I was in fifth grade. I boarded the school bus and a sixth grade girl asked me if I was virgin.
“No,” I said giving her a dirty look and finding a seat. That sounded like a terrible thing to be.
“Yes you are. Virgin!” she said rudely.
I ignored her. After dinner I told my mom that a girl at school called me a virgin. She took a deep breath.
“Well, honey, you are one.” And, right then and there, I got the sex talk. I walked to my bed with slumped shoulders and cried myself to sleep. Men’s penises get hard and they stick them in women’s vaginas. Someday a man was going to stick his penis in my vagina. What a nightmare.
The next day my mom left a book about puberty and sex on my bed. I was grossed out and humiliated.
Our oldest son is getting ready to turn 10. He’s been asking some questions that have us feeling like the first of many puberty and sex talks may be coming in the year ahead. Which got me thinking.
I can’t remember the first time that I assumed it because I’ve assumed it for so many years now. I’ve always assumed that, because we have two boys, my husband would take on the brunt of the responsibility when it comes to detailed discussions of puberty and sex. We’d be absolutely open and honest about puberty and sex discuss them freely as needed, but certain discussions are heavy – C.J.’s Dad would lift those. If we had had girls, it would have been my job.
“Who gives the boys the sex talk?” I asked C.J.’s Dad out of the blue – like I ask most questions.
“I do,” he said without hesitation.
“What if one of them is gay?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that.” He paused. And, paused. And, paused. “I have to admit, you’re blowing my mind a little right now,” he answered honestly.
It’s the same for our close friends with kids; the same-sex parent does the majority of the puberty and sex talking. And, the majority of the sex talking involves the details of heterosexual sex. Mine did – rightly so. My brother’s did – epic fail.
The puberty and sex talks seem to be all about procreation, not about having sex because it’s enjoyable or because it’s what you do in a committed relationship or to bond with your partner. And, if you’re talking about procreation, you’re talking about a man and a woman. The sex talk needs to be different for gay children, right?
“Say C.J. is gay…I guess we give him both sex talks,” C.J.’s Dad said after a while.
“So, if his brother is straight, are you going to give him both sex talks?” I asked. “That only seems fair.”
“Ugh! My parents didn’t even have any puberty or sex talks with me. I figured it out on my own. Can’t they just do that?” C.J.’s Dad asked entirely frustrated.
“No! They need to know about safe sex and being responsible and respectful and all that crap,” I argued.
To be honest, if one of my son’s is gay, it just seems like I should be the one to give the sex talks. I don’t know why. But I think that we need to be careful with both of the boys that as we start to discuss these things we are mindful not to make assumptions about their sexuality. No stigma. No shame. No secrets. But we still have to educate them about STDAware tests for chlamydia everything else more unpleasant.
Thankfully we have plenty of time to think about it. Because, as with so many things about raising kids in general and raising a gender nonconforming child in particular, we have no idea what we are doing.
* * *
Disclaimer: I know that not all households have a father and mother present. If I were the only parent/primary caregiver in our home, I would give the sex talk to both boys (or both girls, if we had them. Or, to any number of children in any combination of sex/gender). C.J.’s Dad and I realize that our assumptions hadn’t been based on a lot of thought. We assumed them; we didn’t think about them prior to getting inspired to write this post.
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I think these talks need to include both parents, of whatever gender and/or orientation, and need to be less focused on procreation and more on consent, responsibility and openness. I absolutely plan on talking to my hypothetical future son about these things, the same as my hypothetical future daughter. I think by only having one parent of take the reins, it builds the impression that there is something dirty or secretive about talking these things out, that you are only supposed to talk to certain people about it.
I totally second one of the other commentor’s suggestion to get the uncle involved when CJ is older, if he is gay. I think having someone who can relate on that level is critical. I’ve heard from almost every single gay friend I have that there was a lot they didn’t know and wished they had by the time they were entering romantic relationships with the same gender. You and your husband can support these talks, but you won’t be able to offer the same kind of guidance that your brother can.
Other than that, just kept being the awesome mama and papa that ya’ll are! Your love, support and openness, and your willingness to ask these tough questions of yourselves and try to come up with the right answer put you miles ahead of most. Your little boy is being allowed to grow up being exactly who he is, unlike many, many of my friends who had to either hide it or be confused by it until much later in life, and that in itself is such a huge, important thing.
I have always meant to comment on your blog, i just never do (I get so busy).
But today (as soooo many other days) I roared in laughter. You are SUCH a delight. I wish I had a mom as understanding as you. I to was a non gender conforming child and it really took my mom by storm (southern christian Black woman) but she did the best and a great job on her own.
I remember the sex talk… And she was very in depth to me(the oldest) and my younger sister. You ask, she was telling “just like it T i is” I, was repulsed, except about the penis part. And her reply was “I’m sure in time…. You are gonna find out”
Of course there was no AIDS or HIV then but, I did find out.
