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.
Listening to my daughter’s call for more LGBT education and awareness in the schools, I thought I’d find some resources that I could share with her principal and teachers. These websites offer practical strategies and concrete resources that can be implemented in the schools.
First, the Human Rights Campaign has a program called Welcoming Schools which helps create educational communities that embrace family diversity of all kinds. This program is designed for the K-5 population. Resources which provide solutions to the what, why, who, when, and how questions address the issues at hand without requiring lots of research can be invaluable.
Secondly, there is the GSA Network which fosters Gay Straight Alliances with information about how a GSA can be established, as well as material about the rights of students to receive a safe and appropriate education.
How serendipitous for my family that October is LGBT History month!