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Seven Year-Old Boy Wants a "Likes Boys" T-Shirt

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I am not sure what to think about this. A woman blogs on the Huffington Post that her seven year-old son has a crush on a couple of the boys from Glee (which seems perfectly understandable to me-- when I was seven, I was devoted to the Andy Williams show so I could see the Osmond Brothers, which could probably explain a lot). He likes to wear the same clothes they do and was, apparently a fashionista at the age of five, insisting on wearing a fedora. Now, he wants a "Likes Boys" t-shirt like the one Kurt wears.

Now, my first instinct is to revert to my coming out days and scream, "You go, Miss Thang!" Then, again, I remember being taunted in the second grade and called a sissy because I hated playing dodge ball because my shirt tail would come out and I didn't want to mess my hair up.

Is seven too young to identify as gay? I want to say yes, based on my experience low these many decades ago. Then, again, I also want to say no, based on my experience low these many decades ago. I can remember feeling that way when I was seven. I had a big crush on Ronnie Howard. I realize society is VERY different now than it was in 1964, but...

Also, I am wondering if there is a difference in opinion on this between the younger awesome dudes and older awesome dudes?


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Seven years old is too young, and not just for the boy who wants a "Likes Boys" t-shirt. His peers are too young to understand that they need to accept his freedom of expression and I am afraid he will suffer their ignorance. At least his parents know enough to set some limits until he can do so for himself.

Does he know what it really means? Perhaps, but not in the same terms an adult might understand. The wiring in his young mind may tell him that he enjoys the company of boys more than girls, but that is normal for his age. Seven is not too early to have a crush on another boy, but the feelings could hardly be sexual. Other boys may seem more attractive or popular and that would be the likely attraction. The other kinds of attraction will come later.

But I don't think anyone can define a point in life where same sex attraction becomes a fixed part of someone's personality. It's good to see his parents care enough to guide him well, and they should probably seek advice later on if they don't know what to do. Yes, there will be some negative reactions, but it sounds like the boy will not be the cause of them, just his shirt. So perhaps the boy is gay, but right now it's just a feeling and there is time enough for him to figure out what that means.

As for the Osmond Brothers and Opie, there were a whole slew of boys on television that attracted me when I was young. I would avidly watch and inwardly sigh, but I was never quite sure why. Don't get me started on the Mickey Mouse Club and Cubby...

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Ah, Cubby! I'd forgotten. Yes indeed, Cubby. The one who really did it for me even more, though, was Johnny Crawford. Wow! Maybe everyone else watched The Rifleman to see Chuck Connors quell the bad guy. I watched for entirely different reasons.

I think what shirt a kid wears speaks of his nascent feelings of independence more than his expressions of sexuality. I think the question here is, should his parents allow him the freedom to dress himself, or should they be, well, parental and make this decision for him, understanding the flack he may get better than he does and trying to protect him from it, or allowing him to learn repercussions at his young age.


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I think there is a very real dissonance culturally, personally, and dare I say, individually, on perception and meaning of sexual identity.

Then there is the affect of the era in which we live and are raised. I am old enough to remember the horrors expressed in the community on such things as mixed race marriages, divorce, civil marriage ceremonies, abortion, rock and roll, and all manner of corrupting movies and novels.

My own experiences go back to five years old when I knew I liked the look of other boys my age. I also loved Doris Day, and Indians more than cowboys. But I tended to believe my parents when they told me that I would understand it all when I grew up. Yeah, right!

The real problem we face is, to a large degree, the labelling to which we are subjected as we grow up. If we are told as I was (at 12) that boys who like boys are homosexuals, then if we turn out to have a homosexual encounter (of the same kind) then we will naturally conclude that we are homosexual; or disastrously that we submit ourselves to overcoming a sin that does not exist.

I often consider that if I had been told that boys can fall in love with boys, then I would have had no problem having a relationship with a girl for the sake of having children. To some people that will seem like using the relationship, but in fact it is simply a variation on social relationships. Similarly, the mom and a dad family relationship, so favoured by the traditionalists, is demonstrably not always the best or only satisfactory environment for raising a child.

