AI: The Creation of Bullies
This week, with all that religious thing going on, my parents decided to visit me and then take me to visit all our other relatives close to us. On one of these occasions, my dad was carrying my (incidentally) pink backpack from the car when one of a six year-old cousin of mine said:
“Look! He must be a faggot*!”
I stood shocked, while basically everybody in the room laughed. My father asked her if she knew what that word meant. She said “of course! And you’re being one, right now!”
Of course she didn’t know. Of course she overheard her parents, her siblings, and a number of other people in her life using the word as both an insult to nobody in particular and a description for those somewhat effeminate men, and she connected both. She probably doesn’t even quite grasp what “gay” means. But she already knows it’s something bad, that men shouldn’t be, and that she has the right to make fun of them if it seems like that’s what they are.
When my father tried to talk to her parents, they laughed it off. So those conceptions will probably go on unchanged in her childish mind. And she will probably go on to bully much more vulnerable people than him. And he was so pissed at that, that he made me want to ask you:
How do you try to change somebody else’s child’s mind? How to make them see something their parents don’t? When is it not out of line to question what a parent teaches their kids? Is it the school’s role to deal with it, when these kids grow up to be bullies? Is there a way to educate both children and parents, without offending them and the way they raised their kids?
*that’s a rough translation from what she said in Portuguese; the word she actually used has a similar effect, but might not mean that exactly.
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I guess I would start by raising my own child to stand up for others and hirself. I would hope my child understands that I wouldn't put up with that kind of abuse, and that if anyone ever talked to them that way or bullied them and they didn't feel they could speak up, they should tell me and I sure as hell will (any kid I have better watch out, xe will have two dads who speak their minds at the drop of a hat!).
If the people I talked to about it were unresponsive or laughed it off, I would remove myself from their presence and that would be that. Even if it was "family" (thinking about Benny's AI here…), I simply wouldn't go around them or take my kids around them anymore.
I generally agree with you, but personally, with the family I have, I'm not so sure.
In this particular situation, I could tell my dad was seriously upset, but it's his niece and his brother. And the kid is like one of the sweetest kids I've ever met. While I, personally, would rather not be around her father, I kept thinking of the harm he was doing to a very good kid and that maybe somehow there was something we could do to "save" her.
And there's a LOT of similar things going on in my family. And there's actually a lot of other relatives who do meddle and defy parent-children relationships (which mostly turns out badly). I try to stay away, but just today I had to hear someone say he "didn't know if [a guy] was a man or a gay". So, um, yeah, I have no idea where I'm going with this.
It's just that things get VERY cloudy when this kind of things come from people I seriously DON'T want to be away from (a.k.a. my relatives). And it's even worse when I see it affecting kids that could very well be wonderful human beings. Then I wish there was something I could do for those little humans specifically.
But yeah, every time I see this, it strengthens my will to be an awesome parent someday.
My younger brother once came home from school talking about how someone was 'gay' (as an insult). I had to ask him if he understood what that meant, that it's just someone who falls in love with people of their own gender, like our mum and grandma. It's tricky because it's thrown around by kids (and adults) as a put down that it's almost become disconnected from it's own meaning.
You could talk to your little cousin informally. Explain to her that "faggot" is a mean word used to describe people like you, and that it hurts your feelings when she says it as an insult. It doesn't have to be a big talk about sexuality and stuff, just enough to make her aware that her awesome cousin is gay and she's a pretty okay person, so using a word that means gay person derogitoraly is not so nice. That way you're not "parenting" or "meddling" per se, just letting her know that she hurt your feelings and opening her eyes a little.
If a kid (or adult for that matter) is talking directly to me, I respond to them. A comment like, 'That is mean, don't talk to me that way' seems to work for me. I think kids are pretty smart and even if they are resistant at the time, they will think about what happened later. If someone thought this was funny or adults tried to tell me it was not a big deal, I would just leave. You and your Dad deserve better treatment. It seems like this is a phase that kids go through, and it should be met with guidence by adults. Clearly this kid's parents don't understand what role this play in socializing their kid.