I want my 4-year-old son to know that it's totally OK with me if he's gay. In fact, deep down, I might secretly want him to be.
Radical Mommy: I don't claim to know what it's like growing up knowing that you're gay and having to hide such a big part of yourself from the world. But I do know that the gay men and women I know who were accepted and embraced by parents and friends when they came out say they are much happier, and are much more secure now because of it.
Having a gay child has never, ever been an issue for me, and when I met my husband, I was thrilled to discover it was a non-issue for him as well. Of course, like all parents, we want the best for our child, and I would never want my son to suffer because of who he is and how idiots might see him if he's gay. But gay people do not chose to be gay -- they ARE gay.
According to some of my friends, they knew they were gay from a very young age, some as early as 4. Well, if that's my son, then that's great with me -- I only hope he feels comfortable enough to tell us when he is young so he doesn't have to feel shame or fear, at least in his own home.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I want him to be gay (well ... maybe a little -- after all, then I could have TWO sons when he meets someone), but I'm not saying that I want him to be straight either. What I want is for my son to be who he is, not who society or bigots (or even my husband and I) tell him he should be.
In an effort to let our son know that we love him exactly how he is, whenever my husband and I talk to him about his future, and how one day he'll fall in love with someone, we ALWAYS make a point to say, "You may meet a girl OR boy who you fall in love with."
I am proud of the way we are raising our son. If he isn't gay, so be it -- but hopefully he will take with him all the love, affection, acceptance and tolerance that his parents have for ALL of humanity and spread it wherever he goes.
I hope our attitudes will teach him that it's not OK to judge people, make fun of people, or ostracize people just because you don't like or agree with something about them. I hope our attitudes will teach him that it's OK to stand up for other people, even people who are different than you. I hope our attitudes will teach him that love and respect are the ONLY things worthy of filling his heart and head with.
I wanted to know more about what my husband and I can do to raise a child who is comfortable with who he is and accepting of people who aren't the same as him, so I spoke to parenting expert 'Gay Uncle' Brett Berk. Here's what he had to say:
Sounds to me like your current pro-gay practices are pretty spot-on. Normalizing homosexuality for young kids -- through casual exposure to gay friends, by providing awareness of the idea that there's a range of human sexuality, by suggesting options beyond hetero-normativism -- is the best way for them to think of being gay as ... normal (which, obviously, it is).
My only concern would be not to overdo it on the whole "falling in love" thing. I find that parents often tend to focus in on this stuff too much from an early age, and it just feels like a silly form of pressure to put on kids' nascent social relationships (see my post on BFF BS). When a 5-year-old tells me that they just broke up with their boyfriend, I think that someone in their life has done them a huge disservice. Oh, and being gay, like being straight, isn't only about love. It's also about genetics, and animal magnetism, and attraction, and fun and sex. But you certainly don't need to tell your kid about all that.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|
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