How To Answer Questions About Sexuality

“Mom, is being gay cool?”

Heck yeah, and why shouldn’t it be?  The right to love who we want to love and sacrifice it all is a story as old as Adam and Eve.  Aside from Adam, nobody has given up more for love than our beloved gays.  They’ve redefined the word PRIDE and continue to fight.  That’s really fucking cool!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t explain it like that.  I had to explain the dark, ugly side where people still discriminate against those who are different.  I had to explain that our society only embraces what it can understand, but give her hope that the positive changes will continue because of people like her.

The new normal

American culture tells us that normal relationships include a man and a woman with approximately 2 kids, who are 50% likely to get divorced.  The debt and destruction from these types of normal relationships are part of our views of “normal.”  I’ve lived this version of normal, and yet still managed to open myself up to love again.

As a privileged straight female I am free to marry again and again and again and again.  I can have babies, adopt babies, even give up my babies.  I can kiss my husband in public, I can hold his hand and sit on his lap without getting any disgusted looks from people passing by.  I can abuse the privilege of love given to me because I’m straight.

Our gay friends do not have the same privilege.  One friend who has given his life to help those with intellectual disabilities can’t be given the peace his partner brings him when in the hospital.  He’s dying of cancer and spends weeks at a time alone in the hospital without the love of his life.

Another friend and I have had numerous talks about his struggle to come out and his tremulous past.  After ending a 10 year relationship, he talked to me about how difficult it is for a gay man to find love when there is still so much unease in society.  If he gets a mixed signal and flirts with a straight man he could be assaulted.  We’ve talked about Tinder and oversexualization and STD’s, the list goes on.

These men, my friends, are over 50 years old and have lived a life in fear of expressing their God given right to love.

I like to think that the millennials are changing this.  That we are embracing love as love and opening our minds to a world where gender and sexuality are less black and white.

What’s really cool is having an open dialog with our kids when it comes to sexuality.

As a mom, I don’t worry whether my children will be gay.  I worry that they will not be equipped to handle the heaviness of sexuality.  It is my job to make sure they are educated in all aspects of sexuality including their own bodies and choices when it comes to sex.   

From breasts to bodily fluids, I’m the kind of mom who isn’t afraid to talk about sex.  While I don’t make it a point to do it in front of other people’s kids, my daughter asked me a question in front of one of her friends, and when I answered her friend said, “oh my gosh!  My mom never talks about periods.  She says it’s gross and tells me to be quiet.”  It seems, some adults even have trouble talking bout “normal” things.

If our kids can’t turn to their parents for answers, they will turn somewhere else.  Their confusion could lead them to misunderstandings about themselves and about other people.    

Here are 3 ways I approach questions regarding sexuality:

1. Listen

I listen to the stories of people who cross my path.  I share their stories and sometimes make changes to my approach because of their experiences.  I am constantly evolving because I recognize that as long as we have differences, I have more to learn.

I also listen to my daughter’s stories about what happening in their world and help them navigate the rocky waters of adolescents.

My oldest came home from school telling me about a friend, Arianna who cut all his hair off and is now Ari.  I didn’t offer any judgement or assumptions, I simply talked to her about it.  I asked her whether it changed their friendship, she said it didn’t.  We talked about whether his parents were supportive.  They have him in counseling to help his transition.  Finally, we talked about how hard this must be for him and why it’s so important to treat every person with kindness and respect.  When I listen, I don’t judge.

2. Avoid labels

During middle and high school students feel the need to label their sexuality; gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, gender neutral.    I had a 7th grade student who came in to talk to me during lunch to tell me she thought she was asexual.  When I asked why, she said, “because so many of the girls here like boys or are having sex and I don’t want anything to do with that.”  I smiled and told her she’s perfect just the way she is.  She, of course, rolled her eyes, but her teeth showed through her lips as she realized she didn’t need to label herself according to her peers.

Make sure kids know that there is a wide range of maturity at this age.  If they are not having sexual desires, that is definitely okay.  If they are, make sure they know about personal responsibility and the power of their choices.

3. Share many stories of different kinds of love

To a sexually mature adult, it is obvious that loving your best friend is different than the romantic, sexual desire you feel for your husband, but kids don’t always know there are different kinds of love.  As a result, they may think that their love for their best friend means they are gay or bisexual.

One way to make this distinction is to share the story of how you developed feelings for their mom or dad.  Talk about romantic love through the butterflies in the stomach, the tingling feeling you get when you hold hands.  Romantic love can also mean being so nervous you sweat or fantasizing about the other person.

After meeting my friend Sam for coffee, my daughter who was with us, asked if he was gay.  I said yes and she smiled like she already knew.  She asked if he was married and I had to explain to my 8 year old that gay people couldn’t marry in our state.  She was shocked and said, “nobody should be able to tell you who you can love forever.”  Even she knew that love is not a tangible thing to be controlled, but a feeling.  If you tell someone not to love, you will be met with confusion, anger or resentment.

Instead, of telling our kids who they can love, we should teach them how to love.

Talking about sexuality with your kids is not an easy thing to do.  If you are having trouble, seek help.  If your child is really struggling with an issue that is beyond your understanding, get them someone to talk to.  Counseling or online support groups are a great place to start.

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