If I may, may I suggest that you enlist the help of your Gay Brother to usher it along. Tbere are some aspects of GAY SEX heterosexuals arent ready to explain. I had my “gay mother” (this older queen) tell me all i needed to know, cause my mom didnt know.
That is a great idea. I love you.. And please keep writing.
I think it’s this episode, if not it’s one or two around it, but a caller asks Dan Savage about talking about how to talk about puberty for LGBTQ kids. Great advice, it’s not just one conversation but several.
I think more sex ed talks need to first address the idea of consent. Obtaining consent before sexual acts is a topic that is not exclusive to sexual orientation. Start there, and consult your brother as needed.
I would look to the gay uncle for help, if you were looking into a “gay sex talk.” That was one thing I had to learn on my own since my parents didn’t know the first thing about a gay sex lifestyle. But it would have been so much less painful if I knew what I know now…
This gave me pause. When I had the sex talk with my older son, I’m not sure why, but it didn’t even occur to me to hand it over to his dad… he was asking me the questions, so, as uncomfortable as I was, it just seemed reasonable that I answer him. At the time, I didn’t know that I was gay, but I knew there was a good chance that he was, and both his dad and I were fine with that… yet I didn’t think about including gay sex in our conversation. I realize now how very acculturated I was despite all of my openness. After I read this, I talked to my son and asked what he thought & he said he wished that high school would have included gay sex in the curriculum because there were issues with safety and lubricants that he didn’t know, and (being kind and forgiving of all my ignorance), that I wasn’t likely to know much about.
Good stuff to think about.
A word of advice from my mom: Give them the sex talk in the car. That way they’re trapped, and can’t run away, but they also don’t have to look you in the eye if they can’t handle it, but they still absorb the info.
I love that you both are thinking about this sort of thing ahead of time.
But seeing the images from that book just gave me horrible flash-backs to the time I was 12 years old and my mother left this book on my bed. I think I’m still scarred for life. Any type of sex talk is better than no sex talk and a book like that being left out to do the “explaining”. I promise. 🙂
Maybe someone already suggested this…but why do you have to choose between sexes/genders? Most of the time, you are so clear on why you do the things you do, that it is surprising that you would split this up between you and your husband based on sexual orientation/gender, etc. Why can’t you both share the conversation with your children? It doesn’t have to and shouldn’t happen in seclusion or isolation…it takes at least two people to have a healthy relationship…model that for your children. Have the discussion as a family, with both partners chiming in. It will be a lot healthier if your children (regardless of sexual orientation/gender orientation, etc.) see that the sexual conversation is an open one that happens between people who love and respect each other. Sexual conversations are a type of negotiation, and it is wise to model that behavior and to show that there are different ideas and perspectives, even between committed partners. You and your spouse certainly have the generosity, kindness, and loving hearts to model this for your children, who have the ability to learn a really healthy life lesson from their parents regarding sexual topics. You will keep it age appropriate, and they will trust you when they get older and really need to have those conversations…and they will know that they can talk with either you or your husband, and that there are no ugly secrets around sex behavior in your home.
You are wise enough to manage this in a loving way.
Yes! Exactly! Topics like readiness, consent, mutual caring and respect, physical and emotional safety, communication, privacy, and the possibility of loving someone others may not expect are things both CJ and CJ’s Brother will encounter no matter who their partners end up being, and also things you and CJ’s Dad will both have valuable input regarding. You never know what information they (or their friends) will need down the line, so best to make sure they have every available tool at their disposal. Also, not everything regarding sexual behavior needs be laid out in one sit-down conversation and then laid to rest until the pressure builds for the next one– normalizing sex as an occasional topic means that they know they can say or ask what’s on their minds without dreading a long, awkward Talk.
Regarding puberty, CJ’s Dad or Uncle Uncle might be most qualified to talk to them about it in an immediately relevant way, though I think them (both) knowing what’s going on with female bodies would also be beneficial.
Best of luck! Though I think you’re all already doing a stellar job dealing with something much trickier.
WOW! what a great question! In my life, as an early-childhood educator and a mom, I never forget to mention the different types of relationships there are, i.e. man-woman, man-man, woman-woman. Even with toddlers, if a conversation amongst kids is about for example: ”You can’t marry her, you’re a girl! ” I ALWAYS correct them. ”Yes, she is a girl, and she can love a girl if she wants to.” At this point, if it’s the first time the kids hear something of the sort, eyes are wide open and question marks raising. ”Yes, a boy can be in love with another boy and a girl can be in love with another girl. ” Usually, the questions stopped there for 3 year-olds. If further questions arrise, I tell them that for example, my sister Sylvie is a woman and is in love with another woman. Thankfully, we now have, at our preschool, a family of two moms so the kids are more in contact with the concept of a family not necessarily being a mom AND a dad.
