Dads, we’re going to have to stop making assumptions about our kids’ sexual orientation
Sorry, dads, but we’re going to have to stop making assumptions about our kids’ sexual orientation. I’m not saying this to provoke some kind of clickbait response; I’m basing it on the evidence that’s out there. Hear me out… Our society is changing and how we approach the subject of sexuality is evolving. If you’re not up on your figures, YouGov found that 43% of 16-24-year olds in the UK did not identify as gay or straight, meaning that almost half of young people are dealing with some degree of bisexuality. This is just one of many studies that have found bisexuality is on the rise and beyond that, the next generation is not as concerned with labels as previous generations have been
When parenting, the one thing you don’t want to do is mess your kids up. We’re constantly juggling between the tried and tested methods our parents used on us and the modern methods researchers and companies are telling us to work with. The world we live in is also constantly changing. My parents never had to sit me down and explain how an opinion you had at 12 can haunt you your entire life if it’s immortalised on social media. As a result, it’s anyone’s guess what the world will look like when our kids are our age, so we have to at least pretend that we’ve moved with the times to help them better assimilate.
The 21st Century Kid
So how do we deal with these changes and give our kids a 21st-century attitude towards the subject of sexuality? Some may suggest the best way is to stop telling our kids they are straight. Many of us have or are planning to tell our kids “when you get a girlfriend,” “maybe when you and your wife have a house you’ll understand respect,” or even just a “are there any girls at school you like?” Knowing that statistically, it’s more likely than ever for kids to not be 100% straight, is it time to take that into account when raising them?
Assuming they’re going to grow up marrying the opposite sex…
As a step-dad, much of how my son is being raised was already decided before I showed up when he was seven. One thing I noticed early on was that my girlfriend hasn’t assumed our son is straight. She will always say “are there any girls or boys you like?” “When you get older and have a girlfriend or a boyfriend.” Full disclosure, I felt a bit weird the first time I heard it, even though I know this is the right way to raise kids. You realise It’s not about ‘making it an issue’ It’s about letting your kids know you love them regardless and helping them to accept others.
"You realise It’s not about ‘making it an issue’ It’s about letting your kids know you love them regardless and helping them to accept others."
Remember when Bella Thorne (a name your kids probably know if you don’t) in December of 2016 opened up about her coming out as bisexual process during a Twitter Q+A (sorry, dads, twitter is definitely a thing now), giving advice based on her own experience? Like I said earlier about the 21st-century kid, times have changed, whether we like it or not. I found it pretty sobering that in response to a twitter follower asking Bella how she approached her mother about her sexuality, she said she “figured she already knew.”
I didn’t tell my mom...I just came out on twitter but I figured she already knew. My dad on the other hand...he’s been gone for awhile. https://t.co/3kkZy65yig— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) March 12, 2018
Some parents may be resistant to this and fear that the approach may lean them towards being gay or bisexual. Well, think of it this way, how many gay men have been raised straight only for it to make no difference at all? In my opinion, sexuality really isn’t up for negotiation – it can’t be influenced. People can argue the case of whether a person’s sexual orientation is triggered by environmental factors or decided by your genes. Basically, nothing you do is going to change your kid’s preferences, the only thing you can do is make sure that they don’t feel their sexuality is in some way wrong or limits their potential to flourish in life.
Take it from me; I had to have ‘the conversation’ with my parents too…
As a bisexual man myself, I remember ‘coming out’ to my parents. It was embarrassing – not for me, for them. I was embarrassed that they'd assumed I was straight, which made the conversation pretty awkward. It took me years to have the conversation with them and for those years I hid what I was getting up too, who I was with and who I was. It put distance between us and even though we are good now – that distance will never be repaired.
I really don’t want the same for my kids, they can tell me anything and I’ll help them bury the body.
Common sense must prevail over fear and irrationality, for the sake of our kids
There are many parents that don’t want their kids to identify as being part of the LGBT community. Some think life will be harder for them, some worry about the risk of STIs and some worry it means grandkids are off the table. I get it, fear combined with the unknown can lead to your mind and heart pacing all over the place – and fear usually preys on irrationality and exploits our most vulnerable thought processes. Well, to future parents who want to be grandparents, just remember that your child, as an adult, may wish to pursue other options available to them to help them become a parent. I guess what I am saying is that as a parent, I would encourage you to make peace with the idea your child could be LGBT or have same-sex experiences and that having a negative reaction about it isn’t going to change the course of their life. The only consequence is that they will feel bad about who they are, and that may damage them emotionally and mentally, perhaps crippling their future potential.
"...some worry it means grandkids are off the table. I get it, fear combined with the unknown can lead to your mind and heart pacing all over the place – and fear usually preys on irrationality and exploits our most vulnerable thought processes. Well, to future parents who want to be grandparents, just remember that your child, as an adult, may wish to pursue other options available to them to help them become a parent."
Statistically speaking you’re kids are still more likely to be straight, but they are more likely than ever to know LGBT people. Raising kids to think LGBT is wrong is not going to help them, in fact, it costs people their jobs. If we make them think LGBT is wrong it will put them at a disadvantage.
We all remember a time when being called gay was an insult but that time has passed. From looking at my son, I'm pretty sure he is straight but he already knows that his sexuality doesn't matter. He's not going to feel pressured into liking anyone. He’s not going to grow distant from us because he feels we’d be disappointed in him for not being straight, and he isn’t going to find the LGBT people he meets weird.
The truth is, when our kids are born we shouldn't assume their sexuality. Sexuality emerges in those teen years when our hormones start going wild. If we adjust the way we think about it and see those teen years to find out their sexuality, both parent and child will be happier.
About the author
Lewis Oakley is one of the UK's leading bisexual activists appearing across radio television and online platforms. He is interested in tackling stigma around bisexual men in particular and increasing understanding through good media representation. You can engage in conversation with Lewis on his twitter handle.
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