Raising My Rainbow

‘Could Your Child Be Gay?’ Is The Question Parents Need To Start Asking Themselves More Often

Raising My Rainbow is written by the mother of a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son. She’s chronicling their journey on Queerty right here. Read up on RMR‘s cast of characters.

C.J. loves playing Super Mario games, just as long as he gets to be Princess Peach

At the park, C.J.’s BFF was running around pretending to be Super Mario while C.J. was giving a rousing rendition of Princess Peach. I was sitting on a bench completely engrossed in a new article from Parenting magazine titled “Could Your Child be Gay?” All of a sudden this stealthy dad who looked exactly like Kody Brown from Sister Wives was sitting right next to me on the bench smiling. He was like a phantom. I was caught rainbow-handed. I fumbled with my papers. My hands were out of my control. I flipped over the article as quickly as I could and hid it beneath my purse. I felt like a 16-year-old boy being caught with porn; and Kody Brown was my mom.

As Kody Brown went on and on and on about me becoming his next sister wife or little league or some other sleep-inducing topic, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back to my reading material. And I really didn’t need Mr. Brown or anybody else peeking over my shoulder and catching the title. What would he think?

“Could Your Child be Gay?” is a great piece written by Stephanie Dolgoff. Please, let’s give this girl a round of applause, because she’s taking some homophobic heat from close-minded parents. Her article sources include:

• Ellen Perrin, Ph.D., a developmental pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center
• Erika Pluhar, Ph.D., a sex therapist and educator in Atlanta
• J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Northwestern University
• Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation
• Phoenex Schneider, The Trevor Project’s program director

Here are some excerpts/research from the article that made me pause for thought:

• “Besides an affinity for pink and for playing dress-up (for boys), there are certain other behaviors that might raise a parent’s brow: children who often pretend to be the opposite sex, or who prefer to play only with them; a passion (for a girl) or a dislike (for a boy) of rough play; or a preference for dressing like the opposite sex in everyday situations as opposed to isolated incidents. The official psychological term for these types of behaviors is ‘gender nonconformity.’”

• “If a boy does many of the above-mentioned things — playing dress-up, preferring social games to rougher ones, only wanting to hang out with girls, etc. — and keeps doing them over a long period of time, it may be significant,” says Bailey. “If they do it over and over, it’s not a passing thing, and if they seek it out, then it’s often predictive of homosexuality in adulthood in males.”

• “Girls who seem to prefer ‘boy’ things, however, are not as likely to turn out to be gay. Researchers don’t know why, exactly, but it could be that girls in general tend to do more boy activities than vice versa, as well as the fact that there just seems to be more leeway for girls to be tomboys than there is for boys to be feminine,” says Perrin. “Plus, female sexuality may also simply be more fluid than male.”

• “No matter how you or your spouse feels about it, one thing is certain for all kids: Children are desperate to know that they’re loved and accepted by their parents.”

• “You need to make the decision that your child’s happiness and safety is totally unrelated to his sexual orientation,’ says Shepard.”

• “New research in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that gay, lesbian and bisexual young adults from very rejecting families (as opposed to families who were neutral or mildly rejecting) are nearly six times more likely to have major depression and three to five times more likely to use illegal drugs or have unprotected sex.”

• “No study has proved that you can ‘turn’ a kid gay. That also means that parents can’t make a homosexual kid hetero…What parents can do, however, is make their kids happy or miserable…A gay kid whose parents think there’s something wrong with him, that tends to be a miserable kid.”

• “The one place kids cannot be afraid is in their homes,’ says Shepard.”

• “Act as you would if there were a gay person in the room. That is, don’t tell or laugh at gay jokes or use denigrating words about gay people, even if you’re not talking about anyone your child knows…If an older sibling says a movie or a song is ‘gay,’ offer him alternate adjectives. Say something like “I think what you meant is ‘silly,’ ‘ridiculous,’ or ‘corny.’ Because ‘gay’ is not a word we use to mean those things.”

I finished the article and wondered what the chances were that some other adult at the park was reading the same article and wondering if, in fact, their child could be gay. A woman was on her cell phone. A grandfather was eating an ice cream. Kody Brown was pushing a little girl on a swing. I rounded up Super Mario and Princess Peach and we headed for the car. I have a little squishy hand in each of mine. Could C.J. be gay? Could he be straight? Could he be gender nonconforming? Could he be transgender? He can be exactly who he was created to be.

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  • divkid

    the bit about boys preferring to play with girls. that was me, well, um, sorta:
    …she was my best friend,we spent all our time together. but i don’t know how the gender psycho-dynamics would work in my case, because she was a tomboy.

    maybe we balanced each other out; but that can’t be, because i’m gay and last time i saw her she was driving a pest exterminator van, with a shaved head.
    not particularly interesting. but true.

  • Ken

    I’m sorry – but, “Does it really matter?”.

    Can’t a little kid just enjoy being a kid anymore? And can’t a parents just relax a bit and enjoy being with their child without all this helicoptering about “What if this” and “What if that” some many years down the road? What happened to, “Here’s your lunch, listen to your brother, pay attention in class, be home by dinner time, and let’s try today not to break anything (and that includes any of your arms and legs).”

