With relatives and very, very close friends, fine. I'll be alone with my nephew. But I won't be alone with your child. I just won't.
I grew up in a place and time where homosexuality was strongly associated with sexual predators and with pedophilia, and I don't want to make you uncomfortable or suspicious or risk some sort of false accusation. I don't much care for most children anyway, so it's simply not worth it to me. It makes me uncomfortable to think that you may be uncomfortable, so I avoid the possibility entirely.
I realize that this is a more enlightened time, and that some of you, gay or straight, might find my refusal puzzling or even offensive. Don't get me wrong: I believe your child is perfectly safe with your gay friend. He would be perfectly safe with me. I'm very happy that many of you wouldn't think twice about leaving me alone with your child. But would you think once?
All too often, history has revealed our carefully crafted enlightenment to be skin-deep, especially when old prejudices seem to be confirmed. How long would that enlightenment last in the face of a false accusation or misunderstanding? The price of that false accusation would be too high, even if I were exonerated in court. I'd be ruined just so that you could get free babysitting.
Study after study (and, really, basic common sense) shows that being gay has nothing to do with pedophilia, but even saying that is like saying "monkeys don't do taxes." They don't, of course, but didn't you just picture a monkey at an adding machine?
Last week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they're considering a policy change that will allow minors who self-identify as gay (yes, they exist) to be Boy Scouts. However, they will not allow gays to participate as scout masters once they've turned 18, even if they've spent a lifetime in the organization.
Presumably, the Boy Scouts still believe that they must protect their charges from us scary adult gay men. And it's not just a concern about potential attraction. If it were, they'd also ban heterosexual women from being den mothers. It's a concern that we are predators. Despite our recent gains, we still live in a world where a policy that specifically excludes gay men as predators of children can be seen as a reasonable compromise, even though the rationale for that exclusion is irrational, false and outrageous.
Apparently, there are plenty of people out there who still believe that monkeys do taxes. In such a world, why would I risk being anywhere near your kids?
But, more than that, if a pedophile who happens to be gay (and they are the minority among pedophiles) has designs on your Boy Scout, and he knows that you equate gays with pedophilia, do you really think that he's going to call himself gay? If anything, he's going to come at you as straight as possible in order to confound your smart little restriction. He's a pedophile, not an idiot.
It's more likely that your pedophile is going to be a person who identifies as straight anyway. That's who you need to watch out for! I'm sure a policy banning the participation of straight men will solve your problem for good.
I'm kidding, of course, but the point is that paranoia, labeling and prejudice are not going to solve the problem of child molestation. The very best they can do is provide a false sense of security and a heavy dose of victim shaming, only making matters worse and driving the problem further into the shadows.
What you need is transparency, space for open and shame-free discussion and policies that allow trusted adults to be present in numbers with the children.
Transparency, shame-free discussion and the ability to verify with another adult that things are on the up and up: It's a good set of policies for organizations.
And until things are actually better and not just more polite, it's a good set of policies for me.
Follow Wayne Self on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Owldolatrous