March 5, 2014

“When did you know you were attracted to other men? What were some of the most encouraging things that made you feel accepted and loved? I ask because I want to ensure my son grows up feeling accepted because of who he is, no matter what. Ever since he was two, I thought he may be gay, and that feeling has gotten stronger over time. He’s only seven, but instead of chasing after girls and talking about them like many of his classmates, he got in trouble one day for trying to kiss a boy. He talks to me very freely about many topics, but never mentions girls or anything. I don’t want to be stereotypical, but he also exhibits quite a few feminine traits and identifies more with females. He’s incredibly sensitive, and I can see him taking any ridicule he may receive to heart. Additionally, his father is very judgmental and talks about ‘homos’ quite a bit in a derogatory fashion in his household (one of the reasons I’m not with him anymore). I want him to grow up knowing that he is so very loved and accepted because of who he is, not because of what other people may want him to be. At the same time, I don’t want to try to force my perceptions on him, as he is only seven. He could very well be attracted to girls, and I don’t want to confuse him – but at the same time, I want him to know that whichever way he feels is okay with me. I know I first kissed a boy when I was seven, and I would imagine he already knows what gender he is attracted to. Any suggestions and words of wisdom would be much appreciated.”

Your son already has the greatest gift that anyone could ever give to him, in the form of an understanding and loving mother. You love and accept your son whether he grows up to be straight, gay, or something in between, and that is much more than many children have in this world, and for that I thank you. From the bottom of my heart and for gay kids everywhere, Thank you.

Here’s what you can do for your son, to make his coming of age more comfortable. Stop taking in gender binaries when you discuss his future with him. Switch from “The woman you marry” to “the person you marry” and do it for all your kids. This will make him less self conscious about the people he choses to love, because he sees that you have no expectations one way or the other. If you do it for and to all your kids, he’ll figure out that it’s not just him, so he won’t feel self conscious about it and try to figure out why you made the switch. This has the added bonus of ensuring that your other children don’t feel pressured to declare their sexuality one way or the other until they are ready as well. He will feel pressure from outside your home, and there isn’t much you can do about that, so give him some positive gay role models. Let him watch Ellen, or mention in passing that you love how Neil Patrick Harris can play such a womanizing jerk even though he’s gay.

Have “overheard” conversations with friends about something in the news lately dealing with homosexuality in a positive light, did you hear that a state senator in Arizona just came out today in response to the whole “discriminate against the gays” bill the legislature passed the other week? Drop hints around him that you are okay with, and supportive about homosexuality. Don’t do it in an obvious, trying-to-get-your-significant-other-to-buy-you-a-new-phone sort of way; instead just be honest about how you feel when gay issues come up. The less you feel that you have to hide your acceptance, the more he’ll feel accepted. Also, don’t judge him, no matter who he brings home. Resist the urge to pigeon hole him into a role that he might not be ready to accept yet. He might feel pressure from his dad, or teammates, or classmates, or whomever, to have a girlfriend at some point in time. Let him, and let her into your life just like you would if she was a boy.

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that gay men are not the only ones who exhibit behaviors that are stereotypically feminine. Some transwomen know at an early age that they were born into the wrong gendered body, and start experimenting with traits that they perceive to be typical of the gender they identify with. If you can accept that your son may be gay, I hope that you can also accept the possibility that he might be trans, or somewhere else on the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

To answer your questions about myself, I knew when I was 12. I would appreciate the male form more than the female form and found myself drawn to it. Things that helped me: my father did for me what you are planning on doing for your son. He showed me love and acceptance at every stage in my life. He’s seen me in drag, he’s seen me in leather, he’s seen me with a boyfriend and a husband at the same time and he’s never judged me for any of it. When I was 13 I visited my family in California, and they showed me through casual acceptance that gay was okay, and that’s partially how I came to accept myself.

Finally, no matter who your son ends up loving, and what gender he is when he does it, make sure that he knows to respect himself. He doesn’t have to kiss anyone he doesn’t want to kiss, and he shouldn’t be kissing anyone yet! Make sure he knows how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STD’s, and that it’s okay to say no if someone pressures him. Judging by your letter, you’re a good parent who was going to do that anyway! And once again, THANK YOU!

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