10 06/05/2012 parenting

Out and about

Even though we still have ways to go, over time, our society has lessened the stigma of gay and lesbian relationships. The imagery is everywhere and it’s part of our cultural landscape as it should be. Movies, television, music all profess the normalcy of same-sex relationships, their place in history, their socioeconomic impact, their justified desire to receive the same benefits and rights as an opposite gender relationship..

So how do you communicate all of this to your children?  These little sponges of information. These beacons of bountiful light. When is the right time to discuss what they predominately see, from their own parental or grandparental roles or from the majority of the people they are surrounded by, that there are alternative lifestyles that are similarly functioning (or dysfunctioning) all around the world. 

rainbow-flag.jpgDo you let it happen organically, where they see the Christina Aguilera or the Black Eyed Peas video with two men or two women kissing and you answer the curious questions?  Do you wait until they come home and ask why an older boy at school called them a “fag” and what does that mean? Or do you proactively approach your lovely child and explain the differences in how some people feel about love and relationships. If so, do you explain the mountains of hate that some people hold for these innocent bystanders, these vilified groups of everyday people who just want the same level of respect and dignity that we take for granted everyday? Or do you preserve the innocence from that hatred for as long as you possibly can.

I ask all these questions because, like most parental decisions, I never know if what I am doing is right. Similarly to other families, I have a relative who is gay and we see him quite often. He is in his early twenties (which seems so young at my advanced age of 42), nice guy and recently met someone and the relationship has become more serious. They were together at a recent wedding we all attended and again last night at a family dinner.

We have had some preliminary talks with Hud about homosexuality that stemmed from his noticing some imagery in pop culture somewhere. We were upfront about how some people are just attracted to people of their own gender, nothing they can control, that’s just the way it is.

He seemed fine with the answer and after the wedding he asked me directly if this particular relative of mine was gay (he saw him and his boyfriend holding hands). I told him yes and he just shrugged and said that was ok. And the recent dinner with the two of them and our boys at a family function was fine. And of course it was fine. I even felt bad warning Hudson that they were going to be there, because the more I make a deal out of it, the more Hud will question why I am making something out of it at all.

I know the playground gets meaner and more and more insults will be randomly thrown at my boys that are rooted in bigotry and hatred. Arming them against this malevolence with real examples and open, honest dialogue is all I can do.

I am pretty sure my boys are not gay, but I have no idea. I honestly do not know how I would handle that discussion. I guess I will try and be as open as I claim to be here.

Hud is nine and I let him drive the conversation about sexuality – I answer what he wants, asks if he wants more and than let it go.

As parents, has this topic come up and how did you manage it?  

  • Mike

    Beautiful

  • Chantel

    To be honest I have had so many talks with my kiddies I can’t really remember how any of them started – that said though we have a great couple two doors down who are gay. They moved in about 5 years ago and so the discussion was brought up by my now oldest son. I usually take any opportunity that presents itself to start discussing important issues such as drugs, gangs, peer pressure and sexuality. Of course I have had so many babies that by now all of my kiddies could explain the how babies are made, what a c-section is and the benefits of breastfeeding – in detail – they could probably teach it to a class lol!
    I feel the best thing we as parents can do is to be honest and answer any questions they have right away – otherwise the opportunity may slip.
    Great post!

  • Jen

    There is a gay “couple” in my son’s middle school, 2 young men out in grade 8. I am sure there is teasing from some and curiosity from most but they attend dances together and hold hands and my 13 y/o son and his friends seem to simply accept it. Times really have changed.
    We have had a few conversations but I have tried to focus more on who we love and how everyone has the right to love and be loved. The hardest convo was when my son asked me about some things he had heard in the school yard about the logistics of intimacies. But gay or otherwise these conversations are always slightly awkward.

