(Toronto, June 2, 2012); I’ve received a notification that this blog, My Words! has been blocked on a computer somewhere in the world by a parent using a new product from Microsoft called familysafety. This new product allows parents to monitor their kids’ computer use. It also gives parents a weekly report of sites visited by said kids and most importantly, gives parents the option to block any site thought to be inappropriate to look at by their computer-using, information seeking, curious offspring. So, the upshot is, the next time a certain young person tries to get access to this blog, she’ll get a notification: If your parent signs in and allows this webpage, you’ll be able to see it.
Interestingly, the other thing the product does is send a referral notice to the site being blocked. Nice feature: I’m sure it won’t last, unless it was designed to scare sites deemed undesirable into going offline. I’m not inclined to do that at the moment.
I’d like to know since when is my site not safe for families? Harumph! Well, ok. Maybe my site is not one to wander through for the under-18 crowd or a site to be visited in those countries and homes where the mere hint of the existence of homosexuals is denied and illegal and where people are jailed or killed for being homosexual.
On the other side of the fence, protecting kids from the bad in the world is part of what parents are supposed to do. I get it. There has always been a festering dark underworld walking lockstep with civilization and polite society. And humankind’s dark underbelly and deeds and horrors have always been available. Today they’re easily available on the internet. But it’s a different thing when a young person is curious about sexuality. I suppose sex and sexuality and sexual identity and sexual curiosity is tied up in oh, just about everything that parents are afraid of, wrapped up in cultural and religious sensitivities, blind spots and perhaps some superstitions and stupidity and denial. But I digress. My sympathies are with the child in this case. She’s been busted and I have a few assumptions based on the clues. Let me share them:
- The person who dropped into the site to look at a post about how to have a lesbian experience — which is in the Dumb Question of the Day section, meant to be cheeky rather than instructive — is a young woman still living at home with her parents, possibly curious about her sexuality or questioning it, or knows it, and is checking out lesbian sites on the internet.
- This young woman has not shared anything with her parents about what she’s thinking and feeling or wondering about with respect to her sexuality.
- There are some trust issues going on in that family.
- Her parents are not pleased. Maybe they are shocked and don’t know what to do. As often happens when people don’t know what to do, they fall into crisis mode and in crisis mode, all ability to be rational evaporates. Primitive, instinctual reactionary brain is activated and that means people take a combative, protective position. Which is fine when that’s what’s needed, but in this case a fight is not going to help anything or anyone. Besides, there’s no reason to fight.
- The parents aren’t interested in finding a caring route to navigate the situation and are reacting in a typical fashion — denying and punishing adolescent sexuality, denying access to information, not providing one iota of safety for this young woman — in other words, punishing her for trying to understand who she is or might be.
Goodness knows where in the world this is happening. There are so many places in the world — including everywhere in North America — where it’s not safe to be female, let alone safe to be a lesbian. It could be right here in Toronto, or as far away as New Zealand, China, or Indonesia. Or in a nondescript corner house somewhere in America. Wherever she is, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that good parenting sense and compassion prevails.
Parenting is tough. I can’t imagine what it’s like for parents in different cultures as waves of otherness enter their world through the internet, as the global human rights consciousness and sensibilities infiltrate and give young people a new language to express their feelings, words like lesbian, gay, bisexual, freedom. However, I do know the other side of it, what it was like with my parents and some of my friends’ parents and it wasn’t all that fun, ‘specially those of us who are immigrants, or who came from certain religious traditions. And so I empathize with that young woman who’s been found out by a parent unit or two — my heart goes out to her. I hope that she’ll have someone she can confide in after her parents have that conversation with her, if it is indeed a conversation and not a berating, a punishment, or worse.
For the young woman whose parents have made it so that she’ll never be able to visit this site again: I hope that whatever happens, she lands in a place that’s safe for her, where she isn’t alone, where she’s not ostracized by her family; where adults allow her to safely explore who she thinks she is, whether that’s straight, bent, or something altogether different so that she doesn’t have to hide who she is from anyone, including her family and herself.