As a Gay Parent...


Agreed. I tell stories about my daughter, and discuss being a gay parent, but intentionally putting a child up as a prop in order to get a video "gotcha" is wrong.

Again, just because the other side does it, doesn't make it right.
Ugh, saw this earlier & was gonna send it to you, Dan.

Don't make your kid be involved w/ your politics. Never a good idea. Agree with you 100 + 1%.
Agreed 10,000%.

I think the freedom from having to think about shit like Michelle Bachmann is one of the great things about childhood. If you're unnecessarily burdening your child with politics, you're being an asshole.
Yeah, seems to me that this will mainly be used as fuel by folks sympathetic to Bachmann's point of view. "They're USING their CHILDREN!" So, not sure why someone would do this. That said, Bachmann sure comes off as a creep in her reaction.
I never thought I'd defend Michelle Bachmann, but how the hell would you react to that? I'd have probably reacted similarly in the moment.
For some reason the "no honey not now, maybe later" line just warms the hell out of the jaded cockles of my heart. aww.
Agree! Our 16 year old saying she wouldn't vote for her because her public statements indicate she pro-second class citizenship and uneducated on most everything is different, she and her peers are discussing this amongst themselves.
Agreed, and it wasn't just like the kid said it, you could see his mom pushing the kid at Bachmann in the video. That woman should be ashamed of herself.
"Even if that eight-year-old kid wanted to do it, even if confronting Michele Bachmann was the kid's idea, even if the kid was excited about being in a YouTube video"

Well, that's the key isn't it. This was unbearably awkward precisely because that kid *didn't* seem like he wanted to do it and because the parent *did* seem like she was pushing him to. It would have been quite different if it had been his idea.
While I totally agree with you Dan, my desire to see Michelle's reaction to something so earth-shatteringly out of line with her (backward) worldview meant that I nearly tore myself in half waiting for the child to deliver the inevitable line.

Of course, another reason tactics like this are ineffective is that they just give the right wing more ammunition. "Converting your kids" and whatnot. Leftists owe it to themselves to allow children to make up their own minds- it's only ideologically consistent.

Then again, did you see her face? No trouble sleeping for this godless liberal tonight, no sir.
Why in the hell didn't the mother speak up for herself? What a coward you are, lady.
I agree. That gave me the creeps, especially watching the woman encourage him.
No, Ken @12, I'm feeling under the weather. I assure you, I'm prone to typos without running a fever though. Sorry for the errors.

I don't even like children and I find that pretty appalling.
Dan, I just saw this elsewhere and I felt sick about what happened so I came to your slog to feel better! Lo and behold you put my feeling into words. Children should never be used as pawns in our politics.
Yeah, that's not right.

On the other hand, if I ever randomly cross paths with the likes of her or Gallagher or some other random public bigot when I have my child with me, I reserve the right to say, quite loudly: "That is a bad, mean woman who wants to hurt your family!"
If I could direct your attention to "The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib," one of The Stranger's "2004's Scariest Halloween Costumes" by David Schmader and Dan Savage.
"No, little Billy, don't go talk to that creepy woman."
@20 - That was my reaction, too. Anyone should be afraid if Michele Bachmann says to them "What's that, dearie? I can't quite hear you. Why don't you step a little closer to me so I can see if you're fattening up."
Well, Lesbian Mom, it looks like you're well on your way to raising your kid so he can't wait to get away from home, just like a Real Mom. Congratulations, or something.

On the other hand, it kind of looks to me like, at the same time CrazyEyes realized what the kid was saying, she also realized that she was bent over a table. In front of at least one lesbian. And after walking in on one of Marcus's "therapy" sessions that one time, she knows what that means...
Yeah, this actually makes the anonymous parent look terrible for forcing her kid into this and Michelle Bachmann look kind of good for the effort she puts into trying to talk to the shy little boy.

This is the most unique article I have read in quite some time.
Thank you for presenting your points and providing this information.
I have learned something about this topic.
Unfortunately, that mother seems to be the equivalent of an internet comment troll. She prods her kid into a stunt like that, but then doesn't stick around to defend him or herself by quickly heading for the door. Have a well thought out argument and stick around for Bachman's response!
Using kids for political props puts you in the sewer/gutter with Nazi Barbie from Wasilla. It's awful.
@Kim, don't worry about that. If typos and mistaken syntax were a criminal offense I'd be doing time in jail for many many years... and, as John Lennon says, I'm not the only one.
Dan, you're not going to get any arguments from me about that, because I agree entirely with you.

We have a very intelligent and precocious 8-year-old daughter who just might be capable of doing something like that if she were American and were asked to. But being precocious and intelligent for an 8-year-old doesn't mean she understands what is at stake, and would be able to deal with the consequences (publicity, etc.). Waaay too soon, wait a little, maybe later.

I do see similar things happening more and more often, though. Haven't you seen parents taking small children to protests with the small children carrying some little poster with some message in support of the protest -- even though the child clearly looks too young to understand what it means?
Mature opinion.

I don't use kids as shields and you don't bring them to a gunfight.

Right, Occupy?

My 7 year old cousin told off a group of cat calling men turned homophobic jerks a few years back without prompting at a mall in my defense. She was as quiet and shy as this young man until one of them laughed at her and she, in a second grade kinda way, tore them a new one. I don't know this child nor this mother and so with hold judgment.
Agreed, Dan, on this one you got it right (contrary to the Giddy, Gay Amateur-Left).
@ Ankylosaur, thank you. I'm not worried. I was surprised by Ken's concern, as sweet as it was, as typos/syntax errors don't make me think someone is inebriated. I'm more inclined to think that someone is rushing or their smart phone has autocorrected.

I'm off to see if a double espresso will alter this headache of mine as sitting still is not an option today. :-)

Take care, friend.
I feel for the mom. She’s going to be skewered for this. She may feel embarrassed now, but in the moment couldn’t see how this was a mistake. Sure, it’s not cool, but the kid will get over it and forget about it… or not and he’ll laugh about it when he’s grown… or he’ll become bitter and resentful and grow to hate lesbians…

But probably he’ll get over it. If this is his most embarrassing-parent moment in life, he’s lucky. If not, he’s normal.
@28 Mr. Ank, you never make typos. I am in the Typo Hall Of Fame.

