Sixteen months ago I asked a question that got a decent amount of attention on the internet:
“Do you think that it is possible for a homosexual person to not have to come out of the closet. I don’t mean stay closeted for always and ever. I mean never even enter the closet. For instance, I’ve asked my oldest son if he thinks anybody in his class is cute. I’m careful how I phrase it. I don’t ask if he thinks any of the girls are cute. I leave it open so that he can answer honestly. Do you think an LGBT youth could grow up and never step foot in the closet (at least with immediate family), thus making the coming out process (with the immediate family) obsolete? Can a family be so okay with homosexuality that, say, a fifth grade boy could tell his mom very comfortably that the boy in class in a Chargers jersey and still outgrowing his baby fat (or Baby Phat, who knows) is totes amazeballs?” — Raising My Rainbow, June 2, 2011
A lot of people have told me that it is possible, especially in a family like ours. My brother grew up feeling like he was hiding in the closet for as far back as he can remember…which is pretty much around the time that he wanted a Wonder Woman doll for Christmas and longed to dress in drag for Halloween. The thought of my son bypassing a good amount of the guilt, shame, fear and secretiveness that my brother grew up with made me happy and made me feel like his father and I (and the rest of the people in his life) were/are doing something right. If my son were LGBTQ and didn’t want to step foot in the closet he didn’t have to. Hooray!
But, all of that was when my son was four-years-old and him realizing his sexuality seemed like a thing for the distant future. Then, Amelia (who writes for the Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section and with whom I’ve gotten to know via email) started writing about her son who is seven years old and openly identifies as gay. He came out when he was six. Then, an awesome mom who I met through my blog wrote last week about her son and how he recently declared that he is in love with another boy. He is six. He is in kindergarten. C.J. is almost six. C.J. is in kindergarten.
I used to think that we had until middle school (plus or minus a year or two) to learn our son’s sexuality. What if it happens in kindergarten? What if it happens tomorrow?
There is a new hesitation in me. If he is LGBTQ, I wanted my son to be out of the closet – never in it – with us, his family. I hadn’t factored in how he would handle it with the other seven billion people on earth…at age 6, then 7, then 8, then….?
If my son were to come out to us in the next five to ten years, what do I tell him about being open about his sexuality? That it’s a private matter, which only his family needs to know about?
What would I tell him if he were heterosexual? Would I parent him the same?
If I encourage him to keep a part of himself a secret, am I pushing him into the closet?
Do I explain to him the dangers of being out to certain types of people – his bullying schoolmates included? Is a child equiped to fully understand that?
How do I teach my son that he’s perfectly made, raise him with no shame, encourage him to be the most authentic version of himself…and then tell him to keep quiet about it at school and on the playground?
If C.J. is LGBTQ, I’ve always wanted him to be out and free and proud. Knowing that that moment may be closer than we thought, what I really want is for my son to be safe. And, sometimes it feels like he can’t be out and free and proud and safe all at the same time.
It’s really amazing and inspiring to read about your experiences. You’re a bit of a pioneer, and you’ll certainly walk on bumpy ground sometimes and you will not be able to do everything right – but that’s totally fine as long as your son grows up loved and accepted no matter what. Those labels – LGBTQ whatever and also male/ female should be something we won’t need anymore in a perfect world. As long as we don’t have that, I tend to think of them as a crutch. Helps us to learn walking and to learn that we belong – not in the closet but that we are not alone. Because that’s how queer teens used to grow up when i was a kid – thinking that they’re the only one who feels that way. Finding out that we are many – and that being different makes us strong and proud is a powerful experience that someone who never felt “different” probably doesn’t understand. I love that quote from my favorite TV series Queer as folk: “Sure, in a lot of ways, I am just like you. I wanna be happy, I want some security, a little extra money in my pocket, but in many ways, my life is nothing like yours. Why should it be? Do we all have to have the same lives to have the same rights? I thought that diversity was what this country was all about. In the gay community, we have drag queens, leather daddies, trannies, and couples with children – every color of the rainbow. My mother’s standing way in the back with some friends. My friends. She once told me that people are like snowflakes; every one special and unique… and in the morning you have to shovel ’em off the driveway. But being different is what makes us all the same. It’s what makes us family.” Keep on rocking!
I am an openly gay man. I have always been “out of the closet” so to speak. When I was 9, I was the Child-Like Empress from Neverending Story for Halloween (I wore that white dress and pearl necklace on my forehead to school). My parents divorced when I was 9 or 10 months old, but both have always been incredibly supportive of me and my lifestyle. When I was in 4th grade a new family moved in next door who had a a little boy round about my own age. I fell head-over-heels for that boy, I knew it the first time I saw him. He was the first person I had ever been “attracted” to, so to speak. I never once thought it was strange that I found another boy attractive because my parents had never told me what was normal and what wasnt. My mother has always been very nonspecific about that sort of thing. “When you find someone you care about”, “When you meet someone you find attractive”, that sort of gender nondescript language. I had no idea that there was a difference between being gay or straight or whatever, all I knew was that I was in love (or the nine year old equivalent) with the boy next door.
As the months went along, the boy next door and I became friends. He was the exact opposite of me. Sports and action figures and what not. I would sit and watch him play soccer in my giant floppy sun hat and fanning myself with my hand painted Chinese fan (I had recently discovered Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo on TCM and was slightly obsessed with what I thought was ultimate glamour).
That summer, I told my mother that I wanted to get married. She was both amused and incredulous at the same time. She asked me who I wanted to marry, and I told her the boy next door (I obviously used his name, I didnt refer to him as the boy next door). She gently laughed and asked me if I had talked to him about that. I said I had, and she asked me what he thought of the idea. “He said, ‘Ok, as long as you keep coming to my soccer games and do my homework when I dont feel like it” I replied (Which, I think, is a VERY early form of the pre-nup).
The next day, after soccer, I walked up to the boy next door, took his hand and said “OK, now we are married.” He looked down at my hand holding his, looked back up and said “Ok. Will you go get me a Sunny Delight?” and kissed me on the cheek as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
If more parents in the world were like you and your husband, there would much less pain and anger and hatred. Its families like yours that makes me hopeful for the future, not only the future of LGBTQ people, but for everyone.
Love and acceptance are never bad things.
I love this story -and not only because I wanted to be the princess from The Neverending Story for my entire childhood.
My kids are young, and I haven’t thought of asking them about boy- or girlfriends yet, so I am grateful to read this and remind myself NOT to fall into the trap of asking limiting questions, or to make assumptions.
I think you are an absolutely amazing person and mother. If only everyone could be as accepting as you!
I am 20 years old female and for a long time I have known that I was attracted to other females, I was terrified of what my family would say but even more so I was terrified of what would happen at school if people knew, there had been other girls and boys come out, so to speak, and be put through hell and I didn’t want that. I remember confiding in my mum when I was 12 that I thought I liked girls and she simply replied ‘you are young, you have a long life ahead of you, you will know and figure it out for yourself later in life, don’t stress or worry now, just enjoy being young’ I had several boyfriends throughout high school and the years following, but it never felt quite right, then about two months before my 20th birthday I met this incredible girl and became drawn to her in every way, I couldn’t stop talking to her, or thinking about her and eventually I knew that I wanted to be with her, she asked me to be her girlfriend, and I said yes.
I suppose I never really ‘came out’ I was lucky enough that my family simply accepted the fact that I do, now, identify as a lesbian, my mum accepted my girlfriend immediately and treated her no different to the boyfriends I had had in the past and no one in my immediate family, nor the majority of my extended family, blinked twice. Because of my family, and my girlfriends family, being so very accepting I truly didn’t care what anyone else thought, I announced that I was a lesbian on Facebook by posting a photo of myself and my amazing girlfriend kissing.
I have experienced judgement, I have faced many vulger comments and questions regarding my sexuality, but my family has been by my side every step of the way and that has made all the difference in the world and I have never been happier than I am now almost 9 months into my relationship, I know that many people don’t have so much support around them, but I feel that there truly does not need to be an endless, hurtful process to coming out and my way of looking at it is that C.J will know when it’s right and when he’s ready to tell people, publicly, who he truly is, some people will understand, some will not, however, he has an incredible support base at home which I believe should help him through. No matter what age he is when he comes out, there will always be those people who won’t understand, but regardless of his age, he will handle it in his own way, and he will know that way when the time comes.
