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Coming Out at 7 Years Old: How Should Parents Respond?

Coming Out at 7 Years Old: How Should Parents Respond?

Amelia knew there was something different about her 6-year-old son. For one thing, he’d developed an obsession with Blaine, one of the gay characters from the hit TV show Glee. And then there was his statement that the gay couple on the show were “just like me” because “They don’t like kissing girls. They just kiss boys.”

This didn’t faze Amelia one bit, although she didn’t want to rush to any conclusions about her young son’s sexual orientation. She figured he might come out as gay a few years down the road – or might get over his crush and never mention it again. What she wasn’t expecting was, several months later, for her now 7-year-old child to begin proudly and frequently asserting that he was gay.

Her response has simply been to tell him that she loves him, no matter what. She’s talked to his teachers at school and made clear that he identifies as gay, that she and her husband see nothing wrong with that, and that any bullying or intolerance at school will not be taken lightly.

And her husband, Dave? Well, I’ll let this excerpt from his recent blog on the Huffington Post speak for itself:

The idea that I would be immediately disappointed/angry/suicidal that my son identifies as gay offends me, both as a father and simply as a human. It seems the further we all move along into the 21st century in terms of technology, the more some parts of society regress to the 1950s — or the Victorian era, if we’re being honest — when it comes to ideas of social mores and attitudes on certain subjects: Ward Cleaver would have been angry if the Beaver had come out of the closet, so surely a father 60 years later would have the same reaction. I mean, come on, that’s only common sense!

Excuse me while I roll my eyes for an hour or two.

I don’t see how a father, or any parent, can look at their son, the one they’ve loved since before the child was even born, and upon hearing him say, “Dad, I’m gay,” turn their back on him. The comments from men much older than me telling stories just like that break my heart. My wife always wants to adopt the teenage kids who write to her; I want to adopt the 60-year-old men who cry when they read that I tell my son how awesome he is. I don’t care if they are as old as my father; they deserve love just as much as anyone else.

Some people might be uncomfortable with accepting a young child’s statements of sexual orientation at face value. And it’s true that, in a culture which conditions children to accept heterosexuality as the norm, young children very rarely have the insight to realize an alternative is possible.

Often, it does take until a child is in their early or late teens to understand that there’s an explanation for why they feel different. Even if they know early on that they’re gay, they might not have the vocabulary to articulate it. Identity can be complicated – I had a much easier time identifying as a lesbian as a young teen, and was only able to fully come to terms with an attraction to boys several years later. Coming out as bi or trans can often be even more difficult and confusing than simply identifying as gay or lesbian – even with a healthy support network.

But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it’s just obvious that children are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered at very young ages. Take Jenna Talackova, the trans model who knew she was a girl at age 4, and started hormone therapy at 14. I’ve known several friends and family members who were obviously gay from age 6 or 7 – and when they finally came out of the closet, it was a bit of a relief to be able to openly acknowledge it. Everyone had simply been waiting until they were comfortable enough to talk about it.

Increasingly, our society is entering new and uncharted territory in parenting. As more children see healthy, loving, gay relationships in their lives and the media they watch, they’ll know it’s normal for them to grow up and marry whomever they want – another boy, a girl, or someone who defies all categorization. Maybe they’ll grow up and have no interest in sex or relationships at all. What is the appropriate reaction when a young child asserts that they’re queer? Develops crushes on the same sex? Explains that their gender identity doesn’t match the body they were born with?

Should parents pretend not to notice? Tell them not to commit to an identity until they’re older? Or simply accept it at face value and not make a huge deal out of it?

I think that Amelia and Dave are modeling the ideal reaction. One that doesn’t make a big deal out of the revelation, but that is clearly supportive. One that gives their son room to grow, change, and develop – whether he continues to identify as gay in the future or not.

What about the Care2 community? When did you know you were gay, straight, trans, bi, asexual, or whatever you identify as? Have you always known? Did it hit you in your teens? Feel free to share your coming out stories in comments.

