I recently discovered Seething Mom’s blog. I’ve enjoyed reading her thoughts, and particularly loved her testimony concerning how she found out her son was gay because of an essay he had written two years earlier. Their stories, both as individuals and as a family, are moving and easy to identify with.
However, this entry is actually inspired by another post Seething Mom wrote, this one about her reaction to hearing Rush Limbaugh point out that a test to determine if an unborn baby was gay might lead parents to have an abortion. Her reaction was quite powerful, heartfelt, and completely understandable. Indeed, the very idea fills me with similar feelings. I’ve even also considered that even many parents who choose to have the child might take this knowledge as an opportunity to get their child into reparative therapy as soon as possible to overcome their natural sexual orientation, a possibility that I find equally disturbing.
But as I thought about testing fetuses for sexual orientation, I considered a more hopeful possibility, too. I think it stems from spending the last ten (nearly eleven now) years thinking about the difficulties I went through when coming to terms with my sexual orientation and realizing how much of those difficulties were unnecessary, if only I or others around me had made different choices. Because of those thoughts, I find myself thinking of what a parent who is both loving and supportive could accomplish if they knew right from the start that their child would be gay. I find myself thinking of how they could prepare for those challenges that might come up, or even find ways to get around them.
I think of my own experiences when I first started learning about sex. In the time and place I grew up, there was no talk of including “alternative lifestyles” in the sex education curriculum. Sex education consisted of explaining the mechanice of vaginal intercourse and the process of sexual reproduction. That was it. So those of us who were gay were left out in the cold, wondering what we were supposed to do. Indeed, we had to first even learn that there was such a thing as being gay before we could even find out what it meant or what to do about it. Instead, we were left wondering what was wrong with us and why were weren’t “normal,” like the rest of our classmates.
This is the reason why some schools are updating their curriculum (or why some individuals and groups are trying to convince schools to do so) to at least mention about the other possibilities. But imagine if a child’s parent already knows their child will need to know about those alternatives? I can envision a conversation that goes something like this:
Johnny: We talked about sex in school today.
Mom: Really? What did they tell you?
Johnny: Well, they talked about how a boy sticks, well you know, into a girl to make a baby.
Mom: I see. And what do you think of that?
Johnny: Well, I don’t know….
Mom: It didn’t seem right to you, did it?
Johnny: Well, I don’t know. I just can’t imagine doing that. I mean, all the other guys seemed to be fascinated by it. But it seemed weird to me, like I wouldn’t want to do it.
Mom: Well, you know, not everyone likes that kind of sex.
Mom: Really. Not all guys like to be with a woman. In fact, I think we need to talk more about this. There’s something I’ve been waiting to talk with you about…
Imagine the months or years of confusion and inner turmoil Johnny’s mother could spare him. Imagine how well equipped she would be to deal with those times when Johnny’s peers teased him for being gay. Rather than wondering why Johnny’s having such a hard time in school because he won’t tell her what’s really going on, her knowledge can prepare her so that already she has a good idea of what might be going on.
The possibilities of how a loving and supportive parent could make a gay child’s life that much easier simply by knowing about their child’s sexual orientation ahead of time are endless. And while I certainly wouldn’t change a thing about my past, even to go back and make them easier (after all, they made me the person I am today), I’m all for making the next kid’s journey through the coming out process easier than mine was.