Okay, to Dan.

I am SICK of the shit I've been reading at Joe.My.God on this video. All of these genius queens who come out of the woodwork with their expertise in child development, the stories about how the knew they were gay when they were 5 years old, how a child using the term "fixed" in the context of a happenstance encounter with Michele Bachmann in a book store seems completely plausible, as if the kid has been gunning for some grass roots advocacy head-butting for, like, ages, how the kid is some kind of brainy tot who is going to grow up and be a godsend to the equality movement, and ton upon ton of similar bullshit.

Oh! And if you object, you're a "self-loathing homo". If you think using you infant child as a political battering ram is not a good thing, you're some kind of anti-movement kapo.

I found exactly *one* of the video cheerleaders who *claimed* to be a parent and the rest of them? I bet not one fucking one of them ever had to wipe the tears of a child who had been set up for ridicule by a teacher or had be savaged by a peer BECAUSE MOMMY OR DADDY is gay. This kid's mothers should be hissed and booed for pulling this shit.
The whole using kids in politics aside, I would simply not want a child of mine exposed to this woman, and definitely would not want to have a child enter her field of awareness. I would want to hide a child away from the awareness of people like her.

We keep kids away from stranger because they MIGHT be crazy. Why would anyone push their kid in front of someone they KNOW is crazy?
@9, @11 Ummm.... kids get cold feet. They might have an idea to say or do something, and then when it comes time to do it, freeze up. What I see in that video is the Mom thinking she has to encourage her child to be brave and do what he said he wanted to do. Yeah, it plays ugly, but I don't think the scenario was the Mom setting the kid out to do this. I do agree with Dan that it would have been far better for her to say no, not now, dear.

I have been attending a Hicksite Quaker meeting for a couple of years now. The kids attend Sunday school downstairs with some of the parents and volunteers while the rest of the adults meet upstairs. Everyone joins the meeting with about ten minutes to spare. The way Hicksite Quaker meetings work is that everyone sits in expectant, contemplative silence, and when someone is so moved, they deliver a brief "message," nominally an inspirational realization or focus. At the end of the hour, things shift to more mundane "afterthoughts," requests for prayers for loved ones, etc. To kick this period off, the kids are asked if anyone wants to announce what they did this morning.

Many times I've seen this happen: The kid is all smiling and clearly excited about standing up and telling what their group did that day, looks to her or his parent for encouragement, stands up, takes a deep breath, starts to speak, looks around the room at the friendly, smiling people paying attention, and then freezes up solid! The parental instinct is to rescue the kid, whisper in their ear, and then start speaking for the kid, hoping the kid will pipe up and fill in the rest.

I'm not saying that's what happened here, but it sure reminds me of it.
Oh, come on, Dan.

Honestly, there's not enough context in the video to really discern whether or not he was forced to say that. The kid looks like he's reacting like any other 8-year-old would do in the face of somebody "famous". I know I was the same way when I was that age.

It's nice that you point out Zach Wahls, and he's an eloquent young man, but that is a far different atmosphere that is much more generic and sterilized than this much more personal video.

You press that visibility is key in changing minds, and I agree. But other than the mom going up to Bachmann with her son and saying, "I am gay, and here is my son", there's really no other way for Bachmann to know who is gay, straight, or gay-ally.

It's great that you're concerned, Dan, but I'll repeat: the video doesn't give enough context - either way - into the motives and feelings of any of the involved. As far as we know, Ms. Bachmann could have remotely turned the electric egg on inside of Michele at that moment and that's why Michele got all bug-eyed.
@38: I agree we don't see enough to know with certainty but what is most telling to me is that the mom did a sort of "hit and run" with her kid in a way that strikes of cowardice. Do I know that? Of course not but hard to imagine she was not using her child as a prop and it certainly appears that she was not willing to be the adult and engage in discussion.

My kids are in a political hotbed. Fortunately for us, the community is progressive (my middle daughter's teacher launched our elementary school's LGBTQ History/Pride Month and there is no outcry, just support) and they are exposed to discussions on the Occupy Movement, Gay Rights, what it means to "come out" (she's had one friend come out to her already (hard to know whether this kid really knows what she is saying)). My point is - as political as our community is, and as much as I think involving kids in discourse (and not shielding them) is correct, using your kid as you might a sign is not unlike an anti-choice rally with kids wearing placards that say things like, "I'm a child not a choice" or "Thank God she did not abort me".
I dont think Dan's comments alluded to the idea that the kid was forced to say that. I believe the point is, we shouldn't "stoop to their level" to get a point across, or make emotional rather than logical appeals. Leading by example is always the superior choice.
@38. So, you're walking through a book store with your kid and see Bachmann and the first thing you want to do is send your kid up to articulate the very adult issue of sexual-orientation dignity by addressing the candidate about "fixing" daddy. Yeah. All 2nd graders are up on that gay advocacy dog whistle term. Oh! And you want to commemorate the moment with a video which you just can't wait to put online because you think he's cute - so that every schoolmate and teacher can get the clear message that your kid has two daddies. Never mind that you'll get your chance to wipe the kid's tear when he comes home crying and saying, "Daddy. Nobody likes me." You'll say, "Why? What happened." He'll say, "They call you bad names and they call me bad names."

"What bad names, son?"

"The call me a faggot, Daddy. What is that?

Okay. So go ahead and make your son stand up for himself. But remember, It's not himself he's standing up for. It's YOU he's standing up for. And YOU just made him into a media celebrity with your commemorative video so that EVERYBODY who want to get at YOU, like you kid's peers, their parents, and his teachers, know exactly how to get to you: through your son. Remember. You didn't HAVE TO put him into that position. You ENCOURAGED him to and praised him for doing it. Now you've got the REST of his years in school to do what he's doing for you - stand up for him. Aren't you glad you got the painful stuff going when he was a mere infant.

