Can My Young Child Know If They Are Gay?

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“Stop letting awful parents put these labels on young children! It is going to destroy their lives!”  We hear some version of this every day. What these people don’t realize is that it is not the parent who is doing anything, it is the child driving the vast majority of these conversations.

Gender identity and orientation are complex issues and it can be especially difficult and confusing when your child is young. But the best response can be surprisingly simple. 🙂

A Mom contacted me recently, and I wanted to share our interaction…

Dear Susan,

My 8-year-old daughter asked me today if she is gay because she wants to kiss girls more than she wants kiss boys. My husband thinks she is just confused and too young to know what she wants. My question is: can a child this young know what their preferences are? I myself have thought for years that she may be bisexual or a lesbian, but I never thought anything of it until she asked me. Any information would be grateful so I can make sure I can always support my child with whatever path she follows in life.

Thank you, Jane

Dear Jane,

Well, yes, children often know this very early. I know that idea can be very hard – sounds like it’s hard on your husband. How you should respond might be simpler than you think. 🙂

I would recommend you affirm whatever she is telling you about herself, and let it emerge. If she’s asking whether she is, you can tell her that only she will know, and if she doesn’t know now, she’ll know later. There’s no rush to sort it out.

I would affirm her and who she is saying she is, and leave room for her to bloom.

If she isn’t, great, if she is, great.

Either way, shame or trying to steer her into a different direction will have negative, often tragic effects.

Either way, affirming her will allow her to become who she was meant to be.

You are courageous to write me and ask my opinion. It would be so easy just to shut her down, but it would hurt her. So, good job, Mama.

Love to you on your journey,

Susan

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private Facebook support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

3 thoughts on “Can My Young Child Know If They Are Gay?

  1. Very good thought, Frances. I see that. A couple of things come to mind… Certainly, children are eager to fit in, not stand out. No child has a desire to be marked out as different on such a fundamental level. It comes as more of an, “Oh no,” even if they don’t have words yet to express what they’re feeling. The key is to let them tell us who they are instead of us telling them who they are (even by default, lacking any examples of non-straight couples). I love the cooties thing! …but again, we want to be careful, lest we inadvertently create germaphobes! That’s not fun to live with! Hahaha. Thanks for your comment, Frances! ❤

  2. Children commonly go through a homosocial stage where girls, for example think boys have cooties and boys conspire to keep girls out of their spaces. Eight is young for sexual orientation, but in our sex-saturated culture everything seems to happen early. I would tell her that she might change her mind as she gets older, but kissing anyone at her age could make her sick because mouths are full of germs.

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