Confused Adults Find Children Confusing

Rob Tisinai

September 9th, 2011

My partner Will has enough nieces and nephews to field a baseball team. They’ve now begun calling me Uncle Rob.

It chokes me up.

It started with the girls. I’d been showing up at family events for a couple years, but Will’s family is very conservative (as was mine) and I’m not sure anyone officially explained who I am.  This summer, though, Will and I hosted  their Father’s Day celebration at our house. It was our first big event after finishing the kitchen remodel. Our home is an embodiment of two lives brought together, and it explained us better than any discussion ever could. A few weeks later, Will and I took his Mom out to a beachside cafe for her birthday. The girls (her grandkids) came along. It was meant to last an hour or two, but we hung out late into the evening.

Next time I saw the nieces, they called me Uncle Rob.

Recently, we joined the clan for Memorial Day.  I started hearing “Uncle Rob” from the nephews. Then as we left, Will’s brother — who opposes same-sex marriage, who disagrees with me on virtually everything, and yet with whom I feel an odd and unexpected bond — said to his boys, “Say goodbye to your uncles.” That was a stunner. Time seemed to stop for the moment I took me to register his words.

All this happened without lectures, debates, speeches, or explanations. A while back, Bill Clinton said something wonderful about America: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” That applies to gay people, too. The most devastating argument in the world is trivial next to our simple, open, matter-of-fact presence.

And so I’m aggravated when our opponents say marriage equality will confuse the children. NOM even created a political ad claiming such a thing. It’s called (wait for it): “Confused Children.”

NOM has a terribly low opinion of children. Kids are insatiably curious. They love to learn. They take in new wonders every day they get out of bed:

Clouds are water?

Mommy has a baby insider her?

Uncle Will loves Uncle Rob?

Kids ask questions, but only a cynic conflates being eager to learn with debilitating confusion. And, really, of those three items, which is the least baffling?

The real problem, I think, is that adults are confused. We can add same-sex marriage to the list of things that kids understand easily but many adults do not:  iPods, P2P file sharing, Justin Beiber. But while those grown-ups have to admit iPods do in fact exist, many of them deny same-sex marriage — or even romantic love — can ever happen. So of course kids who find it perfectly natural must be awfully mixed up.

Actually, it’s a nice logical scam: Your kids seem confused by same-sex marriage? That proves it’s confusing! Your kids don’t seem confused by same-sex marriage? That proves it’s confusing! And — bingo!— you’ve just insulated yourself from thinking new thoughts.

A recent Internet ruckus illustrates this perfectly. Stacy Trasancos, “a scientist turned homemaker and joyful convert to Catholicism,” raised a controversy with her complaint that she can’t even go to “normal places” without exposing her kids to immorality.  Some excerpts (with commentary from me):

At the pool this summer there were homosexual couples with children and, while I was polite as my own young daughters doted on the baby with two “mommies”, I also held my breath in anticipation of awkward questions – questions  I’m not ready to answer. My young daughters are all under the age of eight and they are not old enough to understand why a baby would have two women calling themselves “mommies”.

[Sounds to me like your daughters were fine. You were the one freaking out.]

When there were two men relaxing at the side of the pool unnaturally close to each other, effeminately rubbing elbows and exchanging doe-eyes, I was again anxiously watching my children hoping they wouldn’t ask questions. They don’t see Daddy do that with anyone but Mommy. We haven’t been back to the pool for a couple of weeks, except once but it rained. The truth is, now I don’t really want to go back…

[I love this phrase: effeminately rubbing elbows. “Ooo gurrrl — y’all  need to loofa!”  Though the bit about exchanging doe-eyes sounds bloody and gruesome.]

I can’t even go to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality. We all know what would happen if I asked two men or two women to stop displaying, right in front of me and my children, that they live in sodomy…

[Actually, no one lives in Sodom(y) anymore.  The town was destroyed for arrogance and inhospitality toward strangers.  Oh, the irony!]