See, my husband and I went though this shit with our daughter whom we DIDN'T thrust into the media spotlight and after spending 10 years of fighting students, teachers and other parents who hated us, I can tell you that if you DELIBERATELY thrust your kid into an adult fight, you're no damn different that this sick pukes at Westboro Baptist whose children can't even play with kids in the neighborhood because nobody's parents will all their kids near them. You're just like the Palins who use their kids as props in politics. You kid loses the right to just be a kid and don't you ever forget it. In fact, if you are too proud to heed the words of advice from *actual* parents like Dan and myself, PLEASE don't ever consider having kids yourself.
As much as I despise Michelle Bachmann, I was sort of horrified when I first saw this. If you read in the comments section on YouTube, it appears that this was the kid's idea, and mom didn't put him up to it. That made me feel slightly better.

But I'm still with Dan on this. Sure, let the kid say what he want to say, if he wants. But don't pressure him, and don't post it all over the internets. A kid that age is too young to be used as a political pawn, regardless of the cause.
Ray_Harwick, I agree about the comments in the JMG thread. Not many of them are parents from their reactions.

Kim, I hope you're feeling better soon.

Take good care and be well, everyone.
If this really was the kid's idea, I'm ok with it. I just wish the video did a better job of showing it.

Parents shouldn't push their kids into politics, but they shouldn't stop kids from getting involved either.
The "maybe later" video is one of my favourite videos ever. It's so powerful it should change every bigot's mind.
@45 Oh, but it won't. Apparently, he was brain-washed...
You put it quite strongly, Mr Harwick, and yet the more I re-read your post the more I see myself agreeing with it. Sending a child into an adult discussion is at best only a cheap attempt at having an emotional impact (since the child can't possibly have any idea about what is at stake, or any real understanding of the intricacies of the topic), and at worst risky and borderline abusive.

And yet I understand the mom's intentions were perfectly good. I hope she doesn't take the criticism she got personally, as her heart is in the right place. And, who knows? Maybe there will be no big consequences for the child. Maybe it will just be one of those things that everybody forgets the next day.
I watched the video yest and was pretty surprised by feeling uncomfortable at the whole thing, given all the hoopla about "our tiniest activist".

I hate to be a lonely voice of dissent, but I disagree. I think the idea that there's a world in which children are somehow separate from the sphere of politics and that they should be allowed/encouraged to remain in that prelapsarian state (i.e. to remain "mere infants" well into their elementary years, as one commenter would have it) is utterly illusory. Children are the prime victims of our faulty politics. They are the most likely to go hungry when we apportion resources unfairly. They are the most likely to suffer when their parents lose health care because of a stupid job situation, or have to pick up lots of extra hours at work in order to keep the household together. Their futures are largely contingent upon whatever educational opportunities we see fit to afford them, via our public valuations of things like military spending vs. educational spending, valuations arrived at through our politics. There is no such thing as a child that is not utterly immersed in our politics, and whose existence is not deeply marked by them.

As for those who think kids should be able to 'make up their own minds' rather than being indoctrinated, do you think that parents shouldn't teach their kids that hitting is bad? That we should share? That we should be fair to others and listen to them? So that's not indoctrination, but saying that gay people don't need fixing is somehow different? There is no scientific consensus for any conclusion other than that "conversion" therapy is an utter sham that does far more harm than good. Why do we have to "teach the controversy", as it were?

This looks to me like a moment of political awakening for somebody who is young, but is possibly a lot more ethically mature than many adults I know. There is no magic line that we cross after which we are grown-ups who can participate politically without any worry as to manipulation (fox news, anyone? my parents are far more manipulated, more used-as-political-pawns, than this kid will ever be). We learn how to participate by participating. Seems like a fine first step to me. I bet he'll be quite proud of it when he's older.
Agree. A child wants to please his parents more than really understanding what they are saying or having a personal opinion that is their own. Using children as a political prop is wrong on both sides of any issue
Agreed, Dan, and I further appreciate you for calling attention to this. I think one of the biggest problems we face right now is when members of a similar movement sweep bad behavior under the rug. It makes everyone look like a hypocrite.

And that's not to further chastise the parents of this little boy. Their hearts were in the right place, they just should have found another way to get their message out.
I felt the same way when I saw it. It was a set up. It was actually what Bachman accuses the media of doing to her all the time. Difference was, this time it was true.
Thanks, Dan. I completely agree. It made me really uncomfortable too.
@49 -- So you would support the anti-abortion protesters who put duct tape over the mouths of little kids and parade them around in the street carrying pictures of dead babies?
I completely disagree with you, I thought it was plain that this boy wanted to say something like this but got an attack of the shys. At what age are we supposed to teach our kids to stand up for themselves and their families?
@54 I would support kids talking, and I think that's pretty clear in my post, and pretty clearly the opposite of having one's mouth duct-taped. Nice straw man.

Dan, thanks for posting this in your column. I saw the YouTube clip earlier today, and I thought EXACTLY the same thing as you. However, I'm heterosexual, and childless, so I figured my opinion on the matter was worthless.....or would be shot down. Thanks for confirming my own feelings on the matter. Clearly this was all prompted by the mother.

What I also did not like, is that as soon as he whispered into Bachmann's ear, the mom walked away with the child. That's no way to teach a child how to engage others. You don't just shout (or whisper) and walk away. You've got to stick around for the conversation.

Bad lessons taught all around.
Tough one. On one hand, it's not good to use your kid to further your agenda if the kid is not a willing party and it looks like he was not. On the other hand, Bachmann is the master manipulator and wouldn't flinch to use the same tactics herself or be OK with her supporters doing it. She certainly had no qualms handing out the boorish, disrespectful beat down of the GSA high school student who confronted her about marriage equality in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. I can't really defend the parent in this instance but part of me feels good that Bachmann had to suffer an uncomfortable and awkward moment.
Whether the boy wanted to say something or not, I think it's interesting the parent didn't seem to consider the near-certainty of Bachman taking it as a prompted speech. Bachman will more than likely tell this tale from that point of view, something along the lines of 'How sick and sad the gays/lesbians out there are using their own children to promote ....' etc. I think this entire scene, though well-intentioned, will ultimately backfire and I fear it will be just one more thing for 'them' to use against 'us.'
Is this different than Black children who were hosed/arrested/brutalized during the Civil Rights movement or the first of their race to attend public schools (Ruby Bridges, Little Rock Nine) and endure taunts/harassment?

Not sure if I'm as mad at the Mom as most of you.
Nothing like adding weight to the "yet another way the gays corrupt children" argument.
It's a tough issue we parents deal with. My little girl is too young to know her family is different and unique in our city.

