I teach English in elementary school, going around to several schools here in Paris and doing games and vocab flashcards and songs. It's to get the kids ahead for junior high, when they're really supposed to learn English. France is one of the worst, if not the worst, European country when it comes to English, and they're trying to give the kids a head start.
Anyway, kids are kids no matter where they are, and I confiscate notes all the time. Usually I put them in my back pocket so they don't dig it out of the trash and then throw them away in the metro. Every now and then I look at them, and here's one I picked up today in the third grade:
It says, "Go get sodomized. Get bent."
That's from third grade! I don't remember knowing what that even meant in third grade.
Then again, my elementary school was run by liberal hippies until my family moved to the Indianapolis suburbs when I was nine. I heard everyone calling everyone else "faggot," and I had no idea what that meant. Moving in and being the new kid, I had a lot to learn about the way Hoosiers did things, and that included new vocabulary.
I don't know when I actually understood the concept of anal sex, but I'd imagine it was much later. Even in Indiana, I was always hanging out with the nice kids, the ones who didn't have older siblings telling them what faggots were and giving them dirty magazines. The first time I had any sort of inkling that I was gay was around that time, watching a film strip in school that showed a man working without a shirt on, but I didn't really have any sort of framework, homophobic or otherwise, in which to understand that attraction.
Just this morning, we were playing a game in the fourth grade (vocab and sentence structure tic-tac-toe!), and one kid managed to piss off another (I don't know what happened), so the other kid started shouting, "T'es pédé. Non mais c'est vrai, il est pédé." (You're queer. No, really, he's queer.) I sent him to time-out, but technically I'm not supposed to speak French with the kids during class time and their teacher was otherwise occupied, so there wasn't much I could do to address the substance of the language.
It all seems like a young age for boys to be starting with homophobia, or at least it's much younger than when I first learned about it. I'm not saying the times they are achangin', because it's obvious to me that there were other kids when I was young who were introduced to homophobia before I was.
I'm trying to think back, and I don't know which I first learned about: that I was attracted to people of the same-sex or that others generally don't like people who are. Did I know homophobia or homosexuality first? It's a long time ago and kind of a blur.
But these kids, though, have a head start. They learn about homophobia in third grade. Heck, I may have started Spanish before they start English, but it's not like I hear that language every day as an adult.