I’m going out on a limb here, testing the waters to see if issues like this can be talked about rationally without starting a fight. I wish to offend no one, just to start a different sort of conversation about this—a clinical discussion.
I’m talking about the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida. Do I think promulgating this law was politically motivated? Absolutely, shamefully so. But—and this is a big but—there is some truth to the law. Please let me explain.
I worked for 37 years as a clinical social worker. During that time, I worked with thousands of children and their families. In my training, we were taught that all human beings go through psychological “stages” as they mature. Those stages have different names depending on which authority you consult, but they all look at the developmental tasks children must complete in their growth. Children from Kindergarten through grade 3 are focusing on relationships—learning to share, building empathy—and also learning foundational skills in reading, writing, mathematics, etc.
One school of thought refers to this period as “latency,” a time when sexuality takes a back seat to these other skills. Of course, children are “sexual beings” from the beginning of their lives, but sex isn’t the focus at this time. Certainly, they may occasionally “play doctor” or ask “where babies come from,” but good parents give brief, child-friendly answers and direct them back to other activities.
Sexual abuse at this time of life is particularly harmful because it pushes the child out of “latency” and “sexualizes” them—sex becomes the focus of their thoughts and behaviors. They may abuse other children as they were abused. Interpersonal relationships suffer. Academic skills falter.
Please understand: I’m not claiming that teaching these very young children in school about LGBTQ matters is abusive, only that it’s too early for them to process it, and it poses a risk of making sex a focus of their lives when there are other issues that need their attention.
I don’t mean to offend my gay, lesbian, transgender brothers and sisters. And I wholeheartedly celebrate diversity in our society and equality under the law. I just have doubts that teaching Kindergartners in school about these things is the way to go. I would love to hear back from some child psychologists and psychiatrists to fact-check whether I’m making any sense or not.