Our family choice is somewhat restrictive: no newspaper or television stories about us; no activism events; we are even debating whether she should be briefly included in my IGB video, which should be a nonpolitical, noncontroversial charitable effort. On the other hand, we follow the Ghandi rule in public - we are being the change we want to see in the world and conduct ourselves in public just like any other family, without self-consciousness.

I support and am thankful for activism; it is necessary and important. But in my community, it is the actual reality of my family and our essential normality - even mundaneness - that changes people's minds. I'll never change Michele Bachmann's mind. But every month, sometimes every day, we are changing the grocery store checker's mind, the bank teller's, the lady's in the office next door, the nurses' at our pediatrician, and so on. And now, when some of these people hear politicians like Bachmann or Santorum warn of the gay menace, they think "That's not right. The family I know are just nice and normal people".

What do Zach Wahl, the Australian marriage video, and (in our own very small way) my family have in common? We work to dispel the untrue illusions of otherness those who would deny us rights impose on us. Our families are just like yours, our love is just like yours. There are lots of ways to get this across. I just don't think the tack taken or encouraged by this mother was consonent with either good parenting or effective advocacy.
But imagine the hypocrisy of someone like Sarah Palin telling us we are using our kids as props. You don't need to do their dirty work for them, Dan. Maybe you should just mind your own business and raise your own kids the way you see fit and let others worry about theirs.
But imagine the hypocrisy of someone like Sarah Palin accusing our side of using our kids as political props. No need to do their dirty work for them, Dan. Why don't you worry about raising your own kids and let this woman raise hers as she sees fit.
Not even that, but that kid is obviously a shy little boy. What kind of parent throws their timid kid into a situation like that? Especially when it's something that's not remotely necessary for educational purposes?

Oh right, shitty parents do that. I'm really curious if that mother makes it a habit to bully her son for being shy.
If my kid wants to say something, I don't stop them (though I may correct them afterwards if they say something busted). I think this is a really not big deal. I don't worry if my child's actions will blow up in my face, I support their autonomy, so long as they are being safe.

I went to a lutheran k-12 school with Harrison Bachmann, and I had to make Michele lasagna when she began her campaign (my mom told me to, I didn't know better) and I personally, would not put my child within 1000 feet of her, unless they personally requested that contact.

I do see how the mother was nudging her son to go ahead, and it is possible, I suppose, that this was all her idea, however as a mother of a very quiet and introspective child, I find that I have had to encourage him to do things he wants to do and is excited about, and I think this mother deserves the benefit of the doubt given to so many of the subjects of the podcast.
That, and making your kid kiss smelly Aunt Edna at Thanksgiving, are the same kind of wrong. Mommy doesn't need any gay-related fixing. She just needs to sit down and think about how her kid is going to learn to enforce his boundaries when she makes him do things that make him uncomfortable.
Also, it's probably bad for his health to be that close to Bachmann.
I also agree that pushing an 8 year old to say something is a bit much. At the same time, Michelle and others need to be confronted with the fact that there are real families with real children that they are hurting. We need to do more to showcase these families and explain how children are being hurt. A lot of people may not like gay people, but they don't want to hurt children and could be swayed that way.
If my kid wants to say something, I don't stop them (though I may correct them afterwards if they say something busted). I think this is a really not big deal. I don't worry if my child's actions will blow up in my face, I support their autonomy, so long as they are being safe.

I went to a lutheran k-12 school with Harrison Bachmann, and I had to make Michele lasagna when she began her campaign (my mom told me to, I didn't know better) and I personally, would not put my child within 1000 feet of her, unless they personally requested that contact.

I do see how the mother was nudging her son to go ahead, and it is possible, I suppose, that this was all her idea, however as a mother of a very quiet and introspective child, I find that I have had to encourage him to do things he wants to do and is excited about, and I think this mother deserves the benefit of the doubt given to so many of the subjects of the podcast.
While I wouldn't push my kid at Bachmann, I think raising your kid to be aware of politics and aware of their duty to participate in politics is part of normal parenting. There's no neutral position: if you raise a kid who knows nothing about politics, and never goes to protests, you're teaching your kid that politics isn't important, and that America's not about participatory democracy.

And even if I didn't feel that way, I do often feel that people who claim to be shocked that I brought my kids to the rally are really just using that as an excuse to try to get *me* to stay home, and to invalidate the whole idea of protest. If it's all young childless people, they say it's just teenage rebellion. If people with kids go, they say it's child abuse. If older people go, they'll find some other reason. My kids belong with me, learning what I think is important and how to do it.
From the YouTube comments:

I took the video. We were standing in line, and his mom was ready to leave because we didn't know what WE were going to say. When we turned to leave, Elijah grabbed her coat and pulled her back, telling her to stay cause he wanted to tell Michele something. If anything, it was the other way around. He just got stage fright-- and his mom wasn't going to let him back down, because he was going to regret it. Please vote up this comment so people can see this explanation/back story.
When do you all suppose is the proper time to teach kids that every person is a worthy person? "My mom is gay. She doesn't need fixing." To my ear, it was a human statement, not a political one. Some day down the road he's gonna need that same ability to talk about the PEOPLE he cares about. Best to start young. If he can stand up to the scary Ms. Bachmann, it's a great groundwork for standing up for himself later on. Not condoning, necessarily, just a different take.
@56(mentos), but I think you're missing the point. The idea is not that children are separate from politics (nobody can be 'safe from the effects of politics', of course; it affects us all) or that they can't have some understanding of the situation; it's that their understanding (at ages like 5, 6, 7, 8) is still too primitive. They don't know what they're doing. Mostly they think they're pleasing their parents, or that they're wearing a Snow White costume, or that they're helping Prince Charming defeat the dragon; but what actually is at stake usually goes way beyond them.

There may be some 8-year-olds who, like Jesus in the temple, are already capable of discussing grownup stuff with good understanding of what's at stake.

But that's not the norm. Usually what you can get from an 8-year-old is, at best, blind acceptance and soundbite repetition without anything beyond that.

So it is depressing to me to see a child being used (yes, used) to express opinions that are actually not his/her opinions, but his/her parents'. It's not that I want to keep them away from the sordid world of politics; it's that I don't think having them repeat soundbites in public is either convincing to other adults or actually helps educate the children in any way.

