Social Issues: Nuanced Language

Recently in the Washington Post, Sally Kohn published an OpEd piece where she stated that because she is gay, she hoped her young daughter would grow up to be gay. At first glance, it may not have seemed to be that big a deal for a mother to write about her child. However, it sets a double standard that seems to be predicated on misperceptions and projections.

She wrote that one of her friends questioned her assertion and Sally Kohn projected her interpretation of the question instead of clarifying the question with her friend. She took it to mean that her friend meant it was easier to be straight in a homophobic culture.

Don't You Want Her To Be Happy
So what is the homophobic culture?

It’s the culture where standards are implied through multiple mediums such as broadcast and print media resulting in a person who is not part of the norm feeling that they are an outsider in society.

It’s been argued that with the majority of representations in television, film, theater, novels, et al being heterosexual, that this creates a cultural homophobia. According to the 2010 United States Census nearly 4 percent of Americans identified as being LGBT (1.7% identified as lesbian or gay, 1.8% identified as being bisexual, and 0.3% identified as being transgendered). If art is a true reflection of society, then it stands to reason that heterosexual situations will be more prevalent.

That doesn’t mean that we are living in a homophobic culture, however, it may still feel that way to some.

According to GLAAD’s own report on the 2014-2015 cable and television networks, cable and television shows accurately reflect society.

Is it as accurate when it comes to racial representation?


The racial majority are whites (77.7 percent) followed by Hispanics and Latino Americans (17.1 percent), African Americans (13.2 percent) according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so racial representation isn’t accurate except in the case of African Americans.   In other words, the homophobic culture to which Sally Kohn refers isn’t as overbearing as she may feel it is.

There are four ways to challenge and change other people’s beliefs and perceptions according to studies conducted by reputable scientists and researchers.  You do this by way of conversational maxims:

Quantity: Information is complete and full.
Quality: Information is truthful and accurate.
Relation: Information is relevant to the conversation.
Manner: Information is expressed in an easy-to-understand way and supported by non-verbal actions.

Society is at a point where all four conversational maxims are engaged with regards to sexuality regardless of what sexuality is being discussed, represented, or presented.

What’s my point? My point is that while Sally Kohn – as do all parents – has dreams and wishes for her child, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, some of the comments Ms. Kohn wrote in her OpEd piece do her own child a great disservice and negates how her child has integrated her mother’s message into her world view.

Isn’t it more important to help our children cultivate a positive non-judgmental world view instead of pressing the importance of being heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual or any other -sexual that hasn’t been mentioned?

Yes, the world is nuanced, however, should that mean that the best way to offset those nuances that other nuances should be thrown into the mix? Is it not best to offset those nuances with a more natural, straight forward approach that doesn’t mirror those other nuances?

And let’s not assume that when someone asks, “Don’t you want your child to be happy?” that they are marginalizing or negating your sexuality. In the end, a happy child is what really matters, don’t you agree?

Elyse Bruce


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