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bi_janus

Parents and coming out

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Tenuously connected to the post in another forum about a seven-year-old and a t-shirt, this in the NYT ahead of National Coming Out Day on the 11th. The results of the less than rigorous surveys cited in the article point to the difficulties kids are still having. The writer of the piece is soon publishing a book about raising a gay son.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/fashion/helping-a-gay-child-to-come-out.html?ref=fashion

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A toddler who wore a feather boa around the house and pleaded for pink light-up sneakers with rhinestones is probably telling you something, even if he doesn’t yet know what it is.

:accordion[1]: Umm ... I think, umm, I think I want to play with Johnny's accordion.

:closet: Don't be silly! Your wardrobe needs you.

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Great piece, Bi-Janus. I particularly enjoyed this comment:

According to a new survey of more than 10,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers conducted for the Human Rights Campaign, 64 percent of those in high school say they are out, and 54 percent of those in middle school say they are. This early openness about sexual orientation carries a possible burden of its own, since adolescence can be such a vulnerable time, and being different can feel like something between a crime and a disease.

This is great news, as far as I'm concerned. When I was last in high school (early 1970s) zero percent of students at my school were out. There were a few who were so flamboyant, it was pretty obvious, but I knew one or two of them who would deny it if asked -- and they may have been denying it to themselves, too. It gets a little better every year, and I think we're getting close to the point where most American kids won't care either way.

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Guest Dabeagle

The thing that bothers me about this is the stereotype, whena boy asks for pink rhinestone sneakers they are trying to tell you something.

My partner and I have just completed taking a ten week course to become certified foster parents in NY and we had one class that was centered around loss. Some things that the rest of us think are gains also come with a loss attached, according to the material. For instance when a child learns to walk they lose being carried all the time, being held frequently. The instructor went on to explain how, in ninth grade, her son had come out and the loss she experienced was of natural grandchildren and her sense of who she thought that child would be, her dreams and expectations.

However, she also stated that what you may think of as a loss can be a gain, and she cited numerous reasons for her reversal in thought - what a great kid he was, how strong he was in his convictions for coming out (I won;'t go into all the details, but it was a good story).

Then comes the one person in the room who says 'Well, there must have been signs, though." The instructor, who (poor thing) didn't realize she was pandering right into the idiocy, replied "Of course! Like he'd fight his sister for the tea set all the time". At this point I felt compelled to interrupt, as I felt the urge to in this article. I told her that was stereotypical - for instance both my partner and I played with Tonka trucks as kids, not tea sets - and it was far more likely that if he wanted the tea set it was because his sibling had it or was enjoying it - after all siblings do that to each other.

I know we all learn what is gender specific and, perhaps due to my conditioning in that regard, I like a certain look which is male. I don't find men in skirts or in drag attractive - but jeez just because a kid hasn't adopted the same gender identifiers the rest of us have yet...I saw a boy at a party of the summer, with his girlfriend, and he had painted toenails. I didn't care for it, but it doesn't say anything about his sexuality.

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I totally agree. We all have a tendency to think stereotypically, but each person we see is a separate being. A boy can like sparkly ballet slippers because he thinks they're beautiful. Period. And that's very true with many, many kids. They like a certain look, and all it really says about them is that they like what they see.

Kids don't carry the baggage we do, haven't yet been conditioned by society's norms as to what's permissible or not. So we get pure reaction from them, which is one of their appeals. They don't bother to hide the fact they like the sparkly ballet slippers. They think the shoes are pretty and want a pair just like that for themselves.

It's only we who ascribe deeper meanings to these things. Boys playing with trucks will grow up into macho straight men, and boys who like sparkly ballet slippers—pink ones for God's sake!—will be girly gays. That's us, not the kids. They're just reacting to how things look, and 99% of the time there's nothing there that'll say anything about them 10 years down the road.

C

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Well said, Dabeagle and Cole.

When I was seven I told my mother I wished I was a girl. She asked me, "why?"

I replied that it was because girls didn't have to go to war. Nothing sexual in that one at all.

