I was reading this wonderful post, and a comment annoyed me. It was just one, among many wonderful supportive comments, but still. (Yes, I know. Even though I tell my friends never to read the comments, I was reading the comments. I’m a bad girl.)
The commenter (you can find it yourself if you like) asked how a seven year old could know he was gay. How he knew of such things, and if the parents would really accept any wild statement the child made–as children do.
It pissed me off.
Let me deal with the last thing first. When my daughter announced that she would be the first female president of the U.S., I did not say “Pfft. No, you’re not.” I suggested that an understanding of history would serve her well. When she announced she was going to be an astronaut cheerleader, I suggested science might be a good area of focus. When my daughter proclaimed she was bisexual, I was also fine with that. I am privately, where she can’t see, quite amused that she has never had a crush on a girl in her life, but I tell her “whatever. I love you.”
That’s my job–love and support. Help her grow into the person she was born to be. Maybe she will be the first female president. Maybe she will be an astronaut cheerleader. Maybe she’ll marry a woman. As long as she’s happy, I really don’t care.
The commenter asked how a child “would have an understanding of what a relationship like that is all about?” Oh, about the same way my daughter understands how she and her two friends will have an apartment when they are sixteen, and all have jobs and cars and yes, finish high school. Imperfectly, through the lens of childhood, but understanding the important things–who they love and want to spend their time with. (Don’t get me wrong. She loves me. But I am bossy. Odd thing, that.)
As for how a seven-year-old could know he was gay–how does a 7yo know he likes football but not baseball? Chocolate ice cream but not rocky road?
My friend’s son knew something was up when he was six. His brother’s friends were talking about a man kissing another man, reacting with disgust, and the gay child thought that sounded pretty nice. Of course, this would have been in the 1960s, so that boy didn’t know anything more than that he might like to kiss men one day. And that everyone would probably think it was disgusting.
Why do people think gay kids can’t possibly know they are gay until they are at least 15? My first crush was Luke Skywalker. I was seven. I knew nothing about anything, except that I liked looking at him and I wanted to be around him. At seven. Am I so alone? When do “normal” people have their first crushes?
I’ll tell you how a kid knows he/she is gay. Look at nearly any movie made for kids. Heck, go with what everyone thinks of as the most innocuous–let’s look at a Disney movie. How about Mulan? (one of my favorites, by the way, because it’s NOT about the “princess” finding a boyfriend.) What if a gay kid is watching that, and he finds that he likes the dynamic between Mulan and Shang when Shang still thinks Mulan is a boy? Or the Little Mermaid, and a little girl would much rather live in the ocean with Ariel than in Eric’s castle?
Kids know that they are supposed to fall in love and get married. Heck, our culture preaches at them that life is all about love and marriage and babies, but that’s a whole other rant. Is it really a surprise that a 7yo might think about how he wants to live happily ever after?
Edit to Add: I’m getting a lot of hits on this post, so I wanted to add a hopefully-helpful link. On this blog, contributors write about their first gay crush.