I wish you, C.J and your family all the best in the world, it is truly wonderful to see that people are being allowed to be comfortable with who they truly are from such a young age ❤
Another amazing post and another that resonates on such a personal level. I wish I could say that I had your courage from the first day my son picked up a Barbie. Eventually, I found that courage, and my son is out now. It’s an interesting question… was he ever “in”? I don’t know. He was 16 when he told me… within a few days of his own certainty. He’d broken up with a girl that day after school and called me in tears. I’d said, “Honey, it’s ok. She’ll be fine with a little time.” He said to me, “Mom, it’s more complicated than that,” and I knew. That night when he told me, I asked about his girlfriends, worried that he’d felt some pressure to conform. He said that wasn’t the case at all–but it was in dating girls that he knew…”Nothing was happening.” 🙂 News spread his school within a day and still he was beloved by students and teachers alike. He was elected “head boy” his senior year and lived an amazing four years of high school. I feel so very grateful.
Obviously a difficult question with no easy answer. One thing I would say is that sometime moms’ instinct to protect their gay sons goes too far and effectively becomes repression. Although that is in the case of my gay friends who came out in their late teenage years, after finishing high school. It was easy for them to interpret their moms’ protectiveness as hesitation about whether they approved (and it was, to be honest). However, you’re not like those moms.
No line can be drawn between ‘don’t tell everyone because they think it’s shameful’ and ‘don’t tell everyone because I think it’s shameful’. I have never been physically bullied in my life for being gay or for being effeminate (thank all that is good), but people called me a faggot in late elementary school (grade 7 and 8) and in high school. Initially it felt unbearable, and I was mad at my friend who told me “just ignore them, they’re idiots” because it seemed unsympathetic. But she was right. Once I found my social footing in high school and was lucky to find a strong, close, supportive group of friends, I eventually learned not to care. If I was with a friend and felt physically safe, I would just laugh. It genuinely did not perturb me at all. Once someone shouted “candy ass” at me from their car which I thought was a hilarious choice of insult since it seemed so out of date (imagine calling someone a “poof”). Learning to not give a fuck is the best thing you can do!
love it! My child has smith magenis syndrome and is so uniquely herself she has taught all around her about this skill! for you your path with your beautiful boy sounds different and yet the same! as a newbie here (and to wordpress0 can i ask what LGBTQ stands for? now following xxxxx
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transqender Queer/Questioning.
That is a very tough question, but CJ is so lucky to be living at a time and with a family where being openly gay (if it works out that way) is even possible. From what I’ve read here, CJ couldn’t hide his gender nonconformity if he tried. He’s too bold, too brave, too self-confident and has too much support to ever feel that kind of shame. He may still end up being bullied, but believe me, with the support of his family, he’s miles ahead of most other gay kids out there. I wish I’d been so lucky at his age. It took me a long, long time to feel as comfortable with myself as CJ already does. Best wishes. Reading your blog always fills me with so much joy and hope.
I’m just catching up on your blog after a few months of being too busy with work to read my favorite sites, and saw this post just days after my five year old son (a pink boy, Alexander, whom I’ve written about before) proposed marriage to a boy at his school. It was a thought-out decision. And he never thought about coming out. I know it was serious because he’s someone who often overshares, who rarely keeps anything to himself. And this crush, he initially only revealed to me.
We were driving home from school last Monday (you know, the day before election day), and reviewing the electoral races and ballot initiatives. My son is also profoundly gifted, so he reads the news, listens to the radio, and wants to know about these things. I’d already asked him about school and he’d given me his usual answers about what he did, what he learned, who he played with. I noticed he seemed quieter than usual, but nothing else. He mentioned the election and asked me again who I was voting for and why. I try to give him as openminded and balanced a response to things as I can so he can make up his own mind. And I went over the charter school initiative, the initiative requiring a 2/3 majority in the state legislature for tax increases, and a few others. And then I mentioned Referendum 74, the initiative to approve the state legislature’s recent legalization of marriage equality.
Alexander’s recently been retreating from being “out” about his love of all things pink, sparkly, and glam, and has been more vocal about “boy toys” and “girl toys” in tones ranging from the exasperated to the curious. So I thought I’d ask, point blank, before sharing my own opinion again: “Do you think boys should just marry girls, or do you think boys should be able to marry boys, too, and girls marry girls, or should girls just marry boys?” (If I don’t ask things completely like that, he’ll sidetrack until I do.) He said boys should be able to marry boys OR girls, and girls marry boys OR girls, “because everyone should be able to do whatever they want without anyone telling them they can’t.” Very five year old answer. But then he burst into tears: “And if it isn’t okay for boys to marry boys then I can’t marry TJ, and I LOVE TJ. I really love him! And today Harlem said when he grows up he’s going to marry Ember (a girl in the class) *and* TJ, and that’s not fair because I love TJ *more* than he does!”
I asked if he’d told the other kids how he felt, and he clammed up. “No, not yet. I was worried about it.” I probed a little and he clearly didn’t want to discuss it further. But he did tell me he wanted to ask TJ to marry him some time soon. I told him it was okay to have those feelings, and to decide to keep them to himself OR to share them, and that it’s a long time til they all grow up and decide who they are marrying anyway, so whatever happens I’m sure he’ll be okay.
On Friday, five days later, he informed me on the way to school that he would be proposing that day. I did not suggest bringing a ring, or try to persuade or dissuade him. I just said I was looking forward to hearing about it later. When I arrived to pick him up at 2:30, I gave him a questioning look, and whispered “So? Did you do it?” To be honest, I wanted to be able to give TJ’s mom a heads-up so she wasn’t taken by surprise. He said “No! I was waiting for you!” And then walked over and said, with characteristic aplomb: “TJ! I’m going to marry you when we’re adults!” TJ looked puzzled, but still smiling, said “No you’re not.” Alexander insisted, at which point I told him that proposing marriage means you *ask* the other person if they *want* to marry you. Undaunted, he proceeded: “TJ, do you want to marry me when you’re an adult?” TJ was also undaunted, “No, not really.” Alexander started to get a little more insistent “But you have to because you’re my best friend at school and I *love* you!” Bless TJ’s heart, he said “I’ll still be your FRIEND, silly, I just don’t want to get married to you!” At that point I intervened, reminded them they both have a long time to grow up and it’s nice they are friends now.
I don’t think Alexander will have ever been in the closet. I don’t think he’ll have to come out to his family, or friends. I think for their generation, at least in some parts of the country (thank heaven for liberal Seattle!) coming out will be different, and won’t necessarily involve having been *in*. And that makes my heart very, very glad.
Wonderful story, thank you for sharing! Parents like you and the others here give me hope, and let me know there are good folks out there!
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
this is a great site. I’m glad I’m not the only person who feels it is necessary to let my son be who he is. I’m hopeful now raising my son in this world thanx to people like you.
Reading this nearly moved me to tears. Your love for your son and consideration for his life and his feelings are inspiring. Personally, I grew up always being told I could be whatever I want and never wore a girl costume for Halloween. I was lucky to live in a very safe and liberal part of the country, so I never had to worry about teasing, but I also had it easier as a girl leaning boy. You have a very difficult job and this blog shows how seriously you take it. I admire your commitment to raising your children with love and open-mindedness. I would encourage you, as others have been, not to try to protect CJ from bullies by hiding his true self. It is much more productive in the long run to help him feel so comfortable and natural with who he is that bullying falls on deaf ears, and he is able to stand up for himself. Not an easy goal, but a worthy one. It seems you are already doing that though! Many props and I will continue to read faithfully.
I wish this is how I was raised. When I was little I wanted to 3 or 4 I wanted to play tee ball, but I wouldn’t play with the other girls and only wanted to be in the boys league. However, I was also forced into ballet and everything pink. Now I was allowed to wear baseball hats too and was never told No that’s just for boys. The problem was I was never told that it was okay. I didn’t want to be a boy, but I liked sports and G.I. Joe’s. Maybe if I was told it was okay or those things weren’t called boy things it wouldn’t have taken me 20 confusing years to realize I am a lesbian…. I refer to myself as a femme lesbian with a tomboy approach.