As I have noted before, my experience over the last ten years with students in the 16 to 26 age bracket, indicates that they do not like being labelled. I think they are expressing an understanding of the transient nature of their own developing egos. But I wouldn't dare say that to them, they have to discover it for themselves...maybe with the help of a hint or two.

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The instructor went on to explain how, in ninth grade, her son had come out and the loss she experienced was of natural grandchildren and her sense of who she thought that child would be, her dreams and expectations.

I would have retorted, "you assume that gay people can't be happy in their lives, and have friends, families, and long-term relationships. And many can and do have children, both biological and adopted."

People make silly assumptions, especially when they have no real understanding of how diverse even gay lifestyles can be. As one example, while I'm a big fan of controversial radio talkshow host Howard Stern's daily American show, I get irate when he gets a gay guest in and immediately asks him, "so, are you the top, or are you the bottom? Who's the 'woman' in your relationship?" Howard seems unable to grasp that just because you're gay doesn't mean you're inclined to imitate the stereotypical roles in traditional straight marriage or relationships, and there are plenty of couples I know where the two guys are both butch and macho, or both somewhat feminine, or just flexible. It isn't an "either/or" situation.

Howard has at least acknowledged how in society, it seems OK for a woman to have a lesbian fling and yet not be branded as being gay. As the old joke goes, "it takes years to become a master carpenter, but you only have to suck one cock to be branded a cocksucker." Human sexuality is not so black and white; there's a lot of shades of gray there. I think if you lined up every "straight" guy who had a fairly involved gay fling at some time in their lives, that'd be a very, very long line.

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Yes, that is my thought also, Pec. Human sexuality is very much more fluid than even Kinsey thought.

Sadly, there are many people who confuse lust as being love, when in fact sex can mature as the expression of love without regard to the mechanics of the physical act, or the gender of the participants. Those who condemn the sexual act as 'sinful' are obsessed with their own lustful feelings, but it is not lust that is at fault, it is the obsession with condemnation, that causes the problems. People like Howard have not overcome the immaturity of regarding sex as "doing the 'naughty'," and use it to extract titillation in an attempt to entertain an audience equally immature. It would be more forgiving if his humour was inclined to be self-deprecating, but it is usually at someone else's expense, such as asking who is the 'top', or the 'bottom'.

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Guest Dabeagle

I would have retorted, "you assume that gay people can't be happy in their lives, and have friends, families, and long-term relationships. And many can and do have children, both biological and adopted."

People make silly assumptions, especially when they have no real understanding of how diverse even gay lifestyles can be. As one example, while I'm a big fan of controversial radio talkshow host Howard Stern's daily American show, I get irate when he gets a gay guest in and immediately asks him, "so, are you the top, or are you the bottom? Who's the 'woman' in your relationship?" Howard seems unable to grasp that just because you're gay doesn't mean you're inclined to imitate the stereotypical roles in traditional straight marriage or relationships, and there are plenty of couples I know where the two guys are both butch and macho, or both somewhat feminine, or just flexible. It isn't an "either/or" situation.

Howard has at least acknowledged how in society, it seems OK for a woman to have a lesbian fling and yet not be branded as being gay. As the old joke goes, "it takes years to become a master carpenter, but you only have to suck one cock to be branded a cocksucker." Human sexuality is not so black and white; there's a lot of shades of gray there. I think if you lined up every "straight" guy who had a fairly involved gay fling at some time in their lives, that'd be a very, very long line.

I should probably note, for context, that this was her initial reaction. She had her last child when she was 40 so both she and her husband had to work through their initial reactions of their son's coming out. She turned the corner remarkably and is a big supporter of her son and is involved in the local Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Even though her initial reaction was not as positive, she did work through her issues for the sake of her children and became a better person for it.

In addition I should include the reason she tells the story - she is a home finder for foster children and people who are prejudiced will often react negatively to her story. Sometimes when a child comes from neglect or abuse the foster system or the agency working to place them won't know the child's sexuality. Many times it won't be revealed until the child feels safe and comfortable - and this reaction to her story is a bell weather for that. She's actually a super lady who owns her mistakes as well as her triumphs.

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