I think that if you start like this, the kids will be open to questionning you later on about the relationship they face, or the sexuality they feel most appropriate for them, whatever it may be. Starting with the love part, for me, is the easiest, since role-play is such a major part of toddler life.
“No! They need to know about safe sex and being responsible and respectful and all that crap,” I argued.
Sorry, I just wanted a reason to be able to smile at this line again.
Have you considered asking your brothers opinion or for his help talking to CJ if he turns out to be gay?
Can I question the underlying assumption here? That it’s an either/or job for one parent in the first place, even if your child is straight?
Disclaimer: I was thoroughly taught the biology, including the “correct latin names” for body parts, but at no point did my parents ever discuss anything about sex being for anything other than procreation, nor (in my case, thank God!) how I should go about wooing, or pleasing a woman. I had to pick up details entirely on my own, and figure out how they applied to my life as a gay man.
But it seems to me that while either parent can validly discuss the biology and the basic mechanics of “where babies come from”, and the parent whose body most closely matches the child’s is probably best suited to having the “welcome to puberty, this is what your body will be doing in your near future, and here’s what to expect and how to handle it.”
But why wouldn’t both parents have discussions with their kid about what sex within a relationships looks and feels like to them – the father of a straight boy no doubt has a lot to tell him about how to be a man with a woman, but his mother also has a lot to tell him about what it feels like for the woman to be with a man, and what he needs to consider from his future partner’s perspective. The father of a straight girl no doubt has a lot to share from his perspective, as well as what her mother has to teach her.
And, seen that way, both parents still have a lot to tell a gay child – who is going to be navigating things from that same “sometimes giving and sometimes receiving” standpoint, even if it ends up sliced a bit differently.
A straight father can teach a gay son his view of being a man, while a straight mother can teach him her view of being WITH a man, both sexually and in a loving relationship (as well as some of the more obvious dating pitfalls).
Jeez, I had to scroll through tons of comments to leave me own – what a wonderful, well-read blog you have here.
One thing I think is difficult for LGBTQ people is that they don’t know how sex works. They know how straight sex works, through sex education at school, but they don’t know how lesbian sex or gay sex works. Unless you count the wholly realistic education-through-pornography area…
And the whole ‘figuring it out for yourself’ thing can be quite humiliating (not from personal opinion, or anything…).
Another thing about LGBTQ sex… There are so many organisations and charities for gay and bisexual men, because they have a high risk of STIs. The same goes for heterosexual people.
While these organisations give out condoms and lube and promote safe sex, they also provide support for people’s mental health.
Because lesbians are at a lower risk of getting STIs, there are fewer charities (if any) for them in terms of sexual health… and, as a consequence, fewer charities to support their mental health.
In spite the fact that lesbians and bisexual women (especially bisexual women) have increased rates of mental health issues, they have less support because of they have naturally safer sex. Ridiculous!
While we only have a daughter in my family, parented by a male and a female, I believe I would have given the sex talk to our child regardless of gender or sexual orientation. That’s simply because I’m able to talk about it, while it embarrassed my husband and he’d rather not really think about our kid having sex.
And my daughter and I have talked to the limits of her comfort (so far, at 15, still pretty minimal), about sex for procreation vs pleasure and both straight and gay sex.
I think both parents should talk as freely and openly about all things “sexual” as they are comfortable doing. When the child has a question, the child will then go to whichever parent they either feel most comfortable asking or whichever parent they think will be the most qualified to answer. But all channels should be open, and I think straight boys need the female viewpoint as much (if not more than) gay boys do, and vice versa. I was actually a little dismayed to learn that my daughter (6th grade) will be seeing the “girls” movie and the boys will be seeing the “boys” movie, and is it any wonder we have whole swaths of males who don’t have a clue how the female body actually works? Or maybe it’s just Rush Limbaugh. . .
This same book was passed around my neighborhood for all the parents to leave on the kitchen table…like some sex fairy left it. All of the parents did the same thing and then asked if there were any questions. I don’t think it was very helpful. You guys are doing it better! Bravo!
I think it would be great if both of you could have the sex talk with your boys. I have never understood why dads have to talk to the boys and moms have to talk to the girls. Parenting is a “team sport” and I think the talk would be more interesting and educational from both viewpoints. Yes, it is embarrassing for all parties concerned; but what is more important? Our comfort level or the health, safety, and well-being of our children? We Americans need to put aside our discomfort about talking about sex; it is a natural part of life and we need to be able to talk about it.
The thing that needs to happen–and this will be uncomfortable for both of you possibly–is, if you do end up having a gay son, then before the sex talk the two of you will need to be more informed about the differences–physical and emotional–about gay sex. Gay sex isn’t just about “who puts what where” any more than heterosexual sex is.