With regards to the idea that you would or should parent him differently, it seems to me that if you were to tell him to be “out and proud” about his sex life, or his sexuality, you may be forcing him into a difficult situation just because…well…who wants to discuss their sex life with their mom? It is one thing if you say that it’s okay to like whoever he wants to, but when it comes to who he “like likes” it may be something that he just wants to keep to himself or share with only his friends anyway. I think the best thing that you can do is to just tell him that it’s ok if he likes a guy, but that he doesn’t have to be completely open if he doesn’t want to. Also, he’s six. No matter what their sexuality, every six year old has to learn how to deal with crushes on their own. CJ is no different just because he may be gender nonconforming.
Your son is lucky to have you as a parent.
Also, for the record, I never came out to my parents. They did assume, at first, that I would grow up straight, but slowly they realized this was not the case. (They knew for sure when they read my private blog in seventh grade, but we never talk about that – partly because there were much more important things in there than sexuality, and partly because I’m kind of still angry about it.)
Amazing! I’m so glad I came across this blog. This is how I would raise my kids, gender neutral! Just as long as you prepare him as he gets older for any intolerance he may face, because that will still be a hardship since unfortunately there is so much hate in this world.. but that doesn’t mean you change who you are.. “raise your rainbow” and prepare him to be strong so he can handle whatever intolerance comes his way in the future and not let it break him down..
It begins at home, with the parents.. this is how we change the world.. what you’re doing right now.. allowing your son to be whoever he is and not imposing societal gender “norms”/roles or limitations. Letting your kid be who he is naturally, there’s nothing more beautiful than that and there’s nothing greater than having your mom and/or dad in your corner, unconditional love! You inspire!
I just found this blog because I was looking for resources about little boys that want to take ballet. My 2 year old son loves dolls and dinosaurs, monsters and dress up, bikes and ballet. He wants to grow his lovely blonde hair out long, loves brushing mine and wearing cherry chapstick. I want to encourage him in whatever his interests are but I don’t want to push him in any one direction. Reading your blog had me smiling and nodding quite a bit. Thank you for making it.
you really are an incredible mom, every child should be so lucky for an attentive parent as you.
I think we should remember that closets are built by people. they don’t exist on their own. also all definitions are man-made, and society related. there is no Truth about them.
as for me, I found I wish not to enter a ‘definitive box’. and I don’t owe anyone an explanation. it’s true, I got to that resolution at my late teens, but I believe it’s a matter of social structure. if definitions would be less important, less restricting, maybe there would be less closets.
It sound that CJ isn’t asking to define himself yet. definitions are linguisticly structured, and when time comes, he’ll look for the words and definitions on his own. you’ll be able to offer him definitions, or the way to handle them.
on the other hand, we should also remember that finding ones sexual way and orientation is a private process, thoughts and questions we’re not sure about come up and we don’t always want or feel we can share them. that’s part of teenagehood. it’s not always about a closet.
I read your brave atempts to make CJ feel safe and sure and loved and welcome as CJ is. that is what’s important.
and about love at kindergarden- i’m not sure it has to do with sexual orientation or definitions. it’s still about a child being in kindergarden, finding and feeling his or her place with their mates.
If I were a parent I think I would become very distressed if my 6 year old child said he was gay because I wouldn’t know how to react. You can’t be sure what the child means by that. I’m sure that there are kids who just “know” they’re gay from an early age and that they really are, but the problem is that when children say they love this or that person they don’t necessarily do it for reasons adults can understand. When I was 5 I wanted to marry my cousin. Why? I don’t know, but it was probably because she was a long-haired teenager. While thinking back to my childhood I could identify some precursors of my later homosexuality, it isn’t anything sexual and I certainly wouldn’t have associated it with romantic love then.
As someone who is both Transgender and gay (Yes Virginia, we do exist) my heart says don’t ask him to lie to protect himself. Don’t encourage him to convey himself any differently than you would his older brother. If he wants to come out , let him. It’s hard not to take being told “you should probably be careful with whom you share this information (about your gender or sexuality)” without instilling some sense of shame. At CJ’s age it’s really hard to tell the difference between discretion and “this is wrong and shameful”.
My head knows that if you give CJ free reign and let him tell whomever he wants and wear whatever he wants wherever he wants and love/crush on who he wants then there will be practical consequences. There will be bullies in the form of peers and occasionally in the form of disapproving teachers and parents and these things don’t necessarily go away once people get older or “grow up”. You proved that point with your post about your colleagues sniggering about their trans* co-worker behind that person’s back. To let CJ be himself and still protect him from the harms of judgement and bullying might require a lot of advocacy on your part.
I would also think about talking to the teacher to get CJ assigned to a new reading buddy. If he changed how he drew himself it is because someone made him feel uncomfortable drawing himself as he normally would. Especially if you’re dealing with 11/12 year olds; I remember what it was like to be a 6th grader and I’ve not encountered worse homophobia and transphobia in many groups than in middle school aged males.
There’s been a documentary making the rounds lately called “Trans”. I think you might like it. I know that CJ does not identify himself as trans or even always as a girl but the film does include a family in Orange county who had a young daughter who was born male and they had to deal with what it meant to advocate for that child.
I know advocacy is exhausting. I know parenting and having to think ahead differently than other parents is hard, and lonely, and exhausting but thank you for making an effort. Having positive support systems like that is one of the most important factors in keeping LGBTQ youth emotionally afloat. So, thank you.
You don’t have to ENCOURAGE him to keep a part of himself a secret, just let him know that some people may have a problem with it, and let him make his decisions however he makes them.
We want to think we live in a better day… And we do! This is not 50 years ago, and things have gotten better. However. Open lynchings may be a horror of the past, but every few years, we still have James Byrd getting dragged to death in texas, or Mathew Sheppard in wyoming. We will never be entirely free of the people who do these things.
Since we cant eliminate the danger, what we can do is maximize the happiness! Whatever CJ turns out to be, he will never have to work through years of hiding and secrets and shame. Good for you all! In the meantime, protect him as best you can and be ready to pick him up when life knocks him down. (as it does with ALL of us sometimes)
Bullies are attracted to fear like flies to… well. If you teach CJ to live without fear, then you will be preventing more problems than you are inviting, methinks. And just in case… Would he be open to a karate class? If not, what about CJs Brother? Bullies usually pass on targets who have big, angry brothers.
Sex became an issue in our house in first grade, yes, FIRST GRADE. A boy told our daughter “to be loved by a boy, take your clothes off, climb on top of him naked, and kiss him with your mouth open.” We were in shock. Does this really come up in first grade? We parented her by explaining that she was too young to like boys, too young for anything relating to sex, and that there would come a time for all of that, but for now, she was friends, only friends with everyone. I kind of think that would be applicable to a straight or gay child. Little kids holding hands and kissing on the cheek may be cute, but it sets them up for failure when they don’t realize they aren’t ready for those kinds of relationships. I love your blog, I don’t have any gay children that I know of, but if one of them decided to be just that, I wouldn’t care, I’d put a rainbow sticker in my stick-family portrait. 🙂
I found out about your blog through a Welcoming Congregation workshop at my UU church. My then-four-year-old had recently told me that he had kissed a boy at preschool.
One of the things I learned from that workshop, is much of what Karin expressed. Sexuality and Gender Identity are not the same thing. If CJ feels like a girl, then CJ may be Transgender, and female would be her gender identity. CJ’s sexuality is about who CJ is attracted to:
1) If CJ’s brain is female, and she is attracted to girls, then she’s a lesbian.
2) If CJ’s brain is female, and she is attracted to boys, then she’s straight.
3) If CJ’s brain is male and he is attracted to girls, then he’s straight.
4) If CJ’s brain is male and he is attracted to boys, then he’s gay.
5) If CJ is attracted to both boys and girls, then CJ may be bisexual. Given that most things fall along a bell curve, I think most people are in the 2 to 5 range rather than the extremes.
My son seems to identify pretty strongly as “boy,” but occasionally he’ll throw me for a loop. His favorite color is pink (which is not a problem). A couple of weeks ago, he spent an evening pretending to be Abby Cadabby. The harder part, is that he seems to be kissing the boys at preschool. He had a play date last Saturday. His friend didn’t want to hug goodbye, but was okay with a kiss. So my son kissed him. On the lips. In front of both moms. The friend seemed surprised by it. The friend wanted to say goodbye too, so he asked about kissing back, and his mom said “on the cheek,” and I agreed with that.
