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Author Topic: Parents and their openness to homosexuality
MonarchButterfly
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My parents are, generally, fantastic parents.

But one thing with them bothers me so, so much. They have never once, in my fifteen-point-five years of life, mentioned the fact that I may be homosexual. (I do believe I'm straight, but I definitely am not closing all doors on my sexuality. So, thank God, their apparent additude doesn't bother me as much as it could be.) As a matter of fact, my mother gave me A Talk about homosexuality when I was 12. She gave me A Talk about it. When I was 12. I really can't fathom how she thought, in today's world, that I wouldn't already know that not all people like others of the opposite gender. The fact that her own mother didn't know it until after she was married should be of no relevance to my own.

Now, I don't think she's extremely conservative on that topic, though. She did vote for gay marriage in '08. I just don't think she's ever considered the fact that one (or more) of her four daughters may be lesbian/bisexual. She was so incredibly surprised when she found out that I have friends who are gay. Not in a negative way, but she was surprised nonetheless.

And, when my sister was six, she (my sister) went around saying she had a crush on our friends' older sister (meaning 18). Everyone was saying, "No, you don't have crushes on girls, silly!" My mother flat-out told her, "You don't have a crush on her, you admire her." She wasn't saying this reprimandingly, but she still said it.

I'm going to bed now because it's past midnight where I am, so I might add more later. But how do I get my mother to even consider that idea? This might be a stupid question, but should I ask her outright?

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Obi
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Heya,

Maybe I'm being a bit naive or pessimistic here, but I'd wager that unless you've been dropping hints or doing things that might indicate that you liked girls that many parents (even ones that are more or less okay with homosexuality on some level) wouldn't think that their child was homosexual. We live in a heterocentric world and is the default assumption. For example, both of my parents were (and still are) okay with other people being attracted to the same sex, yet were clearly surprised when I started dating a girl. My dad even told me one day that my mother had seen me kiss the first girl I dated and that if I was going to kiss her that I should do it where my mom couldn't see as it'd made her upset. (As I look back I realize he likely meant more that *he* didn't want to see it).

I'd also say that this ties into what your mother said your sister when she was younger. Perhaps there was a bit of 'you're too young to have a crush' in there, as well as I'd wager many parents who are okay with people being attracted to the same sex don't feel that it would ever be their children. Perhaps adding to that as well is the feeling that a young child doesn't know any better and can't know anything about crushes. Though, just the same, a six year old girl 'liking' a young boy would prolly be seen as cute (and vice versa).

I'm not sure what you mean by she gave you a talk about homosexuality...i.e. was it a relatively positive one or informative, etc. But I should say that so long as it was factual, I'm not sure for my part that I would have minded that sort of talk. Most parents wouldn't likely address homosexuality in an indepth manner with their children. Another way to think about it is that even by that age many children have heard at least some information about sex in general, but it's still majorly important for adults to talk to them about all aspects of sexuality in a safe, factual environment because so much that kids and teens learn about sex is incomplete or down right wrong. Heck, even in the sex ed class I had around 6th grade I clearly remember being given wrong information and only because I read a lot of books on sexuality did I realize that the information was wrong.

I guess I would say in my opinion that you might give your mother the benefit of the doubt to a certain extent. Do you feel like you can approach her outright? You can frame it as perhaps talking about someone in school who is 'out' or perhaps dating someone of the same sex if you don't want to start by asking her out right why she hasn't considered it.

Though I am a curious one and I'm wondering what you would like to get out of the conversation whether you ask directly or not. I ask partly because you might want to think on it and consider what you would do with the information and potentially how you might feel depending on how she reacts.

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Heather
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I think one of the tricky parts of this scenario is that you're expressing you're pretty sure you're straight.

In other words, that what you perceive as your parents assumptions about your orientation are probably correct.

By all means, none of us can ever know for sure what someone's orientation is unless they tell us, but at the same time, we can observe and intuit some things to get cues, including observing who a person is in relationships with or expresses romantic/sexual feelings about.

To give a comparison, let's say your parent is assuming you're cisgender, and that you identify as female. Now, if you haven't said how you ID your gender outright, they'll be making an assumption to some degree. But at the same time, if you tend to want to present your gender as feminine, if you use "she" words for yourself, if you look to be very comfortable and at peace with being gendered as female, that wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption.

