What do you remember most about learning about love when you were a child?
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 those things represented love to me.
About a month ago, 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, people who tell children about it or "promote" 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.
Last week, Russia stated that anyone traveling to the country who displayed evidence of being gay or wanting to spread gay propaganda could be fined or arrested for up to 15 days.
Even if I weren'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 human beings can be wrong.
There's a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte that I live by as a nanny, and it's called "Children Learn What They Live." I encourage everyone to read it.
What could happen to a child who grows up learning that love of all kinds is OK, or a child who grows up with loving parents, maybe of the same sex, who teach him that love takes many forms, and 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 whom 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 human being. 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 Facebook forum 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 OK. When asked why it isn't OK, these people answered that "other people can live the way they want to, but I don't want my children thinking it's OK 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 whom 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 do 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.
Follow Elizabeth Hawksworth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@liz_hawksworth