It may have recently come to your attention that queer people like me are being portrayed as googly-eyed, predatory boogeymen who, when we aren't busy devising and unleashing devastating weather phenomena across America, are plotting how we can secure access to, and ultimately desecrate, your precious children.
This is nothing new.
You may remember (or at least have heard about) beauty queen turned orange-juice shiller Anita Bryant's crusade in the '70s to protect Dade County, Florida's children from queers like me, who, after years of lying in wait in the shadows, were supposedly slithering into the sunlight to openly push our nefarious agenda and pounce upon the innocent in order to inject our sickness into them (both figuratively and literally).
Pie-faced Anita wasn't the first to make this claim, and she certainly wasn't the last.
It seems that whenever the queer movement makes social and political gains (aka this totally radical thing called being treated equally) -- and it's happening more and more every week, I'm happy to report -- our opposition waves their hankies and rolls out their "oh, sweet Jesus, think about the children!" defense.
Russia's horrifying anti-gay "propaganda" law, which was passed last summer, is based on the idea that the country's children need to be protected from us. The case currently being mounted against legalizing gay marriage in Utah is centered around the lie that gay parents are dangerous to kids. Even in pop culture, perhaps now the truest American pastime, figures like the star of ABC's The Bachelor have no problem giving interviews in which we're labeled as perverts with lives unsuitable for children's impressionable eyes.
But is it true? No. Of course not.
I'm not even going to dignify claims that queer people are child molesters because it's so incredibly offensive and patently untrue that it's not worth my time or yours.
What's more, nearly every study that has examined the health and well-being of children with gay parents finds that they're no worse off (and in many cases they're actually better off) than kids with straight parents. Kids who have been raised by gay parents say the same thing themselves.
There was one ridiculous study by University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus that claimed that gay parenting has negative consequences, but that study has "been condemned by a host of experts including the American Psychological Association and over 200 professors and therapists." But that doesn't stop groups like the Family Research Council from continuing to use it in hopes of banning marriage equality, as it recently did in Indiana.
But an argument built on a lie is -- you guessed it -- a lie.
The truth is that we -- and the ways we live our queer lives -- are not dangerous or evil, and queerness is not something you can infect someone with, just like non-queerness isn't something that one catches like cooties. Think about it: How many queer people were and are raised by non-queer parents? You'd think that if sexual orientation or gender identity were so damn contagious, they would have rubbed off on some of us by now, right?
What's more, we're not secretly meeting up in Applebee's restaurants across America every Wednesday night and scheming over riblets-sauce-stained blueprints of your kids' preschools in hopes of recruiting them.
But I don't want you to walk away from this letter thinking that I'm not targeting your children. I most certainly am. Because as much as I don't personally love kids (except the children of all my friends who might be reading this -- your kids are adorable! And geniuses! I promise!), there are things I want them to know about me and about my queer brothers and sisters (and themselves). And if you, dear parents, aren't going to tell them, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they hear it anyway.
So, to get the ball rolling, here are just a few things (and by no means everything) I want your kids to know:
- I hope you know if you're queer, it's OK. It's better than OK. You're part of a really cool club with really cool people who've done some of the coolest stuff in history. You're not deranged. You're not unnatural. You're not a monster. And I hope you know if you're not queer, that's also OK. There have been a lot of non-queer people who've done some really cool stuff too.
- I hope you know that gender identity and sexuality aren't the same thing, and that they both come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and flavors, and that if a particular label makes you feel empowered or just more at home with yourself, then you should use it. Likewise, if there isn't a word or a term that fits, I hope you'll feel confident enough to not use one. And I hope you'll think about how sexism plays into homophobia and transphobia. I hope you know that whether you're queer or not, it's OK to be a sissy, or a butch. I hope you know it's OK to be neither of those things or both of those things or something in between those things, or to be a sissy on a Thursday and a butch on a Saturday.
- I hope you know your history -- our collective human history -- and the awesome and terrible things that queer and non-queer people have done to each other and to themselves. I hope you know that we've made a lot of mistakes, and that you're going to make a bunch yourself, but as long as you're trying to see and respect and love people for who they truly are, you'll be doing all right.
- I hope you know that God -- if she or he or they or it exists -- doesn't hate anyone for being queer. And queer people aren't going to hell because of who they are. So don't spend another minute thinking about that old lie.
- I hope you know that sex is not a bad or dirty thing, that aside from laughing and eating cookies, sex is one of the greatest things you can do with another person (or multiple people). I hope you know that your body is yours, and that you can do whatever you want with it -- and that that's a gift, and a responsibility. You should never let anyone make you feel ashamed for having a body -- your body -- or for doing things with your body that give you pleasure (as long as you're not hurting yourself or anyone else -- unless they're asking to be hurt, but we can talk more about BDSM at another time). And I hope you never let anyone else make you feel ashamed for not doing things with your body that give you (or someone else) pleasure if that's not what you want to do. But making yourself or someone else feel good in and of itself isn't wrong. It isn't a sin. And I hope you know that sex with someone you love is amazing, but sex with someone you don't love can also be amazing, and that doesn't make you a slut or a whore (unless you want to be a slut or a whore, and that's OK too), and it also doesn't necessarily make you a stud or hero (even if you want it to).
- I hope you know that whether you're queer or not, you can get married, and as we continue marching forward, if you're queer, you'll be able to do it in more and more places. Or, if you think marriage is problematic (and many people do), you don't have to do it. And maybe you want to be in a relationship with more than one person. If that feels right, then do it, as long as all involved give their consent. Or maybe you don't want to be with anyone. All good. And I hope you know that whether you're queer or not, you can have children. And maybe you want to adopt kids. Or maybe you want to be a foster parent. Or maybe you want to raise children with a whole group of people. Or maybe having kids is the last thing you'd ever want to do. Any and all of those options can be awesome. Again, it's up to you to figure out what is right for you.
- Ultimately I hope you know exactly that: You have to figure out what's right for you, and when you do, you have to hold on to it like your life depends on it. And you have to let other people figure out what's right for them and let them hold on to it like their lives depend on it. The sooner you stop trying to force yourself and each other to do anything other than what feels right, the sooner we'll all take the next giant leap forward in our shared humanity.
And for all you parents reading this: I don't want your children, and I have no interest in defiling or dooming them -- or this great, messy nation, for that matter. But I'm not going away. Queers are not going away. And if you're not going to tell your kids the truth about us, and if you won't speak out against the lies that are being told about us, I'm going to do it myself.
Here is my promise. This is the true target. That, in the end, is my real agenda.
Follow Noah Michelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NoahMichelson