    Is it just me, or are children’s lives so much more insanely over-scheduled and complicated these days (none of which is to either their benefit or potential for long term success)? Are we raising kids… or industrial robots and porcelain dolls?

    Just love your child, protect him or her, and teach them right from wrong, about freedom and individual responsibility and the nature of the consequences of their actions, about doing their homework and chores and courtesy, and all the other things that your parents taught you that gave you the skills you needed to be successful happy adults – and all will be well.

  • Lucky Luke

    @Ken: Exactly.

  • GoodboyPA

    @Ken and @Lucky Luke: You know, I am torn. I completely agree with this but for this ONE benefit.

    My parents were caught completely off-guard when I came out. They had no clue. And their INITIAL reaction was humiliating and deeply hurtful. I had years to brace myself and to think about how I might come out.

    They had nothing, and in a conservative community and from a conservative religious environment, their reactions were probably typical and perhaps even muted by comparison to many.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if parents could just let the thought cross their mind enough to answer ONE question ahead of time, then perhaps an awful lot of hurt could be avoided: “I know I love my child and love him dearly. If he came to me and told me that he is gay, how can I BEST show my love to him, regardless of any conflict I might feel in my heart.”

    Just a thought.

  • D Smith

    am i the only one that as we see more and more of these articles… that is convinced that this child is much more likely to be Trans then LGB?

  • Anonymous Gay Teen

    I just want to say I love this blog (Raising my Rainbow & Queerty.) Also, I’m sorry I do not know your name but, blog-writer, you are an amazing mom. I’m closeted and am in a NJ public school, so that speaks for itself. However, this is a comment of admiration so, keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure C.J. will turn out great.
    P.S.: I think all mothers could benefit from being a little bit more like you (mothers such as my own)

  • Riker

    @D Smith: Do you seriously think CJ is going to grow up and be a lesbian? The correct term is “gay or bisexuaal.” LGB is a made-up construct, nearly as bad as LGBTQQIAAOMGWTFBBQ.

  • GoodboyPA

    @Riker: where is the legally approved “gaytionary” that defines the “correct term[s]”?

    As I said elsewhere on Queerty, nobody consumes their own quite like the GLBT community (were those letters all on the approved list?). We have raised jadedness well past an artform and have now deified it and built for it a million temples.

  • Shannon1981

    @Riker: Is that really called for? I know there is this great debate about LGBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA,etc…but don’t mock it. You know perfectly well what D Smith was getting at.

    @D Smith I am thinking trans too, except he doesn’t call himself a girl. Just likes girls things. But that is a definite possibility. I never associate gender non conformity with sexual orientation. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing, and one is not dependent upon the other. What CJ is exhibiting is gender expression, not orientation. I think he might be trans too, if anything on the LGBTQ spectrum.

  • B

    No. 4 · GoodboyPA wrote, “@Ken and @Lucky Luke: You know, I am torn. I completely agree with this but for this ONE benefit. My parents were caught completely off-guard when I came out. They had no clue. …”

    That’s becoming less and less of a legitimate point as we progress – in 2011, we should have reached the point where people should know better than to make a big deal about their offsprings’ sexual orientations. What such parents should be asking themselves is why they should be upset at all if their children show some “gender non conformity” or other signs of behaving a bit differently then other kids.

  • D Smith

    @Shannon1981: thanks for the response… depending on this individuals age… could go either way really…

    @Riker honestly hun… if this child is trans… then they could very well be a lesbian (i know several lesbian trans-women)

    and further what does it matter if i use a acronym that many of us identify with when discussing a individual who may or may not be a member of our community? who elected you to be the grammar police of queerty?

  • Jeffree

    Let CJ go through the stages of child development on his own terms. I don’t think it’s in in his best interest for us to try predicting his S.O: or gender i.d. —or to root for him to be one way or another.

    Important thing is that he knows he’s free to keep exploring what being CJ is all about, and will be loved unconditionally for being himself.

    I’m 98.219% gay and my interests in clothes & toys zigged and zagged.

    I still love Legos though. That won’t change, i’m thinking !

  • Shannon1981

    @D Smith: NP bb. You know, gender identity evolves over life too, or rather, in my personal experience it kind of comes into its own as you get older, not necessarily changing your orientation at all. I’m still gay, but I’ve played with gender expression, becoming more and more of a ‘butch’ or ‘stud’ lesbian as the years go by, and here I am, turning 30 today, now pretty identifying as genderqueer. I don’t give a damn about what society thinks it means to be a girl, boy, or anything in between. I’m just me, and that’s ok. If I want to present as andro, I do. If I want to present as male, I do. Just whatever, ya know? This really should be a non issue this day and age.
    @Jeffree: I like toys too, and not just the variety found on sex toy sites LOL. I like toy cars and vintage Barbie dolls and GI Joe action figures. I also still have my Cabbage Patch doll from 1983, and I adore her. Stuffed animals are another fave.I have a Belkie Bear from Christmas 1988.

  • baeler

    ok my son is hanging out with girls alot but he says he is gay but wat if he is and just not telling me should i be worried

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