Every once in a while, a viral post about a father, stay-at-home or otherwise, who leaves cute and/or funny post-it notes around the house and takes photos of them to document his thoughts on raising a child and being married, will start circulating the internet. Everyone who sees it fawns at how cute and comedic it is, parents will comment on how relatable his feelings are, but these few viral stories have always kind of had an uncomfortable vibe for some readers, especially for people who are gender, romantic, or sexual minorities. For many, these post-its are light-hearted and funny, but for others these sets of photos reflect the deeply ingrained, problematic worldview that many heterosexual, cisgender people (“cisgender” being a term that simply means “not transgender”) have as parents that have a definite negative impact in our society.
They are just little things, seemingly harmless, and for most people they may mean nothing, but for the people these words and thoughts affect they can cause serious psychological or emotional damage. That tends to be the case most of the time for things like this.
For example, these viral post-it notes show how natural it is for straight, cisgender parents to assume heteronormative and cisnormative views of their children at an age that there is no possible way for gender expression or sexual preferences to have surfaced in any way. For instance, one of the post-it notes in the set has a comment suggestive of oral sex, and the father immediately implies that his son will be receiving oral sex from a woman at some point in the future, or even pressuring a woman to give him oral sex, which is a whole different level of problematic.
Another post-it note talks about how funny it will be to the father when his son’s first crush is a girl named “Katniss.” Both of these cases bring up a major problem in that the father is assuming the sexual preferences of his son and imposing norms before his son could even possibly understand them for himself. It is a little more understandable with children who are slightly older; some kids show a clear preference toward a particular gender at an age as early as 4-years-old, but some kids do not.
Assuming the gender and sexuality of a child based on their self-expression at a young age is probably fine, as long as the parents do not go out of their way to “correct” behavior they deem “wrong” for the child’s assigned gender. Like most everything in the world, this isn’t something that can be explained with a blanket statement and must be looked at on a case-by-case basis. However, the problem with the post-it notes is that they reflect just how narrow the worldview of many parents may be.
Openly talking about how you inherently expect your male child to have a girlfriend and be masculine at this age is likely harmless, but may instigate many very painful psychological hurdles that may take years, even decades, for the child to come to terms with. These fathers are already setting up their children to think of themselves as a disappointment if they do not turn out to be heterosexual and cisgendered when they get older. Even in an extremely loving environment there is genuine fear in the hearts and minds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and otherwise non-heterosexual people when the time comes for them to come out of the closet. The fear is worse with trans people.
There is a fundamental lack of consideration for the possibility that a child may not be heterosexual and/or may be transgender among heterosexual, cisgender parents. This lack of consideration breeds fear, doubt, and self-loathing in their children if and when they do not line up with what their parents have told them their entire lives is the inherently correct way to be – you are born with a penis and testes therefore you MUST be a boy and you MUST be attracted to girls; you are born with a vulva and ovaries therefore you MUST be a girl, and you MUST be attracted to boys. Anything else is wrong. There is a very basic lesson that seems to be ignored here: the things parents say affect how their children’s minds develop. This problematic worldview reflected in these viral post-it notes is one of the biggest hurdles for queer people, and it is a problem that only straight people can solve by changing the way they view the world and applying that change to how they treat their children.
Opinion by Robin Syrenne