Point is, this would be a bit of a different question if you were GLB, or thought you might be.

However, I certainly don't see why you can't ask your mother very plainly if she's ever considered that you might not be heterosexual. It sounds like that's a conversation you want to have, and one that could be a goodie.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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MonarchButterfly
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Well, first, I feel really horrible because I never replied to this topic in so long. [Frown] (and I admit that I was shocked when I saw that you had posted on it, Heater. [Smile] ) So, thanks, and I apologize.

The talk my mother gave me was basically just facts. That in itself didn't bother me--what bothered me was that she was so incredibly surprised that I already knew that there was such a thing as homosexuality. She kept asking where I'd known it from--and she kept asking if my friends, whose brother is gay, had brought it up, and sounded quite concerned that they had--and was just extremely surprised that I did. That bothers me more than anything, because honestly I didn't know exactly where I first heard the word gay, it was just one of those things that I knew/picked up on over the years.

It's just generally a hush-hush topic in the general household, even though I've never felt that my mother looks negatively upon it. Semi-recently they all saw the musical The Producers that I worked on, and my eight- and five-year-old sisters asked what gay meant after the show. She told them it means happy. I guess this is parenting/potential parenting differences between my mom and I, but I would have told them what it meant in the context of the song Keep It Gay, flat out. I guess it just bothers me because they both are going to wonder "well, why didn't she just tell us that?" when they realize/are told later on. And then that they might have an awkward view of homosexuality, like I did for a while. I wasn't homophobic, I just felt...awkward around gay people for the longest time, until I made a lot more friends, some of whom happened to be gay. I really hate that I felt that way, even if it wasn't necessarily negative, I just feel really bad.

Also my mother makes slightly homophobic comments from time to time. For example, once there was a news report on TV about a shooting/fight/something or other at a nightclub downtown, and they interviewed two men about it--one of the men mentioned his fiance, meaning the guy next to him. My mother subsequently said, "Huh. Guess he's the fiance. Well, I guess we have all kinds of couples in *city name*." The way she said it struck me oddly and left a strange taste in my mouth. There are other instances, too.

And the thing is, though, that I've never had a relationship of any kind. I don't talk to my mother about my crushes, and though I had posters of Zac Efron on my wall for a while, I had posters of Vanessa Hudgens up there, too. Especially when I originally made this post, I really hadn't talked to my mother about boys. But I do see the comparison you made, Heather, and maybe I've been more obvious about my sexuality than I think.

In all honesty, I'd love to have that kind of a conversation with my mother, but I don't think I could bring it up. :/ I just tend to not initiate conversations regarding boys/dating/sex/sexuality/etc... with my mom, even though we're pretty close. I wish I did, but I just don't bring myself to.

I don't really know if this post made sense at all; I guess it was more me venting, I'm just not pleased/wondering about my parents' attitude toward all of this. And if anyone reads this, thanks. [Smile]

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Heather
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No need to feel horrible! Our users get to come back and forth here at whatever pace all of you like. It's our job to answer your questions when you ask them, but you don't have any responsibility to reply or to do so within a given time period.

Per having a conversation about this with your Mom, what about initiating something that isn't about you and your own sexuality? For instance, maybe you can come back and talk to her a bit about your feelings per what she said about the play to your sibs, or about the news story?

For instance, there is are age-appropriate ways to tell younger children about sexual orientation. To give an example, "What's gay?" could have been answered with something like, "Well, all of us love some people in different ways, including the way that people who are in love love each other. Just like boys and girls can have those kinds of feelings for each other, so can boys and boys or girls and girls," et cetera. You could ask your mother why she didn't explain it, and could also talk about how you've struggled a bit with discomfort around homosexuality you wished you didn't have, and feel like the way it was handled at home was why. You could suggest that it might be worth considering taking a different approach with your siblings so they don't feel uncomfortable that way, both because the world we live in is diverse, but also because they or someone they are close to in their lives may be or wind up being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Per the news report, a response to her comment like, "We do have all kinds of couples here. The way you said that made it seem like you didn't know that or aren't okay with it, which just bothered me. Can we talk about that?"

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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MonarchButterfly
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That would work--the topic could probably be brought up through my friends. I don't if I'd be able to tell her how I feel about her approach towards my sisters, though. Sometimes I don't know how she'll respond to certain things--she might get annoyed that I'm commenting on my sisters' upbringing like that, or she might be totally open to any suggestion that I have. I hate assuming the former, because she tends to be a very open person--she's just a lot more conservative on this topic than she thinks she is. Because of my mother's response to their "What's gay?" question, they'll sometimes ask me "Why don't people say gay for happy anymore?" and I think they might've asked me once "Does gay mean anything else?" but my memory is kind of failing me at the moment. Honestly, I wouldn't mind telling them myself, but I think my mother would be pretty upset/annoyed with me if I did.

With the news story, I really like the response you suggested, but it happened at least a year ago. There have been many more comments that've made me uncomfortable recently--like within the past month--but I honestly can't remember them right now. In the moment when she makes them, though, I can't bring myself to respond the way I'd like. I just let the comment slide over, though I usually tense up and press my lips together and stuff.

So I think I'll be able to get the conversation started, but my mother is really of the mindset that young children shouldn't know what homosexuality is until they're into puberty. I doubt it would go anywhere, but it still bugs me.

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Heather
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One point I often bring up - and I was an early childhood educator for around 8 years before I did what I do now -- when parents have the idea homosexuality is "not appropriate" for children is to ask if they feel that way about ALL orientations.

In other words, do they feel the same way about heterosexuality? If not, why not? It's usually pretty obvious why (because of homophobia, because of thinking homosexuality is somehow only about sex and heterosexuality isn't, etc.), but asking the question can help people think.

Another biggie I mention is that children have families, and often understand relationships as being about families. Obviously, it's very important we honor all the diversity of families kids have, so not recognizing that some of them will have two mommies or two daddies, or that some of their friends do, is very othering and isolating for children, and can also teach all children homophobia at a very early age.

Really, when it comes to partnered sex, for young children, a lot isn't age-appropriate, but for those of us who are queer, or our intimate partnerships are also about all the things straight people's are: not just about sex, but also about love, about friendship, about family.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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MonarchButterfly
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I totally agree with everything you've said, Heather.

The thing is, I don't feel comfortable asking my mother that question myself. While I care about my sisters and want what I feel is best for them, I'm afraid that my mother would get the idea that I'm trying to parent them. I just don't know how I can try and get my point across, especially with the examples you've posted here, without sounding like that.

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julzy
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quote:
Originally posted by MonarchButterfly:
My parents are, generally, fantastic parents.

But one thing with them bothers me so, so much. They have never once, in my fifteen-point-five years of life, mentioned the fact that I may be homosexual. (I do believe I'm straight, but I definitely am not closing all doors on my sexuality. So, thank God, their apparent additude doesn't bother me as much as it could be.) As a matter of fact, my mother gave me A Talk about homosexuality when I was 12. She gave me A Talk about it. When I was 12. I really can't fathom how she thought, in today's world, that I wouldn't already know that not all people like others of the opposite gender. The fact that her own mother didn't know it until after she was married should be of no relevance to my own.

Now, I don't think she's extremely conservative on that topic, though. She did vote for gay marriage in '08. I just don't think she's ever considered the fact that one (or more) of her four daughters may be lesbian/bisexual. She was so incredibly surprised when she found out that I have friends who are gay. Not in a negative way, but she was surprised nonetheless.

And, when my sister was six, she (my sister) went around saying she had a crush on our friends' older sister (meaning 18). Everyone was saying, "No, you don't have crushes on girls, silly!" My mother flat-out told her, "You don't have a crush on her, you admire her." She wasn't saying this reprimandingly, but she still said it.

I'm going to bed now because it's past midnight where I am, so I might add more later. But how do I get my mother to even consider that idea? This might be a stupid question, but should I ask her outright?

i think my mom would be okay with it, my aunt would tease me, my grama would think its the most tragic thing since 9/11. and my grampa would probably shove a cross up my *** or something. and im only bi.

--------------------
cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort, suffocation no breathing, dont give a f***k if i cut my arm bleeding.

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