Just as having my daughter carefully copy and write equations with Hamiltonians in function spaces would help her understand quantum mechanics, or appreciate how good it is that Hermitian operators do have real eigenvalues (or else there would be no observables and thus no reality). No -- she would write the equations the same way she draws Cinderella or Snow White in her little sketch book. No deeper understanding, no nothing.

It's not that I think parents shouldn't explain to their children what they think is right and wrong. Of course they should. Of course we all educate/condition our children. But at that age they haven't been educated/conditioned enough to understand what it is their parents are making them say, so the whole thing is really a farce, enacted only because of the emotional impact it would have on other adults to see little children saying these things.

And that is not how I think things should be.
@72, what does that child think "gay" is, and what is "fixing"? Does she really think her mom doesn't need fixing, or is she repeating a formula her mom put in her mouth, without really understanding what it means? The way a parrot also would -- and the parrot could also be cute?

That's the entire point to me. Making a kid act like a parrot is, I think, slightly demeaning both to the kid and to the idea being parroted.

@71, thanks for that input. If things are indeed as this comment describes them... then I have nothing to criticize. There was no preparation, to parroting. That's what I wanted to know.

In this the entire thing is, in my opinion, completely OK and legitimate. If this comment is true, then I take back my previous statements about this specific case.
The kid looks uncomfortable in the video and it does seem like the mother was the one orchestrating the show...

Children of LGBT couples whether gay or straight, cisgendered or transgendered, will unfortunately bear some of the stigma our society attaches to LGBT people and families. And so I think it is good when these kids speak out in defense of LGBT families as being every bit as normal as monogamous, heterosexual families. When they are older -- when that is their choice. But it is not right to use a young kid as a political prop or to expose a kid needlessly to stress and stigma. Eventually these kids will have to confront the homophobic reality which exists in many parts of our society -- but it is not appropriate to willfully expose them at this age, when the kid doesn't even know what it means to be gay or to fix gayness. I mean, I don't think you should shelter children from real issues or sidestep those issues when children bring them up, but that doesn't mean you go out of your way to bring your children into adult issues and fights. Eventually they will find these issues out on their own. Let them be for a while innocent of such concerns.
@73, ankylosaur, thanks for your thoughtful comment but I don't think I'm missing the point at all, to the extent that there can be said to be a singular point emerging in this conversation; rather, I think we have a disagreement as to a factual matter. Is it possible for an eight year old to have the thought that gay people don't need fixing, the perspective to know the moral import of that thought, and the will to express it in an appropriate context? I think it's very possible, and in fact the most reasonable interpretation of the video in question. You seem to disagree, and to attribute the child's behavior to "parroting." I don't think you have to be god incarnate to know that gay people are treated unfairly and that it's wrong. It's a pretty simple concept, actually.

In general, this comment thread seems heavily colored by some unpleasant tendencies I've noticed more and more in the last ten years. The first is backseat parenting, or the tendency to tut-tut about how other parents are not as good as we are, are screwing up their kids, etc. This kind of chatter used to be seen as unseemly. I wish we were more critical of our own motives here.

The second is the desire, so apparent in many of these comments, to infantilize children who are at various stages of maturity. Despite plain evidence to the contrary and the ready availability thereof, so many people in this thread were ready to discount this kid's actions entirely and, in fact, to see him not as having acted at all. The video is of a boy doing something, and yet the conversation is about a parent doing something. I wish more of the people who are posting judgmental statements about this woman who they don't know would show this video to an eight year old and ask them what they see. I bet many of them would see a video of a kid doing something that was important to him. Wow, he must have horrible parents ...
@71 Thanks for posting that back story!
I was seven when I stood up in church and yelled at the preacher to stop lying to people; he made G*d seem hateful. That was the day we stopped being baptists, and became episcopalians. But yes, kids can feel powerfully about these issues, and if that child wanted to say that, stage-fright or no (and let's face it, Michelle IS scary!) I think he has the right. Good on him.
So with you on this ... when watching this, I was really upset that a parent would use their child like this.
@78 Wait a sec... I would have thought that sexuality was implicit at a time like that. I don't remember ever having to discuss my sexual orientation when I was trying to get laid. Normally, the object of your affections can assume that you are sexually oriented towards them.

You must be doing something wrong.
@77, I tend to disagree, judging by my own experience with an 8-year-old daughter. I am quite open with her and like to discuss all kinds of things, and I tell her all my opinions, sometimes beyond what I think she can understand exactly to gauge what she will get from what I say. And I can confirm that there are many things she doesn't understand, not because she "is stupid" but simply because she hasn't had enough experience yet.

It would be unfair to compare her to an 8-year-old child of a gay couple, because whatever she knows about gays at this point is solely from hearsay, while what an 8-year-old child of a gay couple would know a lot from personal experience. But here is a comparison.

We're an international couple -- me, Brazilian; wife, Russian (Ukrainian) -- living in a third country, the Netherlands. Our daughte rspeaks Portuguese, Russian, and Dutch. Since most of her classmates are either Dutch monolinguals or then speak some other combination of languages (usually Morroccan Arabic or Turkish), she is slightly 'odd', and she has already noticed that. At one point, about six months ago, she asked us why it was that she had two other languages that most people here don't understand. We talked about 'native languages' and 'our languages', and she then asked us 'what her (native) language' was. Given that she's growing up trilingual, hopefully equally competent in all three languages, we told her that: all three languages are yours.

There was no way we could get her to understand that. She kept insisting she had to have one language, that one of these three languages was her language, her legitimate language, while the others were like some extra school stuff she had had to learn. We explained in terms we thought an 8-year-old child could understand, but we only got puzzled looks from her. Apparently, she was not ready for this notion, and despite our attempts at explaining that a child could have three languages that are all equally hers, she couldn't grasp the concept. (Just like, I believe, she wouldn't understand poly relationships, even if we explained that sometimes prince charming can have two princesses, or Snow White two princes.)

Later on, a few weeks ago, talking to her again, I got the distinct impression she had finally understood what we meant. She said herself something like, 'it's like saying that you have two parents, a daddy and a mommy; they're both your parents, it's not like one is your real parent and the other is just a helper'.