Interesting how Stacy never tells us what her kids actually said or how they felt. This paean of alleged anguished concern for her daughters is actually all about her.

Now some antigays aren’t as frightened of talking to their kids as Stacy. Frank Pastore, for instance. He hosts the biggest Christian talk radio show in the country and advised his listeners on what to say to their kids about transgender Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars:

This is how I would approach it.

Because of Original Sin —

Stop. Here’s a good rule: A satisfying explanation can’t be more mysterious than the thing it’s trying to explain. I keep this in mind when people answer, “Where did the Universe come from?” with “God made it.” An explanation like that isn’t necessarily wrong, but it raises more questions than it answers, and it certainly doesn’t settle the issue.

Original Sin confuses me like that. I was never able to see the fairness, justice, or logic of it. Perhaps you have better insight than I do, but surely you’ll admit it’s no easy concept. Anyway, back to Frank:

This is how I would approach it.

Because of Original Sin we are screwed up in terms of our biology — the world is evidence, you know, there’s evidence of it getting worse and worse and declining, right?  We are not a cosmos, a universe, that’s getting better and better and better.  We’re decaying, okay, the whole entropy thing.  And then that Fall is also evidenced biologically:  we have diseases, we have cancers, we have children that are born with, you know, deformities and handicaps, right?

Okay, well in the Fall part of, you know, Satan screwing up with humanity was down to our genetic level and there are people who are born with – that are – you know, some boys look more like a girl, and you know you get the kids to agree that some kids in school like that, and you’ve got some girls who are more like a boy. Well, there’s times in which they want to act on that and so there are some boys who really like boys. And there are girls who really like girls and there are some who are – feel so strongly on that they want to have surgery and become that other gender.

And so that’s what Chastity Bono did and that’s how she became Chaz.  It’s all part of evidence of the Fall.

No wonder your kids are confused!

  • Entropy is the reason for our culture’s decline [which nicely demonstrates Pastore’s misunderstanding of entropy].
  • When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He let Satan mess with our genes.
  • Some kids look so much like the opposite gender they want to have sex with their own gender.
  • Some kids want to have sex with their own gender so much they want surgery to become the other gender.

And that’s the more coherent part of his explanation.  The rest opens the door to questions like:

Is Entropy another name for Satan?

Do Uncle Will and Uncle Rob have cancer?

If kids have deformities because of Satan, just like gay people, do those kids go to Hell, just like gay people?

This all has to be more confusing — more terrifying — than, “”Chaz was born in a girl’s body but felt like a boy on the inside. When he grew up, he thought long and hard and probably prayed, talked about it with the people he loved, got advice from experts who know a lot about this, and finally changed his body to make him a boy on the outside, too.”

I hope no one inflicts Pastore’s explanation on my nieces and nephews. But if they do, it probably won’t matter. None of them will believe that Will and I love each other because we look like girls. If the power of our example achieves anything, it should achieve at least that much.


September 9th, 2011

If Uncle Will and Uncle Rob DID love each other because they both looked like girls, would that mean that they wished they were lesbians?


September 9th, 2011

@ William – judging by the pics of their kitchen refurbishment that were posted on Rob’s personal blog, Will & Rob are pretty handy at DIY, so they already live up to at least one lesbian stereotype!

Bose in St. Peter MN

September 9th, 2011

I suspect the core thing the nieces and nephews are unconfused about is that their parents are not building walls between the kids and the uncles.

The parents are not preparing the kids for family time by telling them to be wary of the uncles, or letting them opt out of time with the uncles (i.e., hinting that there is something scary about them). The parents aren’t suggesting, even indirectly, that caring about their uncles the same as their other aunts/uncles would be an act of disloyalty to the rest of the family.

As unreal and outrageous as those things sound, those are the kinds of things my kids heard from conservative members of the family post-divorce.

It’s a cruel thing to do to a kid. Wait a minute, they figure out over time, the adults in my life don’t trust each other, and think I’m not safe in my own family?