I guess I do know that kissing is normal for the 4-to-6 year old age range. And they might experiment with kissing everyone. The fact that all three of the classmates he seems to have kissed are boys…
I love him, no matter what. I’m going to keep loving him wherever this journey takes us.
I remember when I came out, I was lucky to have a supportive family; something that I now know is not always the case for many Gay Youth. My parents never treated me differently, because they said that they always had a feeling I was gay since my wrestling action figures always seemed to hitch up with my sister’s Barbies (to shop not marry). Even now, my parents know and seem to understand while I have an older straight brother and a younger sister, parenting is parenting. I was never treated differently; the only change for them was my freedom to still come to them about relationship advice with guys rather than girls. And I will say I was shocked at how comfortable I feel talking to my dad about it, I thought he would have a harder time transitioning, but he never missed a beat.
People joke and gay bash around me all the time (in a joking way). I understand that saying “You’re Gay” is a term commonly used with my straight friends. I’m not here to change their ideas or beliefs because honestly, I feel many people in my generation don’t see being gay as a negative thing anymore. I’ve surrounded myself with people who believe “you are who you are.” And the world will only accept that more as more generations are brought up to think this same way. You’re doing a great job educating the world, and educating your son. Keep up the good work and don’t fear the haters. They hate and bully because they can’t stand strong like CJ does every day.
I have been reading your blog and following CJ’s story for well over a year now, and this is one of few comments I’ve made. I’m curious about your terminology. And maybe I’ve missed a few posts or something, but does CJ like boys? Has he ever shown an interest in boys?
My thought is that a male can be a transgendered person or a cross-dresser, but still be attracted to females. My husband likes to cross-dress, but is definitely heterosexual.
I know that CJ identifies as female, but is he attracted to females as well? I know he’s only 6, so it’s tough to know for sure. My almost 6yo son shows very little interest in boys or girls; yet my 7 yo son seems to like both boys and girls.
I also have a friend who was born a male twin, yet she identifies as female and is attracted to women. So she is straight by gender norm standards. Technically. If you ask me, I’d say she’s a lesbian in a man’s body.
So, who’s to say that CJ won’t like girls? I guess what I’m getting at is, being a TG male and liking boys would only make him gay by society’s standards. He’s bioligically male, but if CJ believes himself to be a girl and he likes boys, then in my mind, that makes him straight.
He’d still be a member of the LGBTQ community, of course, because he’d be trans, but he may not necessarily be gay.
SO CONFUSING. 🙂
I guess I’m just curious to know whether or not CJ has shown any interest in either gender yet anyway.
I love your blog. I love your openness and honesty and the way you parent CJ. Keep it up!
I think it’s great that you are asking the question, but possible that you are over thinking the matter. From everything I have learned by reading your blog there is no doubt in my mind that you will do and say the right thing at the right time. CJ is in good hands with you and your husband. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
When I was in high school, I had a few girlfriends and a boyfriend (not at the same time). Even as old as I was, 17-18-ish, I had people make threats against my life for kissing my girlfriend in public. I told my mom once, she told me “I still love you, but don’t tell your sister.” that was the only time we talked about it. I just started lying when my girlfriends got me gifts. They probably knew I was lying, but they didn’t push, so I left it at the lies.
That said, my daughter is six and has friends of both genders that she likes a lot and prefers to spend her time with. She already has a “husband” if you ask her (as soon as he gets a job lol). I don’t know that at this age, children really understand all the sex stuff. We keep the lines of communication open and honest and have age appropriate “talks” as often as they come up. It’s better to have them making informed choices about their bodies and understanding the basic differences than to be ignorant of themselves and have someone hurt them.
If your son is LGBTQ, when he brings it up with you, explain that there are times and places to discuss such things and that at school, his job is to learn and listen to his teachers. That’s how we handle things of a private nature. We simply tell them there are places that are better to have this conversation than at school, in the mall, in the public restroom (my daughter is a fan of being loud about private matters in the restroom). This way, you don’t have to make it seem like he’s hiding a part of himself, it’s just that school is simply not the best place to talk about it.
My step daughter was never in the closet. She had said since at least 6 that she was gay and it just wasn’t an issue. She used her judgment on how to deal with her peers (many of whom would ask her openly since her appearance lent others to believe she might be) and she was free to tell people or not tell people as she wished. She dated girls in high school and no one had a problem with it because everyone knew that this was M and that’s just who she was. I think her being so open about it and it just being such a non-issue with the way she dealt with it made it easier for other people to just let it go. Luckily, we live in an area that is usually fairly relaxed about these issues and the schools she went to were particularly good at dealing with it. That helped tremendously since she was able to feel comfortable at school, at home and with her extra-curricular activities.
Just the fact that you even THINK about this makes you SO SO SO AMAZING!!! If all your children grow to have this ability to question, empathize and act, no matter what happens you’ve done a GREAT job! Keep thinking. Keep asking.
I have a 1&half year old baby, and I intend to bring up my child with the best possible open-mindedness towards gender, as well as sexuality. To enable an appreciation of gender equality from early on, and ensure that the kid never, ever finds a way into a narrow closet of any sort. Your very last sentence is so very suggestive of the challenges of such ‘sincere’ parenting, and the conversation really needs to continue, so that more and more eyes open up.
All the best and I think I’m going to read you very often.
Hi, I just stumbled upon this blog, and I love everything it stands for. As the mom of 15 month old twin boys, I’ve questioned myself on how I will treat them should one (or both) turn out to be gay, bi, etc. It didn’t take much digging to realize that I will love them, stand by them, support them, no matter what. And do everything in my power for them to avoid the closet. The gut twisting feelings come when I think about how the world would view them, accept them (or not), and the obstacles we might encounter as a family. This blog is amazing. Write on, mama.
A friend just sent me this link to an article about a gay athlete coming out. It’s a moving story, incredibly well written. I thought you’d enjoy it. http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2012/9/28/3419354/david-testo-gay-soccer-player
I’ve read RMR since the beginning of the year, but this is the first time I truly feel the need to take the time and comment. (I love your blog, just usually don’t take the time to leave a comment.)
I’m not sure there is a straightforward answer to any of your questions, actually, I’m pretty sure there isn’t. So I’d like to relate my own experience with the subject matter at hand.
I’m bisexual. As far back as I can remember, I have been. I was precocious and boy/girl-crazy as far back as kindergarten (which I started at 2, causing a scandal the first day because I just went up to a boy and kissed him because I liked the way he was). I remember being in love with quite a few boys in my kindergarten years, though no girls. I was, however, “in love” with some of the characters from my favourite TV shows. I recall wanting to be Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG but wanting to *be with* Tasha Yar. I also had the hots for Supergirl in that awful 80s movie.
My parents just let it be. They never critisized, never hindered my crushes and loves and I don’t remember a single time where they felt the need to address the gender of these crushes or label my sexuality. Certainly not in kindergarten, but not in later years either. I feel I should also mention that my parents had a few gay friends and never once felt the need to explain the parameters of that. Klaus and Michael were (and still are) a couple, they loved each other, lived together and shared intimacy. No big deal. When I was about 14, I discovered the term “bisexual” and found that it applied to me perfectly. I was happy to possess a word in my vocabulary to describe succinctly what I had always felt and known, but it wasn’t really more than that either.
I have many LGBTQ friends who have been in the closet and had to come out, with varying degrees of pain involved in the process. As such, I consider myself very lucky never to have been in the closet.
There was never a closet to begin with. What I was, what I felt, who I loved was all part of who I was and there never seemed a need to discuss it. I don’t find that my sexual orientation is something I lead with either. I never mention it unless it comes up naturally in a conversation. That’s because, well, why should I? Straight people don’t say: “I’m Hannah, I like ice cream, French authors and by the way, I’m straight.” If I am asked or if it comes up, I share and disclose, no biggie. I don’t hide anything but I don’t use “easy” language either. For me, that means that I’ll say “If I ever marry, *he* or *she* will be….” or “I sure wish I had a boyfriend or girlfriend again”. I do mention both options open to me when I speak of pertaining things.