Something had clicked, the notion of multilingualism had been assimilated and found a place in her brain. Now she gets it. Then she didn't.

My point was that it wasn't clear to me that this child had gotten that point already. It might be true, and it might not be. What you say about backseat parenting and people's tendencies to think children should always be raised their way, and if someone is doing it differently then they're spoiling the child, is true. Nevertheless, it is also true that some parents do bad things or demand things they shouldn't demand from their children ('Japanese mothers' and 'Jewish mothers' do exist). Believe me, I've seen some true examples.

So I was afraid this child was being used by their parents as a parrot. It turns out this wasn't the case, as @71 above reported; and I consequently take back what I said about this particular case. I respectfully submit, however, that it still remains true (just as true a fact of life as backseat parenting is) that some people do try to use their children as parrots for causes they (the children) don't understand (look at the Palins, for instance). Both things are bad.
Re: the "update" (i.e., @71), that completely changes the story of whether or not the mother used the kid as a prop and "forced" him to confront Bachmann. If the backstory is true, then rewatching the video makes it seem as though the mother was in a hurry-up-and-do-what-you-said-you-wanted-to-do-so-we-can-get-out-of-here mode rather than the do-what-we-rehhearsed-so-we-can-catch-the-bitch-on-tape that Savage paints. Just goes to show that we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Someone really needs to confirm or debunk this 'background' claim.

My own first reaction was to think that the kid looked scared sh*tless and the mother was pushy, but I couldn't help but loving Bachmann's stunned expression.
@83, ankylosaur, I do appreciate the depth of your answer. Still, I think the key here is what you point out at the start: "It would be unfair to compare [your daughter] to an 8-year-old child of a gay couple, because whatever she knows about gays at this point is solely from hearsay, while what an 8-year-old child of a gay couple would know a lot from personal experience." I think this is not only true but largely dispositive here. In other words, we need not worry about parrots or puppets or mimicry or indoctrination, because the particular 8-year-old in question has a very good, direct source of knowledge about what it is to be gay. He sees it every day. There's no reason his parents should be apologetic about that, or that anyone should attempt to delegitimize his agency in this because he was somehow tricked by his parents into thinking that they are human and deserve to be treated with respect, and they don't need to be cured of loving one another. My parents are straight and were in no particular rush to introduce the concept of homosexuality, but I remember knowing when I was four what gay meant. Having that knowledge, at that time, didn't cause me to become gay or torment me or confuse me. Why would it? There's no default position into which we're born wherein we would understand why guys would fall in love with girls but would balk at the information that guys can fall in love with guys. We may not understand at four, or at eight, what it means to fall in love, but we understand (if we are lucky) that our parents have a particular fondness for one another, and there are other couples in our lives like that too, and I can't see any reason why we would assume that all those couples have to be m-f. Only learning screwed-up politics would make us think that.

As far as your respectful submission that some people do use their kids, manipulate them, etc., sure. Of course that's true. I'm critical of the rush to judgment here, however, and of the general assumption, so prevalent among the commenters here (of all places), that the idea that two women might love each other and that it might be okay for them to do that is so radical, so otherworldly, so complex, and so innately adult in nature, that there's no way this kid could have an intuitive understanding of it and if he does understand it, it must be because of manipulation on the part of his parents. Nevermind the fact that the concept of heterosexuality, which is not intrinsically more complex than homosexuality, is ever-present in toys and media marketed to very young children (see the Disney film oeuvre for only one example). Your comment at 74 is therefore puzzling to me, as I have no idea why you think an 8-year-old would stumble when presented with the concept of "gay" and, frankly, it seems pretty naive to suppose that most third graders who haven't been raised in very structured religious communities don't know what gay means and probably know at least a few gay people. And in my opinion, it's the kids who are being raised in a bubble-verse in which there are no gay people who are being manipulated for political purposes. They're the ones for whom projects like IGB are so essential, because they are at a very high risk of suicide should they turn out to be queer.
@85, thanks for your comment -- I can feel how deeply you care about the topic, and you do say several things I hadn't thought of and that are worth thinking about. Still, I think some clarifications are needed here.

I do think an 8-year-old son of gay parents has a lot of first-hand information about the daily life in a gay household, in ways that other 8-year-olds don't. (My daughter, for instance, does know what gays are, but she still has a knee-jerk "that's-just-wrong!" reaction to it, apparently because it denies the 'Disney Princess' ethos of the phase she is now going through. We'll have to work on that later.)

But I don't think this means said 8-year-old understands what being gay is like, what it entails, especially in terms of their social situation. The best one could get is an understanding at the level of good-buy-bad-guy, Snow White vs. Evil Stepmother, Smurfs vs. Gargamel, which is an oversimplification. (Just as my daughter's concept of 'work' -- daddy and mommy sitting in front of their computers and writing stuff all day long -- is also clearly shallow.)

So, you see, it's not the concept of 'gay' itself -- married to someone of the same sex -- that is hard to understand; it's the social situation in which it is embedded that is more complicated, and that would make someone like Ms Bachmann difficult to explain, except by saying "she's Gargamel and the gays are the Smurfs". (In the same way, children do know 'heterosexuality' in the sense they know prince charming and Cinderella, Barbie and Ken, but they know nothing about the role it plays in society, or they do only in the primitive sense of knowing that 'everybody forms couples'.)

Of course, there are exceptions. There are some 8-year-olds who can learn the Declaration of Independence by heart and actually understand what it is about -- rather than just parroting the text. But considering the average level of 8-year-olds, that is not the way to bet.

So everything boils down to: what's the situation of that specific 8-year-old: what is the level of understanding he has of what he's saying? Does he think Ms Bachmann is the Evil Witch of the West who's trying to fix his moms? Or does it go beyond that?

What @71 above says suggests it does go beyond that. And in this case I have no problems.

