Getting beyond the 0101011100111 when talking to kids

I was eating lunch with the kids a couple of days ago, and our conversation turned sex and relationships. It does this a lot. I suppose it makes sense, as it’s something I talk about with adults often enough – stands to reason that children of a certain age would have an interest in it as well.

We talked a little bit about two of the girl’s friends, who have decided they’re going to grow up “and be lesbians.” They’ll buy a farm, and grow their own food. (I didn’t ask if there would be alpaca, though I was tempted.) The girl, pragmatic as she is, just shook her head at the whole thing. “It’s like they don’t get that you have to FEEL something about someone to have a relationship like that with her. Yeah, they’re best friends, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be lesbians when they grow up.”

The boy’s response? “You mean like mom? Mom’s a lesbian.”

… I am?

My kids know that my partner is a man. They see him regularly, and see us interact. We are openly affectionate towards each other, so there’s no way they would think that we’re simply good friends. And yet, here I am, a lesbian. Why? Because they know that I’m also attracted to and have dated women. I have never used lesbian as a personal identifier when talking with them about my sexuality. I’ve talked about how the “easy” way to define my attractions to people would be bisexual, and have tried to explain that even bisexual is not precise enough to capture the richness of the people I’ve had/will have in my life.

My kids are smart. When given a logical argument, they accept things readily. They are incredibly open-minded, and never shy away from asking questions (much as I would sometimes prefer it). It’s not that they’re uncomfortable with that which is different from them (because goodness knows, they already have a tonne of their own experience with being different). And yet they keep struggling with the idea that sex and gender and so many other things in our world are more complicated than X or Y, 0 or 1. Maybe it’s the developmental stage, maybe it’s the rigidity that comes with Asperger’s, and maybe it’s every message that doesn’t come from me, reinforcing that concept of like vs. other, one vs. the other. Whatever it is, my children continue to be perplexed by the more fluid aspects of the world.

I guess I’ll just keep on as we’re going, tweaking their assumptions, correcting them when appropriate, and always ALWAYS being open to answer their questions. In the meantime, I’ll giggle with glee that I have kids for whom talking about queer folk is so effortlessly normal.


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