I have such faith in the two of you as parents. You have done a beautiful job together in dealing with the issue of a gender non-conforming child; I believe the two of you would make a great team to talk to your boys about sex.
Another great resource is the sex education program that is taught through the Unitarian Universalist churches (It is called “Our Whole Lives”, affectionately known as OWL). You should look into it. Even if you decide you don’t want your boys to participate in a UU church’s sex education program, any UU church would love to give you ideas about any materials that might help you, for both of your boys, whether one of them turns out to be gay or not.
If you don’t already know about it, there’s a fantastic book (that I grew up with, and that has done a great job of updating its message about sexuality and gender) called It’s Perfectly Normal (a description here: http://bannedbooks.world.edu/2011/07/03/banned-books-awareness-amazing-perfectly-normal/). This is a really informative and fun book that I’ve returned to as an adult, and one that I plan on giving my someday-kids.
I’m just a little confused why you’d give the talk to your hypothetically gay son. Why does it make any more sense for a straight woman to have the sex talk with a gay boy?
I think for my kids they’d all get the same basic talk. This is what your hormones are doing, always have a condom for sex, and I’m always here to talk about things.
It’s great if both of you can provide your own viewpoints over time. And maybe you can draft CJ’s uncle to pitch in, right? What I keep seeing and hearing from parents and kids is that the most important thing is that each child knows there are trusted adults, hopefully parents, who will speak honestly about sex and listen well. And I think the discomfort passes with practice. I started telling our oldest son, “Always use a condom!” when he was lesst than three. My very close friend had just passed away from HIV-related cancer and I realized how important it was to get past the discomfort and help my kids be healthy. Of course my son has no idea what I am talking about, but it helps me getting over the barrier of talking about it, and as he gets older we’ll be comfortable having more meaningful discussions.
I never had a ‘sex talk’ as such, I was never sat down and it was talked about. It was just like a normal topic of conversation. We would talk about it whenever and I would have books and things like that from as early as I can remember. I think that making it a normal conversation so you can both talk to your children about it. Why should it be so formal, if you want them to feel comfortable and not taboo about it (which from your blog I guess you do) you should make it as natural as possible. Good luck, I am sure you and your husband will do great!
P.s. Iove your blog. I am reading it all the time and am a second time reviewer. You really make me re-think my thoughts on sexuality. I have never thought of being gay as being wrong I always thought it was great. However I had never really thought of a gender non conformist.
I remember leaving books lying around & then discussing them very matter-of-factly (I’m a nurse who specialises in family planning & must admit that not much embarrasses me!) Mummy Laid an egg is one of the books that springs to mind! I saw this on Queerty today & thought the timing fitted with your post:
From reading your posts, when the talk eventually takes place, I can’t imagine it being anything but completely perfect.
I was so excited to see mention of my book on a blog I’ve followed for a while now. And I thought I would chime in to say that the book mentioned in the Queerty link above is going to be the first of three, and the next one is for kids 7-10 years old. All three books are written specifically to be inclusive of gender independent kids (I was one, so they are the books I wish I had). As so many people have shared here, talking about this stuff is hard, and usually books that take a narrow view or feel like required reading don’t make it any easier. Books about gender and sexuality for kids should be fun to read, as non-scary as possible, and most importantly should help kids ask the questions they have without fear. My hope is that this series will do that.
I don’t think it matters who gives the talk. Just, that it’s given. I honestly don’t remember either of my parents giving me the talk (probably because things in our house were pretty screwed up). You are both awesome and doing such a great job. Just keep it up.
I gave my daughter information about sex & development from a very young age so there was never a “sit down & listen up” session as such. However, turned out to be a bit of a waste as she is now a he & in a relationship with a man! He never had any “instruction” on that from me & seem to have worked out what is what & is very happy! Sex education needs to be part of an ongoing dialogue with children, the more normal the conversation is the more likely they are to be open with you regardless of particulars.
I don’t recall ever having the sex talk with my mom (my dad wasn’t really involved with my life at that time), but we had talked about sex at various times and I knew what it was both from her and school, friends, etc. She was always open and answered questions that came up, we were open enough about it and comfortable talking to her that there never had to be a “sex talk”.
The content of your “sex talk” with your children….. shouldn’t it be the same no matter what? It IS for procreation. It IS for bonding with your partner. It IS for the strengthening of relationship. It IS something you should only be doing in a committed relationship. It IS a risky behavior outside of committed relationship. It IS something people use to control and manipulate other people. Practicing it with someone you don’t know and can’t trust with your life is dangerous. Those things are the same no matter what. Changing the parameters based on who you are, I believe, is doing your child a disservice.
