What if my child is gay? (by )

It's widely held that it's a scary experience for somebody to tell their parents that they are gay. As a parent, therefore, I began to wonder how I could arrange it so that, if any of my children turn out to be gay, they could be spared any distress in telling us about it.

I surmised that the distress arose because of this pattern:

  1. Child is raised by parents with the assumption that they will be straight. This might be a stated assumption - the parents actually talking about "when you start to bring [girl/boy]friends home" or "when you get married and have kids", or simply be signs of homophobia in the parent. Perhaps it could even be that the parents show no signs of expecting their child to be heterosexual, but the child (through other social conditioning) nonetheless assume (correctly or not) that's what their parents expect.

  2. Child, at some point, realises they have desires they feel their parents would disapprove of or be shocked by, as well as or instead of "normal" heterosexual desires.

  3. Child eventually announces this to the parents.

  4. Parents reaction ranges from "Oh, that's nice dear" to "Oh my god! What a shock... but now I think about it it's no big deal" to "YOU ARE NO CHILD OF MINE".

I presume it's either the fear of not knowing how the parent will respond, or suspecting they'll respond negatively, that makes it stressful for people to tell their parents that they're gay, bisexual, transgender, or whatever.

So I started wondering if it'd be best to, at some point, outright say "You know, your mother and I are totally fine with whatever sexual orientation you choose". Maybe that'd be a bit awkward; perhaps it'd be better to just to leave it implicit-but-hinted-at by openly introducing our gay/poly/etc friends to the children as such, and other such ways of showing that we're OK with it all.

But I began to realise that it would be much better if our children never actually had to "come out" to us about anything. Rather than trying to make step 4 of the above list less traumatic, how about if we just make it unnecessary by stopping the process at step 1?

I mean, ideally, our children should be able to bring home same-sex partners or whatever without feeling they have to gain our permission and acceptance first.

For a start, I think people are too enthusiastic about putting themselves (and, worse, each other) into boxes. I mean, I am attracted to women, and have never fancied a man, so I guess I count as straight, but I can find no reason to assume I might never fall in love with a man (I might just be really really picky and have not met Mr Right yet). And what about a bisexual person who has the occasional gay crush, but never really acts on it, and (quite happily) only ever goes out with members of the opposite sex, eventually marries one, and lives happily ever after? There's no problem with that, and their actual sexual label becomes a matter of perspective.

So, sod that. As my children are human beings, I am aware that they might acquire any combination of sexual tastes that humans are capable of; and those tastes are their own affair - which they may or may not choose to discuss with their parents, as they see fit. And what kinds (and numbers; don't forget polyamory) of people they actually bring home to meet us is their choice. And I don't require them to declare a classification up front. I want my children to feel free to bring home whatever partners take their fancy.

Of course, I don't want to deny them the right to stand up and say "Father! I wish to declare that I BAT FOR THE OTHER TEAM!" if they want to. I think that labeling yourself can be an important thing for a young person, learning to establish their own identity. If they want to do that, that's fine, and I'll support them in doing so and treat the event with the gravity they seem to want from it; if they come to me looking like they're after a rite of passage, I'll try to provide one. But I don't want them to think they have to.

But what I really want in the end, I guess, is for my children to feel free to be themselves (at least at home; I can't be responsible for the reactions of the rest of society, sadly), and for them to know that they have my support in whatever they do, as long as they do it ethically.

1 Comment

  • By Gavan, Mon 1st Aug 2011 @ 11:36 am

    By writing this very post, you may well have already circumvented a large part of that process. If your children come across your blog archives around the time that they are becoming aware of their sexuality, whatever it may be, they may well find the answers to the very questions they're asking themselves written right here.

    That said, I can't help sniggering at the thought of one of your children coming to you one day after school and saying "Father! I wish to declare that I BAT FOR THE OTHER TEAM!" to test your reaction, after being selected for the school cricket team.

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