Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Discussing Homosexuality With Your Kids

My guest blogger today is Leslie Penkunas, editor of nola baby and family magazine in New Orleans.
Leslie has two children, ages 8 and 10, and blogs about parenting on her blog:theparentinggig.com

Conversation Starter

As editor of a parenting magazine, I review books or assign articles tackling myriad parenting topics—how to have a happy, healthy pregnancy, how to get your baby to sleep through the night, how to potty train your child, etc. Those that have really resonated with me as an editor as well as a mom are those that tackle how to talk with my kids about sex. I’m really glad that due to my editorship, I started reading these books and writing or editing these articles when my older child was still in preschool.

My son—quickly followed by his younger sister—learned about the “biological” aspect of the birds and the bees early on, in bits and pieces. I’d received an encyclopedia just for kids—One Million Things—that had a really cool section on human reproduction; they were fascinated and I would walk them through the stunning photos and explain the development of the baby in utero. As all the “experts” said, they’d tune out when they’d heard enough. Yes, we even used the anatomically correct names for body parts, to some of my neighbors’ horror.

Later on, when my son was in first grade, my preschool-aged daughter became fascinated with fairy tales and romances and the like. I don’t know how the conversations began; I do know that they took place over the course of several weeks, and my son started coming into her room at story time to join in them.
One night my daughter said that she wanted to grow up and marry one of our beloved pet dogs. My son laughed and said he didn’t think you could do that. And my daughter got upset and said that if that’s whom she loved, she should be able to marry her. My son said, no, she had to marry a BOY. (I think he thought a boy dog would be just fine.)

That’s when I decided the time was right to let them know about true love. I explained that while the love she felt for a pet as a child was not the romantic and eventually deep, everlasting, start-and-build-a-family love she’d feel with a human as she gets older, her brother was wrong. Some girls grow up to fall in love with and marry girls, and boys grow up to fall in love with and marry boys.

They looked at me in surprise. And no wonder. None of their fairy tale books ever presented this scenario.

My four-year-old daughter asked me a few weeks later what I would do if she grew up to marry a girl. I said, “Love you like always. And love your partner, too. Just like Grammy and PopPop love your Dad.”
Ever since that conversation started, we’ve been matter-of-fact about the topic of being gay. My kids are eight and 10 now and know that gay parents can adopt or be artificially inseminated. They know some states allow marriage. And they know that many are adamantly opposed to this. They don’t get it.

“Love is love. Right?” my daughter asks. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“You’re Too Pretty To Be A Lesbian”

I hear this statement constantly from parents who can’t believe that their cutie daughter, who held the white patent leather pocketbook in nursery school, and is donning makeup and short skirts in high school, is gay.When your “girly girl” daughter “comes out” to you, please don’t deny her sexual orientation!

Lesbians come in all shapes and sizes. Just because you prefer your own sex doesn’t mean you have to adhere to society’s prototype of the “masculine” lesbian: you know, the short “butch” haircut, combat boots, tatoos. (Even “Peppermint Patty” from “Peanuts” comic strip wears Birkenstocks and is called “Sir” by her friends.) Nor does it mean your child is automatically relegated to the Army, police force or landscaping business.

Every day, I pass a Saturday Evening Post cover illustration, executed by a well-known American artist in 1924 of an incredibly beautiful woman. She is the epitome of female perfection: cupid mouth, perfectly-shaped nose, big green eyes, and a flapper’s figure. She is my maternal grandmother. She’s also a closeted lesbian.

“Nanny’s” beauty belied a capable woman, ahead of her time. Divorced, she was an executive at Elizabeth Arden in Philadelphia as well as a Director of Camp Bueno, a summer camp for society girls in New Hampshire. 

Today, society perpetuates the myth of the “dyke.” Writer, gay rights activist Kim Stolz, who appeared on Season 5 of “America’s Next Top Model,” has been told “you’re too pretty to be a lesbian.” Tall, leggy, with short hair, Kim, like my grandmother, is also a Renaissance woman: she has a job in finance, has been an MTV reporter, and is writing a book on relationships vis-a-vis social media. 

Even with no hair for her lead performance in “Wit,” unlike her role as Miranda Hobbes in “Sex and the City,” Cynthia Nixon can look “feminine.” So can the so-called “lipstick lesbians” in the world’s modelling agencies.

These women, who many regard as too feminine to be lesbian, are not trying to hide their sexual orientation. They want to look like women because they are women.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Privacy vs. The Right to Know

If you are suspicious your child may be gay, do you, as a parent, have the right to ask? 
I believe your kid will tell you she is gay when she is ready. You shouldn’t “out” her to others until she wants you to; after all, it’s her story that she may want to hold close to her chest for a while.
You may be dying to have your suspicions confirmed, but it can backfire.  You can try to find out by “coming in the back door.” See below.
        Do’s and Don’t's:
·     Do elicit comments through discussions about celebrities, for example, like Lady GaGa and her “Born This Way” Foundation.
·     Don’t ask point blank “are you gay?”  Even though it’s your child, have boundaries of what’s acceptable to ask.  You don’t have to know everything.
·     Do talk about birth control, safe sex; it’s your parental duty.
·     Don’t ask if she last lost her virginity.
·     Do get her opinions about same-sex marriage, for example, and give her your positive ones that show you respect diversity. Then she will know that you are not criticizing a minority. If she feels secure, accepted in this environment, she will be more apt to “come out.”

Do you think a parent has the right to know?
Please post a comment here.