Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Patti-cake, where are you?

By 4 years of age, average
children are well within the period
when they are attempting to sort out
their own concepts of sexuality.
Cynthia Rosson-Tower
Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about today?
By now, you know I'm wondering about child abuse and neglect in one form or another!

Child abuse and neglect appear at times and in places not always noticed without the intention to be aware and take care of what the children around us are experiencing. One instance is the neglect of the needs of those very young children who feel themselves attracted to other children of the same gender.

While many giggling little girls are trying to hug and kiss little boys and vice versa, with the behaviors generally accepted, even encouraged, and always made light of by most of the adults around them, some children are having a different experience. Attracted to other children of the same gender they experience disapproval, and too frequently are ridiculed and humiliated. Often they are the brunt of verbal and physical abuses they are too young to even understand. All they know is that in some way they are treated differently, that something about them is not okay. Discrimination, disenfranchisement, and marginalization are difficult for any one at any age, and under any circumstances. For young children they can be traumatic.

My friend, (because the world is still populated with too many ignorant and undereducated people, I'll call her Patti-cake) brought this problem to my attention when she shared her own experiences of pain and confusion over her attraction to other little girls in Kindergarten and beyond. She didn't have any reason to even wonder about why she wanted to kiss and hug little girls while most of the other little girls wanted to chase the little boys. She was simply being a child, doing what came naturally to her. But those around her soon began the campaign to shame her and change her behaviors to suit the expected norm of the day.

A middle-aged woman now, with a long-standing loving and monogamous relationship with her female partner, Patti-cake still carries the scars of the intensity of her earliest experiences. Knowing of my desire to write for abused and neglected children, she asked me to try writing one to help children going through what she did with no real support. I tried to convince her that she should write it, or at least collaborate with me. Neither idea worked for her at the time.

I felt then, as I do now, that sensitive issues concerning young children in particular need to be written about by those who have shared the experience. I believe that only they can serve as mediators between "insiders and outsiders" of an issue because of the lack of language skills and knowledge available to the young children to communicate to others at the time of their traumatic experiences and process for later recall for whatever reason. They can bridge that gap by re-experiencing the early feelings and translating them into language to then reach out to young children struggling with sensitive issues in need of acceptance and understanding of themselves and their feelings as normal, now.

Over a decade has passed since Patti-cake asked me to write a book for young gay and lesbian children. I wish I could say someone stepped in and filled the need she identified. Unfortunately, although there have been many more picture books for children with gay and lesbian parents, and many more books for gay and lesbian teens, a careful search has not located even one of the books that Patti-cake asked for.

The back matter for "Heather has Two Mommies," by Leslea Newman and Diana Souza, asks "how can you presume there are no children in your classroom or library with lesbian or gay parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, and friends…." Now, I think its time to ask "how can you presume there are no children in your classroom or library…" no matter how young, who are lesbian or gay, and already physically and emotionally attracted to same sex friends and being overwhelmed by the experience? Patti-cake where are you?

For those interested in related books on children and gay relationships:

Beyond Heather Has Two Mommies: Picture Books w/ Gay Parents: An Amazon Listmania by Rainbowheart

Growing up Gay: An Amazon Listmania by Luna Eclipse,"Changeling"

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

No comments: