Too complicated for children to understand

Timothy Kincaid

February 28th, 2012

Anti-gays have an immense sense of entitlement. They should not ever have to be confronted with the fact that gay people exist, and especially not at a “family” venue like Disneyland, a park, a toy store, or anywhere else they drag their grubby little darling. Because the mere existence of a gay person will have catastrophic results to the psyche of children who will be forced to ask questions far beyond their age appropriateness.

You know, like:

Mommy, if neither of the women have a penis, how can they have penetration?

And what exactly is the proper anal cleaning process when that man gets ready for his husband?

And if Ellen keeps her hair short, never wears an dress and is married to Portia de Rossi but also is the spokesperson for a cosmetics company, does that make her lipstick or butch?

Clearly, such topics are just too complicated for children to understand. So it’s best if gay people are invisible where children might be present. Or so the AFA’s “Million” Moms have decided.

Thus, in the name of protecting the innocence of children, the Moms are protesting Toys “R” Us, a national toy retailer.

Select Toys ‘R’ Us stores are now selling ‘Archie’ comic books with a same-sex wedding displayed on the front cover. The front cover reads “Just Married” with two men marrying and one is wearing a service uniform. This comic book is being sold in select stores across the country. One example is the Queensbury, NY location in the upstate New York area.

Toys ‘R’ Us employees do not actually set up the displays; they leave this up to the vendor, but they should be aware of the merchandise being sold in their stores nonetheless. These comic books are sold at the front checkout counters so they are highly visible to employees, managers, customers and children. Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.

A trip to the toy store turns into a premature discussion on sexual orientation and is completely uncalled for. Toys ‘R’ Us should be more responsible in the products they carry.

Personally, I think that if exposure to a comic book with two men marrying turns into an uncalled-for premature discussion on sexual orientation with your kids, someone should call social services. Because that’s not healthy parenting.

Yes, kids will ask questions. If they have been raised in a household without any exposure to gay people whatsoever, they may want to know why those men are holding hands and where are the brides. But it is not premature to respond with matter of fact, age appropriate answers, that explain the existence of men who like to hold hands with each other. Even when one is wearing a service uniform.

For example, a famous actor’s daughter tells about how her father explained about a family friend:

I was about eight or nine years old when I learned that some people are gay — although the word ‘gay’ wasn’t used in those years. I don’t remember what defining word was used, if any; what I do remember is the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way in which I was told. The scene took place in the den of my family’s Pacific Palisades home. My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, “That looks weird.” Curious, he asked me to identify exactly what was weird about a man and woman kissing, since I’d certainly seen such a thing before. All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn’t really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn’t reserved just for men and women.

See how easy it is? Nothing premature. Nothing inappropriate.

In fact, unless you have some compulsion to insist that the whole kissing thing is indeed reserved just for men and women, lest some vengeful god smite a rebellious nation, there’s no difficulty at all in explaining their existence. I’ll agree that words like abomination and perverse are difficult for children to comprehend, that notions that the couple picking out a toy for their child are destroying the sanctity of Mommy and Daddy’s marriage are complex indeed, and that it is far too soon to pull out the bogus ‘gay bowel syndrome’ hate speech and dump it on your kids.

But maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to pass on your bile to the next generation. Maybe, just maybe, you can use clear, non-judgmental, language and save all the fire and brimstone for when they are old enough to understand that Mommy is just a little bit off the deep end.

After all, if Ronald Reagan – the man you think is second only to Jesus – can explain gay people to an 8 year old Patti Davis in a child appropriate way, you can do likewise.

Ben In Oakland

February 28th, 2012

I’ve often made the same comment to people who make nonsense complaints like this. “What will I tell me children about this horrible, unholy, godawful, damned, santorumische thing? I’m not ready to describe anal sex to me 4 year old.”

My response is always simple.

“Some people believe that boys can love boys or girls can love girls. These people are called homosexuals. Mommy and Daddy don’t approve of them.”

End of discussion. you only have to hope that your little rugrat doesn’t end up being one.


February 28th, 2012

So apparently the Gay question is the only thing that they can not or will not answer. So does that mean they answer EVERY other question no matter it’s topic?


February 28th, 2012

The real eye-opener here is the matter-of-fact language used by Reagan to discuss gayness with his young daughter. I’m of an age where I was a teenager in the era of Reagan and AIDS, and to me he has always been the president who couldn’t say the word while his own colleagues and friends dropped like flies around him — and this always seemed like the very deepest of possible character flaws.