And finally a word about bullies. I was open and honest about my sexual orientation throughout all my school years. I went to a fairly snobby, mostly-rich-kids and Catholic-schoolgirls kind of school, but I never got bullied for my sexuality. I got made fun of because I was (still am) plus-sized and some people seemed uncomfortable with the level of comfort I had with my sexual orientation, but that was it.
The great thing about never having a closet and just naturally discovering who you are, with as little labels as possible to begin with, is that it tends to shut potentially mean people and hurtful situations down before they can even get started. At least it seemed to work out that way for me. There may be cultural differences though (I’m European) and I can’t promise it will work the same way for CJ. BUT! Self-acceptance is an incredibly powerful thing to have. If it’s instilled properly, it will help the person weather the storms. And though it might seem like a paradox, sometimes not talking about it, not overanalysing it is the right way to go. If it’s not made to be a huge issue, it won’t become an issue.
Well, those are my two cents anyway. Again, I’d like to stress that this is my experience and my views and I know that everyone is different and needs to find their own way to make things work. But maybe having an extra opinion, an extra point of view can help with finding what works best (and what doesn’t).
I have 2 slightly off-topic comments to make First, when a child who’s been raised by a same-sex couple enters their teens, do they have an equally difficult time coming out as ‘straight’? Secondly, as someone remarked at last years’ PFLAG Gala, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t HAVE to have these sorts of events? When a person’s sexuality is a non-issue?’ I often think of that statement as I walk thru our city’s ‘gay ghetto’.
Love the blog! Keep up the great work!
First question, no, because, whatever their sexuality, they almost certainly don’t have to “come out” at all. For those lucky few, there likely is no closet to begin with!
Second part, I agree completely – I love the idea that, in some future time and place, people will shake their heads in wonder that anyone had to have such rallies to gain acceptance.
On a related note, some of these acronyms are getting bulky! There are times when I’m left to wonder what THAT letter means? Maybe it’s time to adopt a simple word that applies to those whose personality and lifestyle is outside the usual. Something positive that would apply to all who don’t fit into that cramped little box the mundanes try to squeeze people into!
All I can recommend to you is to keep doing whatever you think is right! If/when CJ or any child announces to the family he is “LGBTQ” or whatever, all they’re looking for is assurance that the family still loves them and accepts them. My parents ‘accepted’ my gay identity by ignoring it, and they missed out on knowing my partners like they got to know my brother-in-law… my current partner is still ‘persona non grata’ at any family function, since he’s obviously NOT family. I accept their decision, but I do not respect it, and sometimes I offend my mom when I insist on spending family days with HIM and not THEM. But I feel OK with it, if not completely happy. I can tell from your writings your children will never feel left out, and I envy them!
Very good question! We are, perhaps, finally in a time and place where the closet can be avoided! I hand’t thought about this before, but yes, now, it can absolutely be, if one has parents like you! Go for it; let him shield himself, but never hide who he is. What a wonderful thing!
I also have to say, with all the stupidity and foolishness going on in the country now, I love reading your posts and the responses it gets. Soooo good to know there are sane, smart, good folks out there! Your posts garner responses to help support you and yours, but they also feed back to and among all of us out here. Thank you for that!
I have twins who just started Kindergarten and just turned 5. They are small, especially my son (41″, 35 lbs.). My daughter is almost totally gender normative (favorite colors are pink and purple; loves dressing up as a princess, etc.) My son is more gender creative, but still dresses (for the most part) in gender normative clothing.
When he was 3, both children LOVED wearing their purple crocs to school. And my son got teased for it — and it really upset him and scarred and scared him — he didn’t want to go back to school. Once I finally figured out what was going on, I spoke with the teachers about it, and they talked with the children about respect and teasing and colors (without ever invoking the teasing involving my son) and the teasing stopped. Meanwhile, I had started looking into other pre-schools for him.
I’m glad we stuck it out: I wanted my children to learn that when there’s a problem, we deal with it head-on — we don’t just run away. And the whole thing broke my heart. I wanted him to be safe and to feel good about himself and his choices. And I wanted to kick some pre-schooler butt myself.
He’s not a rough-and-tumble kid. And for the last year and a half, he’s been saying he wants to marry his boy cousin who is a year and a half younger than he is. (Actually, both of my children say their going to marry the same boy cousin!) While my son has girl-friends and enjoys the company of girls.
We are a two-Mom family, and we live in the suburbs outside of San Diego. I have heard that there are other alternative families at our school, but I’ve yet to meet them. We are also Jewish, and I’ve yet to meet another Jewish family out here.
So, there are lots of things that make our family different from the norm out here. But I do my best to be clear and proud and to teach my children that there is nothing in them or their family to be ashamed of. At their birthday party at a park recently, one of my son’s friends asked me, “Does his Dad play golf?” I smiled and said, “He has two moms, no Dad. Their grandfather doesn’t play golf, but he’s a great tennis player.” The child just nodded and asked if my Dad was really strong, and that’s what we talked about. I model acceptance and I am just matter-of-fact about our family.
And, yet — I signed my children up for a self-defense class. I want them to be able to feel strong and confident when faced with adversity and/or danger. I speak with their teachers about our family and if I suspect anything is amiss, I talk with the teachers about it, so they can be on the lookout — and so far, I have been able to count on the teachers as allies, too.
So, that’s the line I walk. I feel strongly that “dress-up costumes” belong at home; I hate tutus and have forbidden them being worn as play clothing outside the house (how impractical!). But if my children want to wear more gender-creative clothing to school, so be it. I do not plan on telling either of them to closet themselves — I think that my son might die a little inside if I suggested that he hide even an atom of his special beautiful self. And NOTHING is worth that.
Our family theme song is Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” And I sing it to my children at bedtime, “I think you’re amazing JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.” I want them to know that I believe that with my whole heart.
I’m not going to pretend for an instant that what I’m about to say is easy or obvious, or that there’s a clear way to do it. But I honestly think it’s the answer to your question.
At it’s heart, what you’ve made the commitment to do with CJ is let him be himself and tell you the truth about his experience and support him in doing it, even when it’s courageous and hard for him, for you, or for other members of the family.
You’ve done something wonderful in making it clear to him that you are a safe place and supportive environment for him to wear dresses, like girl stuff, experiment with makeup, and so on, and that he can come to you with questions or concerns or tips about such things and have them be taken seriously without being condemned or feeling wrong about them.
No matter what any of us want for kids like CJ, it is a truth that the world is often hostile to sexual and gender minorities. So, one way of looking at it is that by being a safe place for him to express his genuine experience of that without condemnation – being free to be open with you about feeling the need to be closeted sometimes, being free to share his frustrations, being free to examine his choices, and knowing that whatever they are, you will be there for him – all of that is merely continuing what you’ve already started.
Your goal was never to encourage him to wear dresses, but to encourage him to do what felt right for him to do for himself, and that if that included wearing dresses, so be it. Similarly, your goal doesn’t have to be to encourage him to be out about every aspect of his life to every passing stranger, but rather, to encourage him to do what feels right to him, even if that includes hiding parts of himself from hostile strangers.
Do you lock your doors when you leave your home? If so, it’s probably because there are private and valuable things in your home that you don’t want total strangers having free access to steal or damage. Especially for a child or a teen who doesn’t have free choice of who to associate with or who to allow to be in authority over him, developing a public persona that serves as a coping mechanism isn’t necessarily the wrong choice. It may be a healthy and courageous choice.
You can help him understand that he is free to do that, to hold onto the fact that his choice of how to present himself doesn’t have to be a value judgement on their being anything wrong with who he is, and that he’s still free to choose how and when to present himself in other ways. That he will have more freedom to call his own shots as he gets older and can choose his own friends and work environment. And that whatever he chooses, you’ll have his back, especially if anyone starts bullying him.
You’re resisting the pressure to help others impose their views on who he is supposed to be. Good for you. But don’t turn that into choosing not to help him develop the skills he chooses to develop to be who he wants (or needs) to be.
Hi, When I was in Kindergarten. I remember seeing another boy run down the hill that was right behind our classroom. He held his hands in a particular way, bent back at the wrists. Today we refer to them as “jazz hands.” But then, the other children made fun of him. That was the moment I learned to hide certain aspects of myself. I guess it was self preservation.
