"I don't want to enroll my son in dance class because I'm scared/worried/convinced it will make him gay." We've all heard some variation on this one, right?
Someone we'd never expect to hear it from: television personality and Hollywood gossip columnist Perez Hilton.
Wait, you might be saying. Isn't he gay? Yes. Which makes this whole thing even weirder.
On a recent episode of his podcast, Hilton stirred controversy by stating that he would prefer his five-year-old son to be straight, and therefore would not be enrolling him in dance classes, because in his experience, the majority of men attracted to dance and dance-related professions are gay. He did so while emphasizing that he believes himself to have been born gay.
He posted a YouTube video on Sunday to clarify his statements. But if anything, Hilton has only dug himself a deeper hole.
Let's break this down, shall we?
Whether or not you agree with his statement that he would prefer if his son grew up to be a straight man, his logic does track: Members of the LGBTQ+ community do face difficulties that their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts do not. Not wanting your child to have to face harassment and discrimination over their gender identity or sexual orientation is an understandable sentiment.
We start running into issues when he begins using this as a reason to not enroll his son in dance class.
Are there gay men in dance? Yes. Did dancing make them that way? No.
Sexual orientation is already determined at birth—a statement with which Hilton clearly agrees. Therefore, whether or not a child is enrolled in an activity which stereotypically attracts homosexual men should have no impact on that child's sexual orientation. To state otherwise is a flabbergasting bit of mental gymnastics that only serves to reinforce stigmas around LGBTQ+ communities and tired, frustrating stereotypes about men who dance.
There are gay and straight men (and women!) in dance, as well as individuals who are bisexual, asexual, gender nonconforming, transgender...I could go on, but the point is that their identities are not a result of their dancing.
Enrolling your child in dance class will not make them gay. What it will make them is a person equipped with problem-solving skills, grit, discipline, resilience, the ability to grow from mistakes and so many other traits whose benefits stretch beyond the studio.
But here's one more: empathy. I think we can all agree that it's something the world can use more of, especially if we want to see less discrimination and harassment over people's identities.