It’s good to know he was a good deal more complicated than that, and not just when people were watching.

Jon Trouten

February 28th, 2012

One Million Moms set themselves up to succeed with this e-mail blast. “Life With Archie” #16 (with Kevin Keller wedding) is the one they’re referring to. Issue #17 just came out last week. So retailers are in the process of (if not finished) getting rid of the wedding issue and replacing it with a non-gay wedding issue.

Timothy Kincaid

February 28th, 2012


What do you bet that some of the Moms call demanding that they “Remove That Archie Comic Mocking Marriage Right Now!!” much to the confusion of the clerk who has no idea how Archie & Betty’s wedding is mocking anything.

Jon Trouten

February 28th, 2012

Meanwhile, have they said anything about the first issue of Kevin Keller’s new ongoing comic book by Archie Comics that came out two weeks ago? That issue features Kevin panic over making a good impression on his first date — with a boy!

I love clueless boycotters. :P

David in Houston

February 28th, 2012

Seriously. How hard is it to say, “Most boys grow up and fall in love with girls, and sometimes boys grow up and fall in love with boys; and that’s okay too, because loving someone is always a good thing.”

Of course, their speech will probably go more like this, “We chose to be religious, just like we chose to be homophobic, and we chose to force you be religious through indoctrination. So we’re hoping that we brainwashed you enough that you’ll believe what we and our church tell you about homosexuality. We’re praying to God that you’ll have an irrational fear and hatred of gay people just like we do. That would make us so proud and happy to be one big family of God-sanctioned bigots. Because we know in our hearts that Jesus would feel the same way. Amen.”


February 28th, 2012

Excellent piece with excellent points. I wasn’t aware of Reagan’s conversation with his daughter. That just hammers it home even more.

Ben In Oakland

February 28th, 2012

andrew: It’s good to know he was a good deal more complicated than that, and not just when people were watching.

I think you meant “just not” rather than “not just”. Old It’s morning-in-America had a fundamentally bland and cheerful persona, but then, he was an actor, so what he presented to the public– wouldn’t say santorum if he had a mouthful, as you implied– was probably not actually him.


February 28th, 2012

“Mommy, I think Barbie is pretty and I like her curvy body. Can I have one for my birthday?”

“No! Of course not, son! Only girls play with Barbie dolls!. Here, you can play with this muscular GI Joe action figure.”

“Okay. Mommy, do girls who play with Barbie dolls turn into lesbians? Do you think if I play with this GI Joe that I might have my very own Marine to kiss someday?”

“Manager! Where’s the manager?!”

Timothy Kincaid

February 28th, 2012


I think that Ronald Reagan was a far different man than either his admirers and his detractors think. He was without question bigger than life and stood out from the politicians and presidents around him and tends to be seen in symbolic terms.

Both gay people and those who hate them like to think that Reagan supported anti-gay policies. Yet none were enacted in his administration. And this is a man who penned opposition to the Briggs Initiative and without whom it is generally accepted that we would have lost that extremely important battle.

Also we all want to think that he was personally intolerant. Yet this president was the first to have known gay friends from whom he did not distance himself. And it was at his and Nancy’s invitation that the first gay couple, his decorator and partner, spent the night at the White House.

And finally our community pulls out the argument against which no defense is expected: that Reagan “never said the word AIDS or allocated any money for eight years.” And yet a more careful review finds him discussion the budget for AIDS research in 1985, which was 100 million that year and projected to be 125 million the next.

Finally, we insist that while we cannot find any public anti-gay utterances, surely in private he MUST have been a bigot of the first order. And that is where Patti Davis, his daughter who opposed his every policy and never missed an opportunity to damage his political image stepped in. When screenwriters wanted to put bigotry in her father’s mouth, they were talking about the person, not the politician, and portraying a man that was pure imagination, and a spiteful imagination at that.

Ultimately, Ronald Reagan was an anomaly. He was personally a believer in God, though not at all churchy – but is adored by the never-miss-a-sunday crowd who desperately cling to anything remotely religious he said. And, for reasons I’ll never understand, they never seem to notice that while he spoke as part of them, the Reagan years never resulted in a single solitary goal of theirs being accomplished.

AIDS is where he is due criticism.