I do agree with you, though, that one should not jump to conclusions and assume parents are manipulating their children into saying things that suit their agendas regardless of the children's understanding of what they're saying just because one sees a child saying something 'grown-up'. It's a reaction I wouldn't have had if the topic were anything else... but the topic was politics, and considering how emotion-laden and polarized, us-vs-them American politics are, I have to admit it's exactly the topic in which there is more chance more parents would manipulate their children into parroting opinions they don't understand. (The children used by anti-choicers in their anti-PP campaigns are an extreme example of that.) Still, you are right that people should not jump to conclusions.
@82 - you win the comeback of the day. I too have never had to discuss my sexuality or orientation when making the moves. As a rule I don't hit on the gender that doesn't make my dick hard!
@86 - I would argue that an 8 year old doesn't know what it's like to be straight and what it entails, especially in terms of their social situation either. My 9 year old thinks that making out (what he thinks sex is) is gross no matter what the orientation and he should at 9.
@86 and @88, sure, there are limits to what kids know about what straight and gay mean, especially as ankylosaur aptly points out @86, but they know enough to know when someone is being bullied for being different, and they may know better than we do because bullying is often a subject that is very much on their radar. I think my dispute is not so much with you, ankylosaur, as with the rush to judgment in this case, as well as the vague air of homophobia that is, to my mind, implicit in assuming that there's some sort of traumatic implantation, Freud-style, that's taken place here because this kid knows what gay means and has the cojones to stand up for his family. A lot of people who comment here would say that "gay rights are human rights" and that gay people have nothing to be ashamed of, but would apparently also imply that there's something wrong with gay parents that let their kids know that homophobia is real, and impacts their family. Would we scold immigrant parents for educating their kids about the rights of immigrants? I don't think so. In fact, I don't think we would even if the kids were citizens by birth, but were still disadvantaged by their parents' immigrant status. I think some people still carry some shame about being gay, and feel like it's wrong for this (presumably straight) boy to have this issue thrust upon him, as if it is coming from some external, highly-politicized place. To the extent that his family is politicized, it's politicized by people like Bachmann, who are bullies. He knows a bully when he sees one, and perhaps he knows that little guys, like the smurfs (sure, why not?), have to stick together when one of them is being bullied. I don't think he needs to know the roles heterosexuality and homosexuality play in society (do I know them? unclear how much knowledge is being called on here ...) to understand that sometimes people pick on outsiders in order to be popular with certain groups, which is exactly what's happening here.

At any rate, ankylosaur, it seems that we are largely in agreement. My beef is primarily with the many on this thread who have rushed to judgment, or who have implied that this kid should have been sheltered from the knowledge that his parents are queer and that some people bully queers, or who have said that his parents should have muzzled him in order to protect him from ... what, exactly? What is going to happen to this boy because he stuck up for his family? He's going to be scrutinized by some random youtube commenters? He'll be criticized? By who, except for those like the people on this very thread who would seek to take his voice away?
Just because the kid, like everyone else involved in that day's actions, needed a bit of encouragement to speak truth to power should not have any impact on one's ability to appreciate his actions. We perpetuate myths about the nature of activism that really serve to make it less accessible to the people who could stand to benefit the most from it. Like children, for instance. The NAACP and the Highlander Center and Septima Clark all "pushed" Rosa Parks to the front of that infamous bus and gave her the courage to 'sit' her ground when several less 'coached' black men seated near her lost their nerve and moved to the back of the bus. Maybe because the negroid race is inherently childlike and in need of such paternalistic guidance (undoubtedly some white folks at Highlander Folk School had put ideas in Septima Clark's head, and so that was just transferred to Rosa Parks from some paternalistic white person, by proxy).. or, maybe, just maybe, social activism does not occur in a vacuum! Maybe our moments of great strength in our convictions are more often the result of coordinated collective actions, or at least, a product of them. Perhaps we're not the rugged individualists that the myths of our nation would have us believe -- and perhaps such a trait is not a prerequisite in any young activist worthy of our admiration. We're ALL more vulnerable without others to support us. Perhaps especially so as children, but not inevitably or invariably as children... it's really axiomatic for us all: strength in numbers. We are social animals. This kid, and his family, are part of a consensus-based collective that is currently reinventing our world. Children are people too. At the Myrtle Beach General Assembly we don't decide that it is "ok" for 16 year olds to privately discuss politics with their friends, or that it is ok for only 18-year-olds to 'vote' in our assemblies. Rather, we listen. We respect all opinions and try to understand where they're coming from. It's a beautiful process, that involves beautiful people, in beautiful actions like this one that so many people are now discussing. Whether you have kids, or you ARE a kid... you can be an actor in history, and not just an observer commenting from the sidelines. This is the moment that you really didn't have to wait for, but it's here now anyway... So, call in sick to work, walk out of school, find a new #Occupation. We're occupying foreclosed homes today, we're shutting down ports next Monday, we're confronting EVERY politician that dares to idle in our path.... If you don't want a kid to have to do something that even a kid can clearly see needs to be done, then get out and do it yourself! #OccupyMB #OccupyMBSC #OccupyWallSt and #OccupyEVERYWHERE!
You know she's just gonna say the kid was put up to it. Nevertheless, it WAS amusing to watch Michelle's whole attitude towards him change from sweet kindergartener teacher to child who had just puked in the front seat of her Jaguar and peed in her Coach purse.
I have to disagree with anyone who maintains that an 8 year old would have to be fed this sentiment, particularly when the child has been raised in acceptance and support for what others might not consider the norm. This is a child raised in a household with at least one gay parent present, this is his reality, Children do not live in a bubble of isolation from the hard things in life. Children see and hear everything that happens in their world, whether we realie that they are absorbing all of the details or not.

My children have never been sheltered from the fact that their uncle is gay. He and his 'domestic partner' (recognized by the city of St Paul, but not by the state of Minnesota) have been fixtures in my childrens' lives. My youngest was 4 when she decided that she wanted to marry her girl cousin when she was older. I explained that cousins can't get married in most states, the other child's father (my sister's husband) scolded me for not taking the opportunity to reinforce the sin that is the gay lifestyle. He was faced down by the 4 year old and her 8 year old sister who were not going to stand for him saying bad things about their uncles. So I'm here to tell you, children as young as (and younger than) this little guy are aware of discrimination, and are certainly capable of articulating what they believe.
My son was born an activist. At age 4 he saved his allowance for over two months so that he could send $1.50 to the African National Congress to help get Nelson Mandela out of jail (and was quite pleased when it worked). He was the one who, at age 7, pushed us to mount a Charter of Rights challenge against the Ontario Child and Family Services act, resulting in children being able to have two legal mothers. He would have been a lot louder than Elijah, but I could see him doing the same thing and feeling empowered. I don't think any of this has scarred him (see recent photo from the Globe and Mail--it's the fourth pic…
@89(mentos), I do indeed think we're largely in agreement. I can for instance take a situation like the one catballou describes above (@92) as perfectly fine, precisely for the reasons catballou mentions.

