relationships

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Quit Complicating Your Kids’ Questions About Gender and Sexuality

Published April 6, 2016 by April Fox

Every time legislation is passed that has anything to do with civil rights, things like being allowed to marry or use the bathroom in peace or whatever, people start using children as proxies for their fear and lack of understanding. It spreads like a rash across social media, this epidemic of made-up conversations kids are having with the adults in their lives and the resulting deep and moving concern about what to tell the children. “What am I supposed to say when little Khloweei asks about the gay couple in the produce section? How am I supposed to explain transsexuals in the bathroom? My child is too young to be talking about sex!”

Spoiler alert, in case you don’t want to read this whole super-long thing: You don’t have to talk about sex. It isn’t about sex, even. Not at all. I know, it’s shocking, what with the gays and the trannies humping each other all over the bus stop and the amusement parks and shit like that. I know they look like normal people doing normal things with their normal lives, but underneath, totally humping, willy-nilly everywhere.

But really, I’m sorry if you’re confused about how to address your kids’ questions. I’m not belittling that, at all. My kids have asked some things that have made me wish for a time machine so that I could go back and hide in the bathroom five minutes before they decided to ask. Kids ask some intense questions, and some very serious questions, and those should without a doubt be answered. But. (You know me, there’s always a but.)

Here’s what’s really important to remember: children don’t think like adults.

To a small child, everything is new and different. They don’t have decades of experience and context to which they can relate their everyday lives and observations, like we do. Their points of reference are self-centered. I don’t mean that in the negative way it’s often used, but literally: their experience centers around themselves.

And so when you’re standing at a crosswalk beside two men holding hands, you’re taking in everything: They’re adults. They’re smiling at each other, leaning into each other, laughing quietly. One has a take-out box from that fancy candle-lit restaurant up the street; clearly, they’re on a date, and if they only got one box for leftovers, they must be going home together. One man has a bottle of wine tucked into his elbow. They’re going home to drink wine. It’s going to be romantic. They’ll probably end up having sex. That’s what’s running through your head when your child says, “Mommy, why are those boys holding hands?”

You know what’s going through your kid’s head, most likely? Why do those boys have to hold hands to cross the street? They’re grown-ups. Grown-ups can go by themselves. That’s weird.  So how do you answer that question? Try something like, “Sometimes people hold hands when they like each other. I guess they must like each other.” Chances are, your kid is going to give you a really insightful response, probably something along the lines of, “Oh. Look, there’s a squashed caterpillar on the sidewalk. Can I touch it?”

When your child asks why Auntie has a girlfriend, he’s probably not wondering why she prefers women to men. It’s probably just the same question kids ask roughly eleven million times a day: Why? Why are my socks blue? Why is that spaghetti? Why is that lady’s butt so big? Why can’t I touch that squashed caterpillar? Why does Auntie have a girlfriend?

And just like above, it’s a pretty simple answer: “They must like each other.”

If your child is old enough that he’s beginning to understand what kind of relationships are more common than others and to notice when things look a little different than what he’s used to, and his question really is about why Auntie likes girls and not boys, that’s an easy answer too: “Some girls like other girls.” If they ask for more, you can give that information without making everything about sex. I’m pretty sure when your kid asked you why you and Daddy got married, for example, you didn’t say, “Well, Snugglemuffin, we just wanted to make sure your daddy would be able to stick his pecker in me every night for the rest of his life.” You probably talked about love and happiness and friendship — and those are the same things you talk about when you’re talking about Auntie and her girlfriend. Easy peasy, man. You don’t even have to learn anything new.

Of course, the big thing now is transgender. Everybody’s freaking out about the transgenders in the bathrooms and Oh…my… Gawwwwwwd what if my precious little snowflake Mhaddisynne Claire goes in the bathroom and sees a person who looks like a man in a dress? WHAT DO I TELL HER?”

Well first off, tell her potty time is privacy time, which is what you should have been telling her since she was old enough to start having a decent grasp of receptive language.

If it does come up, if your little one sees someone with masculine-appearing features in traditionally feminine clothing and says (at the top of her lungs, at that piercing pitch children only hit when they’re saying something that makes you want to crawl into the toilet and die) “Why is that man wearing a dress?” what the heck do you say?

I’ll tell you. If that happens, then you go, like, “That’s a lady.”

And then if your kid is like, “That looks like a man,” then you go, “People look all different ways. She’s just trying to use the restroom, like you are. Go wash your hands. Go. Use soap. Not that much soap.” (Because that’s how bathroom conversations always end, I don’t care if there’s a band of Civil War reenacting drag queens in there, you’re going to say the soap thing. And also, you really don’t know, do you? Unless you’re the weirdo peeking up her skirt, you don’t know that that lady isn’t a biological woman with stronger features than most.)

I’m not saying not to have conversations about gender and sexuality with your kids. These are issues they’re going to face, if not personally, than as witnesses as their family and friends deal with them. But it’s ridiculous to think these conversations have to center around what people do in their private bedrooms or wardrobes. If you wouldn’t talk about the sex lives or genitalia of straight, cisgendered people, then it’s not appropriate conversation-period. As your child gets older, your conversations can become more comprehensive, but when your child is small, your answers about sexuality and gender should be as simple and gentle as conversations about love and death and anything else that you have a responsibility to explain. Don’t complicate it. Teach love, compassion, respect and inclusion, and your simple answers will grow into understanding soon enough.