You and CJ’s dad have already had to learn that pink isn’t just for girls and blue isn’t just for boys; I say it follows that talking to straight sons about sex isn’t just for dads and talking to gay sons about sex isn’t just for moms!
Also I think it would be really important to talk to any kid about sex before he even has a sexual orientation. It’s extra difficult to feel comfortable with your sexuality as it develops if you don’t know what your options are, and it’s hard to come out to your parents if they’ve never opened a conversation about sexuality. CJ and his brother could surely benefit from all the same content, especially at a young age. It’s may be even more important for CJ’s brother to get the facts about the gay side of things right now because he’ll probably be the one hearing about it first in school in relation to his family.
My mom just left her Barbara Cartland romance novels laying about. I read a lot. I extrapolated. Well that and I’m Catholic so, aside from not “losing it” until I was 21 I really did already know all there was to know by osmosis. My parents and siblings said nothing. There are so many ways… I prefer two of the other commenters points that it should be something discussed all along. Anyone raised around a farm/animals knows what sex is, totally demystifying most anatomy. I think that’s healthier.
I not only had the sex talk with my teenage daughter, I had to have the race talk at the point she was dating an African American boy (we are white). We were living in a community where racial relations are still tense and I had to explain about statutory rape and how some small-town sheriff might enjoy/exploit finding a white girl and a black boy in a parked car. Heavy stuff, indeed. My husband mostly did the talking with our younger son but, interestingly, it was our son’s older sister (she of the sex/race talk) who always made sure her brother had a supply of condoms.
If you have a Unitarian church nearby, look into their OWL program. It covers a lot of things that traditional sex education doesn’t. I don’t think you have to be a member to attend the program.
THIS!! And no, you don’t have to be a member for your child to attend. We have a number of kids whose families are not in our congregation, or even UU, that participate.
(although, its more for high school, and maybe middle school)
Actually, OWL has K-1, 4-6, middle, high, young adult, and adult programs. You also may find OWL in your local UCC congregation, since the program was jointly developed by the two denominations. For CJ’s Mom: OWL (Our Whole Lives) is a comprehensive sexuality education program which covers diverse family structures and sexual orientations (and, usually, genders…the curricula are old, so they’re in the process of revamping, but OWL teachers are usually good at recognizing and supplementing the gaps.) It’s concept is that the parents are the primary sexuality educators, so there are take home assignments and support from teachers as parents learn by doing. 🙂
I don’t think you need to worry about which parent should give “the talk,” your sons will make that decision for you. As long as you both continue to be open and non-judgemental, each will approach the parent he feels most comfortable with.
I have to say, I just hate the idea of “the talk”. Not because it’s hard, but because it’s such an old-fashioned, nonsensical idea! The notion of waiting until a child hits puberty is just bad. Sex should be something discussed openly along with other matters of life, starting when the child learns to talk. No, really. By the time a child is 10 or 11 these days, they already know far more than you think. If they haven’t gotten to it on the internet, their friends have!
Also, I must say I don’t see why any discussion of sexuality would be different for a gay child, except in as much as the questions they have might be different. They still need to know pretty much everything about sex. Again, those discussions should come up when they child is much younger than 10!
Oh, and if ti isn’t clear, I believe both parents need to able to talk to the kids about this, regardless of the sex (or sexuality!) of the child.
I have to agree with this…the idea of “the sex talk”, IMO, isn’t a good one. It should be a continual discussion, through out their lives.
We’ve made the body, including its reproductive capabilities, and healthy relationships, including sexual ones, an ongoing discussion in our family since the kids could talk. My mom was a nurse, and I don’t ever remember not knowing about what sex was, even if I didn’t know about the variety of sexual relationships until later. Chickadee is six, and she knows where babies come from, the biological differences between males and females, that some people might be biologically male and feel female on the outside (and vice versa), and the general mechanics of what sex is (Sharkbait is 4, and he just could care less). She also knows that families are all different, that some are two women or two men (her best friend when we visit Grandma has two mommies, as she says), that some are grandparents, or a mom without a dad, or a dad without a mom, etc. We’ve talked about I don’t think that for most children, it is too much of a stretch to put those things together, and I would rather have built the “street credit” with my child beforehand, when they do put it together.
In an open and encouraging family where sex and sexuality is treated as something normal, I’m hoping that we, the parents, are where these conversations start (and where they end up) before (and after) the big wide world has had its chance at misinformation. I was lucky enough to have that kind of upbringing, my husband was not.