The problem I see with such patronising of children to 'behave like children', is that when they become adults they still act like children. Treating young people as young human beings with all the potential of a fulfilling and loving life ahead of them, does not rob them of their childhood, but neither does it fill them with idiotic expectations of irrational nonsense. Furthermore, it does not treat them as inferior or unentitled to the same benefits as afforded other members of the society.

Our subjective belief on what is suitable to tell a child is often clouded by customs and social conditioning that are more damaging to the young life than the early introduction to reality in an age-appropriate manner. Too often young inquisitive minds are stultified, petrified and terrified by them being kept in the dark end of the cave of delusions and superstitions. We are worth more, and are more, than that. This attitude is of course, exactly what the traditionalists fear most...the liberation of the human mind to evolve and adapt; to fulfil its natural potential, intellectually, sexually, and lovingly.

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Too true. Society has always been in the business of regulating conformity. Anyone acting outside society's norms is in for a tough life.

The norms are set for a child early in his life and regimented rigorously thereafter. It is a remardable parent who allows or even encourages a child set his own path, to operate with his own principles and ideals. No, this is discouraged most of the time.

And you can see society's reasoning. A homogeneous society operates for the good of the whole much more harmoniously without dissention.

But just as 6th and 7th chords embellish music, so does the nonconformist enliven a society. I think you're right, Des. Labeling our kids and directing their footsteps without encouraging individuality will ultimately produce a robotic society lacking color or diversity.


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At seven I don't think you're aware what sexual preference is, and I certainly don't think this kid is thinking along the same lines as his mother when he demands a copy of his idol's t-shirt and warbles 'I'm gay!' He might just as easily have said 'I'm an astronaut,' but then his mother wouldn't have got a series of contentious blog posts out of it.

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As far as I'm concerned, children often have bad judgement and aren't always the best at making good decisions. I think parents should step in and control what their children wear, at least up to the age where the kids have more rights (and more life experience) to do the right thing. I think wearing a "Likes Boys" T-shirt is insane at that age, because it's just gonna wave a red flag at hostile people and invite bullying -- either now or later. We aren't at the point in civilization where there's tolerance for everybody; we're getting there a little bit at a time, but we still have a long way to go.

I'm also opposed to young teenagers of either sex getting piercings or tattoos. To me, they have no right to do stuff like this until they're 18 and out of the house. I concede that some parents make an exception for earrings, and I don't necessarily hate that. But I see current crap like Honey Boo-Boo, and I just wanna wommit...

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Yes, I think the kid may have personality traits that others would identify or stereotype as gay, but he's not understanding the message on the shirt. He's emulating his hero on Glee, the same way I begged my mother for a sweater at Penney's that looked like the uniform worn by Will Robinson on Lost in Space. I think the mother is being too politically correct in indulging in her son's request on the t-shirt. The fashion statements in general, I don't have a problem with. I think it's great the boy wants to express himself creatively and he should be encouraged. I remember I definitely had feelings, tastes, traits, etc at that age that I can look back on and identify as "gay," though the concept was alien to me at the time. I was not unfamiliar with sex at that age, unfortunately, but I understood nothing of what was happening to me. The point being, children often exhibit traits that later can be seen as indications of their nascent orientation, but it can be very ambiguous at that point and not always indicative. So, let the boy wear whatever, unless it's going to result in obvious trouble, then gradually let him expand the envelope as he grows older and begins gaining experience. I tend to be pretty liberal on most issues (no! Really?) but on this, I think I'm erring on the side of caution. But, I don't want to stifle his creativity. Just be careful.

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...I am wondering if there is a difference in opinion on this between the younger awesome dudes and older awesome dudes? Thoughts?

So here's my response from someone on the younger side. When I was 7 I liked looking at boys and girls were yucky. Was it sexual? No. Did I call myself gay? No, but there was no Glee or The Big Bang Theory on TV. I didn't start hearing that word until probably the fourth grade (in a Catholic grammar school, no less). It didn't mean much until I switched to the public intermediate school in the sixth grade at 10 years old. That's when I connected liking to look at boys with "gay" and what it meant.

