Take a trip down memory lane to your childhood, often blissfully ignorant, but equally as often fraught with confusion, as you are socialized for the purpose of one day joining the world of adults.
I took a trip down memory lane last Friday night. I willingly gave up one of my weekend evenings to chaperone a dance for nine to 12-year-olds at a northwest community centre.
The night confirmed my beliefs that I never want children of my own, and that the music nine to 12-year-olds listen to is really, really bad. But, I observed something new that night, I learned about heterosexual privilege, and how children are taught to accept heterosexuality as the only acceptable form of sexuality. I observed the way that a climate of intolerance is perpetuated into adulthood through socialization of children.
I witnessed a "snowball dance", an early childhood lesson in acceptable sexuality.
The snowball dance works like this: the kids are lined up, boys on one side of the room, girls on the other. A boy/girl couple dances in the middle, and each time someone yells "snowball" its time to grab a new partner from the wall, thus expanding the dance to more and more opposite sex couples.
It was obvious that the majority of the children had no inclination to dance in a coupled-up pair. They were shy, nervous, and reluctant to participate in this "fun" activity, despite the persistent urging of event organizers.
Given the reaction of the children, this event seemed quite ridiculous; what ever happened to gender neutral activities like the chicken dance, or a limbo contest? Still, the snowball dance was not questioned, all of the kids knew what they were supposed to do, and knew their place on their respective wall.
Kids pick up on new ideas faster than the rest of us. Elementary school focuses on academics, but an even larger part of the whole process of childhood education is teaching children how to conform so they can one day make the transition to become a "normal" contributing member of society.
After witnessing this enforced heterosexuality, it is no wonder there is such intolerance for homosexuality in our culture. It's enforced again and again as soon as children enter school: heterosexuality is the way to go, and there is absolutely no space for any deviance from heterosexuality.
In light of the homosexual marriages debate that rages on, it's easy to see where strong proponents of the "no" side get their opinions; it's what they've been taught from childhood. Heterosexuality is the only thing they know, and challenging those highly ingrained notions of what is right and wrong is difficult, if not nearly impossible.
As long as we continue to teach children that there is only one "normal" way to interact with the opposite sex, the cycle of intolerance will continue.