Wanted to add: I think this is especially important when it comes to bodily autonomy, which is a problem for all children, male and female, gay and straight. Raising children with fuzzy ideas of bodily autonomy puts them and others in very real danger. It seems odd to me that we (as a culture) would leave this sort of topic to just a talk…we wouldn’t teach children to read in a single lesson, we shouldn’t teach them about their bodies and their hearts that way either.
ps – I was also introduced to the word virgin in school when another 4th grader told me I was one and I said “No I’m NOT”. I think I was thinking of the zodiac and the sign Virgo. Later that evening I asked my mother, who is a Virgo, “Mom you’re a virgin right?” and she said “WHAT?” and I said “nothing never mind” and she didn’t ask another question. RED LIGHT. What were parents thinking back then?
In our house, I gave our son the sex talk because when presented with the topic, he said he was more comfortable hearing it from me. We’ve had many many follow-up discussions including puberty and changes to the body and given the choice, he always chooses me. I’m just the one he feels comfortable with and that’s okay. We’ve made it clear that if he ever has a question for Dad, Dad would know from personal perspective, that he could ask him anything as well. Our son is almost 12, but it’s been years since we started this discussion.
Our daughter just turned 10, and she’s only had the technical version of the discussion. She is far less mature and resolutely refuses to hear anything else right now. I was insistent that she understand the mechanics and what a bad touch is and was open about more to come and she has just now started asking hesitant questions that I always make the time for because I never know when she’ll feel confident enough to ask again.
SO – my long winded answer is that whomever the child is most comfortable, or closest to, should give the talk to any child. Whichever combination of child and parent is ideal for the child getting the messages loud and clear.
My parents didn’t discuss any of this with me. I learned from kids at school, books (I read far beyond my age level), and things I wasn’t supposed to see on television; none of that is ideal.
I imagine you and Dad will handle this in the same manner you handle everything…. with open and informed hearts and minds….. There are some facts that simply need explaining the rest is more or less best left to the questions they are asking and giving the info that they are seeking…
Gender and gender preference in a partner in my opinion is not as important as teaching respect and safety of health issues…. YOU GUYS WILL BE GREAT as you have been in all things to this point…. at the very least relax: you are already aware and willing to ponder how best to move forward….so much more than those who’d rather not think about it until they have to or once its too late!! Uncle Uncle might have a thought about how he would have liked to have been addressed ask him what he thinks as a gay man about how that talk might go…
Great topic. I have a comment on entering puberty for those w/ daughters. My father was a physician, my mother a psychologist. I am in my mid-60’s so this talk was a LONG time ago. My father & I had the closer relationship so he started w/ a discussion along w/ diagrams he drew of fallopian tubes, etc. of what menstruation was. My mom followed up w/ the gear –sanitary pads–and then I waited. They had each said your period will last about 5-6 days. The word I heard was DAYS. I hadn’t understood that this happened at night as well. I was totally off guard that this continued at night.
As for “the sex talk” — I did this for all 3 of my sons. I felt I was comfortable doing this & my husband was not comfortable doing this. I think it went ok but as I read over these comments I realize I did omit lots of things.
My parents were “don’t ask don’t tell’ types. I think dad should be the primary informer, especially if you suspect the son is gay. It would really show that you accept him and support him. Dad doesn’t have to go into the physical specifics, those are more fun discovered on one’s own. My brother in law told his sons that the relationship is a partnership and their job was to “listen to and respect their partner”. Good advice.
I don’t know if other people have brought it up, but so much of the sex talk is about the mechanics and not about why people do it or what a healthy relationship is, etc. I’ve always tried to work both into my conversations about the subject and told my son if you have the courage to ask I have the courage to answer. And if I don’t know, we’ll learn together. I always make sure to bing up all kinds of sexuality in our conversations , just to ” cover my bases”. :).
Finally, too many parents make the mistake of “the talk” being one and done. It needs to be an ongoing thing. I’ve also told my son that I know there are conversations he’d rather due then have with me, just so long as he has someone he trusts that he can have those conversations with.
I really don’t see what the problem is (sorry). Sex ed should focus on more than how babies are made. It should also include STD and HIV prevention, relevant for ANYONE sexually active, regardless of sexual orientation. It should include talks about the “other stuff” you mentioned above: emotions and expression of love. Again, relevant for anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. Boys need to be careful to only have sex with people they are in a long-term relationship with (and by “long-term,” I don’t mean 2 weeks), and use a condom every time they have sex, regardless of whether that sex is vaginal, anal, or oral. All of that information is relevant regardless of someone’s sexual orientation.
Wow this is such a good post! I’m terrified of the sex talk with my girls – I remember when I started my periods and I was at school – my mum hadnt prepared me for it and i ended up learning about it from my grandad who came to collect me so I could change my knickers. I never had the sex talk… Still to this day… I have no idea how I’ll tell my girls.
Doesn’t your school have a girls and boys (done separately) heath night to introduce these Life changes? Ours does; and its a good lead into the necessary discussions! Especially in the age of having to be aware of more than just becoming pregnant… HIV and AIDS have seriously upped the anti if these topics are not discussed!