It isn’t true that he did nothing – that is merely hyperbole by those who were literally dying and had no time to quibble between “inadequate approach” and “letting me die because you hate me”. And it is due in part to Reagan’s inclination to see sexuality as a private matter – which combined with antipathy to gays by his supporters – resulted in virtual silence about the support that was given.

But it wasn’t enough.

I do not believe the claim that had vast sums been allocated, the virus could have been controlled and the epidemic halted. By 84 everyone knew how the virus spread… and yet it spread. Sexual urge, youthful feelings of invincibility, and a culturally cultivated sense of worthlessness (combined with the fact that the physical sensation of sex is very different with a condom) all worked to fight what could have been a very very simple self-imposed halt to the spread. No one was confused or uncertain (other than some fringe conspiracy theorists) but these drives and forces are so powerful that I really don’t know how more money, regardless of the amount, could have prevented the epidemic.

But Reagan was very very late in guiding the nation towards compassion. He personally thought of homosexuality as sinful (as almost everyone did) but his friendships suggest that this was a “you and God” thing. And as with virtually all men his age, he didn’t take his sex life public. I am just guessing that he didn’t think that it was somehow appropriate for him to champion the homosexuals. That it might be too sex-based for a president. Maybe he thought it was not a general-population issue.

I really don’t know. But whatever was the determining factor, he didn’t speak up until after out of the White House. Maybe he thought that it was acceptable then.

By then it was too late. Had he said the words in 1982 that he said in 1989, there might have been a social change. If California’s polling on Briggs could shift by more than 20 points based on a letter to a paper, maybe America’s perspective would have been much different. And maybe churches would have seen this as a charitable christian act of compassion rather than God’s judgment. Just because Reagan said so (and yes, in some communities, he had that much authority).

He will always be known for the president who brought down the soviet empire and ended the cold war. But he will also be known for the president who trusted some truly unethical people, had far too much scandal in his administration, and who missed an opportunity that perhaps he only could have taken.

I just hope that we – at least the BTB community if not the gay community – can set aside the cartoon Reagan, the easy stereotype, and see the complexity of a man who was a sometimes ally but who – for reasons likely far less simple than Larry Kramer will ever admit – failed us when it was most important.


February 28th, 2012

Can we all guess how many letters the “Million Moms” wrote complaining about the National Enquirer putting a picture of Whitney Houston’s dead body on the front cover of their paper – one available in every checkout line in the country, in full view of any kid?


February 28th, 2012

Your children are asking questions, and you have to answer them? We have a word for this kind of thing; it’s called BEING A PARENT!! Thing is, children have a thing called, “curiosity” that allows them to be informed of the world around them. Part of this “curiosity”, however, is that they may find interest in knowledge of things you may either be not aware of, or are uncomfortable with. So to my point: you don’t like the idea of explaining things to your children because of your own discomfort, perhaps you shouldn’t have children. Oh, and saying, “God will send you to hell for asking such things!” will not win you Parent of the year.

@ james’ post:

Bad quality, but it’s the best I could find. :\

Eric in Oakland

February 28th, 2012

I think this article makes an excellent point about why anti gay parents would have a more difficult time explaining this than would a more open minded parent. It is not homosexuality that is difficult to explain or not an age appropriate topic. It is the anti gay rhetoric that is both of those things. Children can easily understand love but making them understand why they should hate someone is probably more challenging.

Regan DuCasse

February 29th, 2012

Eric in Oakland, well said, well said!

You’re absolutely right, children CAN understand love easily. A friend of mine’s twins were six when they witnessed two men kissing in public. She wasn’t sure what to say if they asked about it, because they all saw the whole thing.
There was no need for her to explain anything, what was happening was SELF explanatory.
The kids in fact said: look mommy, those men really love each other!
And all she did was agree” yes, they sure do!

Easy as falling off the curb.

The hard part is trying to tell people that such behavior is dangerous and spread AIDS, and that such people are threatening and hate families.
When NONE of those things actually happen in front of kids or behind closed doors at all.


February 29th, 2012

If your 8 year old rides to school on a bus, he or she has heard about homosexuality.


February 29th, 2012

Tim, I think your posting above actually deserves a column of its own. On the one hand I rail against reductionism, but on the other hand, I find my impulses lead me there as surely as anyone else’s do.