As I said before, my reaction probably came first and foremost because of the topic: politics, something often so emotion-laden in America, and often so full of propaganda stunts which include using one's family members, willingly or not, to win emotional support for one's political agenda... If the little boy in question had approached a famous scientist during his school's science fair to say he likes science and wants to be a scientist, I wouldn't have reacted like that, even though I think the child probably doesn't know much about what science (or scientists) really is like. And that, mostly because I wouldn't have jumped to the conclusion that he did that just because his parents told/trained him to. But in politics, considering what one so often sees on TV, the idea of manipulation immediately captured my mind, especially since so many people (frankly, me included) would love to see Mrs Bachmann in an uncomfortable situation on TV.

All things considered, I'm OK with the situation now. Since it seems the mother didn't instigate anything, and the situation was actually similar to the one catballou describes above, kudos to the young boy for defending his mom.
I could not agree more. I think kids of all ages should be protected FROM people like Michelle Bachmann. This is a woman who has demonstrated time after time an unwillingness or inability to understand even the most basic fact based concepts, like dinasaurs DID live and roam the earth despite not being mentioned in the bible and that being gay is no more a choice than being straight is. Her obsession and disdain for all things gay and her "holier-than-thou" attitude towards parenting are not only annoying but have proven very detrimental to our youth. Nowhere is that more evident than our school district of Anoka-Hennepin. It's the mindset of Bachmann and her fellow psuedo-christians that is creating this divide and the thought that if we can just make her understand she will change is wasted energy. There are some people that no matter how much you try, regardless of the mountain of evidence you provide that is counter to their own thoughts....they're not going to get it...why? Because they are too invested in their position to be able to even consider anothers. We can all speculate as to why she's so dug in (doesn't take a rocket scientist) but to continue to waste breath and time on someone who's never going to budge makes that person or group look equally as obstinate. I think this mom's decision to have or allow her child to be that close to Michelle Bachman was a mistake, when you see the change in her eyes as she's looking at him is unsettling.....imagine how that sweet little boy felt knowing it was directed at him.
Mr Ank - Disney princesses? Oh, dear. You have all my sympathy. And here I'd have thought that a daughter of yours would be choosing between Oxford and Cambridge by now.

The thread as a whole is rather depressing - not quite sufficiently so to make me hope I have cancer, though.
Completely and totally disgree, which is terribly rare for me. I tend to either organically agree with Dan or take my cue from him on most LGBT-related matters, but it infuriates me to think that the person "using" this child to make a political point is anyone but Michelle Bachmann.

She openly attacks his family. Is it terrible that a child should be in a position to defend his family against a god-awful monster who looks and acts like a nice, sweet mom who just wants him to speak up? Yes it is. That little boy should never have had to speak those words to that woman.

But the person who "made" him and "used him is Bachmann. She created the reality in which he would ever think to do what this video records. Good for him for doing it. Good for him for being nervous, and doing it anyway. Good for his mom for letting him. Good for them for letting us see how awful it is.

Bad on Bachmann for forcing innocent children to defend their families against destructive hatred.
I disagree. Any situation where Michelle Bachmann is properly put in her place is a worthwhile event, and this boy isn't going to suffer because of it. I think it's wonderful that he stood up for his mom, and I believe he understood well enough that's what he was doing.
It is indeed your right to keep your child silent in the face of bigots. I would hope, though, that you would respect the rights of those who DON'T do that. As a minority (Black man) who was born in the 60's and lived in the South in the 1970's and 80's, I am PROUD that my parents taught me early to speak up against those who were preying on me. They respected those who stayed silent, but those people don't initiate change; the most they do is benefit from it if it ever happens. I was allowed to confront bigots when I was 6. That's the first time I remember doing it. At 6. In the 1960's.

It made me a stronger person. It allowed me to see myself as strong and not a victim of what they SAID about me. It made SOME of them shut up and even change their minds. I'm not saying it worked in droves and that most changed. I'm saying I stood up taller and was stronger for it. And I thank my parents for allowing me to do it. I'm proud of them for that.

So, please, feel free to feel uncomfortable about YOUR family doing this. That is your right. I would ask, though, that you PLEASE don't shed the light of your child-rearing methods on other families that teach their kids to stand up to bullies. You may be a gay parent, but that doesn't make yours the voice of any communities and you will- assuredly- be treated as such. By bigots, mostly.
It is indeed your right to keep your child silent in the face of bigots. I would hope, though, that you would respect the rights of those who DON'T do that. As a minority (Black man) who was born in the 60's and lived in the South in the 1970's and 80's, I am PROUD that my parents taught me early to speak up against those who were preying on me. They respected those who stayed silent, but those people don't initiate change; the most they do is benefit from it if it ever happens. I was allowed to confront bigots when I was 6. That's the first time I remember doing it. At 6. In the 1960's.

It made me a stronger person. It allowed me to see myself as strong and not a victim of what they SAID about me. It made SOME of them shut up and even change their minds. I'm not saying it worked in droves and that most changed. I'm saying I stood up taller and was stronger for it. And I thank my parents for allowing me to do it. I'm proud of them for that.

So, please, feel free to feel uncomfortable about YOUR family doing this. That is your right. I would ask, though, that you PLEASE don't shed the light of your child-rearing methods on other families that teach their kids to stand up to bullies. You may be a gay parent, but that doesn't make yours the voice of any communities and you will- assuredly- be treated as such. By bigots, mostly.
Sorry for the double post. New here.
I agree 100%. NEVER involve your kids with your politics. We are not the right wing, using children as a wedge. We are better than that. SHAME on that child's parents.
I have an idea: why don't you all raise your kids the way you see fit and keep the judgments to yourself. As soon as Michele Bachmann starts saying how wrong it is to use your children for political purposes, we can easily point out her 23 foster kids and any number of Palin brood appearances, but now they will have Dan's quotes to throw up in our face. Thanks, Dan.