  • Jones

    A Parents JOB–Is To Educate EVERYTHING To Their Children–Its Called EVOLUTION—To Pass ALL Your Knowledge for the next generation to ;learn and Live—–At 3 Years old your child should Know what Gay and Lesbien and Trans is all about—Cause at age 5 they will learn everything in school from there peers—Just like drugs and sex—If the Parent doesnt teach then they will find out anyways the truth and also realize they have STUPID-Lying parents and their trust in you will drop dramatically—–
    To Educate is to give love and life—To Hide or lie is Child ABUSE—–

  • Sonya

    My 12 yr old has started “Healthy Living” social studies at school (sex ed) so it’s starting a few questions. We let him lead the conversation and tell him that he can ask us anything. We promised him that we will always be honest. We told him that if he hears things from his friends (which he has) he can always come to us for any clarification. He generally understands different types of relationships. We know a really sweet kid with two moms and I have some great friends who are gay. It doesn’t seem to be so odd since the kids are exposed to all wonderful people. I think that society is much more accepting now than when we were younger…well, from what we’ve experienced anyway.
    Sounds like you’re on the right track!

  • Annabelle

    Good post and always a timely discussion. With my boys, we have always been open about different families and different relationships in the world. They have grown up knowing we are all worthy of love. I have a gay sibling so this makes the conversation almost easier for me because we have an example that is close to home and they are so ready to defend their uncle when they hear negative comments in the media, etc.
    I think for the most part, you should let your kids take the lead. You did make a comment that you are pretty sure your boys are not gay, and that is where I would have to challenge you to re-think that certainty. Truly you can’t know and what does it matter. My brother didn’t officially come out until he was in his 40s. Sure, I ‘knew’ earlier on, but could anyone say they know if their kids are gay or heterosexual anymore than they can know if their kid is going to be a doctor or a teacher or a race car driver? We just need to know one thing and that is that they will be loved forever.

  • Julie

    my youngest wants to marry her best friend and i said that she could but only if her best friend wants to marry her back. her teacher is gay and has a family and everything (gasp) and D just knows it as normal just like ours. what hasn’t come up yet is how the two women have children. i’ll have the “gay” talk but i’m crapping my pants to have the “other” talk!
    might have to look into that book, idas!

  • Sara

    Will has brought it up in the ‘boys can’t marry boys’ convo and I’ve corrected him and said that people can marry who ever they love. (his response was ‘so I CAN marry you mom’ awwww). I’m also planning on going to some Pride events this year. I want to start exposing him to LGBQT culture so it just isn’t an issue the way it was for younger generations – I want him to just shrug and think it’s just life (which it is) and if he is gay, I want him to feel comfortable to just be him.

  • Tracey

    Real examples and honest dialogue is all any of us can really do, I think. And I’m hoping that the less of a big deal we make about these things, the more “normal” it will all appear to them. Let’s hope by the time they reach adulthood, this will be less of a conversation they’ll need to have with their own kids. (I think we’re definitely heading that way though!)
    Good post!

  • Idas

    G, you are ever so timely, again.
    We bought her the kiddy book: It’s Not The Stork!(Robbie Harris) a few years ago and that helped her curiosity and corrected what she heard in the school yard rubbish.
    She was insisting she had to know where the babies came from when she was THREE!
    Lucky she was happy with the high-level details in the book. (whew)
    Well, my 9 y.o. now, wanted the full facts of life this weekend.
    Oh yes. Because girls her age are becoming pubescent so early and rumours abound in the school yard, it was time.
    So, after 1/2 hour of (painfully) slowly chosen info, she had enough details. She was satified, with the simplest facts. In fact, despite the truth, she still can’t wait to be a teenager. (I went into mourning when I learned of “the change” as a kid; I was hoping not to leave her with that baggage yet not to sugar coat it either.)
    We hang out as a family all over the city, ever since they were small.
    My kids have seen many kinds of couples and familes. So they barely notice when they see two same-sex couples holding hands or a blended family.
    So far, our influence is keeping their minds open.
    We message that colour, religion, gender, size, looks, abilities nor finances define LOVE & family. I hope that message sticks.
    Good conversations to have, even when you least are prepared for them.
    Kids can either learn facts at home or you gamble on what they are getiting from their peers.

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