le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

how to bring your kids up gay

I plan to revisit Eve Sedgwick's excellent essay soon - "How to bring your kids up gay" - but I know that, as awesome as it is, it won't answer my ongoing dissertation dilemma: how to think about/read/imagine gayness or queerness in a young child.

I hate to go to psychology for answers, though I imagine all kinds of studies have been done. Young children play at heterosexuality all the time -in all kinds of pretending games like playing "house" and the far more risque playing "doctor," or that old standby "i'll show you mine if  you show me yours" (both of these latter experiments at straightness I know only through rumors that assume the quality of urban legend, though I have no doubt millions of little kids are doing both, probably right this second).

Freud tells us a fair bit about the sexuality of children, though he does let them (and us) off the hook with that whole "latency" thing, but even Freud has his limits of usefulness.

I wonder about the frequency of same-sex/gender pretend-play; how often do two little boys play "house"? When I personally was a small child, I was friends with twin boys who used to LOVE coming to my house to play "house" with our toy kitchen and play food. But since I was the girl in the mix, it wasn't "house" with two daddies. Now that I think about it, I have NO IDEA how that triad arranged itself, and it probably doesn't bear thinking about too closely. Fortunately, I refuse to use myself as an informant; my own memory - everyone's memory - of childhood is simply too unreliable.

The "doctor" and reciprocal exhibitionism is, I think, more a sign of curiosity about sex difference, rather than a sign of sexual interest. Two little boys don't have much need to do a reciprocal show and tell; they already know what's what. It's the anatomical difference that's interesting, not the promise of some kind of voyeuristic pleasure.

There are plenty of anecdotes from gay men, reflecting on their early recollections of their own gayness; many report knowing that something was queer at a very young age. But what that queerness is seems to vary, or to be vague and unspecified.

So how to think/talk/write about queerness in the young child? I'm not even sure I know how to do a search for that kind of material without running smack into a whole lot of psychology work, which I really, really want to avoid. I need a model of talking about the unknown, which makes me think I need to go back to things like David Halperin's How to do the History of Homosexuality
I don't need evidence to write about queer children watching television; this much I know.
But beyond that?
It's a puzzle, but a directed and fairly specific puzzle, which is relief in this dissertation wilderness, where I am having to slog through the vast unknown of a very large, under-utilized archive and a severely undertheorized set of texts.

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