Recently I watched Ellen Page come out at HRCF’s Time to Thrive Conference. She gave an amazing speech about homosexuality and the struggle that some people go through trying to live their lives truthfully. It is very hard living a lie every day. What makes that lie harder is when you are living it for other people, and in the case of being homosexual it is often for parents and those close to you. As a parent I would never want to put that burden on my child. I don’t want her to feel she has to do anything for me other than to be a kind and decent human being.
I strive daily to keep from pigeon-holing her with all the trappings that come with being a girl in today’s society. Outside our home I can’t stop the effects of the world around us: pink for girls, playing with dolls, trucks are manly, etc. Inside we have trucks AND dolls. We wear pink and brown and blue and green. We play with toys that are not gender defined. When the time comes she can take ballet class, but she can also take MMA classes. It will be up to her and I hope that she will choose a path that is more than the stereotype that we’ve laid out for girls.
But when it comes to her sexuality, all I can do is show her that I am an accepting person. She attends childcare where other parents are gay, and we do live in a city where there is a lot of acceptance, but that environment still doesn’t mean it’s easy being and telling others that you are gay. My hope is that by the time she is in puberty (when we all begin to question our propensities) that “coming out” won’t even exist. That being gay won’t require a heart-to-heart talk with anyone, it will just be who you are and, well, nothing special really. While Ellen Page’s speech was wonderful, it bothers me that anyone has to “come out” at all. I don’t understand why she cannot just “be”. In Ellen’s case, she came out to encourage and support others to just be themselves. She is using her youth, beauty and stardom to show others that even she could be afraid.
I attended a lecture a few years ago on gender issues in raising a child, and one of the presenters was a parent who was also a lesbian. And she told the story of the day one of her sons came to her and said “Mom, I’m sorry. I’ve tried to imagine being gay, but I’m not.” She was proud of this moment, but I was a little disappointed. She was someone who, along with her partner, had always shown their kids that who they were would be accepted. On one side her son was able to consider both options without fear and talk to his mother, but on the other he still felt he was disappointing her. That there was something for which he needed to apologize. What I took from this is that we can only help our children feel they can talk to us about sexuality without fear of reproach or judgment, but they are always going to feel that when they choose something different from their parent’s views they are going to sence they are betraying us a little.
On the other end of the spectrum, I once worked in a daycare that had a young boy who was quite effeminate. He “seemed gay” to all of the adult staff. The other children did not notice, nor care. He was a lovely, sweet and imaginative child. The staff was informed one day that this child’s parents did not want him to be allowed to play with the dress-up clothing… well, let’s put the whole truth out there, just the “girly” dress-up clothing. His father was so afraid that his son might grow up to be a kind, sweet, imaginative gay adult that he seriously thought he could stifle the gay out of him by not allowing him to express himself with “girls” toys. What that father was really doing was telling his son “I won’t accept you for who you are. If you are gay, you need to hide that.” This is why people like Ellen Page live lies and eventually struggle their way out of the closet, because their parents, siblings and loved ones build those closets around them.
The title of this post is a bit misleading because in the end you cannot make assumptions about your child, and that goes beyond just their sexuality. You cannot raise your child to “be gay” just as you cannot raise them to “be straight”. What you can do is model acceptance and create an atmosphere of trust and open communication.
To end on a positive, here is a short video that is interesting and entertaining.