E. Winter Tashlin

Are Kids Coming Out Too Early?

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | February 18, 2012 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: child care, coming out of the closet, gay children, gay youth, kids

The Huffington Post ran a piece a few days ago from Amelia, a mother whose 7yr old son recently declared that he was gay. It was a lovely essay about love and acceptance, gay-kids.jpgwith a bit of parental concern in there too. The parents are being supportive of his identity, while at the same time, understanding that what he feels at seven may or may not be how he feels in the months and years to come. They seem quite content to take him at his word and see what does or doesn't change with time.

There have been quite a lot of people on internet message boards saying that this is ridiculous, that this child can't know at such a young age that he is gay. I've seen this particularly on LGBT message boards, where people are holding up their own coming out at older ages as proof that seven is "too young."

Now I will grant that I didn't know that I was gay/queer at seven, but not because I didn't like boys. My best friend in 2nd grade was a boy named Noah, and I distinctly remember thinking that I wanted to grow up and marry him. I didn't know that there was such a thing as "gay" at the time, but if I had, I would have considered myself to be so. Certainly by 4th grade I was having serious crushes on boys in my both school and religious community, although I knew to keep those thoughts private.

I don't know if this boy will continue to ID as gay as he gets older, no one really can. But the idea that all kids are heterosexual until proven otherwise is starting to crack up.

It isn't "prematurely sexualizing" a child to consider their orientation. After all, children's books, movies, and family conversations, even at a young age, involve questions of marriage and relationships, just nearly always from a hetero-presumptive stance.

Prince Charming always "gets" the Disney princess (a creepily possessive idea itself) and of course that is the secret to living happily ever after. We say to children "someday your wife/husband will..." from the assumption that their spouse will be the opposite gender. We ask boys "are their any girls in your school you like" at very young ages, if only in jest. LGBT life transcends the physical acts of sex, yet when the topic of non-sexually aware kids coming out is raised, even LGBT adults are shocked and concerned.

Is it so hard to imagine that when some of us were young and pictured our futures, it was a same-sex spouse we were having kids with, or another man/woman who was walking us down the aisle?

I believe that one of the reason that the LGBT community recoils from these children is that if we are honest, they aren't very good press for us. Our enemies on the right have long held the "protect the children" high ground, although recent scandals and horror stories have severely eroded their position.

There is truth to the idea that if not for the growing visibility of LGBT people in American life, children like Amelia's son would not be coming out so young. Of course, when they got older and became aware LGBT people, many would do so. The outcome doesn't change, merely the age at which their parents, teachers, and friends are confronted with their orientation.

Different people have different trajectories for becoming aware of their sexual orientation and their gender identity. Denying the experience of someone like me or Amelia's son does not positively contribute to the fabric of our community, even if we may represent a slightly uncomfortable reality.

(Note: A truncated post on this topic previously ran on my personal blog)

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