Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis gives some of the best advice ever to a parent who is wondering about his 13-year-old son's sexuality. The father has busted the son visiting gay porn sites on the web and needs to know how to proceed. He wonders if this is just experimentation, hormones, or curiosity.
But Cary's response is one that every parent in America should read. The entire response if rather lengthy - and so is the clip I'm posting. (I've put it after the fold to save space on the main page.) But what a reply! If more parents responded to their children's burgeoning sexuality as Cary suggests, there would be a lot less homophobia, sexual repression, and general mental distress in America.
I mean, we straight people have to really step up on this whole homosexuality thing. We walk around like we're the normal ones and everybody else is, like, different. But just think about it. Like, on a gut level, remember when you were 13? It was weird, right? Getting hair, and having urges, and wondering about girls and jobs and the future, and wondering, wondering, wondering. Can you imagine what it's like for a kid as these natural processes, spiritual and biological and utterly beyond his control, are taking him on a strange ride that he didn't really buy a ticket to but he's on anyway, as he's trying to grow up and conform and figure out what he supposed to be doing, what it's like for him to realize that the way he's developing, just, by the way, is utterly freaking out the adults, so they're having conferences in the kitchen and they're looking at him funny and not believing what he says, and now he's lying about what he's looking at because he has no idea what's going to happen to him if it turns out, horror of horrors, that he might actually be gay, that it's a scary, weird problem that he has to hide from others, especially those in his own family? Can you imagine what that's like? Can I? And we straights wonder why gay guys sometimes wait until their 20s or 30s or 40s to come out to their families? Or never come out? Or prefer not to mention it or make it a topic of national discussion or get a little testy when we assume that in our latterly discovered enlightenment we will treat every gay guy as regional spokesman for, like, Gay America, and we bring up the gayness of others as if we were the ones who, naturally, because we are so wise in other areas such as the conduct of foreign policy and stewardship of the environment, will take it upon ourselves to decide for them how they ought to act and what they are entitled to and whether they can live together and get married and visit each other in the hospital? And whether what they do and who they do it with is a sin? As if we could speak not only for the powerful white Christian heterosexual majority of America but for God himself? Jesus! If I was gay but had the benefit of knowing how we straight people think, would I ever come out? I'm not so sure. I might prefer to just keep the whole thing between me and a few friends.
So. Take a deep breath. A posture of utter humility before the mystery and grandeur of life is appropriate. And be cool. It's going to be OK.
And also just generally reassuring kids about all this nonsense is appropriate too, don't you think? So could you just tell the kid that you love him and that how we develop sexually is just one part of who we are, and that however you develop it's completely and totally fine? Could you just tell him that you were 13 once and you remember it's a very weird and uncomfortable time, and that though you have rules in your house your No. 1 rule is that you love your kids and you're there for them?
Could you just do that?