So, can a 7 year old be "gay" or not? It depends on how you define being gay. If you mean he likes looking at boys, there's nothing wrong with that. Try to apply sex or sexuality to a 7 year old is just wrong; a 7 year old doesn't think about sex or sexuality.

Just my opinion as a 22 year old.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I don't think the kid is necessarily gay. (Although, speaking as a former child, I can tell you I knew what I wanted at 6, and as I always say, I did the research in the library and figured out what this was by the time I was 11.)

But I think it's hard enough being a child today, being exposed to violence, bad attitudes, prejudices, and bullying, without increasing your chances for getting beaten up. I think wearing a shirt like this is a bad idea.

If you're out by 13, 14, whatever, and are in a reasonably safe community and exercise caution, maybe it'd be a different story. Even then, I think being gay in the world is another obstacle you have to overcome, just as being part of any minority. I think wearing any kind of weird clothes -- bizarre colors, hats, whatever -- might express your individuality, but it might also get your ass kicked on the bus ride home.

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I think most 7 year old boys like boys but in the context of 7 year olds, not an adults. These are completely different worlds. They are meant to be and there can only be confusion when the two meet.

Girls are like ewww... yuck! :sick: They don't like mud or bugs or snakes or anything cool. :tongue: They cry when the smelly neighborhood mutt-dog licks them. :cry: Girls don't even like to get dirty. :rolleyes: They don't like to fish or hunt or camp out and they look really funny when they're nekkid. :devlish:

I can easily believe that a 7 year old boy likes boys... in the way that all 7 year old boys like boys. :icon_geek::cat::icon_cat:

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Couldn't get into the adult section of the library until then. And believe me, I tried.

Once I did the research and read a bunch of medical and psychology books, the light went on and I thought, "ah. So this is what they call being homosexual. Got it." Trust me, this was not easy to figure out when you're a little kid in 1966. No Google back then. We had "analog Google," which meant a bus ride downtown to a big library, learning to use the Dewey Decimal System, and getting into the adult reference section. (Some things I don't forget.)

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Oh, man, Pecman. I hear ya. If only the kids (anyone under 30) could know what it was like in the prehistoric days before cell phones, the Internet, and personal computers! Books? What the hell is a book? Card catalogs? I remember a field trip to the Central Library downtown to learn how to use the card catalog. I also remember the raised eyebrows of certain, not very encouraging librarians when I wanted to expand my knowledge in certain areas! This led to me to going to B. Dalton in the Mall and slipping certain books under my shirt simply because I wanted to know what the hell was happening to me! Dear God, how did any of us gay boys survive the 60's and 70's?

I remember the Sunday afternoon in June 1969 that I heard on the radio in my grandparents' car the news report on NBC Monitor News on the Hour the report about homosexuals rioting in Greenwich Village and looking up the word "homosexual" in the dictionary. I write about this in one of my stories, but it really happened. Can a gay kid today imagine what it must have been like to hear what your were on the radio news?

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Once more I refer to my own experience as a 13 year old in 1957 searching for the meaning of the word, 'homosexual'.

The august remains of the colonial library and my journey of discovery in it, are described in my short story Definitions. I invite you to read it if you haven't already, as the story tries to show the differences between those days and today. I look back now with amazement that I survived, or had the gumption to do what I did back then without any knowledge or guidance, such as exists today. I can't say I was brave, or anything like that, just bloody-mindedly, determined.

Free Thinker please post a link to your story.

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Merle Miller's classic 1971 book On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual answered a lot of questions for me. It still took me a number of years to come out, but I think that helped a lot. The book just got reprinted in a 40th-anniversary edition, with a new introduction by noted gay columnist Dan Savage, and I hope people will re-read it and understand what a revolution that was, decades ago.

BTW, getting back to the original idea of whether a 7-year-old could be considered gay, I'm reminded of the opening to The Simpsons Movie a few years ago, where on a dare, Bart Simpson skateboards naked through the city. A not-too-bright character named Ralph Wiggum sees Bart streak by, and turns to the camera and says "I like boys now!" It brought down the house. I call that an example of a gay joke that's at least not insulting or stereotypical. And it does at least bring up the possibility that maybe a child could be gay.

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