Amelia over at Huffington Post Gay Voices posted a blog about moms who are standing up for their LGBT/Gender Non-conforming kids.
I recommend it. She has brought together some of the moms, like me, who can’t keep quiet about how great our kids are. We are observing that a new day is here and our kids are a part of it–these kids have the words and confidence to express how they feel and who they are.
They, and all the other amazing little pioneers, deserve to be embraced and supported. And the parents of these kids need to know that they are not alone as they try and navigate this uncharted territory.
These women are really wonderful: smart, funny, and tough. My kind of ladies!
That just isn’t the right question to be asking. I read this really great article: Are Kids Coming Out Too Early. E. Winter Tashlin writes:
The Huffington Post ran a piece a few days ago from Amelia, a mother whose 7yr old son recently declared that he was gay. It was a lovely essay about love and acceptance, with a bit of parental concern in there too. The parents are being supportive of his identity, while at the same time, understanding that what he feels at seven may or may not be how he feels in the months and years to come. They seem quite content to take him at his word and see what does or doesn’t change with time.
There have been quite a lot of people on internet message boards saying that this is ridiculous, that this child can’t know at such a young age that he is gay. I’ve seen this particularly on LGBT message boards, where people are holding up their own coming out at older ages as proof that seven is “too young.”
Now I will grant that I didn’t know that I was gay/queer at seven, but not because I didn’t like boys. My best friend in 2nd grade was a boy named Noah, and I distinctly remember thinking that I wanted to grow up and marry him. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as “gay” at the time, but if I had, I would have considered myself to be so. Certainly by 4th grade I was having serious crushes on boys in my both school and religious community, although I knew to keep those thoughts private.
I don’t know if this boy will continue to ID as gay as he gets older, no one really can. But the idea that all kids are heterosexual until proven otherwise is starting to crack up.
It isn’t “prematurely sexualizing” a child to consider their orientation. After all, children’s books, movies, and family conversations, even at a young age, involve questions of marriage and relationships, just nearly always from a hetero-presumptive stance.
- when kids come out we support them.
- any announcement of coming out IS NOT some sort of binding decision a parent or guardian should ever hold their child to in the future.
- our society is changing and the assumption that all kids are straight (or should pretend to be so) just doesn’t apply anymore–not only was this inevitable with the strides that the LGBT community has made over the past 75 years, but hopefully it was a goal.
- kids now say they are gay at earlier ages because they have the language to describe how they feel AND they are living in families that they believe won’t invalidate them, disown them, or send them to an institution.
- supporting/accepting/validating a young kid who says they are gay is in no more “prematurely sexualizing” than saying to your six-year old daughter, “yes, Jenna when you grown up you can marry Michael if you want to” is prematurely sexualizing.
To My Kid:
I support you as you evolve. It is such a privilege to share this journey with you. I’ll do my best to guide or follow in uncharted territory.
I’m sad for those who can’t accept that. I’m angry at those who try to invalidate you.
My job is to nurture you and protect you. My job is to make you strong enough to fight for your truth and loving enough to nurture beauty in others.
Endure and flourish, my love.
Don’t Miss this Post: When Your 7-Year Old Announces ‘I’m Gay’.
“When Your 7-Year Old Announces ‘I’m Gay’” Huffington Post author “Amelia” on Michangelo Signorile show today, Friday, February 17, 2012 at 4:30pm EST. On Ch. 108, OUTQ SiriusXM. Free trial of SiriusXM online available.
My daughter woke me this morning with a sign that read “I Love U.” She’d gotten up early, made the sign, and actually waited until the alarm went off at 7 a.m. to run in and yell: “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
That is love.
Then we snuggled under the covers. She asked me to be her valentine. Of course I said “yes” and then we talked about what lie ahead for the day. In 5th grade Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal. Her friend, S., likes a boy, A., and she left a note in his desk reading “Will you be my valentine? I like you.” She didn’t sign it, but all the girls are dying to see if he’ll drop a special valentine in her box.
My daughter’s friends have told her a boy in her class with blond hair and glasses likes her and everyone is speculating that he will give her a valentine. She said he reminds her of QKDad. Apparently that is a good thing, still.
She is not shy telling boys who declare their like for her that she likes girls, but I think she’d be perfectly happy if this boy sends her a nice valentine.
Seriously, who doesn’t like to be liked?
Today I appreciate those around me AND I am valentine to one of my favorite people in the world. Happy Day y’all.
The definition of “LGBT families” needs to expand to include families with young lgbt/gender non-conforming children. Recognition and support is needed for these families on the front lines of a new wave of progress.
I love how our queer kid has changed our lives.
Because of her . . .
I work harder to make the world better for all queer kids.
I have the chance to participate in her own amazing, unique journey.
I see the world through different eyes.
I am more courageous.
I demand more authenticity and truthfulness from myself. If she is going to put her identity on the line, I better do it too.
I have a great role model to follow.
I am a better person.
Thank you, my sweet girl. I love you.