Add to that my vantage point – as a 10 – 18 year old in Massachusetts, you can imagine my perspective on Reagan was heavily influenced by my environment.

As for the HIV/AIDS issue… I have to wonder if some folks weren’t upset at the magnitude of the missed opportunity. Reagan wasn’t known as the “Great Communicator” because everyone liked his message, but because of the efficacy with which he delivered it. To have that power silent at that critical time is such an incredible missed opportunity.

Lastly, I think it’s also clear that Reagan’s ability to address issues in his second term were severely limited. His faculties were failing, his age was catching up to him, and his administration was reaping the wealth of scandals of the first several years in office, keeping everyone distracted and away from addressing as many issues at hand as they could have otherwise.

Just don’t let my bf read this thread – he grew up under Reagan, has 14 years more experience with him age-wise, was a politics major in the U.C. system, and absolutely loathes the man.


February 29th, 2012

Well said. As a married mother of an 8 and 7 year old, I had a much bigger issue explaining to my kids why flags flew at half mast and why there was constant coverage for a famous singer who destroyed her life with drugs then I did about the gay couple remodeling a house together on HGTV.
Kids can pick up on hypocricy a mile away and will call it out, which they did. They didn’t understand why If drugs are so bad, she got an honor reserved for people whose lives are typically sacrified for our country. I kid you not. They have been taught the significance of our country’s flag, and what the choice of using drugs leads to. I’m not saying WH was bad or that drug abuse made her not worthy of acclaim. I’m stating that they were confused by the inconsistencies between what they’ve been taught and what they see in real life. However, they do understand love. The two guys with their arms around eachother on HGTV got a “Mommy, they look so happy! I think they’ll like their house when it is done.”


February 29th, 2012

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!


February 29th, 2012

Gus, so true.


February 29th, 2012

I have a hard time with the idea Reagan somehow brought down the “Soviet Empire.” No, that was mainly achieved through its leaders’ own economic mismanagement. By letting themselves be buffaloed into a pointless and useless arms race by their military leaders, they went beyond what they could sustain, and the people got tired of it. For our part, we kept ginning up our own arms manufacturing industries, making a lot of profits that were then poured back into our own political races, much to the delight of those beating the war drums.

Giving Reagan responsibility for the Soviet leaders’ bad choices is about like claiming you won your war with your neighbor over his new fence because his house burned down last night when some wiring went bad and set the wall on fire.

Ben in Oakland

February 29th, 2012

Timothy, I think you assessment of Reagan was fairly accurate. Mine wasn’t intended to be negative.

I had only Two major problems with him. One was his willingness to cozy up to the religious right, the other were the massive deficits incurred. We outspent the soviets, and they collapsed under tHeir own mismanaged weight.


February 29th, 2012

Arguably, the reason that arms race ultimately brought them down is because NATO intensified it in the 80s. The Soviet Union didn’t just decide on that on their own


February 29th, 2012

It is less that this is too complicated for children to understand as that parents don’t want to explain it. Parents who figure that ignorance is bliss and equates with innocence. If love is the exclusive domain of a man and a woman married to each other, what does that make of love between parent and child or between siblings or other relatives or between friends?

Richard Rush

February 29th, 2012

I presume it’s fairly routine for young children to see portrayal of a man killing another man on TV or in comics, as it was when I was a kid in the 1950’s. So I further assume it must be a fairly comfortable topic for parents if their children ask questions, because if it wasn’t comfortable, it wouldn’t be so common. But two men loving each other dare not be portrayed because it is, apparently, infinitely more harmful to children, and parents can’t handle the questions. And they call us the immoral ones.

Timothy Kincaid

February 29th, 2012

Ben, I agree. Both very valid problems, mostly for what came after.

While Reagan used the right but never catered to them, subsequent Republicans have been used by the right and catered to the point where young people see the party as beholding to haters and loons.

And while there may be an argument that Reagan made a calculated risk to pit economy against economy and in that way bankrupt the soviets, his followers in both parties just spent like drunken sailors without any strategic purpose to it.

Donny D.

March 1st, 2012

Andrew wrote,

Just don’t let my bf read this thread – he grew up under Reagan, has 14 years more experience with him age-wise, was a politics major in the U.C. system, and absolutely loathes the man.

His situation sounds a lot like mine. I was well into my 20s and had had years as an aware teenager and adult living under presidents before Reagan. I remember him as a politician and his administration and his scummy underlings with loathing.

