This weekend, a photo of 4-year-old Prince George of Cambridge — the only son of Princess Diana’s eldest son Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge — went viral for its sheer adorableness. In the image, George’s hands touch his wonderstruck face, his knees slightly bent as he stands inside a helicopter.
In response, various commenters began tweeting out messages like “Prince George is already a bigger gay icon to me than Boy George,” “The Queen is dead. Long live the queen” and “I’m so happy Prince George is a fag.”
Prince George is already a bigger gay icon to me than Boy George. pic.twitter.com/i1FM0jh4Vv
— Nathan Beard (@nathansbeard) July 21, 2017
Not everyone approves of those comments. One Twitter user says, “I’m extremely uncomfortable seeing the sea of gay men making a meme of that Prince George photo. We should be better than that. He is a child.”
Another user says, “You’re sexualizing a four year old.” That’s not necessarily true, as assuming a child’s sexual orientation is not the same as sexualizing them (i.e. seeing them as sexy or wanting to have sex with them).
Some Twitter users admit they only made such comments because they saw their younger gay selves in Prince George’s photo. Others have replied that calling a child gay is only offensive if you consider homosexuality itself offensive.
The dangers of imposing our sexualities and gender norms on a child
The LGBTQ-friendly women’s site The Mary Sue published a response entitled, “Prince George Is a Preschooler, Not Anyone’s ‘Gay Icon’ or Receptacle for Your Gender Norms.”
In the article, author Teresa Jusino points out the folly of equating gender expression with sexuality — both are two separate things. Jusino adds that while being called gay is never an insult, “calling someone gay based on erroneous gender stereotypes is insulting.”
“I totally understand seeing a child behave a certain way and having them remind you of your young, babyqueer self. The thing is, none of us should be imposing our queer selves on a child, because while we could be 100% correct when we “call” a kid’s sexuality, it’s just as likely that we could be 100% wrong…. Meanwhile, our attempts at guessing and “calling it” only serve to perpetuate the stereotypes and gender roles we work so hard to question and dismantle.”
Jusino adds that Prince George’s sexuality isn’t really anyone’s business.
Generally speaking, journalists are discouraged from assuming anyone’s sexuality or gender (regardless of their age) unless the person first self-identifies as such. Furthermore, we almost never assume one’s sexual or gender identity based on hand gestures or bodily poses alone.
Children do have sexual orientations, but they aren’t always sure of them
In 2011, a photo blog called Born This Way became massively popular. On the site, LGBTQ adults posted photos of themselves as children and talked about the ways they expressed their queer identities as kids. Looking at the photos, one could sometimes see small hints of flamboyance or butchness that would later blossom into full-fledged queerness.
Children do have sexual orientations. Some people knew that they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer from a very early age, though there are others who, although they think they’re LGBTQ early on, turn out not to be.
For example, in the most recent episode (#561) of longtime gay activist and sex advice columnist Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, he told the father of a 10-year-old who recently came out as gay that Savage’s own child came out as gay around 10 years of age, only to end up heterosexual:
“My son came out to me when he was about 10 years old because he didn’t like girls and he thought that meant that he would be gay when he grew up, like his dads. And we had to sit down with him and very patiently explain that it’s normal for boys to not like girls and typically boys who don’t like girls when they’re 10 begin to like girls very much at 13 or 14. And we pulled out a photo album and showed him Terry’s (Savage’s husband) 11th birthday party … and he is the only boy at this big table full of girls…. He loved girls when he was 10 or 11 years old. And my son today, my son is really fuckin’ straight. Super-duper straight. So your son may or may not be gay. You need to tell him that gay or not, whoever he is, you will love him and support him.”
Savage mentioned that he didn’t share this story so that the father could hold out the hope that his son wasn’t gay, but to let him know that while some children know their sexual identities for certain, others aren’t always so sure.