Oh yes, but I meant by my parents. I was never told about it all by my parents.
Even if the school does have something like this, who is to say it happens early enough for everyone? My daughter needed a bra at age nine and got her period at age ten… while in the fifth grade. It’s been my experience that most schools that do have those “Life Changes” type of programs don’t have them until the middle of the sixth grade year.
My mother gave me the same book… My friends laugh about it when I tell them, so do my kids. I am the single parent of 3 boys and 1 girl. We talk about “the birds and the bees” all the time, in the car on the way to wherever we are going, in the Dr. office waiting for our turn, watching TV (Ewww Mom! Straight people kissing!!! then lots of laughing) while sitting at the dinner table 🙂 The kids have never once asked “Dad” about sex. I think I am doing ok.
Great topic for any parents of any kids! I don’t think parents need to draw lines ahead of time about who talks to whom and about what, but it is a good idea for parents (if there are two) to have the sex talk with each other before having it with their kid(s). That way, they’re on the same page and can raise issues that one parent alone might not think of, like what if one of the kids is gay. I also like checking in with my friends who have older or same-age kids. Then, we go with the approach of taking the kids’ lead – and following through when the kids bring it up, or something comes up in the media. On the other hand, if they’re approaching puberty, etc., and they haven’t brought it up, it’s time to bring it up in a positive, low-key way.
Both of my parents did it, my mom tried to keep it gender neutral and focus on safety. Even using a banna to show how a condom properly goes on(she got pregnant with me when she was young so protection was a big deal to her). Dad didn’t really give the talk until I was already out and so when he gave it he gave a gay one. He didn’t get big into the actual sex aspect of it but focused on being ready and making sure the guy was the right guy and that if something didn’t feel right to stop and then making sure we were both safe.
I have done both so far daughter 14 son 5 as it comes in dribs and drabs, as questions arise I answer them matter of factly. Inc from my son the possibility of marrying boys and adopting babies and the possibility of contraception and his game plan for avoiding the night feeds ( this little guy thinks ahead)
Both my ex and I had talked with our kids (a son and a daughter) about sex and puberty. This was before my transition so I was very much the father then. My daughter would usually seem to be more comfortable approaching me about sex, even though I was her father. This actually bothered my ex, her mother.
PS…. That’s the book my mom gave me and she’s still has it 🙂
My son is very close to both my husband and me, but prefers to talk to me. I don’t think it matters….. I think what’s important is they have A parent that they feel comfortable talking to. IMHO…..
I know I had great parents. Nothing was taboo. When I was growing up, the sex part of public school dealt mostly with puberty and occurred in 4th grade. I mortified my mother by asking the public question – “I get everything you said about menstruation and fertilization of the egg, but how the heck does the sperm get near the egg in the first place?” My parents were liberal in teaching us about life, and nothing was forbidden topic. I used the same practice with my children, and we used commercials of the prime time dramas to talk further about what was happening and ways to deal with life. Consider that Beverly Hills 90210 was considered racy in those days with high school sex, an abortion, aids, etc. Both myself and my kids were brought up with the idea of sex as a normal, healthy adult thing with responsibilities and obligations along with some of the pitfalls. These days age 10 can be too late; don’t wait, start early as they grow and ask questions. (but don’t give more info than what is asked for – where do we come from might be wanting the name of the city you moved from when they were 2 years old).
I got my “sex talk” when I was 22 y/o (I was having unprotected sex and needed to fix that so I asked my mother for her obgyn’s number and we were off to the races with the talk) I’m 25 now. My mother has been a single parent since I was 9. She tried to bring it up a time or two when I was in my early teens, but I honestly didn’t need to talk about what was going on with my body. I wasn’t interested in boys. Or girls. Just wanted to be me. I did of course go through the school mandated sexual education classes, and to this day I think they were a joke. I’m a very sex positive person. I am mostly straight, but have several friends who sit all over the field of sexual identity. It bothers me that the main point of my sexual Ed at school was on abstinence til marriage. I don’t have a problem necessarily with that belief, or the religious things that are sometimes associated with that teaching. I do think that it is irresponsible to not teach about diseases and infections, and talk about the hormonal emotional stuff that happens. Yea sure you can find a world of information on the Internet, but I think that if I were a parent, as terrifying or awkward as it could be to talk about this stuff with my kid, I’d be taking the bill by the horns to keep my kid safe. Picking the right age to talk about health, identity, reproduction, emotional stuff, that would be tricky. Maybe little bits at a time?
I think I’m rambling, and I’ve completely forgotten what my original intent of commenting was lol.