Congrats to the whole family, Rob, that relationships have been allowed to develop organically, not clouded by irrational fears.

Tony P

September 9th, 2011

Nice post! I too am Uncle Tony to Keyron’s brother’s son and twin daughters.


September 9th, 2011

This article is downright inspiring. Thank you for writing it.


September 9th, 2011

Clearly, the kids in your family have been left to decide who you are and how you fit into the family for themselves & they’ve decided that you’re someone that loves them and is accepted and loved by the rest of the family, so they accept and love you too. No need for big “discussions”, just acceptance by example. And that’s how it should be.


September 10th, 2011

Oh, but Rob, you have such fine features! I must confess I’ve had my moments of doubt ;)

Rob Tisinai

September 10th, 2011

Lucrece: Grrr.

John B.

September 10th, 2011

My partner (now husband) and I have been together for 29 years. He has 12 nieces and nephews and we have been together since the oldest were only 3 or 4 and before the rest were even born. As long as any of them can remember they have ONLY known us as a couple and “Uncle John” has always been a part of the family. The kids all figured out our relationship for themselves, and took it in stride. They are now in their 20’s and early 30’s, and starting to get married and have kids of their own. And all of them turned out decidedly heterosexual, despite our “influence”.


September 10th, 2011

Rob, great post.

Frankly, I don’t think they’re concerned about their kids being confused; rather, they’re concerned they might not care and would be accepting. Now that would be scary!

Went to my mom’s family reunion in August. I have 6 uncles and aunts and a gazillion first, second and third cousins. They care not a whit that I’m in a same-sex relationship. None of them. My parents–the only conservative people in the bunch–are a different story, unfortunately, and it was a struggle for my sister (who followed their conservative bent) to allow my nieces to call my partner ‘uncle’. It makes me very sad that their religious conservatism put a wall between myself and my family for so many years…


September 10th, 2011

As an analogy, I take my dog out for walks. Any number of times I come across an adult who, for whatever reason, is fearful of dogs. Some have a young child with them who wants to be friendly to my dog who is very people friendly and very tolerant of small children. What does the parent do? Pulls the child back. In other words, putting their fears onto their children.

As for Chaz Bono, unless the child has been told that he used to be Chastity, how would the child ever know that Chaz was ever anything but a man? Once again, projecting their own fears and prejudices onto their children. And so it goes, generation after generation.

Rev Ray Neal

September 10th, 2011

When my daughter and her husband finally brought their four children to stay at our home, despite the problem they voiced on how to tell our children that PawPaw and Mark are in love and live together, we were amused when the youngest, age 3 at the time, stood in the doorway to our bedroom and told his father he couldn’t go into our bedroom: “You can’t go in there, Daddy, that’s PawPaw and Mark’s bedroom. That’s where they sleep together.” Seems the little fellow didn’t need any explanation to ‘see’ and understand the truth.

Their slightly older son while visiting my former wife’s home slipped off the lap of her new fiancee and announced to the whole assembly: “I like PawPaw’s friend Mark a whole lot better than MeeMaws friend.” Again, the child could see very clearly the relationships going on without much of an explanation needed.


September 11th, 2011

I know, it’s juvenile, but I’m snickering at “long and hard”.

Now that that’s out of my system, well, now I’m confused — who the hell opposes love? What kind of empty head gets her panties in a twist because two adults commit to each other?


September 12th, 2011

I took this Stacy lady’s post as a wish that gays would please not ever go outside. OK so she’s just one particularly irritable Catholic. Fine.

But NOM linked to this on their blog.

I take that as taking a position on this issue. ie: NOM and this Stacy lady want faggots to stay the f*** inside and NEVER show their faces, or even LOOK at each other. Lest their sensibilities be overwhelmed and, in their delicateness, they are overcome by the vapors.

NOM is the largest and most influential anti-gay group in the nation. NOM has, in my opinion, by supporting this Stacy person, taken the stance that faggots must NEVER look at each other.

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