuals? Or is this a kind of equality that isn’t so important to you, so it’s okay if your children grow up not even knowing that gay people exist?

Entire religions may have been divided over “this issue”, but they’ve been divided by their own hand. It’s become an apparently unbridgeable gap between those who are willing to renounce their prejudice, and those who are unwilling to let go of it. The issue isn’t one of homosexuality. It never was. The issue is homophobia, the desperate clinging to an ideology that designates some people as lesser than others, in the face of a cultural shift towards acceptance and equality in society. It isn’t a problem with gay people. It’s a problem with the religions that, sometimes literally, demonize us.

And frankly, if a child is unable to understand homosexuality by 10, in the same way that they can understand heterosexuality, I would be somewhat concerned about them. Fundamentally, it doesn’t come with any extra complexities that are unable to be deciphered by young minds, and can be explained in the same age-appropriate way that you would explain heterosexuality. You don’t need to give them a crash course in 2,000 years of Christian moral theology just to point out that sometimes, people love each other.

Whitley closes with this:

If my daughter grows up and falls happily in love with another woman, I’ll proudly walk her down the aisle. But parents should be able to discuss such issues when they choose, not when the local sports team flashes them on a scoreboard.

So I understand why gays get mad at “Kiss Cam” pranks. I get why they demand equal time and respect.

I just wish they’d accept that sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss.

Is there a reason that gay couples must bear the stigma of being labeled as an “issue” – the sort of thing that should only be discussed in private, if at all? Certainly nobody considered it an “issue” to display heterosexual couples on the Jumbotron, nor did they even have to think about the prudence of exposing children to this. It’s just automatically accepted; it’s not an issue at all. So why can’t gay couples simply be treated with that very same implicit acceptance, the kind that straight people are granted without question? This doesn’t have to be an issue, and if you don’t want it to be, you can help by not making an issue of it, and treating it with the same normality and ordinariness as anything else.

Sometimes a kiss isn’t just a kiss, but only because you’ve decided to make something more of it.

Gay people are not unmentionable

16 thoughts on “Gay people are not unmentionable

  1. 2

    I just wrote something about people who consider themselves tolerant of homosexuals as long as they don’t ‘act that way around them’ that sounds a lot like this.

    It’s always nice to see people with opinions that echo my own. Keep fighting the good fight. We’ll never achieve social acceptance through complacency.

  2. 3

    So I’ve been spending the last hour or so at your youtube channel watching your videos. And I’m of the opinion that you, Evyn, and I should get together and agree with each other for a few hours.

  3. 6

    I do not think a 3-year-old would even notice or question two men or two women kissing! They know about kissing and loving, and little boys hold their fathers’ hands and kiss them. They don’t know anything about sexuality yet. Maybe an older kid might ask, but that could be very simply answered with something like, “Because they love each other,” or “Because they’re friends.” I don’t understand why society acts like it has to defend and explain people being KIND to each other. Men hug men, women hug women, people of both sexes hug and kiss both sexes often and it’s really no big deal. Affection is affection!

    I grew up in a straight home and was a child in the early 70s. I did not see any homosexuals anywhere at that time. The first time I heard of such a thing, I asked my mother what “gay” was. She said it is simply when two men love each other the same way a man and woman love each other. She probably said the same thing about women too, but I can’t remember. She said it very matter-of-factly and let me draw my own conclusions. She also instilled in me early that any love is good as long as everyone involved is a CONSENTING ADULT. I understood that and still agree.

  4. 7

    I think Whitley is lying, I believe he wants grand-children just like most straight couples do and doesn’t want his little girl to think about a gay relationship. I might be wrong but it is what I feel as I read this. Thanks ZJ for another fine article

  5. 8

    When I was a kid I couldn’t possibly have been able to fathom an entire penis going into a vagina. But I knew that heterosexuals somehow had sex. The issue confused me, but didn’t damage me in any way. Obviously I was a bit shocked and surprised when someone finally told me how it worked in detail, but I moved on with my life.

    Its no different with gay couples. Kids may not be able to “fathom” how gay couples have sex, but they shouldn’t need to anyway. Its not required knowledge in order to just know that a woman and woman, and man and man can love each other. When they grow up they’ll have to figure it out somehow if it happens to interest them. When they’re ready to know they’ll ask someone they trust. Censoring them from something as innocent as a kiss will not “protect” them. Only confuse them more when they grow up and do finally see gay couples without their parents there to shield them from the sight of it.

