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Why Do You Need to Know if My Child is Gay?

By Yvette Vignando - 30th January 2013

 

When one of our children was little (maybe three or four years old) a good friend asked me if I thought he was gay. I was taken aback by the question, mainly because I hadn't even begun to think about my child's sexuality and I wondered why my friend had. And I was slightly put out. I was reminded of that feeling this weekend when a friend related the frustration of another parent at being constantly asked if her teenage son was gay. Part of me thought - why, would she be embarrassed if he was? - but I could relate to a vague feeling of intrusion.
Reflecting honestly on this, I think my annoyance was mainly because someone was already trying to put my child into a category at a time of his life when he was still discovering himself and the world. And it did seem a little odd to be asked that question - it felt a little intrusive for him and for me, and in some strange way, it felt discriminatory. Possibly because there was an unspoken inference that if I did think my toddler was gay, this was information I needed to share, act on or respond to, at that very young age. 
Maybe I am being too politically correct and perhaps this is no different to asking whether I think my child is left or right-handed; is it merely a topic of conversation over coffee? Nobody has ever asked me if I think one of my children is straight and that's not because that's a general assumption, it's because my young kids' sexuality is their private business. Isn't it? 
I don't want to be hypocritical - I have had conversations with good friends about their children's sexuality and talked to them about whether their children are gay - but it was when they were teenagers and when the topic was relevant to the conversation we were having. In spite of the less discriminatory society we are developing, it is still tough to come out as a gay teenager so I think parents need to be aware of how challenging it can be, and do whatever it takes to help children accept themselves and be accepted by their peers.
I don't suspect that any of our three boys are gay and if I did, I wouldn't consider that any of your business unless one of them asked me to publicise it for some unimaginable reason. Does that sound defensive? It's meant to sound private. Apart from a selfish desire for grandchildren, I would be completely comfortable with the prospect of having a gay child.
When a toddler experiments with clothes, toys, behaviours and mimics adults of either gender, this is called play. Sometimes that play is a characteristic of a child's early sexuality and sometimes it is not. A 2008 study  did a retrospective analysis of childhood home videos and showed a link between "gender nonconformity" and adults who identified themselves as homosexuals; this study matches others which indicate a link between adult sexual orientation and conformity with gender role norms during childhood. So there is sometimes a link between a child's play, clothing choices, toy choices etc and their later-expressed sexuality. Okay. But still, is it polite, relevant, acceptable to lean over to your friend at Playgroup during morning coffee, a propos of nothing, and say in a confidential tone "Do you think James is gay?" I say no.
What do you say?

When one of our children was little (maybe three or four years old) a friend asked me if I thought he was gay. I was taken aback by the question, mainly because I hadn't even begun to think about my child's sexuality and I wondered why my friend had. And I was slightly put out. I was reminded of that feeling this weekend when a friend related the frustration of another parent at being constantly asked if her teenage son was gay. Part of me thought - why, would she be embarrassed if he was? - but I could relate to a vague feeling of intrusion.

Reflecting honestly on this, I think my annoyance was mainly because someone was already trying to put my child into a category at a time of his life when he was still discovering himself and the world. And it did seem a little odd to be asked that question - it felt intrusive for him and for me, and in some strange way, it felt discriminatory. Possibly because there was an unspoken inference that if I did think my toddler was gay, this was information I needed to share, act on or respond to, when he was at that very young age. 

Maybe I am being too politically correct and being asked if your child is gay is no different to being asked whether your child is left or right-handed? Nobody has ever asked me if I think one of my children is straight and that's not because that's a general assumption, it's because my young kids' sexuality is their private business. Isn't it? If one of our kids was gay, you would not need to talk to them, play with them or teach them differently.

I am trying not to be hypocritical - I have had conversations with good friends about their children's sexuality and talked to them about whether their children are gay - but it was when their children were teenagers and when the topic was relevant to the conversation we were having. In spite of the less discriminatory society we are developing, it is still tough to come out as a gay teenager so I think parents need to be aware of how challenging it can be, and do whatever it takes to help children accept themselves and be accepted by their peers.

I don't suspect that any of our three boys are gay and if I did, I wouldn't consider that any of your business unless one of them asked me to publicise it for some unimaginable reason. Does that sound defensive? It's meant to sound private. Apart from a selfish desire for grandchildren, I would be completely comfortable with the prospect of having a gay child.

When a toddler experiments with clothes, toys, behaviours, and mimics adults of either gender, this is called play. Sometimes that play is a characteristic of a child's early sexuality and sometimes it is not. A 2008 study by researchers at North Western University did a retrospective analysis of childhood home videos and showed a link between "gender nonconformity" and adults who identified themselves as homosexuals; this study matches others which indicate a link between adult sexual orientation and conformity with gender role norms during childhood. So there is sometimes a link between a child's play, clothing choices, toy choices etc and their later-expressed sexuality, and sometimes there is not.

Okay. But still, is it polite, relevant, acceptable to lean over to your friend during morning coffee, a propos of nothing, and say in a confidential tone "Do you think James is gay?"

I say no. What do you say?

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