Thanks for writting this! It’s an interesting topic
This is a really interesting topic. My husband and I never discussed which of us would discuss what. We have just both been really open about answering questions as they come up. I am around more so I have done most of the talking thus far with our 6 year old son who is gender nonconforming. For some reason when I was growing up my dad gave me what amounted to the sex/puberty talk. Thankfully it was brief because it was insanely uncomfortable for both of us. He did give me Our Bodies Ourselves and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives which was helpful and also excellent birth control since it covered pregnancy and birth. I was also lucky to have excellent sex ed in high school.
I love this blog, and i’m NEVER one to write on a blog, but I think you give the sex talk as it should be… “that there is this thing called sex. Sometimes it creates children… awesome children who make the world a different, and most often better place. Sometimes, it is because it is fun. Sometimes, because it just is. But this is what happens between two people… there are many combinations of the people.. but this is just what happens.” You and your husband should both be in the conversations… because, as your blog has proven time and time again… the expected reality is not what actually is. You both have been doing a great job. There is no question about it. I sometimes with you were my parents. Just tell him (them) about the two types of bodies, and how bodies work, and how things can happen between both. You have addressed CJ and who he is SO matter of factly. There is no reason to not deal with this the same way.
Don’t wait. Start talking now. Both parents. Our sons joined our family through adoption. They always new. Same with sexuality. They always knew. Then it isn’t a big shock. I think both of our sons is straight but we’ve always told them it didn’t matter what gender of partner they choose. What matters is love.
The love focus is one I use, marry who you love 🙂
My hubby and I aren’t even pregnant yet (though we do want kids) and even we’ve discussed how these discussions will go. We even talked about ‘what if the kid was gay’ after I had a dream we had a son and he was gay.
Neither of our parents ever gave us the discussion and we both agree that it is an important thing for parents to cover. We wish somebody we trusted would have answered our questions or at least made it not seem like some big, scary, naughty, mysterious thing.
Other than that, I can’t say we reached any conclusions, but it’s fun to tease him and imitate the awkward face I imagine him making while trying to answer a kids’ questions.
Gay male here, I received the heterosexual sex talk as a kid. the thing was, i already knew different little things, such as homosexual sex, and oral sex. being in a public school, kids talk. they know things . in my opinion, i think bringing up there are more than one way two people show love would be the best way to go. straight, gay, or anything in between, i think knowing that sex is not black and white is best to teach. the best you can do as a parent,though, is to teach them to be safe no matter what they choose.
The Internet might have great material for all situations nowadays. My brothers and I had to figure it out on our own. It’d have been nice to get some useful advice. Good luck!
We are two women raising a 13 year old son who has known since he was five what sex was. At least for the purpose of procreation. We have also discussed sex for fun and how powerful desire can be. In 7th grade this year he had a segment on sex which was discussed openly between the boys and girls. They also covered what no means and what constitutes rape. Because this had become an open topic for discussion we gave him a copy of the Joy of Sex for Xmas and let him know he can talk to us about any thing. So far the only thing he has asked about is why he isn’t circumsized. We chose the Joy of Sex because he has only shown an interest in girls (as early as three). If he becomes interested in boys we will sypplement his education with the Gay Joy of Sex.
We had the same book growing up! Oh the memories. It was confusing and funny and interesting and weird all at the same time.
I don’t have kids so I wouldn’t even know where to start on this difficult subject but I do agree that a ‘sex talk’ should also include talking about sex as an enjoyable thing that two consenting adults do together to show their affection and love – regardless of gender. Because even us hetero’s have sex for other reasons besides baby making 😉
Good luck with it, you guys seem like amazing parents so I’m sure you will find your own way.
My husband and I discussed the sex talk when I was first pregnant with our son. I told him flat out, he was giving the sex talk, regardless of gender. It only felt fitting. I don’t understand it all properly. I mean sure, I get the facts, but being asexual, I simply don’t understand the desire and urges that come with puberty, because I simply never had them. In my eyes it wouldn’t be right for me to try and give our child the sex talk, when I couldn’t possibly understand how they felt.
Thankfully, my husband understood my position and agreed to do his best. I have to admit though, I was a little thankful when it turned out we were having a boy, I can’t imagine how difficult it may be for him should we have a daughter.
Of course, I would do my best if I was a single parent, but fortunately, I don’t have that issue.
My family just left it to books and school. Luckily we had good sex ed in our county and then being queer luckily I was a resourceful kid, but no county in America covers LGBT safe sex – at most they might cover anti-bullying/LGB identities in a mental health context. Planned Parenthood is your friend if you want to outsource or get help at any point in person. Other organizations provide materials but PP is the one at your door with people. My college then did a great job having people come in and do sex education beyond just the science – concepts like only do things you want to, not things you’re just okay with, what is consent (active, enthusiastic, etc.), actually demonstrating putting on a condom. But by college it’s probably a little late for some people. Good luck and awesome job being conscientious about this!