This country became SO MUCH WORSE after just a couple of years of Reagan as president, especially economically. He and his supporters are why we suddenly had masses of homelessness people nationwide for the first time in my memory, probably for the first time since the First Great Depression. He successfully brought far right economics into federal governance which did immense damage to this country.

Something like 60% of people liked or loved him and believe in that “Morning in America” crap, but the other 40% of us disliked or implacably hated him and his regime. He was the Great Disuniter, the Great Polariser, all the praise of him and his nasty retinue of far right California sleazebags notwithstanding.

He brought a bombastic, attacking style of rhetoric into national play, a type of expression that previously had been restricted to Southern California right wing conservatives, and ended the Fairness Doctrine, enabling the building of what is now the conservative media behemoth.

His admin enacted SO MANY bad policies. I remember that restrictions to the Freedom of Information Act came out of his administration so often that it seemed like a new restriction every few months.

As to AIDS, I remember when his HHS secretary Margaret Heckler said that we needed to stop AIDS before it reached the heterosexual population. As yes, the good old days. [/sarcasm]

As to AIDS awareness and money spent, I just don’t agree with you, Timothy. Everyone did NOT know how AIDS was spread by 1984. Unless you only count people well connected into the gay community grapevine. Outside that demographic, there was still great ignorance. And rightwingers, Reagan’s allies, were trying to fight AIDS awareness programs that were effective, ones that just happened to be most effective for gay people and people of color, because these rightwingers thought the language in those materials was too crude and explicit.

I question whether anyone familiar with what was going on and not hobbled by ideological blinders could honestly say that enough money was being spent on the fight against AIDS in the ’80s. Timothy, your claims on this reek of fiscal conservatism for its own sake.

And it’s true even now that significant demographics in this country are not served well by AIDS-related information and public health services.

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2012

Donny D

First let me agree on public health services, woefully underfunded and misallocated then and now.

But your point about folks outside the gay community grapevine is off target. And, if anything, misinformation erred on the side of overstated risks. Perhaps heteros or even men having sex with men in Hicksville, Alabama, had inaccurate information and feared mosquitoes and drinking glasses. But that wasn’t who or where the epidemic was occuring.

Regardless of what they did or didn’t believe, by 1984 the vast majority of men who became infected by HIV did so with the knowledge that being a recipient in unprotected anal sex – virtually the sole factor at the time – was a risk for transmission. Few, if any, ever said “well I didn’t know I could be exposed to HIV if I did that!

And, in reality, I’m not sure any other president would have spent all that much more on HIV/AIDS or that it was what we were really calling for (we don’t exactly adore Dubya but he spent more on HIV/AIDS than anyone else combined).

HIV/AIDS was not (and is not) a facts problem; HIV/AIDS is a social problem. It didn’t spread – after discovery – due to a lack of knowledge but rather due to faulty decisions, chemical thinking, betrayed trust, fatalism, heat of the moment, and such. And these are all attributes of, and responses to, social attitudes about sex.

When told that all gay sex is evil and you are an abomination worse than a murderer or a child molester who is destined to get AIDS and burn for eternity in hell, it truly f*cks with your head. If safe sex makes you as much a monster as just going for it, and you’re going to get it anyway you nasty pervert, then why bother protecting yourself? If you are evil anyway, why care about whether you infect others?

(And our community’s contempt for “heteroconformists” who chose monogamy over the hotness of strangers surely didn’t help.)

We didn’t need more pamphlets. We needed a change in attitude. And this is where Ronald Reagan truly let us down.

In those moments when the response to a terrible disease was unyet developed, when the populace could have gone with either compassion or condemnation, a handful of truly awful people led the charge for hate.

And Ronald Reagan said nothing.

Sure, a lot of people said nothing, but his ability was unique and his voice was absent from a discussion that perhaps he alone could have reframed. And as Andrew said,

Reagan wasn’t known as the “Great Communicator” because everyone liked his message, but because of the efficacy with which he delivered it. To have that power silent at that critical time is such an incredible missed opportunity.

I don’t hate the man. I see his flaws and lament the horror of the missed opportunity, but can’t bring myself to hate him.

But if you must hate him, do it for the right reasons. It wasn’t his insufficient funding that could have prevented an epidemic. Rather, it was his failure to lead.

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