    I grew up in a chrsitian household and was told about how being gay is evil from a very young age. I’m still dealing with that indoctrinated bias whenever I see gay couples showing affection. First I’m shocked, and then I calm myself down saying “oh yeah, they do exist and there’s nothing wrong with it.” In fact, I wish I could see this more everywhere I go. That’s why I love gay pride parades/festivals. It reminds me that gay people are all around, they are just like me, and I don’t even realize it because they often don’t feel free to express themselves in normal settings. I hope that one day all of the homosexuals I unknowingly encounter will finally be able to walk down the street holding hands with their loved ones without someone like me going “oh!…. Oh wait… Nothing wrong with this. Gotta get over my brainwashing still”.

    But if anything I’m always pleasantly surprised. And I’m glad when I see homosexuals who have courage enough to challenge me and everyone else like me who has been “protected” from the truth of their reality.

  6. 9

    Homosexuality is an ambiguous topic for me because it touches on two aspects of human nature that seem conflicting. Just how much of our behavior is choice and how much is genetic or hardwired? It seems to me to be more genetic or physiological because we don’t choose what gives us sexual arousal; when I was an adolescent I didn’t wake up one morning and proclaim to the world my sexual attraction to the opposite sex, just like I didn’t decide if I was to born with pale skin or auburn hair. Any hormones that are present are determined entirely by the chemical balances of my body’s systems.

    Also, I understand that this is a social issue within our society and I agree entirely with the proponents of gay-rights, even if gay rights were to be found to be a choice this will not make it acceptable to give them less than equal rights. I see this as akin to the liberation of woman from male dominated ethics and patriarchy. Women are born as women and gays are born as gays, there is just difference – not inferiority.

    What I do not understand is why gay activists and supporters choose to see homosexuality as a choice, when even as basic knowledge of biology will tell you that sexuality is a result of our genetic makeup. Human nature is not defined, but there are some aspects of our existence that can not be chosen, like hair color, height, gender, or sexual orientation.

  7. 10

    I understand that it can be very difficult for some people to see past their own noses.I grew up in a straight household where gay was not welcomed but being straight I still later made many gay friends because most are good people and I feel comfortable around them.

  8. 11

    Way to go, ZJ. You really should consider a career in punditry of column writing or something like that. You’re very creative and very good at doing research. I could see you making a great anchor or Keith Olberman/Rachel Maddow type. With your own unique style, of course.

  9. 13

    When I was 5, around christmas time, my sister (who was 10) was tittering at “don we now our gay apparel.” I asked her what the joke was, and she said that being “gay” had a double meaning. She explained to me that being gay also meant that a boy loved another boy, or a girl loved another girl. When I pointed out that I loved lots of girls, she merely explained that it was in the way mommy and daddy loved each other. “You know, the mushy stuff.”
    “Really? Oh, okay,” I replied. I understood quite easily in my own 5 year old way, and there was no confusion at all. And it was explained to me not by an adult, but another child. Trust me, it’s not that complex, and kids get it.

  10. 14

    I don’t think it makes Whitley homophobic.

    It makes him incredibly LAZY. If he’s concerned about the kind of questions his children are going to ask, he shouldn’t have had them in the first place. I believe it to be irresponsible as a parent to expect everyone else to adjust because of his kid. His kid is going to find out what is in the world, whether or not he wants to talk about. Maybe he could build a cage in his basement and keep his daughter in it (I’m making a point here, not suggesting abuse) so that he can keep his daughter from seeing anything that might require him to address an “uncortable” inquiry by his daughter.
    You choose to have a kid, you should be prepared for everything that comes with it.

  11. 16

    Awesome job, Zj!
    I have a little brother that is three years old. he talks about having “boyfriends” and doesn’t see a problem with it. He asks me all of the time to paint his toenails. My mother’s friend has a son that is five and his parents are completely homophobic, which is sad. They always ask me, “you paint his toenails? Do you WANT him to be gay?” Like it is a bad thing. To that I reply, “and why is that a bad thing?”

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