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Letter: Comment on Tribune Columnist
by Steve Wood, Oak Park
2003-04-01

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The following was sent to the Chicago Tribune in response to the March 12 column by writer Dawn Turner Rice's column, 3/12/03

I was really disappointed in Dawn Turner Rice's column about the children's fairy tale book, King & King. She fell into the classic heterosexist trap: if it has anything to do with gays and lesbians, it's all about sex. The leap she took is one so many take — from any discussion, however innocent and fairy-tale-ish, of gay or lesbian families to issues of 'suggestive clothing,' 'oversexed society,' and racy lyrics.

It's so tiring to have to repeat it, but, in short, it's not all about sex. It's all about love. Who we love, how we create love in our families of choice, how our families of origin come to accept and love us as we are. And Ms. Turner Rice seemed to recognize that when she alluded to the controversy that would have ensued 'once upon a time' if the King & King book had the Anglo prince choosing the Mumbian princess (instead of Prince Lee). Of course, the anti-miscegenationists also would have argued that such a book was forcing them to have 'in-depth discussions about sexuality' with their young children. They were wrong in the same way Rice is wrong. Mixed-race families have no more to do with sexuality than gay or lesbian families. She is looking at us through the wrong end of the telescope, narrowing our identities to our sexualities, not permitting us the same breadth of humanity accorded to others. Whether Rice's 2d Grader is attending Lab School or, I'd wager, any number of other grade schools across the region, her daughter already knows or will know kids in families with two moms or two dads. Maybe there is or will be a family like that among Rice's own extended family or among her co-workers' families.

If her daughter hasn't asked questions about such families yet, she will. Only parents who bring their own fears to the table can read King & King or discuss same-sex families hand-in-hand with the concerns expressed in her column. And parents who bring those fears are communicating a lot more to their children than they realize. Their message, non-verbal though it might be, is that being gay or lesbian is bad, or wrong, or shameful. That's a powerful, loveless message to send to our children, some of whom will, it is a certainty, turn out to be gay and lesbian themselves.

I'm a gay dad. My partner and I have four-year-old twin girls. We own and read King & King, among many other books. There is nothing in a fairy tale book that leads naturally to an 'in-depth discussion about sexuality.' Kids' follow-up questions about the two Princes ('can they have babies?') don't require such discussions; simple answers tailored to the child's level of comprehension will do ('sure, maybe they will adopt a baby' comes to mind). That's a skill parents everywhere have (or should have) developed.

Kids aren't interested in who is putting what where (as so many heterosexual parents seem to be when the discussion turns to gays and lesbians), any more than they have such questions when the Prince, after waking Snow White with a kiss, carries her off on horseback (my girls wanted to know why Snow White was agreeing to abandon all her new little friends after they had taken such good care of her, not what was going to happen between Snow and the Prince at the castle). King & King is about a different kind of family that turns out to be pretty much like any other family—two people (in this case, two men) meet, fall in love, make a home. That story doesn't lead to 'in-depth sex education discussions' any more than Snow White does.There is an old saying in our community that 'love makes a family.' The children attending Lab Schools are lucky to have a school director who not only understands that sentiment, but also walks the walk. Three cheers for her!

— Steve Wood, Oak Park


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