I believe that despite the changing world and how frustrating it is that people can not be accepting of homosexuality, it is not my place to push acceptance on others. While I believe that early childhood centers should NOT avoid the inclusion of books depicting gay or lesbian individuals such as same-sex partnered families, I also believe that if a family whose child is in the centers care does not want those books available to their children, it is my job to honor the wishes of those families. Families may have their own reasons for keeping such books away from their children and it is not always that they are unwilling to accept it. In these instances I do not believe that I should question or dishonor the requests of the child’s parents. I would simply respond to parents by telling them that at our center we are open to all walks of life and family units, therefore I will not remove the books from the center but that I will not make them available to their child to honor their wishes.
My personal experience with homophobic terms involves my father and my son. My father seems to think that gelling my sons hair into a little faux-hawk or dressing him in nice clothes makes him a sissy. He will make comments at him such as “why does your mother do that you your hair?” and “you should just be wearing t-shirts and jeans!” My son didn’t like his hands to be dirty when he was little. My father would say, “Be a boy and wipe the dirt on your jeans!” when my son would ask for his hands to be wiped off. I recall one day when he was tossing a ball to Cole outside at my sister’s house, although “tossing” probably is not the correct word. He was actually throwing it too hard to a two year old. Cole got hit with the ball and started to cry. My dad told him to “stop being a sissy”. I directly related these comments to my fathers homophobia (I hate that word! No one is scared of gay people!). Although I don’t recall ever actually hearing this myself out of my father’s mouth, his actions are clearly shouting that he is “afraid I’m turning my son gay” by encouraging him to wipe his hands on a towel instead of his clothes, by dressing him in cute clothes, and putting a tie on him at holidays (Yes, he comments on those too!). This influences my child as it started at age 2. He is now 4 and I am very lucky that my responses to my father when he would make comments like this echoed the way I wanted to my son. Instead of internalizing his grandfather’s criticisms as something being wrong with him, he tells me that “Grandpa is grumpy” and views it as exactly what it is- his grandfathers issues.
How would I respond to a parent/family member who informed me they did not want anyone who is perceived (or self-reported) homosexual or transgender to be caring for, educating, and/or interacting with their child? To be honest, I think the only thing that I could say would be again that I respect their wishes and objections but that at my center I treat all employees with equality and that if they objected to the personal life of any of my employees it would be them who would need to find a new center for their child to attend. I would not make adjustments at the expense of my employees and their personal lives.