I have written enough jarring statements in regards to children and sexuality, so this one is coming right on par: There is nothing wrong with 14-year-old Zaya Wade kissing her boyfriend.
On Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday to all believers (#amen), the internet in its usual explosive glory was abuzz with “the kiss heard ‘round the world.” Almost instantaneously came the immediate backlash to Zaya’s parents, retired basketball all-star Dwayne Wade and actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, and their “unorthodox” method of showing pride and support for their daughter.
Just as quickly came “concerns” about age-appropriateness, respectability and the public endorsement of authoritarian parenting styles. (You just got to love the “I would never” statements from people who probably should never be parents anyway).
Do I really care to see two teenagers kissing? To be very clear, although I am not going searching for such instances, I do not see an issue at hand. I have more of an issue with adults once again taking it upon themselves to illuminate their own immaturities and, in some cases, their outright ignorance, biases and antagonistic phobias onto an otherwise harmless situation. Many adults have a weirdly distorted perception of childhood intimacy and wrongly equate such displays to some sort of sexual deviance or lewdness. And although that is their issue, children continue to suffer because of it. Black and/or LGBTQ+ children should not have to pay for adults’ preferences.
We live in a world where Black children are shamed enough for simply existing. Black and/or LGBTQ+ children have it the hardest as they have to endure dual aggressions aimed directly at them.
Before anyone asks, I mention the LGBTQ+ children especially because it applies. Nobody will be able to convince me that at least some of the selective outrage is because, yet again, those crazy Wades are supporting their “confused” and “misguided” daughter. The continued attempts to demonize Gabrielle and Dwayne for taking every single opportunity given to them to be supportive of their child is asinine and a direct affront to the very children that people are once again claiming to be protecting.
As much as I think society has progressed, I am dismayed by the viewpoints of many — some of who are my age, who seem to endorse the controlling and extreme lack-of-nurture style of parenting that many of us had to endure. I remember being 16-years-old, old enough to drive and work without my parent’s consent, being publically lambasted by my mother and aunt for posting a picture of myself closed-mouth kissing my then-boyfriend on MySpace. A sweet indulgent moment of intimacy quickly turned into shaming and threats of violence, sending my perception of innocent affection into a tailspin. That was 16 years ago.
I question what it will take for adults to understand the concept of reasonable autonomy for teenagers, who exist in a constant state of vulnerability and require every form of reasoning that exists to understand the world around them.
I reiterate loudly and clearly: Zaya was doing nothing wrong! Since when is it wrong for someone to kiss someone in their own age bracket that they are exploring/developing romantic attraction towards? When the media has endorsed and given the literal limelight (or green light) to so much worse (I could write so much on the inherently problematic and exploitative nature of shows like MTV’s *16 and Pregnant), not to mention the plethora of examples of heteronormative teenager relationships (with kissing in tow), Zaya partaking in a closed mouth lip peck in front of her parents’ watchful eyes pales in comparison.
What forms of teenage intimacy are OK? I am being facetious in that I cannot think of even one that meets the metrics of acceptability. Many adults have a problem with teenagers simply holding hands. So, if someone could let me know what are these “many other forms of (physical) intimacy” that adults that are OK with children exuding, I will gladly be corrected. My gut tells me there is not one, and that is not OK. That fact is shaming something as innocent as a kiss can lead young people to the very lewdness and age-inappropriate conduct (employing sneaking) that people are trying to attribute to Zaya’s kiss.
It is a pathology that exists in a society that sees children as useable pawns. Children are consistently used to push forth a restrictive agenda, attempting to instill shame into parents who actually give a damn about their children’s well-being. And some of the same people who endorse the pathology seek nothing else but to remind children that they only exist to be controlled. The wonderfully fascinating thing is that this new generation ain’t going for that. I am inspired by people younger than myself stepping out loudly and proudly, their bodies erect and completely owning them as theirs, directly defying the rules that aim to disenfranchise them.
The day that parenting strays from being this barbaric practice of exuding control towards a meaningful mission of being a positive guiding force in the lives of their children, preventing problems before they start or not making something as harmless as a fidelitous kiss a problem, the happier I will be.
As a teacher, I’ve seen and heard enough instances of parents using the fact they decided to bring forth life as a means to be everything dictatorial. I’ve seen the negative effects that such has on children, especially those who are LGBTQ+. How many more children have to perish before the world learns that is wrong? Children loving and expressing love are not wrong. Furthermore, if teenagers kissing is so taboo and is reserved only for adults, why do parents do it to their kids?
Therefore, I stan and stand with the Wades. I greatly admire Zaya having parents who look at her kissing her boyfriend (who is also trans) with lovingly watchful eyes, not in the sick/twisted narrative of sexualization that naysayers are attempting to spin. She is well-loved and supported. That is all I want for every [Black and LGBTQ+] child that exists.
I have had enough of the Nigel Shelbys of the world. Give me more of the Zayas, Gabrielles, and Dwaynes of the world. Give me more supportive parents. Give me more people not sexualizing children, dammit.