A child’s worldview is primarily shaped by the people, media and peers he or she encounters on a day to day basis. The mind of a child is much like a sponge, soaking up much if not all of what it encounters.
In a world that is interconnected by various mediums of instant communication, children of the modern demographic cohort have minds that are exposed to a very broad variety of opinions and viewpoints from around the globe. This fact means that moreso than any prior generation, children are being forced to reconcile familial beliefs and outlooks with that of peers and worldwide people they may encounter via YouTube, Facebook, Myspace and varying television, music and movie media.
It is not uncommon for children to have opinions that differ from their parents, especially during the rebellion-prone teenage years. However, there is a sharply pronounced incidence of concerned parents who seek counseling due to their children asking about subjects that before, would not be something expected to concern an elementary school-aged child.
One of these points of concern is that of homosexuality. Counselors nationwide report similar: more children are asking about homosexuality and what it means. These conversations can be both shocking and upsetting for parents. How do today’s children view homosexuals? What does that word mean to them?
To analyze this question, I performed a general survey of 17 students from three local elementary schools with a sample population 234 total students. Of this sample group, 9 students received consent to participate in the random survey methods of this assay.
Each participant in this study was given an array of crayons, a sheet of white paper and asked to draw what they think of when they hear “homosexual person”. Here are several of the more intriguing findings from this case study:
1. Joshua, Age 7
Joshua is a seven-year old from the first school. His classroom includes both kindergarten students as well as first-grade students.
Joshua’s parents indentify as Republican and described Joshua’s religious upbringing as non-denominational Christian. His parents also do not agree with gay marriage and indicated that they have never directly discussed issues of sexuality with Joshua, though reinforce American gender standards that are expected from boys of Joshua’s age (e.g., sports, Boys Scouts, family outings).
Joshua is an only child whose father is an analyst for a railroad transportation company and his mother is a nurse. Here is what Joshua drew when asked, “Draw what you think about when you hear “homosexual”.”
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In Joshua’s analyzation, we see already he has found a distinct difference between ‘normal’ people and what he terms a ‘faggot’, indicating a social term he has learned to describe people who live homosexual lifestyles.
Joshua views the normal person as non-interested in him. The normal person, a male, walks by Joshua without wanting an encounter. The normal person has hands in pocket and is walking forward. Notice the scenery. It is very bright and normal, how a carefree child should see the world.
Contrast this image with that of the ‘faggot’. Joshua has opted to use pink to show how homosexuals defy normative societal expectations, especially in the realm of elementary school where a boy wearing a large amount of pink may be chastised.
Notice how the homosexual is looking at Joshua and is trying to get his attention. Joshua feels threatened by the homosexual, as indicated by the dark, ominous clouds that loom around this person who smiles, yet is out of place with Joshua’s worldview. Joshua has a latent, hidden fear of homosexuals taking interest in him.
Look at the demonic skull with red eyes that are next to the homosexual. This indicates that a homosexual experience may have already fallen upon this child, one where his heart and brain enter a flight or fight response when a trigger is activated. It is also to note that Joshua’s teacher is a male with feminine tendency.
2. Lisa, Age 5
Lisa is a five-year-old kindergarten student from an upper-middle class family. Her father is employed by the state government and her mother is a stay-at-home mom.
Lisa has 2 older brothers and one younger sister. Lisa’s father identified political affiliation as Republican, while Lisa’s mother listed no political affiliation.
This child’s father is ‘strongly opposed’ to gay marriage, while Lisa’s mother feels gay marriage is fine for society, in time. Lisa’s mother also feels children should be aware of gay issues when they reach the appropriate age.
Lisa’s family is Catholic. When Lisa was instructed, ‘Draw what you think of when you hear the world “homosexual”, this was her response:
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Lisa opts to draw a homosexual encountering her, suggesting that she is aware of how people who are gay may defy normative gender roles for society. Lisa has chosen the color of pink to signify the homosexual male’s affinity for such dainty hues of red.
What is very interesting is that Lisa’s clothing is feminine, yet masculine. Note how Lisa puts herself in blue clothing, something that a male may be more prone to wear; this contrasts with the homosexuals pink, feminine clothing. Lisa’s clothing has a very straight-forward air to it, meaning that she is putting herself in a limited role reversal.
This image shows a child who is comfortable with homosexuals, most likely influenced by the mother’s outlook on the lifestyle. From analyzation of this drawing, Lisa is already considering a more ‘lesbian’ or ‘male’ persona for herself.
Lesbian thoughts can be the result of parents who do not strictly enforce stringent gender roles for their daughters.
3. K’mal, Age 6
K’mal is an African-American child who is six-years-old. He is raised in a single parent household, that of his mother who is a secretary.
K’mal’s mother identifies herself as a Democrat and lists her family religion as Missionary Baptist. She has raised her son, the oldest of two boys, since his father passed away from cardiac arrest.
This child’s mother is strongly against homosexuality and in elaboration, detailed how she regularly warns her boys about dangers she feels they may encounter: gang violence, drug violence and ‘child snatchers’.
K’mals mother also mentions she has never directly spoken to her boys about homosexuality, thought from their day-t0-day talk they know what the lifestyle generally entails. Here is what K’mal drew when instructed, “Draw what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘homosexual’.”
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K’mal has equated a child abductor with homosexuals. Again, we see this child associates gay men with the color pink. This child’s gay has also baked a plate of cookies in order to trick and cajole K’mal into coming closer to him, akin to parental warnings of strangers who use candy and puppies to lure children to a horrifying fate.
This child labels the homosexual ‘not mother’, showing that he recognizes and identifies homosexuals as a threat from who his mother would warn him to run away.
K’mal has been raised to be safe and this drawing reveals a mix of viewpoints shaped by peers and media, but an overall survival instinct that will kick in if he is encountered by a homosexual. This trait was implanted by his mother via nurture.
4. Malice, Age 7
Malice is the child of two parents who are without political affiliation and identify religiously as Pagan/Wiccan.
Of all children interviewed, Malice was an outlier in terms of personal fashion and habits. Malice wore very dark clothing and did curse several times during interview.
This child’s parents are upper-middle class, with his father being a family practitioner and his mother an artist and business owner. Both parents are indifferent toward gay marriage and allow their child to ‘form his own opinions in time’ about the issue at hand.
When Malice was asked to draw a homosexual, this is what he produced:
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Malice uses a pink dragon to indentify the homosexual, from flame-tip to claw-tip. This matches an over-arching theme of children interviewed (7 of 9 cases) using pink to denote a male who is homosexual.
Of note, Malice had a strong interest in dragons,with his dark t-shirt being adorned with a dragon design.
Results and Interpretation
Children as young as five-years-old are aware of homosexuality, regardless if their parents have discussed the issue with them or not.
Likely due to peer influence at school, children associate gay males with the color pink. In society at large, this association seems to remain through adulthood.
Mothers seem to hold strong influence on how children will perceive homosexuals. In 3 cases, mothers did not extensively warn their children (male or female) about extensive dangers or of being attacked by a stranger. All three of these children, including Lisa, drew pictures of themselves engaged with a gay person, as a friend.
Children whose parents both made them aware various threats of being abducted and from homes that do not condone gay lifestyles have children who see homosexuals as a menacing threat.
This study ultimately shows that children raised in a normal environment will tend to see homosexuals as 1) interested in children 2) wearing clothing that does not fit the norm for a male 3) a danger that is no different than a malicious stranger or equal threat.