Two years ago, ABC News hired two actors, a man and a woman, to publicly display their affection for each other by kissing in public at a restaurant. Reactions from other restaurant-goers varied; some onlookers enjoyed the sight of young love, while others lost their appetite.
This year, we once again decided to explore how the public responds to public displays of affection — but this time, our couples were gay.
911 “hilarity” ensued in Birmingham, as Kip highlighted. Shameful, but not my point here. Instead, this:
… A topic that did come up repeatedly was children. “I don’t really find it inappropriate, especially during the day when schoolchildren aren’t running around. They might get confused and want an answer for what’s going on,” bystander Mary-Kate told us. The majority of the people who spoke about children seemed to echo Mary-Kate’s feelings. They are indifferent to gay PDA but did not want to, or know how to, address homosexuality with children.
People wilt under the pressure of addressing “tough” issues with children. (Some to a greater extent than others.) But when children get confused and want an answer for what’s going on in the world, the proper response is to treat them like human beings who deserve respect. Adults must apply tests to decide what information is appropriate to censor or finesse, but shielding children from information solely because the question makes the adult uncomfortable is not a rational response to reality.
Obviously I’m drawing a comparison to circumcision, so I’m not going to dance around the topic. When I’ve protested on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol against infant male circumcision¹, children approach to discuss the topic. I discriminate based on age. Without a good qualifier, it’s best to let the child ask. This generally leads to self-selection among the children who are capable of understanding and discussing. The youngest child I’ve spoken to is probably 10 or 11. And I still limit the discussion away from the anatomical function of the foreskin during intercourse and masturbation. However, those children are capable of understanding the core of the issue. They know when they’re being lied to. I’ve witnessed parents offering excuses to children while shielding them from any consideration. The children rejected these excuses by asking further questions.
I’m dismayed at how many people, even when not rejecting that same-sex relationships exist, fear that children can’t understand love if it’s not packaged in a specific, safe manner. Safe, of course, refers to the perceptions of the adult, not the child.
¹ Here’s a writing tip for you. The first edit of the footnoted sentence read:
When I’ve protested against infant male circumcision on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol …
There are no circumcisions occurring on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, to my knowledge. Clarity demands that the writer group “on the lawn” with what occurred on the lawn.