It seems to me that CJ already knows this, which we learned from your story about his mentor. But like everyone else says, CJ is one of the lucky ones. When I was almost thirty, and came out to my mother, she recommended that I keep it to myself. She thought it may make people uncomfortable. I asked her, “Should I be uncomfortable?” Her answer was no. It took some time, but she now comes out of the closet about me much for often.
Thank you for writing about your family and your life experiences. It is very inspirational.
I love reading about how you’re raising C.J. and in my opinion you’re doing all of the right things. I grew up with a single amazing bisexual mom. She let us dress ourselves, make our own decisions about activities/toys, and raised both my sister and me extreeeemely neutrally when it came to sexuality. I first realized I had feelings towards other girls when I was quite young and could openly talk about this with my mom, who always listened and supported me and essentially just told me she wanted me to be happy. For some reason, I knew pretty early on that the rest of the world didn’t function quite as openly as our family. I got picked on when I was younger, not for my sexual orientation but rather for the slew of other oddities that kids found strange about me; my self-picked attire consisting of a mixture of princess clothes and hand-me-downs from my boy cousins, my nose always in a book, etc. So when it came time for me to start expressing my liking for boys, which was then non-existent, I knew the world wasn’t going to be so friendly about it. I still had to come out to some of my extended family, my friends at school, etc. Despite being able to talk about it so openly with my family, my hands still shook when I told my friends and every negative reaction I got still hurt. But I had no guilt and no shame. My mom had raised me to be proud of who I was and every decision I made. Knowing I had her, and my other family members, to come home to made it all much easier. From what it sounds like reading your blog in past months, C.J.’s going to be a fierce little kid with a strong home base. And even though it might take the world a little while to embrace all the delicious creativity and ambiguity, knowing he(she?) has you to come home to will probably make a world of difference. 🙂
Catie….please hug your mother for me, this story makes me teary eyed with the love of a mother for her child. I follow this blog like a religion and every time a parent loves their child with the fierceness that is expressed by CJ’s mom, your mother and you my heart just sings….
Sad fact is that LGBT kids are not the only ones horribly treated in this world, just read the papers. Teach him how to trust his instincts and make sure he knows you always have his back, no matter what. He will quickly learn how to protect himself in any situation.
I work to help create a family identity for our children and talk explicitly about how we don’t discriminate against gays. This became an issue this month when the Boy Scouts came into my son’s public school 2nd grade classroom to recruit. Our son was crushed when he learned that the Boy Scouts discriminate against gays, lesbians, and atheists – all of whom are part of his world. He thought going to Angel’s games, competing in the pinewood derby, and making marshmallow shooters sounded like a lot of fun. I complained to the principal and he agreed to not allow the scouts to recruit from the classroom next year. He also said that, even in the wake of the Boy Scout sex abuse scandal, I was the only parent to complain.
When I told our son about the decision, he said, “either they have to stop coming in the classroom or stop rejecting people.” Those were his words!
So, the lesson is – find your allies. You can be out as a parent with other parents. They can talk with their children about the importance of acceptance. The more YOU hide, the less information you have about the best friendship choices for CJ. The more out YOU are, the more you will be able to help him guard himself against bullies. You have allies. And you have adversaries. As a parent you can help identify who is on what side of this issue.
“When I told our son about the decision, he said, “either they have to stop coming in the classroom or stop rejecting people.” Those were his words!”
Beautiful words, too! If they’re not going to invite all the boys, just don’t bother.
I was a cub scout leader for a decade, and our pack was open to every kid. It was basically our decision to simply ignore anything that might keep a kid out. The local council wasn’t thrilled at times, but they let us run things our way. We never let them know if we had a kid from an atheist family, or a feminine boy or two. We even had a girl who went from Tigers to Webelos; that was the only thing we couldn’t hide! Got some grief for it now and then, but she stayed! Here’s hoping the BSA will one day realize the program doesn’t implode if all kids join in.
Wow: respect to you for doing what you could for those children. This makes me realise how lucky we are to live in a country (NZ) where the Scout movement doesn’t make those demands. If they insisted on knowing, in our area, which children came from believers’ families and excommunicating the rest, they’d find themselves with very few recruits indeed. There are prayers, indeed, at camp (very quickly said) and my son has decided that his god (whom he thinks of at those times) is nature, of which he knows he’s a part.
I don’t think I ever had to fully ‘come out’ to anyone, save my Dad. I just let people figure it out and I have not had a bad reaction from anyone. If I did, then I don’t want to be around them anyway. As several people have said, it’s not the first thing you shout about. Why would you? People don’t walk into a new group and say, ‘by the way, I’m straight’ so it would be just weird and rather egotistical to assume everyone really cares that much about who you might be attracted to. As long as you don’t outright lie, then I don’t see it as an issue. People work it out and that’s that. I do accept that I am lucky to live in a world where i am surrounded by educated, sensible people and I don’t face so many of the problems faced by those who live in cultures which don’t accept differences. Mostly the ones who made the wrong assumptions are embarrassed that they have been shown to be stereotyping so badly and the conversation moves on.
“I used to think that we had until middle school (plus or minus a year or two) to learn our son’s sexuality. What if it happens in kindergarten? ”
I was in kindergarten or maybe 1st grade when I kissed the boy next door, he was playing my “husband”, I don’t remember playing “wife” I was “just me”. This was in 1956 or ’57. Perhaps this was the beginning for me of learning to hide my true identity from the world. It was definitely not safe back then and for many, many years to be open and free. When I read about young kids today not thinking twice about who they are and their families not blinking an eyelash over the non-news when James announces at age 5 he is going to marry John I cry with joy for them and also shed a tear for myself too for what I did not have – love and acceptance.
I think that many people assume that one has to be at least approaching puberty for self realization about same gender attraction to become apparent. Most likely because many people still assume same gender attraction to be ALL about sex. I have actually been told – “how could you know you were gay when you were too young to have sex?” Millions of people realize that they are heterosexual long before middle school and millions of people think nothing of it, but are amazed and surprised when non-heterosexual people “know” who they are at a young age. Again, because of the confusion that gay = sex . And because of this confusion we have organized groups who sincerely but mistakenly believe that if gay people simply stop having same gender sex they are somehow, magically no longer gay, especially if you replace the same gender sex with opposite gender sex. Adding to the confusion is our archaic terminology of “homosexual” heterosexual” & “bisexual” – as if human sexual identity fits neatly into just three distinct boxes – all with “sex” as part of the words too. So not only do we need to remove “sex” from this very personal and individual self identity characteristic, we need to get rid of this only three “sexual” identities too.
Personally, even though I may say “I’m gay” I self-identify as a Kinsey-5. I hope that someday in the not too distant future identity using either the Kinsey Scale or the Klein Scale will be the norm.
This is why I wish more people would know the terms homoromantic, heteroromantic, panromantic, aromantic, etc. Sexuality and romantic attraction are separate things, and most young children don’t really have sexualities, though they may have romantic preferences. I dunno, maybe since I’m asexual, I don’t understand, but I certainly wasn’t thinking about having sex with anyone when I was 5, though I had puppy-love crushes that didn’t take gender into account.
As a child psychologist, I have lots of experience with young people of all ages coming out. I have seen and heard the best and the worst of people in these children’s lives – from friends who embrace them mightily to parents who reject them outright to siblings who stand staunchly by their sides to teachers who bully them. In my experience, and in the words of some of my young clients, what matters far more than enything else is love and acceptance at home. The love of Mom and Dad is 1000x more powerful than the hate of a bully. It is your love that has and will make CJ secure in his identity and able to stand up to the haters. I encourage you to follow CJ’s lead and be ready to advocate for him when needed. I have a strong feeling that CJ is going to be just fine!
