Lushlife made an interesting comment on my Queer Eye post:
I remember when my son announced that he thought he was gay ... and he told me that it was about boys who liked boys. I tried to explain the feelings had to be stronger than those feelings he was having now in terms of preferring the company of boys as friends over girls and that this didn't necessarily amount to being gay. I said that if he were gay he would want to live with and marry another boy - then I felt guilty because I didn't want to present marriage as the only serious relationship a person could have. In the end I decided to say that really now isn't the time for him to think about whether he is gay or not and to just enjoy being a boy who liked playing with his friends.
Five year old boys (and presumably five year old girls, going in the other direction) do prefer the company of other boys. I recently bought my son a new t-shirt with a picture of a cowboy and the words 'Howdy partner'. He had avoided wearing it and when I asked him why, he said he did not want a girl partner. I explained that cowboys say 'Howdy partner" to other cowboys. Oh, that's okay then! He's been wearing it ever since.
It's interesting for me to trace the evolution of his awareness of adult partnering and parenting arrangements. Since babyhood he had spent a lot of time with other kids in our lesbian mothers group. We also have some very close het friends with three kids who are now teenagers, who we see at least weekly. Co-parent and I each have sisters with kids in (unmarried) heterosexual relationships - his cousins. Because singleness is now so prevalent, he has grown up with many neighbours and friends who live alone (usually people aged 50+) and also has an uncle who is single (and gay - but the boy doesn't know that yet).
It wasn't until he went to preschool aged three that I saw the realisation that most other kids have a "Dad" hit him. Although he had spent time with many children and their fathers, these men, our friends, tended to be referred to by first name. So he knew "John" but did not think of John as Elle's Dad. But in the preschool environment, the other three year olds simply referred to their dads as Dad. Suddenly he was in a universe of 'mums and dads'. I noticed that he very quickly began to refer to us as "my parents" which I thought was a rather clever linguistic tactic to avoid drawing attention to himself as unusual. (He also at times refers to us as "my mums" - although he only calls one of us Mum.)
At Mardi Gras
time the year he was four, it occured to me that he didn't completely realise what his friends in rainbow kids had in common - they all had two mums. (Actually, some of them only have one mum.) As far as he was concerned, they were just his friends and Zac's parents Anne and Julie were just Zac's parents Anne and Julie. This was his normality (and Zac's normality). So I pointed out that the rainbow kids all had two mums - and that even though Indy only has one mum, Jan, if Jan fell in love with someone, she would probably have a girlfriend, not a boyfriend. (Recently one of the rainbow mums has set up house with a man ... that's more explaining to do (or not - children just take this in their stride.))
On the other front, when he was four we had gay next-door neighbours who often used to mind another little boy for the day. So my Olle would go in there to play and the two boys could be found late in the day sitting in Pete and Dave's bed watching videos. So that year his normality expanded to include Pete and Dave sharing a bedroom and loving each other. (Unfortunately Pete and Dave seperated amicably shortly afterwards when one moved to another city for work. So Pete has now moved into the category of people who live on their own and are not married, a category I sometimes draw his attention to.)
When he was four, he also encountered for the first time kids at preschool whose parents had "split up". He told us that one boy's father now lives in America because "he was mean to his mum".
Last summer we spent a weekend with (het) friends and their two kids. One day Olle and Maggie had been playing in a room together for some time when Ol came running to me: "Can Maggie and I have sex?" No, I told him straightaway (though I was almost too stunned to answer), only grown ups have sex. A few minutes later they both came to me and Olle asked the same question, with Maggie hovering in the background. I repeated what I'd said. Olle turned to her in relief and said "See, my mum says we can't".
I discussed this with Maggie's mother, who told me she had already talked about sex with her just-five daughter. I, the libertarian lesbian, was slightly shocked. We had never mentioned sex to our child. Discussion of his conception had remained on the level of "sperm meets egg" (in no specific location).
This year, a five year old girl we know, G, started to declare that she wanted to marry my son. At social gatherings with this group of friends, all the girls would chase him around giggling and demanding he kiss his would-be bride. He hated this. "I am never going to get married" he would tell me. Never a great fan of marriage myself, I sympathised with this point of view. So we would have discussions about the many options that would be available to him as a grown-up - to live on his own, to share a house with friends, to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend.
After a couple such conversations, in which he mostly repeated his hostility towards G's plan to marry him, it occured to me that discussing adult household options was completely beside the point. G of course doesn't want to marry him. She's just saying she likes him (though I wish she could find a less stereotypical way to express that). Olle's anger and, yes, fear of her marriage fixation stemmed, I realised, from him not wanting to have to consider partnering with anyone else except us
. He just wants to be a five year old boy who lives in his house and has us as his parents. He doesn't want to think about how he'll live when he's grown up and he doesn't want to dream about getting married. As long as all the adults around him carry on the adult component of their lives out of his view, it is completely inconsequential to him who they sleep with (and he still has no idea about sex of any description.)
I still don't know how to explain to him that gay men have better taste in clothes and furnishings than straight men, but I think I can safely leave that till he asks.