Over the past 24 hours I have been able to observe and contribute to discussions carried on about my post “Where, oh, where are the queer children?” Some readers suggested that I am overreaching that my daughter is gay or that I am reading her behavior with some wish for a gay child. Fortunately, the bulk of the readers recounted their own stories of being 4, 5, and 6 and having a first gay crush. Most of those who told such stories recounted that they just didn’t have the concepts or the language to describe how they felt.
The dialogue that has started is exactly what I hoped it would be – people contemplating and raising awareness that kids are coming out earlier than ever before. It is vital to know that these kids exist and need their own support.
Save Your Two Cents
Nevertheless, I would like to convey is that until you are in the shoes of a parent whose child does not fit society’s notion of “appropriate” it’s probably better to default to grandma’s old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Writer and mother Sarah Hoffman’s column today on the Gay Voices page of the Huffington Post addresses comments made by Fox News’s on-air psychiatrist Keith Ablow about a transgendered child and his belief that her parents are failing her and in fact may be unduly influencing her desire to be Tammy, not Thomas. In “Keith Ablow: Until You Have a Gender-Nonconforming Child, Stop Condemning Those Who Do” Hoffman describes her own life as a mom of a gender-nonconforming child and reveals:
that when you have a child who defies expectations, you find yourself making choices you never thought you’d have to make.
Parents, most parents at least, love their children deeply and want the very best for them. What’s best for an individual child may take many forms and be decided under extreme cultural pressure. Yet parents nurture children, sacrifice for them so they have every opportunity and live the healthiest, happiest, and safest life possible. Why would any parent choose to forge an identity for their child that would put them at odds with society and expose them to prejudice and danger?
Hoffman goes on to say:
A bigger mystery is why Ablow thinks any parent would want their child to be different in this way. Parents like Tammy’s are demonized; children like Tammy are ostracized and bullied. The notion that parents would try to make their children targets galls many parents.
She touches on two points here. First, most parents are floored to be accused of crafting their child’s identity so they are singled out for ridicule and aggression. Secondly, when children are very young the parents bear much of the brunt of the prejudice. C.J.’s mom at Raising My Rainbow recounts many stories about all kinds of strangers weighing in on her son’s gender-nonconforming clothing or toy choices and her parental failings.
Out in Front
The parents of a child who is gender-nonconforming, transgendered, or vocally outspoken about their lgb identity endure scrutiny, disdain, and outsiders telling them how they are failing as a parent. As a parent I want to be on the front line. I want people to question me or criticize me, because I don’t want my daughter questioned about her identity. I want her to enjoy being a little girl without being harassed for being who she is.
Raising kids is hard enough without bigoted strangers offering ignorant opinions about how to parent our kids.
Despite my searching and my attempts at visibility, I have yet to hear about other young LGB kids or talk to any other parents of gay kids.
I am sure there must be other kids from 5-10 years old who have come out to their families as gay.
I think it would be nice if these kids could find each other. I know there are communities and discussion forums for parents of transgendered kids and their children. The LGBT Youth Centers I have explored usually state 13 as their lower age limit.
Gay children have different needs than their adolescent counterparts – though the children will shortly grow into older kids. It seems that nurturing gay kids in childhood would make adolescence a little easier.
Why Queer Children Now?
There are reasons that children are coming out earlier than ever – greater visibility in the media, perhaps an increase in acceptance by the general population, and so on. This 2009 ABC News article: “‘Smear the Queer’: Gay Students Tell Their Stories” describes the experiences of students who knew they are gay in elementary school and then suffered from ruthless classmates and teachers who were at a loss about how to handle the situation.
San Francisco State University Clinical Researcher, Caitlyn Ryan’s research shows that:
In generations past . . . people came out of the closet at much older ages. However, with increasing awareness of homosexuality on TV, in high schools, on the Internet and in the news, . . . children today are more likely to put two and two together much earlier.“Many people knew that they were gay at early ages, typically boys — they knew when they were 5, or 8 or 10,” [Ryan] said.
This early awareness, in combination with immature children, can lead to serious problems in schools without proper intervention.
There should be a broader discussion happening about the needs of young gay children. Research and articles in the press address LGBT bullying as a middle school or high school phenomenon, but from the article linked to above and other such collections of stories, children are being singled out for being gay in elementary school.
And lots of people know they are gay in elementary school or earlier.
The delightful blog Born This Way posts pictures readers have submitted of themselves as children along with a short blurb about themselves and the photo. The point of the blog is to show through photographic evidence and 20/20 hindsight that the readers were born that way. Many of the entries are accompanied by statements such as “when didn’t I know?” or “I was five when I had my first crush . . .”
It seems that there is proof that there were gay children, but
where, oh, where are the queer children and their families now?
Please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hugs. Lots of them.
It is clear to me now that holding my daughter is the most important gift I can give her during this period of intense growth. Since she chose to come out to the world she has grown up so much, but she also wants her mama to embrace her more than ever.
Last night during a long period of silent embrace she whispered, “it’s good to know someone’s here for me, whether it’s grades, sexual orientation, or sexual [gender] identity.”
These days I wonder all the time what we can do to inoculate our kids against the insidious onslaught of a bigoted society? Perhaps holding them as much as they need to be held, every time they ask for it is a start.