I can see your dilemma. Clearly, he’s never going to have to worry about being accepted by his family, but people can be very cruel, especially kids who don’t really understand empathy etc yet. My personal advice would be that perhaps, when he’s young, he could be open with it to his friends, and to people he trusts, but not declare it to the entire class. If they ask, then of course he shouldn’t lie. But perhaps it would be best not to be ostentatious about it while he’s at the stage when other kids aren’t really considering other people’s feelings. I’ve been on the receiving end of bullying (because I was a Christian and the kids at my school weren’t), and I realise now that I didn’t have to keep it a secret to avoid that, I just needed to be less conspicuous and to shout it from the rooftops a little less. Does that make sense? I’m not advocating secrecy because I think you’re right and that would be unhealthy, but I’m not advocating walking into a class of people he’s never met and telling them he’s gay before they know anything else about him at all.
I think it may be less complicated than you imagine it to be. When I was six I fell in love with one of my male classmates, David. I still remember the softness of his perfect brown hair and the nice clothes he wore. He had a beautiful face and I used to daydream about kissing him. One day, as he was coming in the door and I was going out, we bumped into each other and our noses both began to bleed. While the teacher cleaned me up I remember thinking how wonderful it was that our lips had touched at last.
I already knew to keep my crush a secret, that it wasn’t something to share with my other friends, and that was okay. I also knew that the other boys liked girls and that was okay too. My best friend used to make me sit under the wooden steps with him while he tried to see up girl’s dresses, an activity I found odd, but I humored him.
I never felt that my longings for other boys were wrong because they felt right to me. I knew, however, that everyone else would disapprove and that is where it would have been helpful to have a family I could have confided in. That would have saved me from decades of grief and fear. In religious minorities and ethnic minorities children may meet with frequent disapproval from the outside world but they have the comfort of being with family and friends who show them that they are not alone. It isn’t like that for gay children. When I grew up I knew that I was on my own. My family would have removed their love from me and I would have been a constant object of ridicule and abuse at my school and that’s where the real hurt comes from.
My point is that as long as you provide the nurturing, accepting, loving home life that you do then CJ is going to be just fine. You can’t and shouldn’t shield him from every little hurt, but he will meet them and move on. Everyone does.
You’re doing a great job so relax and don’t worry so much.
I think that the best answer to you question
is that CJ will be able to face anything in this
world with parents like you. I know that someone mentioned that children of other races, cultures, etc. have to explain the issues of how people can be beyond mean. I agree and a GLBTQI child is the same. I think that you all are so open with and have created such a wonderful safety net for CJ that facing society with closed minds will be much easier. Knowing this safety net exists in the family makes such a different case. CJ is free to be and free to fly because CJ knows that no matter what happens the family will be there with unconditional support. In that CJ is one of the luckiest kids in the world. I admire you all for being such awesome parents. I love the outfit CJ has on with the scooter. How whimsical and fun 🙂 🙂
I learn so much from your blog and from the comments section too. It is very true that the need to protect our children is intense and never goes away. I have no other advice other than a hybrid of what has already been shared. As C.J.s mom, you make choices about who you share your true mama self with – it doesn’t mean you are hiding CJ, going into and out of the “closet”, so to speak. You are, as one commenter put it, deciding who is worth your trust. You model this for CJ every day. I know this dilemma and it used to feel like I had to tell people everything or it might look like I was ashamed. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve come to learn, as CJ will, that not everyone is worthy of sharing all his fabulousness with! He will change the world for so many people but only if they’re worthy of him.
the closet is a difficult thing – i feel you’ve created a space at home where it’ll never be needed, outside sometimes the closet is a safer place. I think it’s about accepting the world is not always a safe place giving your child the resilience to deal with this.
C.J’s one cool child and you’ve given them the space to grow up to be whoever they are, fully accepted, that’s all one needs of childhood.
Whatever you decide, it will be the right decision in that moment in time. And as time and things change, you can change how you handle things. My son knows he is different from other kids (he’s 9), and he gets down on himself. Sometimes he gets teased, and with his pervasive anxiety, it really gets to him. And his issue has nothing to do with his sexuality (hetero), it has to do with his brain and the fact that it doesn’t process things quite right, so he has difficulties with things like school (reading, writing, being able to maintain focus). As much of a challenge my son has been, and will continue to be, my heart goes out to you because of the fearful, judgmental society we live in.
It is common to protect your children is teaching them fear, as there are legitimate things to be afraid of in life. But in my opinion, caring parents always over teach fear. Children learn by themselves who is nice and who isn’t. A solid sense of self and self-acceptance is the only thing that can protect your child from the not-nice people he will encounter in life. He, himself will learn to protect himself from real danger [a rare thing we are falsely over-exposed by the media to danger. Life is a lot safer than we infer from the evening news.] Anything you deliberately try to teach him will be teaching him fear of others, and there are always “others”.
I had never thought about it, but my goodness you are right. with he right upbringing why would he ever go in the closet. Same with my little boy ( I hope) we don’t know which way the wind will blow for him but he currently wants to marry boys and he just says it. ( age 5)
“Do I explain to him the dangers of being out to certain types of people – his bullying schoolmates included? Is a child equiped to fully understand that?”
Parents of children of color have to explain racism at a very early age. I see this – explaining that some people don’t like other people because of their sexual orientation – in the same vein. Only my son doesn’t have the choice of not telling people he’s brown. (On top of that, he likes to dress like a girl and pretend he’s a girl too.) We have had to tell him that some people don’t like brown people, just because they’re brown. But it’s not the brown person’s fault, it’s the hater’s. I imagine you’d tackle gender identity and bullies the same way.
You and your family are amazing. I don’t have an answer to your very difficult query. It really will always come back to wanting your son to be safe. If it weren’t safe for him to be opening heterosexual (you know, in some freakish alter-universe,smile) I imagine you would have this same quandary. If you weren’t worried about pushing him into the closet or his safety if he is out and proud with everyone, you wouldn’t be the incredibly enlightened ultra awesome mama that you are. I think that you have already tackled some challenging terrain and conversations with your son… You can do this too. Whatever you decide to say will come from your heart and he will hear and understand your truth. ❤ he is not your typical 6 yr old in so many ways. He understands some things that other 6 yr olds wouldn't even begin to grasp…. He will hear you.
I don’t claim to be an expert, but it might not be soooo horrible if people knew. Most of the people who have commented so far, have focused on the negative and your fears, which are justified, But many more people are becoming definitely fine (or at least ok) with homosexuality. It’s still totally an issue, but for many people it’s not (I hope that makes sense). Much of this will depend on where you live and the attitudes of that community. If you live in a pretty progressive area, there might not be as much harm as you think.
The kids who came out in my highschool (in rural midwest) were totally loved by about 1/3 of their classmated, ignored by another third and sniggered at such by another third. And that was in a “bible belt” town. CJ won’t be hated by everybody, no matter where he is. He’ll find love throughout his entire life, plutonic and romantic.
I’m also a firm believer that if kids are going to get picked on, they will. It’s sad and it hurts and they definitely don’t need anymore ammo, but kids will make things up if they can’t find a “reason”.
We talk a lot in the LGBTQ community about how “coming out” is not a one-time thing, but in fact an ongoing, lifetime process. Because heterosexuality is the presumed norm, many lesbian/gay/bi/queer folks have to explain to each new person, when the time is right, that they are not, in fact, straight. (I’m guessing you know this – you seem pretty well informed.) I don’t know if that gives you a helpful framework for the hypothetical conversation with CJ. You could explain that it’s not fair that gay people have to tell other people about their sexual orientation all the time, while straight people don’t, but that this is how our society, in particular, works. And then you two could talk about how the timing of how to tell certain people is going to be different, how you might tell some people right away but others (the bank teller, people you meet on the subway, etc.) may not even need to know, because they don’t know you very well as a person. You could emphasize that there is nothing wrong or shameful about being gay, but that it can be a hard thing to navigate, in our society, and that there’s nothing wrong with waiting to tell someone or choosing not to tell them at all. And you could express (in an age-appropriate way, if you think it’s a good idea with CJ) that you worry about him, as his mom, because it can be difficult to be openly gay in a society where there is discrimination. That you want him to be proud and loved for exactly who he is, but you also don’t want him to get hurt.
This might all have to be screened and rephrased appropriately for a 6/7/8-year-old; I haven’t had a deep and meaningful conversation with an elementary-schooler in a while. But as his mom, I suspect you have the chops for that, and you know your son better than I do. Maybe that awesome therapist you guys see once in a while could help with this, too?
