Our seven-year-old son told us he was gay
I lob a question over the net, and they spike incredibly succinct answers right past me. That was the moment our seven-year-old son came out. It was one of those epic parenting moments the handbook definitely does not cover. Thankfully, my mouth was full of chicken, which gave me a few panicked seconds to conjure the kind of response that could possibly convey the feelings of overwhelming love, worry and protectiveness rushing over me.
I fervently wished there was someone with more experience—or, better yet, a degree in child psychology—who I could consult before responding. But no such luck: Cleanup, bathtime and bedtime stories that night happened in a blur—a thousand thoughts buzzed through my brain while just as many emotions crashed over me: Could he really know at this age? Any bully is going to have to contend with me. Well, those bullies better watch out. Will I be able to support him effectively? What do I do next?
When Lucas was finally tucked in, I headed back downstairs, flopped dramatically onto the sofa and let out the biggest exhale of my life. My husband, a go-with-the-flow, laid-back guy who never seems to get rattled, was just as low-key as his son. His reaction: He was that typical little boy who gets excited by trains, thinks mud is an accessory and wrestles with anyone who is willing or half-asleep.
And then he turned nine. Fourth grade was wrapping up, and I knew there had been some boy- and girl-crush talk at school: But then one night before bed, as I was washing the dishes, he silently appeared beside me. I asked what was up, but he just stood there in his cute little monster truck pyjamas.
How to react to your child coming out as gay | British GQ
In a flood of words, he told me he wanted to tell his friends that he was gay—it felt like he was keeping a secret from them, and when he thought about it too much, it made him feel sick. Cute kids' books about queer families'. My heart ached, and I wished I could rewind to the time when kisses and cuddles fixed absolutely everything. The protective part of me was hesitant and wanted to discourage him from coming out. I worried about bullying, of course, and also that his friends might not react favourably.
They were nine years old! Their conversations were about farting and video games! After some soul-searching and many late-night talks with my husband, we decided to first tell the parents of his closest friends so they could be ready to answer any questions. It seemed like a small way to protect him, the least we could do.
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I expected drama. I expected tears. But it was almost a non-event. Not much was said after that. Playdates and sleepovers continued as usual—nothing changed except perhaps their language. They stopped assuming everyone in the world was straight. The biggest change, however, was in Lucas himself. It was like someone had kicked the party into high gear: He was suddenly dancing and singing—all the time. My quiet boy started living life in full-colour, topped with a glitter-bomb of happiness.
There is more to being gay than sex. It is, to sound like a Californian shrink, a state of being. Take direction from them before you steam in with too many questions. They may not know the answers, but it doesn't mean they don't know who they are.
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Your first instinct as a dad is to protect your young. You want to be a warrior, because this is your baby. Bloody kids, eh? They might find it mortifying and start to resent you. Us lot, however, are already pretty clued into the unfairness of the world and the entitlement of its bullies.
But you must let them find their own way — this is one car you can't drive. Use your powers for good, wear that cape with pride and fly.
AA Gill on questioning your child's sexuality. Things you should never say to your gay mates.
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