This post has been writing itself in my head ever since my son asked me, “Who will be my husband when I grow up?” Brian and I glanced at each other quickly, and I said, “We don’t know yet, honey. You are way too young, and you won’t know who you’ll fall in love with and marry until you’re grown up.” Brian added, “And you may have a husband, or you may have a wife. It depends on who you love.”
In that instant I had a lot of quick thoughts.
1. I was so grateful that without even discussing it in advance, Brian and I were totally on the same page on our response.
2. I realized that the casual conversations we have with our children every day all factor in to how they see the world.
I’ve talked to a lot of parents who have said, “if my child came out to me, I would be fine with it.”
But my question is, what are you doing now to make sure they know they can come out to you? What if instead, there was no need to come “out?” What if our children just knew that both gay and straight were normal and ok? We have the opportunity, as parents, to set the stage of acceptance and love that will change the way homosexuality is seen by future generations.
There is nothing you can do to change the fact if your child is gay. Your acceptance will not change it one way or another. You can’t make a child be homosexual, and you can’t make them be heterosexual. But your love and normalizing attitude can make a huge difference in how your child accepts them self.
I recently heard a story on public radio, Here and Now, about how parents can use certain clues to figure out if their young children will grow up to be homosexual. Jesse Bering wrote an article in Scientific American Mind titled, “Is Your Child Gay,” and he was on the program to talk about how parents can support their child whom they suspect may be gay. He says,
“I do think that if my parents had an open conversation with me when I was, say 12 or 13 about their suspicions, or perhaps their intuitions that I was gay, it probably would have been a positive experience for me because it would have circumvented a long developmental trajectory where I felt like I had to hide my sexual orientation. And it would have clarified for me that they accepted me no matter what.”
What if we could back it up a little bit more? Parents of young children, here we are now! Don’t try to figure out if your child is gay. They don’t need to be sexualized at 5. How about – regardless of whether or not you think your 4yo will grow up to be a homosexual – you teach your children that it’s just normal?
Instead of having to hold a serious conversation at a certain age, I think we can let our children know that everyone is ok and loved and accepted as they are. We do that through our every day actions, and those casual conversations with our kids about marriage, love, families and babies.
Here is Jesse Bering’s advice for parents (from the show):
1.) Don’t Rush The Child: Bering says that when a child behaves in a way typical of the opposite gender, sometimes parents overcompensate to show acceptance. “But we don’t want to be premature in rushing the child to make some statement about their own sexual identity,” Bering said.
2.) Discuss Situation As Child Gets Older: “It needs to be something that is discussed within the family openly and objectively in a way that makes it very clear to the child that there is no prejudice or discrimination, that there is love for them no matter what their sexual orientation,” Bering said.
3.) Be Aware Of Parental Biases: If parents are upset by the possibility that their child may be gay, Bering says that parents should try to figure out why, possibly through therapy.
4.) Make Clear Parents Aren’t Bigoted Against Gays: Bering says parents should be clear that they are open to gays, and do not have any biases against homosexuality. “Even if that’s clear to the parent, it’s not necessarily clear to the child,” he said.
Here’s what I emphatically add to Mr. Bering’s advice:
5. Stop trying to figure it out. In the situation I described at the beginning of this post, I think it’s possible Eric was confusing the terms husband and wife (sometimes he says he marrying Sofia, other times he says his kids will have 2 dads). But it really doesn’t matter either way. Regardless of if either of our kids is homosexual or heterosexual when they grow up or not, they will know that it’s normal. So not only will they accept themselves, they’ll be kind and accepting of others.
6. Watch your language. Our biases get translated in our language, and our kids pick up on that. And it affects how they see the world. So be careful.
If we treat everyone with respect – and teach our children to do the same – if the time ever comes that they realize they are homosexual, they won’t have to worry that we won’t love and accept them. They’ll already know.