Good luck, in any event. My parents told me I was going to hell and needed to turn straight, so you’re already way ahead of that era. 🙂
It is a good idea for C. J. to build a big circle of friends who honestly like him the way he is and will defend him if someone else picks on him. Training friends to accept and defend their friends is worthwhile for all kids, whether they are short or have freckles or have curly red hair or whatever. (The kid who committed suicide in his Stillwater, OK, school had curly red hair, and I bet spent his life being called Ronald McDonald.) Having a special talent that is developed along with a social circle also helps the ego. I recall reading that Adam Lambert took refuge with the theater group at his school, took pride in developing his voice, and made good friends with the most popular cheerleaders/actresses (it probably helped that he was very tall and strong). Johnny Weir had a life outside of school training to be a world-class skater and made many friends who also were skaters.
In kindergarten, when my daughter got three proposals from little boy classmates, she asked me what she should say to her suitors. I told her “I’ll consider your proposal after we all finish college. For now, let’s just be friends, not girlfriend-boyfriend.” Which puts everybody’s offer on the back burner for a good long time and helps set everyone’s sights on the long perspective. At that young age, it’s just important to learn how to be friends, play together, and get along. Exclusive relationships come later when folks are a lot more mature.
I really hope this doesn’t come across as negative or aggressive. I’m afraid it will, but my intentions are positive so, please, bear with me. And please accept my apology in advance for writing so much. I have tremendous respect for you as a parent. I have parented for close to 30 years and, although the issues before you are not issues I’ve had to parent my way through, I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share. And I hope you’ll accept them in the spirit in which they’re offered.
I’m not one of those people who thinks that, if I had my life to do over, I’d do everything just the same because that’s what made me who I am today. (People could say that no matter what choices they made or who they became. It’s a point without a point, IMHO.) If I had to do my life over again, there are things I’d do differently and one of them is not tell the world everything. I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve throughout my entire life. It’s an invitation to be hurt. Not everyone needs to know everything. Some people will find an opening to criticize or ridicule anything … everything … and to do so as cruelly as possible.
When it comes to children, it’s not necessarily their fault. Children are mirrors of their parents. If a child is overhearing things at home, even if the parents don’t see themselves as homophobic or hateful but just despise all that “politically correct” stuff and say whatever comes into their heads, the children will repeat what they hear. Or if a child is hurt at home, s/he will take that hurt to school and use it on others. Almost all bullies, except perhaps born sociopaths, start out as victims.
If we weren’t talking about sexual orientation, what would you do? I’m thinking of people who were sexually molested as children. The ones who felt they had to keep it a secret from the whole world, including their families, were damaged by it. The ones who could talk about it with family and close friends, much less so. But being able to share with people we trust is different than trusting and sharing with everyone we meet. Not everyone deserves the privilege of our trust.
Hell, we live in a culture where men actually, publicly use phrases like “legitimate rape.” I cannot imagine being a woman who was raped and who shared that information and then had to deal with someone questioning the “legitimacy” of the rape. And yet that kind of thing happens to women every day ,,, every hour.
My point is, not everyone needs to know everything. And not sharing everything with everyone is not the same as being in the closet. I don’t think that CJ will be more free if he shares everything openly, indiscriminately, and then gets beaten up for it. I know people — strong, confident people — who’ve been beaten up. It changes them, and not in a freeing way.
It’s hard to see children’s innocence damaged by telling them that not everyone will embrace them with love, especially when they are as free with their own love as CJ clearly is. But it’s so much harder to see them damaged by the hate of someone who just didn’t need to have all the information.
The day will come, all too soon I might add, when CJ, himself, is old enough to decide who, outside of those he loves, should have the privilege of his trust. Some people just don’t deserve to be trusted. It’s a really, really sad thing to know that, and even sadder to tell a child that. But I think that’s just an important consequence of growing up. As parents, we can’t protect our children from everything, so we have to help them learn to protect themselves.
You are an amazing mother, and you have created an amazing family. CJ is a very lucky little boy, as is his brother. Ultimately, no one reading your blog can make this decision for you … not even me, for all I go on and on about my thoughts. I’ve never met you, but just from reading your blog I know that you just need to trust yourself. You will make the right decision.
A dear friend once told me that when I had a difficult decision to make, I should go somewhere alone and make all the other voices about all the other things in my life be quiet for a moment. And then I would hear two voices. One would be shouting loudly, telling me what to do, and the other would be whispering. The voice that shouts is the voice of your logic, your brain. The voice that whispers is the voice of your intuition, your heart.
Listen to your heart. It will almost never steer you wrong. And on the odd occasion that things don’t work out as you’d hoped, you’ll know that any mistakes you made were not made because you allowed someone else’s logic to overpower or drown out your intuition. You shut out their brains and listened to your own heart, and this is what your heart brought you, and now you must listen to your heart again to figure out how to deal with it.
I have a feeling that’s pretty much what you do, anyway.
I have to agree with much of this… The Hubby and I are Pagan, and our children are being raised with Paganism as their foundational faith. But we live in a country where a majority of population is Christian, and as much as I would love for society to be different, the reality is that everyone has something that someone, somewhere will see as a reason to criticise and condemn. Not only have other children been cruel, so have adults. I’m not sure why an adult would feel entitled to tell someone else’s four year old that she’s going to hell…but it happens (and I’m sure you can guess where my response told them to go). Personally, I’ve come to see my job as a parent as twofold–to give my children the room and support to learn who they are, while helping them figure out how they are most comfortable presenting themselves to what can be an unkind world.
You wrote this a long time ago, but I think it’s amazing & wanted you to know that. Life isn’t fair, & it’s really I fortunate when children have to learn that. It’s unfortunate when that lesson is reinforced in our teen & adult years, as well. But it is true. And we all learn it at some point in our lives. I’m someone else who has been prone to wearing my heart on my sleeve. Even so, there have been some things in my life that I have just instinctively KNOWN it would be better not to share with people. The times when I have shared anyway, because I was too angry or hurt or hope that the other person would understand, have resulted in negative consequences of one kind or another. I have learned to trust that little voice, & to deal with my personal disappointment when it tells me “now is not the time to share this” or “this person won’t understand”. It’s a difficult lesson, but an important one. Neither do I think your advice is harsh, judgemental, or angry sounding. It sounds compassionate to me.
It also sounds like CJ (& his family members) have good emotional intelligence, & I dare say he already has good instincts about who he can trust. Most importantly, he knows he can trust his family. If only all children were so fortunate!
I wish there was a script for “coming out.” There isn’t and thats a fact. I believe that children are unfiltered and express themselves the way they want to. C.J. does just that. You and your husband have done an amazing job at making a welcoming and inclusive environment for him to express himself. That being said, there comes a time in a persons life when their childhood declarations become real. And by real I mean real to themselves and real in their comprehension of societies judgment that come along with it. “Coming Out” is a daily process. “Coming Out” to your family is such a small part. It’s great that if C.J. is gay his family will rally around him and be supportive, but when he is older he will have to make the decision to “come out” to others every day. His doctor will ask if his girlfriend has been showing similar symptoms. His co-workers will try and set him up. His dry cleaner will ask about starch levels for his boyfriend’s favorite shirt and he won’t know the answer. These are all examples of the choice gay people make everyday on coming out. Should I correct the pronoun? Should I say no, this isn’t my “friend”? Should I tell them? There is no preparation for this.
This reminds me a little of the leaves on the legs of the boy in the movie “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and while it was a little over the top, I think you can teach the idea of “over-sharing” in lots of examples without making his sexual orientation a problem or something shameful.
Love you guys.
I wish I had an answer for you. Your two instincts, to nourish your child’s authentic self & to protect him, although potentially contradictory (as you point out), nonetheless demonstrate what a supportive mother you are.
such difficult questions and no easy answers. if only we just make it all OK for our kids, however they want to live their lives.
You know, I think I often remember my “coming out” process as relatively benign, since I’m Goth, and most sexual identities are accepted among us. Then I remember (I guess I’ve tried to block it out) when my mom found out about my middle school girlfriend
Wow, the safety issue is the hardest part. An expanded version of the typical “stranger danger” lessons we teach all of our kids is a place to start. Wish it were that easy, though.
you are an incredible mom. and are part of an incredible family.