How Can I Help My Son Understand Homosexuality?

This. Our local GLCC (Community Center) does a lot with education of all kids; gay and straight. They have also been able to do some outreach with some of the local schools. I can’t say enough good for what they have done around here.

It’s not that doesn’t understand what it MEANS. He’s not retarded. But we live in the south currently, and he associates with a lot of Christians and conservatives, and many of those people have different views on this subject than I do. He’s naturally trying to figure out what’s going on- I taught him this but they’re teaching him that, and so on.

As far as teaching him that gay people are miserable, I will consciously try not to give him that idea and I see where you’re coming from.

You might also see if you have a local PFLAG chapter-- no experience with it myself, but the organization seems to come up a lot.

Ask him what he thinks (us) gay or lesbian folks do in their day-to-day life. Outside of the bedroom, most of us lead pretty boring lives: cook breakfast, drop off the kids at school, go to work, spend time with the partner/spouse and family, bitch about the boss, go out for brunch once a week, that kind of stuff. We aren’t all that different from straight people, after all.

Why am I recommending this little exercise? If someone knows no gay people IRL and knows of the LGBT community only through the demonstrations and pride parades and drag shows**, it is possible for them to assume that we are somehow different people leading a fundamentally different lifestyle. Of course, it doesn’t help that some religious preachers demonize homosexuality as well.

**Of course, I am not suggesting that pride rallies and drag shows are “wrong” in any way, just that straight people wouldn’t relate to it.

I feel wrong (Lord, I apologize) for putting ‘gay’ before all of those activities when I read them. An old stand up clip popped into my head. I didn’t know who it was so it was kind of a PITA to track down, but here it is (mildly NSFW).

Or you can wait until like me, his first job is with a boss whos gay and loves to hit on the young men who work for him. Nothing better than to have some sleezy old fart wanting to rub up to you to give an impression of gay people.

I had my first same-sex fantasy at the age of 5. For some reason, that seems to be a common year for many of us to have our first inklings of our sexuality. Ask your son how on earth could a 5-year-old make an informed choice about something he knows nothing about, that will stick with him for his entire life. It has to be something that was a part of me since, or before, birth.

And yes, we are in most ways the same boring people as everyone else. And we are no more miserable than you are.

PFLAG is a great suggestion. They do amazing work.

And thank you so much for talking with your son about this.

One thing that might help would be to tell your son that there are people who claim homosexuality is a choice is order to justify their religious or political beliefs. It’s easier to condemn gayness as a sin or a perversion if you think it’s a choice. That is, their beliefs come not from evidence, but from the conclusions they want to reach.

You might also point out that there are programs that try to “cure” homosexuality. These generally fail, and make their subjects miserable whether they’ve entered the programs voluntarily or through some sort of coercion (e.g. parents sometimes force their kids into these programs). If homosexuality were just a choice, you’d expect these programs to be a lot more successful.

There’s also the word of gay people themselves. Many of them say they knew they were gay from a young age, even from before puberty.

You could also ask your son why he believes it’s a choice. Where did he get this misinformation? It could be easier to argue against it if you know where it’s coming from.

Another thing that may help is to ask: even if it were a choice, why would that matter? Why would that make it a wrong choice, or a choice that others have the automatic right to condemn or interfere with?

There is a real difference in how some people view the idea of sexuality.

Some view sexuality as being defined by sexual acts. This view comports with the “It’s a choice” view of homosexuality. A person can, after all, choose to engage in certain sexual acts regardless of his/her feelings.

Others view sexuality as being defined by feelings and desire. This view comports with the “It’s part of who I am” view of homosexuality. A person has little control of which gender(s) he/she finds sexually attractive.

Ask you son which of those views seem to make sense to him about his heterosexuality. Why would it be any different for homosexuals?

I wouldn’t push this (or any) book on him if he’s not interested, but I recently read What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? by John Corvino. Corvino is a philosophy professor who’s toured the country having public debates about same-sex marriage (Corvino is on the “pro” side) with Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton (the “anti” side).

The book describes common arguments against homosexuality and gay rights like “It’s not natural” and “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” and presents Corvino’s rebuttals. The book is pretty short and is written in a clear, informal style. Corvino discusses some of his personal experiences as a gay man and how his relationship with his partner is an important part of his life. This particular book might also be helpful for your son because Corvino talks about being respectful of one’s opponents and how he and Stanton have come to see each other as friends despite their differences.

Ash him to try and choose to be gay. Try to be attracted to guys’ bodies rather than girls’. Give it a real, serious try.

