Wedding Woes

I think you're overthinking this.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a stepmother to a sweet, smart, generally awesome 9-year-old boy. My husband and I are both heterosexual supporters of LGBT+ rights, and we’ve tried to impart those values to my stepson. A few years ago, my stepson announced, “I like boys! I think I want to be gay when I grow up,” when we were talking about a fictional gay character, and my husband and I both said we were happy he felt comfortable saying that to us. Last year at school he had his first crush, which was on a girl, and that was just fine with us too.

Recently my stepson told me he had a new crush but that he didn’t want to tell me who it was yet. His manner was giggly and playful, so I asked, “Can you at least tell me something about them? Are they a girl or a boy?” He suddenly looked upset and said, very seriously, “Stop.” I told him that I respected his privacy and he didn’t have to tell me anything if he didn’t want to, but that I was curious why it had upset him so much. He said, “You’re right—there’s nothing wrong with it. I mean, my friend told me he might like boys, and I’m fine with that.” This made me worry that my husband and I haven’t done enough to counteract garden-variety homophobia: the idea that one might publicly claim there’s nothing “wrong” with being gay, but privately think of it as worse than being heterosexual. My stepson went on to ask me if I knew anyone who was gay. This surprised me as well, because both my husband and I have numerous friends, relatives, and co-workers who are gay or bi, and a few who are trans, and my stepson has met several of them. We certainly haven’t consciously kept that information from him, but the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of family friends isn’t exactly a topic that frequently comes up naturally in conversation with a young child. I have no idea what my stepson will grow up to be. But I want him to grow up knowing that everyone is worthy of recognition, inclusion, and respect. Any advice on how I can work toward that and how I can undo some of the harmful messaging he’s already absorbed?

—Anxious Affirming Parents

Re: I think you're overthinking this.

  • It sounds like you handled that exactly as you should; you respected his desire to stop talking about it, reassured him that what he was feeling (about likening boys) was normal, and you honestly answered his questions. Hindsight is always clearer than the moment, but I think you’re over thinking this. 

    Kids are going to get TONS of messaging from people, society, TV, the internet basically so many places other than their parents. Keep counteracting that, keep talking to him, and keep giving him examples of all kinds of relationships. 
  • You can't put your boy in a bubble, so he's going to get direct and indirect messaging about all manner of things.  Keeping things consistent at home and the line of communication open is the best thing you can do.  But stressing yourself out over every word you say and/or wanting to talk it out every time he has a simple question isn't the way to go.  You'll make yourself and everyone bonkers. You know your values and you live them, kids pick up on that more than anything else. 
  • I don’t understand the issue here. He’s fine. You’re fine.
  • Definitely over thinking.
    Given today's society, it's understandable though. You want to be open, let people know who they are and that who they kiss or what's in their pants doesn't matter.

    Is it bad I'm thinking I would totally over think the same situation?
  • I don’t understand the issue here. He’s fine. You’re fine.
    He's NINE.  

  • I think a key piece in the LW's own letter is when she mentions that "sexual orientation and/or gender identity of family friends isn’t exactly a topic that frequently comes up naturally in conversation with a young child".  Right!  Exactly!  It sounds like they've laid a good groundwork of support for all sexual and gender orientations.  But conversations on any subject need to be geared toward that child's age.

    However, their son doesn't live in a bubble and he is especially at an age where children want to be part of the supposed "norm" that they are bombarded with everywhere.  Hence his comments and the concern they caused for his SM.  But on the bright side, he's heard their message.  It sounds like it will be a guiding principle for him as he and his friends head toward discovering their own sexuality in the next few years.

    It can also serve as a good reminder for his parents to sometimes point out how insidiously and unfairly skewed advertising and entertainment is in our society and foster those discussions.  Especially as he gets older.  As in, look at the real world and then look at tv.  Is everyone tall and a "10"?  Is the majority of the population white, heterosexual couples?  Why are announcements almost always a male voice?
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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