Alex Blaze

Head start

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 15, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living

I teach English in elementary school, going around to several schools here in Paris and doing games and vocab flashcards and songs. It's to get the kids ahead for junior high, when they're really supposed to learn English. France is one of the worst, if not the worst, European country when it comes to English, and they're trying to give the kids a head start.

Anyway, kids are kids no matter where they are, and I confiscate notes all the time. Usually I put them in my back pocket so they don't dig it out of the trash and then throw them away in the metro. Every now and then I look at them, and here's one I picked up today in the third grade:


It says, "Go get sodomized. Get bent."

That's from third grade! I don't remember knowing what that even meant in third grade.

Then again, my elementary school was run by liberal hippies until my family moved to the Indianapolis suburbs when I was nine. I heard everyone calling everyone else "faggot," and I had no idea what that meant. Moving in and being the new kid, I had a lot to learn about the way Hoosiers did things, and that included new vocabulary.

I don't know when I actually understood the concept of anal sex, but I'd imagine it was much later. Even in Indiana, I was always hanging out with the nice kids, the ones who didn't have older siblings telling them what faggots were and giving them dirty magazines. The first time I had any sort of inkling that I was gay was around that time, watching a film strip in school that showed a man working without a shirt on, but I didn't really have any sort of framework, homophobic or otherwise, in which to understand that attraction.

Just this morning, we were playing a game in the fourth grade (vocab and sentence structure tic-tac-toe!), and one kid managed to piss off another (I don't know what happened), so the other kid started shouting, "T'es pédé. Non mais c'est vrai, il est pédé." (You're queer. No, really, he's queer.) I sent him to time-out, but technically I'm not supposed to speak French with the kids during class time and their teacher was otherwise occupied, so there wasn't much I could do to address the substance of the language.

It all seems like a young age for boys to be starting with homophobia, or at least it's much younger than when I first learned about it. I'm not saying the times they are achangin', because it's obvious to me that there were other kids when I was young who were introduced to homophobia before I was.

I'm trying to think back, and I don't know which I first learned about: that I was attracted to people of the same-sex or that others generally don't like people who are. Did I know homophobia or homosexuality first? It's a long time ago and kind of a blur.

But these kids, though, have a head start. They learn about homophobia in third grade. Heck, I may have started Spanish before they start English, but it's not like I hear that language every day as an adult.

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Eh? Gosh, all I remember from that age is having sex with a few older friends and Grand Ma's dog. Just teasing....maybe. :)

Seriously, do you think children these days are any different because of the influence of things like TV, the web and other mass communications or is it just that we all are more alert to what they are tuned into?

I remember being called 'faggot' in 7th grade as a general slur (1972). I definitely have no memory of anything like that in 3rd grade, but that was approximately when the mechanics of hetero sex spread through furtive conversations.

The irony today is that anti-gay folks can be credited for helping youth to be exposed at younger ages to the kind of gay panic that sends them to a dictionary or the internet to find answers to their questions.

OK, so kids may not be using dictionaries much these days, but I can imagine 3rd-grade me doing so!

I learned it was bad to be different first.

Personally I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of homosexuality - albeit from a heavily negative slant.

I remember having a vague idea of gay being bad before I even started school - and I didn't even know what gay meant - but I knew it was a bad thing. 'Queer' was a pretty common insult in primary school - but again, largely without me (or, I assume, my peers) knowing what it MEANT beyond that it was a bad thing.

Of course, that kind of meant I learned gay = bad long before I learned gay = me.

I was already hearing "marico" in Venezuela during elementary school (even in 1st grade) around the late 80's.

It's not something new.

sigh... the world can be a ROTTEN place!

Last week one of my 8th graders used "get bent" and when I glared at him he asked me what it meant. Luckily he used it during a private lesson and not during one of the ensemble lessons with a whole band so I didn't have to mete out a punishment to him. He does now understand not to say it.

The note you confiscated was rather tame by U.S. third-grade standards these days. My husband teaches third-grade in San Jose, CA, and the stuff he confiscates is rather more surprising: anatomically-correct drawings of copulating figures (gay and straight), blow jobs, and the like, and notes that show a pretty complete knowledge of the language of sex as it's expressed in the raunchiest of porn. "Where can he have learned that?" one parent asked. Gee, I wonder who could be modeling for him....