How To Explain Same-Sex Marriage To Your Kids
I've seen this topic come up one too many times in the Facebook parenting groups I belong to, and the answers that get shared around most often are just no good. It's time you and I had a little heart-to-heart about explaining same-sex love to your littles. If Facebook is any indication, this chat has been needed for a long goddamned (#NoHoly) time.
Grab yourself a coffee because mommy isn't going to tolerate any distractions here. You need to be awake, alert and ready to absorb what I am about to say to you.
Are you ready? Are you prepared to learn how simple it is to explain same-sex love to your kiddos? Do I have your full attention?
Okay. Here goes.
You explain same-sex love to your kids the exact same way you explain opposite-sex love to them.
It really is that simple. You see, as soon as you start to treat the two topics as different, you begin to "other" members of the LGBTQ+ community. This group of people then becomes a "them."
This is a massive problem. It's a problem more significant than you might have considered, and here's the blatantly simple reason why: you could be talking to a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Mmmhmmm, mama, your little tiny human, the one to whom you're talking about LGBTQ+ relationships as though they happen to other people, that cute little squeezy face you're looking at could belong to the rainbow. Of course, they're tiny now, and they may not realize it, but, if they are anything but straight, one day your baby kiddo will. And on that day, they will replay everything you have ever said about same-sex love in their head. If all your well-intentioned explanations are about "them" and not "us," your little ones might not feel safe telling you. Your message is loud and clear: same-sex love occurs in other people's lives, not ours.
The good news, though, is that it's fucking easy as all get out to rectify this!
Y'see, when I was a kid (and I'm going to assume when you were, as well), the people around me would say things like, "when you have a husband/boyfriend..." or they would ask, "have any boyfriends yet?" or similar questions. I don't have to tell you how presumptive this is. You're no dummy. You can see it plain as day. The thing about this is that you don't have to carry on with your parents' same presumptive language. It takes no effort at all to change things up enough to be inclusive, not just because that's a good mark of human decency, but because your baby could be the one you need to include.
For instance, when speaking to my son about his future relationships, I never say, "when you meet a girl you want to date" or "when you have a wife." Instead, I say, "when and if you meet a girl or a boy you want to date." Sometimes I say, "when and if you marry a man or a woman." I also use gender-neutral language in these situations, so he knows we don't expect his future partner to fall neatly into either male or female. E.g., "When/if you meet someone you're attracted to." I think it's important, so he grows up understanding that it's just as normal for him to date a boy as it is for him to date a girl or someone who falls in the middle somewhere. If he grows up his whole life knowing that mom and dad are just as prepared to meet his boyfriend as we would be to meet his girlfriend, he's never going to feel like he has to hide it from us. He never has to fear that we might react poorly. It normalizes it for him. We don't have to have a separate conversation with him about same-sex relationships. We just have one about relationships that covers all the totally normal ways humans form romantic bonds.
The fact that our society is set up so that members of the LGBTQ+ community must "come out" is just wrong. To put someone in a situation where they must announce that they are attracted to a particular gender is weird and insensitive. Straight people don't have to do it because attraction to the opposite sex is always the expectation. We may not be able to make same-sex love just as expected throughout the world, but we can certainly do that in our households.
For my son, it has been normalized at home. If he ever has a romantic partner that doesn't fit the label "girl," he doesn't have to announce his sexual preference to us. He can just bring his partner home and introduce them just the same way he would if it had been a girl. We will behave the exact same way we would if his partner were female. We'd welcome them into our home, likely feed them because we're gluttons, ask all kinds of annoying questions and eventually end up embarrassing our little dude at some point. This would not differ for any gender identification—just a normal meet-the-parents situation, with absolutely no concern about who has what in their pants.
There is one big caveat, though. You have to keep in mind when you take this approach that treating same-sex relationships the same as opposite-sex relationships does not mean we erase the past. It's doesn't mean we wash over the discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community has faced throughout history. We must ensure that our kiddos understand this, too.
You start by making sure your tiny human fully understands that a same-sex relationship is on equal footing with an opposite-sex relationship in your home.
You continue by making sure your minis genuinely get that you're just as happy to meet their boyfriend, girlfriend, or hell, even their polyamorous gender-fluid life-partners.
But you top it off by ensuring they also understand the pain and the anguish that many members of the LGBTQ+ community have been made to endure. Both in the past and in the present. They should know that parts of the world may not accept someone who doesn't fit neatly into the bigoted norms some still cling to.
If they grow up to fall in love and engage in a relationship that may not be approved by the god-botherers and other busy bees, your little human will know: If and when they face discrimination for who they are, there exists a safe place for them. Somewhere where they are accepted no matter who they love or who they want to marry. There's a place where they're adored without question, where their partner is welcomed no matter what's underneath their clothes.
They will understand beyond any shadow of a doubt that though the world can be a pile of shit some days, they can always be safe, loved and accepted at home.
Listen to my podcast episode on this topic. Click here for audio or watch the live stream: