It’s OK If You Don’t Want Your Kids To Be Gay

bigglassesOne of the things I’m proudest of with this blog is the response I’ve received to my post How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay People, By a Gay Person. It’s received exactly the kind of praise (overwhelming) and condemnation (from a few random kooks) I would’ve hoped. I’ve also reached a number of people in the middle, which is where I would suspect most parents are these days, still trying to make sense of our increasingly gay-friendly world and where their kids fit into it.

I’d like to share one particularly intriguing comment I got on the post, which espouses a viewpoint I imagine is increasingly common among parents these days (edited version below; original can be found on the original post):

My husband and I are both tolerant, live and let live kind of people. I am a Christian, [but] I don’t think homosexuality is sinful. What is in the bible is taken way out of context.

 We have a two mom couple [in our neighborhood]. [My kids] never noticed, so we don’t bring it up. Then one day, my 5 year old said that a man can’t marry a man, that is just silly. My husband agreed with him. My husband and I talked later and I told him not to say that, because our son has girls with two moms in his class and he may tell them that it is silly or wrong. My husband said that, in truth, two men can’t legally get married and he doesn’t want the kids thinking it is OK. Well that is when I realized that we aren’t as cool with it as I thought.

I don’t think seeing gay couples will make our sons gay, but my husband seems to think that if we just say it is fine and OK and natural, then they will experiment with both genders. While I would love and accept my son no matter what and so would my husband, I don’t want him to be gay. So how do I tell them that it is OK for other people, but not OK for us. Is that ignorant of me. Am I way overthinking it. I don’t feel like these couples are going to make my children gay, but for some reason, I have this problem with telling them that it is perfectly OK and normal for them to like [other boys]. How should I explain it? I would be mortified if he told his five year old friends that their Moms were wrong or weird and made the little girls feel bad.

I’m going to start off by saying something you probably wouldn’t expect me to say:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

I know, can you believe a gay man just said that? I’ll say it again:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

You don’t have to feel guilty about it or be conflicted, and it shouldn’t be the cause of a fight with your spouse.

As parents, we have a lot of expectations and desires for our kids, and that’s only natural. Maybe you don’t want them to go into the military, because you’re afraid they’ll be in danger. You don’t want them to be poets, because you’re afraid they’ll always be broke. You don’t want them to be windmill technicians, because you don’t want them moving away to the Netherlands. All understandable.

On top of that, it’s natural to want your children to be people you can relate to. We want them to have the same political views as us. We want them to share our religion, our work ethic, our sense of humor.

So maybe there’s a part of you that wants your kid to share the same sexual orientation as you. It will certainly make your life easier. It’s hard enough teaching your kids about the birds and the bees, without also having to explain the bees and the bees or the birds and the birds. Fair enough.

It may even make your kid’s life easier if they’re straight, because he or she won’t have to deal with homophobia and the difficulty gay people face when trying to have a family. Maybe that’s why you don’t want your kid to be gay, and that’s OK, too.

It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t even necessarily make you a homophobe.

Here’s the catch, though: You have to be willing to accept your kids even if they’re not what you wanted them to be.

He wasn't what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

He wasn’t what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

You would still love your daughter if she joined the military or your son if he became a poet, and if either of them became a windmill technician, you’d be a little sad, but you’d buy a Dutch phrase book and move on with life. It’s the same if your kid ends up being gay, so prepare yourself for that now. Ideally, you may not want it to happen, but it could happen.

And I’m sorry, but there’s no way to convey the notion of “It’s OK for them but not for us” without it coming across as hypocritical or dishonest. Your kid is looking at how you treat your neighbors not just to see how he should treat his neighbors, but to see how you might treat him as well.

What I’m hearing in your comment sounds to me like, “I want to teach my son to be nice to people who are different from us, because I’m terrified those people might learn how we really feel.” You can’t have it both ways. If you’d accept a stranger for being who they are, you can’t discourage it in your own child.

Kids have a tendency of defying their parents’ expectations. Ultimately, as a parent, you should be striving to make your kids happy, and nothing will make them happier than if they’re allowed to be themselves and to know that they have the unconditional love of their parents to support them.

You might really, really prefer that your kid be straight, and maybe you’ll get your wish. But maybe not. And it’s how you handle the “maybe not” that demonstrates what kind of parent you are.

Here’s the other catch: you can’t wait until your kids grow up to tell them you’re OK with who they are. You have to plant the seeds of acceptance before they even figure themselves out.

If your son tells you he wants to be a professional wrestler when he grows up, you can say you’d be very worried that he’d get hurt, but the bigger point you should make is that you’d always root for him.

If your daughter tells you she wants to be a roller disco queen, you can gently suggest that she might need a backup career plan, but only after you tell her to get down with her bad self.

And if your kids say they want to marry someone of the same sex someday, you might be inclined to share what your religion says about homosexuality, but your focus should really be on how proud you’ll be to walk them down the aisle.

Five-year-olds don’t usually have much sense of where they’ll be in 20 years. If we could really trust the predictions preschoolers make, the world would have a lot more firemen and princesses in it. But if there’s one thing kids that age are very good at, it’s testing their parents. When they make assertions about their identity, it’s a safe bet that they’re studying your reaction very closely.

Young adults have been known to experiment with homosexuality if they feel it’ll piss off their parents. But no one has actually ever become gay just because their parents told them they’d be cool with it. I promise.

As for the fact that marriage still isn’t legal wherever you happen to live, it’s only a matter of years if not months before it will be. Marriage equality is almost a certainty by the time your five-year-old reaches adulthood, so don’t cling to the technicality while it lasts.

If you want to know how to discuss the lesbian parents in your neighborhood with your kids, you can show them your acceptance without turning it into a Bi g Discussion on homosexuality. Just say, “Those women are in love, the same way I love your daddy. Someday, you’ll marry the person you love, and I can’t wait to dance at your wedding.”

Then let them go back to playing soccer.

* * * * *

Want more of me? Read my book! Publishers Weekly calls it “uproarious”. The Good Men Project says it’s “hilarious”. Decide who’s right. Buy it here! Or here! Or read more about it here!

31 comments on “It’s OK If You Don’t Want Your Kids To Be Gay

  1. Great post. But I’m always sad about the gay people who report that they ‘couldn’t tell their parent’ because of their reaction. A child who knows that a parent judgement of their own nature will be negative is something terrible.

  2. I agree. That whole “It’s okay for them but not for us” sounds like a hesitation they have to overcome in themselves – not something they have to teach their kids.
    I come from a family that’s very similar to the one described – I grew up religious, but was never taught homosexuality is a sin, in fact, queer people were pretty much ignored in my social environment. I used to think that my family was pretty ‘tolerant’ until I got into a discussion with my dad about his opinion that gay people cannot provide a proper family for children.
    Well, turns out I’m bi, and when I came out to my parents about being in love with a woman, they didn’t exactly disown me, but I can still feel that they feel like this is a topic they want to avoid (and to be honest, I think they hope I will ‘end up’ with a man, since it would make things so much easier). It’s something I can deal with as an adult, but in retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t find out earlier, and even now, it still hurts.
    So if you want to avoid hurting your children, better learn to deal with your own reservations before they become personal.

    • YES yes yes to all of this!!! I grew up in a very intolerant family….so it wasn’t until I turned 38 that I accepted I was bisexual–and I do believe I was born that way, it was not a choice. But at 44, I have not come out to my parents. And it hurts. My kids and husband support and love me, even when I had a poly relationship with a woman. My daughter told me today that if they can’t accept me, then they aren’t worth having in my life. From the mouth of babes, eh? :)

  3. Wow!!!! Wonderfully written and honest I agree with you 100% mixed messages are a call for failure but honest loving talks are rewarding. Thank you for amazing share it was very heart felt xo :)

  4. Honestly, the commenter sounds to me like she WANTS to be more accepting than she is. And I know plenty of people like that: “I’m cool with gay people, but my kid better not be.” I agree with everything you said — I don’t WANT my son to be a republican or ‘gangsta,’ BUT I’m not going to tell him it’s “not okay” if that’s who he is.

  5. This is great. As a lesbian mama – I too hope my daughter does not end up being gay. Not because I hate gay people obviously, but because of the very reasons you point out! Its harder for gay people right now in many ways and no parent wants a harder life for their children. I will say that right now, we are working on just being accepting if she turns out to be Republican! ;) My partner is having a real hard time finding a way to be tolerant to that in 20 years, LOL, our kid is only 2, but its for real a nightmare for her. Thanks for sharing this, its great to have someone put a voice to this and make it OK, because it is OK – it doesn’t mean you can’t still love your kid just the way they are!

  6. Jerry- you are the best! Honest and straightforward with a dash of humor. Just what the world needs. Never stop spreading your words of wisdom. Love ya!

  7. Pingback: Blog Share | Good Families Do…

  8. Good points all around, but I also feel like something you could have reiterated, as I’ve seen you point it out in other posts- It’s also ok to tell your kid that most people are not gay. Because that’s the truth. You could say something like, “Well, most people fall in love tiwh people of the opposite sex, but some people don’t. It may seem strange because you don’t see it very often, but they are just being themselves.”

  9. You are so awesome. Truly. But then again that’s why you’re such a great writer and have a book :)

    Personally we’ve had talks with both kids (19, 12) and let them know we accept them for who they are. Both of them said they identify as straight. My college age daughter has said she may experiment–although she is in a serious relationship (and he is bi, and so am I).

    It makes a huge difference to your kids how you react. My son sticks up for his friend who is a lesbian. My daughter cheers every time another state does the right thing and approves gay marriage. And by teaching my kids that it IS ok to be GLBTQ, my son knows if someone attempts to bully him be calling him gay, he said he’d just shrug and say, I’m not but if I was who cares? Yeah I’m pretty proud of my kids.

    I love your blog, can’t wait to get your book, and thanks for making the world a better place. Happy Father’s Day!!!

    • Thanks! Sounds like you’re raising those kids just right. Glad you’ve been so good at teaching them acceptance — and that they’ve turned around and been so accepting of Mom, too. :)

  10. “But no one has actually ever become gay just because their parents told them they’d be cool with it. I promise.” Amen.
    A conversation I had with my five-year-old son (who has two mommies):
    him: Calvin says that boys can’t marry other boys
    me: Well, Calvin is confused. Some people are still confused about that. ;)

  11. I always remember my aunty saying when you grow up and meet the right person, she knew I was gay well before I did and her just knowing made it much easier for me to come out, even without her saying it. Family should love you for just being you.

  12. Jerry, I absolutely love your tolerant but resolute answer to this slightly confused reader. I know, it is not her fault, a lot of people are indoctrinated all their lives with what should be right and what should not. And I mean she really is trying. But in the end you brought it to the point: Acceptance of your children starts with the day they are born, no matter how they turn out.

    The funny thing is – and you have written about this before, too – that kids are usually the ones who have the least problems adjusting their world views. So when my 5-year old comes to me one day and tells me that a man can’t marry a man because it’s just silly, I will make sure to let him know that actually, while it might not happen all the time, it is quite normal and these men love each other just as much as his mommy and daddy love each other. And then I’ll send him back to play with his friends (who happen to be children of single parents, children from patchwork families, children from mixed-skin colour families and all other sorts of modern families).

  13. In my mid 20’s I had been single for quite a few years, I was at my Mum’s with a friend (who is gay) having a Whedon-a-thon. Eliza Dushku came on-screen and he declared her to be a woman that could set him straight :) I declared her a woman I would climb the fence for, my Mother overheard this and said to me she didn’t care if I liked girls or boys, but if I liked girls would I consider getting artificially inseminated so she could still have grand-babies? My friend promised her if it came to that I could have his sperm and she was overjoyed. My Mum is the best!
    From my point of view the only reason I would be concerned if my child was gay is because I see that our world still has a long way to come in terms of acceptance of others. You can only stand in front of your child for so many hours a day in your shield Mum position, you cannot protect them from discrimination at every turn. In short I would be concerned that they would be punished by stupid people for simply being who they are. I hope for the day when this conversation is a non-event, when I have a teenager and they come home to tell me they are going out on a date and I can ask them what the person is like and not care to ask what their gender is.

    • Thanks for the comment. I totally agree, but I feel like I should write a follow-up post. I know many people, gay and straight, agree that being gay is still so hard, so they’d never wish it on their kid. I’ve felt that way at times myself, but now that I’m older and have some perspective, I see so many wonderful things that have come from me being gay, so much of who I am and what I love about myself and about life, that I would never have felt or experienced if I weren’t gay. I don’t wish it on anyone in particular, but I do hope it’s bestowed on some of the people who’ll be able to appreciate it for the gift that it can be.

  14. Well said! My partner and i have this discussion all the time. Although I would love my kids no matter what, I don’t want them to be gay. Why would i ever want them to have a harder life that necessary. Not that things aren’t changing, and most of the younger generation is more tolerant, loving, accepting and understanding, so im pretty sure that my kids will be just fine, but i just dont think ( from my personal experience) that it’s an easy life. Thanks for saying what i always wanna say but cant find the words!

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