I was 12 when I had a fight with a boy in my 'gully', who I used to play cricket with. When he was running away after our little 'disagreement', he called me 'chhakke' and ran as fast as he could.
I just stood there, puzzled, with my cricket bat in my hand, thinking why would someone call me a score and expect me to feel insulted. (In India, hitting a six in cricket is often called 'chhakka', plural 'chhakke').
I went home confused. My mother was in the kitchen, making 'roti'. I went up to her and asked what does 'chhakka' meant. She fell silent. I asked her again. It was as if someone hit pause on her. She completely ignored the question.
It was weird for me to see her like that. I went to my room thinking that it must mean something awful. Next day, I got to know the real meaning from my friend at school (or whatever his understanding of 'chhakke' was at that time).
I was so angry back then. Now, I know better.
I was reading newspaper today when something triggered this memory inside me and it got me thinking.
Wait. Why? What's the need? Isn't it for grown ups? Like politics?
Errr…. No. Let's talk about it.
I feel that sexuality shaming and gender discrimination begins in childhood (If you disagree, start reading this post again). If kids are scared of trans people or disgusted by gays or bisexuals, they are likely to remain that way. Talking about it is taboo at home, at schools, and society in general. The only reference children get about gender identity and sexuality today is from abusive slang.
Growing up, it felt like 'kinnar', 'hijra', 'chhakka' are just profanities you blast out at your enemies.
So, to answer why do we need to explain sexual orientations and gender identity to children, it is because being Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual or Transgender or anything else is not an insult, it's just normal. Our children need to know about it as much as they need to know about straight sexuality (girls like boys, boys like girls).
Ideally, involve it in the educational curriculum.
Practically, educate your teachers about it. Make ads on it. Have your celebrities talk about it. Let knowing about sexual orientations be deemed cool.
What can I do personally?
Next time someone uses sexual orientation as a joke or a tool to insult someone, Don't Laugh.