He can’t, right? It just feels wrong for him, against his nature? That’s because he was born straight. He didn’t choose it; he’s made that way.

In exactly the same way, some people are born gay. If they try to be attracted to the opposite sex, that’s how it feels: wrong, against their natures.

If he can’t choose to be gay, neither can anyone else.

Some people collect ceramic frogs, others collect fuzzy poodles. The ceramic frog collectors can’t understand why anyone would collect fuzzy poodles, and vice-versa.

I think the “born with it” or “choice” debate misses the middle ground: that people can be homosexual sometimes, and heterosexual sometimes (which is not the same as being bisexual, which they can also be sometimes) and that absolutely none of that is choice, *nor *is it fixed at birth.

Kinsey himself said that his famous scale was only useful for a specific period of time in a person’s life, and that if you rated them at another time, they might score differently. So this argues against fixed orientation (“born with it”) but it does not indicate choice.

Experiences, environment, hormonal influence…lots of things may affect one’s sexual orientation without being in the control or choice of the individual.

So, I wouldn’t actually argue with him too much with the resistance to the idea that gay people are born that way. Maybe some are, perhaps even most are, but not all. And maybe there are few orientation-fluid people who *can *choose to put themselves in environments and have experiences that allow them to shift their orientation to gay. The real point is whether that means it’s a *bad *thing to be gay.

In other words, I agree with Mangetout. Even if it is a choice…so what?

There are people out there who make the choice to engage in hot sauce endurance contests with their friends. I think it’s stupid. It’s not a choice I would make. But what they’re choosing to do with their time and their bodies is not hurting me in any way whatsoever, so why should I care about their choice?

I’m with Mangetout and Why Not. Choice or not is entirely the wrong argument. Even if it were a choice, it would be a valid and acceptable one, and it wouldn’t change the fact that what consenting adults choose to do together is entirely their own business.

And the reasoning that no one would choose to be so persecuted and hated? I guarantee you that, right at this very moment, someone, somewhere is complaining that people treat them like a freak, or a criminal, or won’t hire them because of the ink they’ve chosen to have tattooed on to their bodies. It’s no secret that there is prejudice against people with tattoos, but I don’t see people letting this stop them from getting them. Some forms of self expression seem more important to some people than the possible negative consequences.

When I was fresh out of school and starting various new jobs, do you know how many male bosses did that kind of shit to me? I had one who used to always rub his face and say “here honey, I’ll clear a place for you to sit”. That just means those specific people were jerks, not all men.

If you’re letting one gross person poison your view on all the other millions, well you’re missing out on knowing a lot of really great people.

I think there could be confusion by some straight folks about someone “turning gay” (which doesn’t happen, you are or you aren’t) and someone recognizing/accepting that they are gay.

Nope. I wasn’t talking about anyone else, I was talking about myself. I’ve been straight, gay and bi. I’m straight again. None of those chosen.

“Who would choose it?” is a dumb argument. I would, but it’s not a choice. I’m not attracted to people of my own gender, so the perks of being gay will never be mine.

Whether it is a choice is irrelevant and stressing that aspect seems offensive, like implying that it is obviously a defect and inherently unpleasant, so we should consider gay people to be hapless victims worthy of pity and charity. Some people are gay, some people are not, some people are somewhere in between, and some people are asexual. It isn’t anyone else’s business to judge or moralize, as there is no immoral activity going on.

I’m putting myself in your position, and I maybe it’s just my own dad ego but I would not sub-contract out this explanation to others. Sexuality is complex and while there are very strong innate biological predispositions there are some elements of self direction involved.

The “it’s all genetic” argument is not going to help him with the “gays will burn” bible thumpers. The religious conservatives don’t really care if it’s innate or not, their response is “Doesn’t matter it’s a sin. You can be gay, just don’t do gay sex. Problem solved!”

The argument I would make is that there is nothing innately wrong with being gay and it’s a valid and ethically sound lifestyle choice and the people that claim otherwise are incorrect. And IMO that’s* your *job to make that argument convincingly not the gay community’s. If he is worried about being ostracized because he is not onboard with the “gay=burning in hell” perspective of his peers he needs to understand that his peers are being ignorant. That needs to be put on the table front and center.

There is no way to please everyone in this life and you need to take a stand at some point. If your children respect your reasoning and intelligence they will see things in context. In talking to my kids about these kinds of issues I told there “Here are the facts. You will make your own decision in the end, but let it be an informed decision.” It may have taken them a while to mull it over and we might talk about it several times, but ultimately they never disappointed me.