 

 

Untitled 12.01.12

Published December 1, 2012 by April Fox

because we don’t acknowledge 548070_526218677405194_1717280127_n
time
we can say that this is
one
long
day
and every
sorrow, fear, each
hesitation, every
misstep, hurt
misunderstanding is a
second, nothing more
imperceptible
among the ever-reaching
hours
we have filled with light
and grace
and every touch,
each smile
every step we take together
through the centuries we’ve
occupied is
infinite(ly small)
and lasts forever.

End of November

Published November 30, 2012 by April Fox

36304_544356902258038_533063063_nyou can’t make this stuff up
(i mean you could
with a little imagination
and if you drank just the right amount
of cheap, cold beer
before you settled in
to think
but it wouldn’t be real then
and this is)

-as real as it gets
without shoving over to the other side
where it becomes philosophy
and then religion
and the opposite,
then
of anything remotely
true-
anyway.

scattered around, little heads and dark, slow breaths
half-awake, courting sleep
lazy in the knowledge
that school is out tomorrow
their stocking feet dangle
over torn arms of old sofas
a cat curled here in the nook of one elbow
a stuffed cow tossed carelessly
down near a hip
clean fingernails
and slightly stained t-shirts
smelling, still
of cold air and laundry soap
one dim light burning
fights off the night

in here, the bulb burns like sunlight
too bright for me now, but i’ll live, till it’s time to shut down
-words are extraneous

past my screen, he is split apart
one blue eye
a curl of dark hair
wedding ring catching the too-bright light, holding it
his sleeve shifts and shows me a second of ink
on his arm, and i look away

memorized long ago
all of this, every blink
every shift of a tiny hand, twitching in dreams
every mumbled curse, tapping at keys in frustration
every long, tired sigh
that replaces the worn-out air in the room with
whatever it is
that we are
as we settle, perfection,
down into sleep.

November Nine 202 AM

Published November 10, 2012 by April Fox

“I think I’m getting better,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“My head,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, “Yes.”

And I believed him, because that’s what I do

these days.

 

I still need him to keep the light off

sometimes

I breathe better in the dark

and sometimes every word

is forced out

through a haze of self-defeat

 

When I lit my hands on fire

the smoke was sage

in the lounge of some

poncho-clad hippie

 

I tore my voice apart.

 

“I think I’m getting better,” I said.

“Yes,” he said

and turned out the light.

 

 

 

 

planet.

Published September 26, 2012 by April Fox

under this
blackbright
sky
i was in your
hands.

i held the scent of
fire
under my tongue
it made me high
it made me sleep
it made me

what was that
you said?
our words are mumbles, something like
dreams
half-awake, forgotten
what was this.

we are hazy filters layered over an already
pitch-perfect
photograph

herbal tea and jazz
picnics on the floor and waiting
patiently
to will our sun-blind eyes
to focus.

rot.

Published September 13, 2012 by April Fox

what if one day
our hands didn’t match
if, while walking
they didn’t draw together
magnetic
what if your fingers
didn’t recognize
mine?

what if one day
we shared a seat
without resting our feet
on each other
or my head finding that place
just to the left of your shoulder
that seems to remember
exactly
the shape of my skull

what if
i tried
to place it there
and the force of not belonging
made it shatter
and the sticky tar inside
came pouring out
stench of remembering
thick in the air
binding our limbs
together

what if i rotted there
next to you

would you die too?

The Epic Battle Between Bassist and Insect (That was really neither epic, nor a battle)

Published September 5, 2012 by April Fox

It’s not a secret that beloved doesn’t like insects. He will kill them, and I believe he actually enjoys the process, when the electric bug-zapping fly swatter is charged. It is not charged at the moment, and herein lies the problem.

We have errands to run today. Beloved was going to take a shower first, until he spotted a giant mutant wasp in the bathroom. Shower aborted; beloved returns to the bedroom.

Me: We have to go soon. Do you want me to kill the stupid wasp?

Him [Looking adorable in his plaid flannel bathrobe, like some baby-faced resident of The Home for Senile Musicians, lucky for him]: Yes please.

Me: [Sigh] What would you do if you were single?

Him: I don’t know…

Me: You’d kill it.

Him: Possibly… [Note: he totally would have. This is a guy who hiked the Appalachian Trail solo. He would not have surrendered his bathroom to an inch-long insect, mutant or not.]

Me: You know, women get married because they want someone to snuggle up and fall asleep on every night. Men get married because they don’t want to be grown-ups anymore.

Him: [Glare]

Fast-forward till after I looked for the wasp and did not find it, and told the darling bearded bathrobed one that the coast was clear. He comes walking through the house, finally prepared to shower and get on with the day, now that we have like, an hour and a half to get everything done. As he steps into the kitchen, I hear a blood-curdling shriek.

Me: WHAT?

Him: I found the wasp!

Me: Did you kill it?

Him: Does it sound like I killed it?

Me: OK, so pretend you’re not married. What would you do then?

…So he drops his robe.

It’s a good thing he’s cute. Seriously.

*It should be noted that, were he home alone with the kids and there was a wasp in the house, he’d have stomped the little fucker into oblivion by now.

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