I think that more kids have ‘crushes’ on persons of the same gender than would report having done so as children when they’re adults, because we’re socialized to call those feelings ‘friendship.’
This came up in conversation between me, Choosing Pancakes, and JB a while ago. I wrote it down because I really liked what I had said, and figured I would elaborate on it at some point. As I rant about a little in my guest post over at Met Another Frog this week, I hate that we live in a culture that assumes heterosexuality. Even more than that, I hate when people try to justify the assumption of heterosexuality by saying that the vast majority of the population is heterosexual. First off, majority rule should never be used to effectively erase the minority’s existence from public discourse or recognition. That’s just a fact. But secondly, and more throw-off-your-understanding-of-how-the-world-works-y, that argument ignores the fact that living in a culture that assumes heterosexuality socially encourages people to assume heterosexuality on a personal level too.
Members of the LGBTQ community often respond to others’ questioning about their sexuality with denial; I know I did. I honestly don’t know how my friend CC even dealt with me, unless she recognized my denial/rejection as the early stages of self-acceptance; I remember having an incredibly problematic conversation with her sometime at the beginning of my sophomore year about how I’d be uncomfortable living with a lesbian (a disgusting blanket statement I no longer endorse in nearly any form, the one remaining form being living with a lesbian who was interested in me but whom I was not interested in, because that would just be awkward). I remember junior year being at a party and her flat out asking me, in front of KS, whether I was bi-curious. I brushed it off, but she could tell I was bluffing.
The ONLY reason we ever feel we have to bluff about our sexualities, sexual practices, and sexual orientations, is because we live in this society that drills into our heads from the earliest days that sex (and thus romantic interest and flirting and love) is something that happens between a man and a woman (insert whatever variations you were raised with regarding constructs like love and marriage here). In all seriousness, I ask you, what is the difference between best-friend-ship and “interest” when you’re seven? Little kids know that they like being around certain other little kids, and I’m convinced that we’d have a lot of people who are both more versed in and comfortable with their sexualities if we didn’t put a million constraints around that liking from Day One.
Even the most idiotic advise we give to children about dating and relationships and flirting is gendered. I swear, I want to brand anyone who tells a little girl that some little boy is hitting/pinching/pushing/being mean to her “because he likes her” as unfit to be around children. You’re actually just priming that child to accept physical and emotional abuse from men for the rest of her life, you asshole. But think about it–when boys fight with each other or bully each other, no one says it’s because one of them caught feelings for the other. There is no idiotic insertion of romance in a spat between little girls. There is also no–perhaps fully warranted–insertion of romance into two little girls holding hands while they walk down the street. We raise our children to understand the same actions–the holding of a hand, the giving of a smile, etc.–as insignificant when between persons of the same gender, and as potentially meaning “EVERYTHING” when between persons of different genders. Yes, love and lust and romanticisim are contextual. I’ll give you that. But our society demands that children be grounded in one particular context while regarding all others as deviant–if they recognize them at all.
I don’t think I knew that romance and love and sex could exist between people of the same gender until I was in middle school. THAT is an act of erasure, no matter how you want to frame it, and it’s not fair to anyone. Even if a child is going to grow up to only be romantically interested in persons of the so-called “opposite” gender–which is absolutely 100% perfectly fine–they should understand that interest as it exists along the spectrum of possible interests, not as the way interest works.