Related Stories:

How To React When Someone Comes Out: Dos and Don’ts for Straight Allies

Rachel Maddow Urges Gay People to Come Out

National Coming Out Day is for Straight Allies Too

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Photo credit: Beatrice Murch

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342 comments

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10:15AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Kudos to the parents and a hope that it will inspire and support other parents and their LGBT children!

6:39PM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

I never CHOSE to be straight, so I find it ridiculous that people think others can CHOOSE who they love. They can't pick who they love anymore than you can. I was born hating raisins and no amount of will power could make me force myself to love them. Not a difficult concept. Glad these parents are open and good :)

2:35AM PDT on May 13, 2012

I don't understand why no one ever addresses the unspoken, though irrational fear that opponents always have when they read these stories.

It's easy to dismiss those that think it's wrong to support gay kids as living in the past, in fear and in ignorance and I believe that's true but these people are thinking about something that it never even occurs to us to mention.

So here it is: those of us that have gay kids - especially very young ones, like seven - have no intention of letting them have sex before an appropriate age. No more than we would let our straight son or daughter have sex before an appropriate age.

That's what they think when they read stories like this one and no one ever bothers to mention that of COURSE we're not going to let them have sex at an early age simply because they identify as gay - as if that somehow means all gays must have sex early!

Straight kids show signs of crushes or attractions at the same ages and no one expects a good parent to let them start having sex, so why would we allow it just because the child is gay?

This is something that no one ever mentions when talking about how we should support gay kids and it needs to be stressed for those that read these stories and have that worry - as irrational as it may be.

11:31PM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

I like this boy, or even envy him; so confident n so know himself in such a young age;
and wish to be able to be as open minded as his parents :D

5:41PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

What a sweet story. This boy is fortunate to have such a loving, accepting father. I agree that heterosexuality is sort of imposed on us - I never even questioned it even though I always liked boys. In my late teens, after learning more about homosexuality and getting rid of the negative things I had learned from others about it, I decided to always be honest with myself and examine my feelings, and not let what was imposed on me to dictate what I felt. I realized I didn't really feel any attraction for women; there might always be a woman out there who I can admire because she is pretty or smart, but that's it. I was straight by my own choice, and this made me happy.

6:57PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Re animal homosexuality, I had a female rabbit who tried to hump my female cat. The rabbit was only 2/3 of the size of the cat, so she didn't get very far, but every time she saw the cat she gave it a try.

5:52PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

There is only one appropriate response to the question posed by this article: LOVINGLY.

7:59PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

David D: Do you think children should be allowed to watch movies about straight people? After all they may begin to emulate the behaviour and it may in fact be a spur to experimentation which may not have occurred without said viewing of straight film material.

7:46PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Tom Y: There's no such thing as "committing" to a sexual identity (or most other aspects of identity for that matter), although it's true that coming to a concrete conclusion about an aspect of your identity at such a young age can make it difficult to accept if that aspect changes later or if you turn out to be wrong. I remember convincing myself that I was straight (relative to my gender presentation at the time, since I'm not sure what my gender identity was then) a similar age, the result of which being that even though I was aware on a fairly conscious level of being bisexual by my mid teens, it took until maybe as little as a year ago (early 20s) to fully admit it to myself

7:21PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Eva: We all know the education system is about churning out workers from whom business can profit. But you've "only interpreted the world [badly]. The point is to change it." What education *should* be about is equipping kids (and adults) with the tools to get the maximum value out of life and to help those around them to do the same. Tony didn't say pregnancy was relevant to LGBT people in his original post, he just listed important topics which aren't covered or are under-covered by current official sex education curricula, but yeah pregnancy *is* relevant to most bisexual people and potentially to trans people of any sexual preference, and even to homosexual cis people for that matter if they have trans partners and are both fertile.

No, identity changes over time, particularly in the formative years of a person's life (called formative partly because they don't *have* a fully formed identity yet).

English
Etymology
Learned borrowing from Vulgar Latin identitas (“sameness”), from Latin idem (“the same”). See identical and idem.
[edit]Pronunciation
IPA: /aɪˈdentəti/
[edit]Noun
identity (plural identities)
Knowledge of who one is.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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