Feb 18 2012
Yesterday the LGBT press was literally cooing at the news of a 7 year-old boy coming out as ‘Gay’.
‘Amelia’ a blogger for the Huffington Post recounts the story of how her 7 year-old son decided to tell her quite nonchalantly that he was Gay. It’s a big of an ongoing saga and its well worth reading the related posts on the subject too if you want to get a full understanding of the circumstances that led to this boy’s decision to declare himself gay.
Just like Amelia, you can probably wonder if this will be the last word on this boy’s orientation, but one thing is not in doubt, Amelia has created an environment where her son feels comfortable, nay, confident in telling her he is ‘Gay’ and it got me wondering. If I had that environment as a child would I have felt more comfortable coming out?
Its not exactly like parents were intolerant of gay people; we had neighbours who were gay, we chatted with them made polite conversation, but I wouldn’t say my youth was filled with gay role models. My parents explained homosexuality in a way I suppose they thought was best. “Some men want to get married to other men.” This was long before gay-marriage was legal anywhere so typically this was qualified with, “but they can’t, so they just live together like they were married.”
As a 9 year-old this gave me a pretty clear idea of what being gay was all about. People who were married lived together and slept in the same bed, they also kissed and called each other ‘love’. That was being married was all about in my 9 year-old brain so adapting this to two guys instead of a man and a woman was pretty easy.
But equally there was something else, something that clearly told me this was not a normal state of affairs, maybe it was the way my mother said “Some men…” with a strained emphasis on the word “some”. Maybe it was the way my father sneered and used the word “poofter” in a condescending way. All I know is I was left with the impression that it wasn’t entirely OK to be gay.
At the time this wasn’t hugely damaging to my psyche, I was more interested in playing GI JOE with my brother than figuring out my orientation.
However, by the time I was trying to figure out my orientation, I was crippled. I felt had no safe place to talk about my feelings even though, my mum (if not my dad), would have been sympathetic had I not been scared into silence.
So instead I suffered quietly, never daring to mention my same-sex attraction until my late 20s.
So when I read the story of the 7 year old who ‘came out’ as gay, I couldn’t help but feel, that in spite of having parents who were largely tolerant of homosexuality, I was cheated out of the tolerant loving environment where I could have felt as confident as this boy did when it came to discussing my own orientation.
My fear is many parents; including many readers will make the same mistakes as my parents.
As best as I can work it out, the trick to creating that tolerant loving environment that’s safe for LGBT kids to come out into, is to talk about homosexuality with genuine warmth and love, instead of clinical distance. To avoid any mockery of homosexuality or same-sex relationships, and to tell your kids you love them and to love them more when they confide in you.
We need to make more mums like Amelia.