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Thread: Q about coming out to children in extended family?

  1. #1

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    Default Q about coming out to children in extended family?

    Hello, I'm DELIGHTED to say my sis has finally managed to get at least halfway out of the closet (and much happier person for it)! Of course this is something I will discuss with her at some point, but I'm really interested in how this has been handled with kids in your extended families. My DD is nearly 10, so at some point she will notice that her aunty has a female partner...do you think this is something that i should discuss with her beforehand or do you think it's ok to just wait until DD comments herself? My own feeling is that being gay is just a fact of life, not something that needs to be highlighted and commented on as if it's not normal, but won't kids have questions about it if it involves a close family member? Particularly since she's reaching that age where she'll be more aware of sexual matters generally.



    Really interested to hear your thoughts.

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    Hi Marydean,

    I don't think there is a magic answer.....

    My mother is a lesbian, with a long-term partner. My DS is turning 10 soon, and he has never known her without her partner 'attached'.

    I remember him once asking why Grandma didn't have a husband, and I just explained to him that she was once married to Grandfather, but they didn't really enjoy each other's company. He said to me "So, Grandma likes ****'s company?" - to which I replied "Yes".

    We have not discussed the Facts of Life with DS - but at sometime soon I suppose - but I don't intend to discuss anything related to my mother. I suppose my mother really didn't set a particularly healthy example for me when it comes to discussing such things - as she has never spoken with us about her life choices - presuming that we are ignorant(?) or none of our business(?).

    I am not sure how we will approach this exactly - but I will work on it when the tough questions come..... (if they come)......

    I don't think I have been very helpful, but I hope that you find the right approach!

    cheers!

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    Thanks, AC, actually I'm really interested in what age you were when your mother started living as a lesbian (I'm aware it might have occured in stages over a longer period of time...?) and what you made of that at the time in the absence of any explanation? Sorry - if this is too personal or hard don't answer that!

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    My friends mother came out when we were at high school and although my friend knew that her mums best friend used to stay the night etc she had never actually made the connection that it was more than just friends.... This "friend' had been staying over since she was only about 10 and she was 16 when her mum came out and she was devistated that there had been this 'secret' for so many years and even to this day she is resentful about it and wishes her mum had told her about her preferences from the start even though she probably wouldnt have understood at the time coz she was so young - atleast she would have had the chance for it to 'dawn' on her what was happening rather than having to have it basically spelt out for her!

    I dont think that would have help you out at all sorry, just remembering my friends reaction and it is spilling out of me..

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    Interested to hear what you decide Marydean - my XH's sister is a lesbian too. We are still good friends (I call her Sista!) so will at some point need to prompt/answer questions from my DD.

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    I guess if you make references around your children already about how all family types are normal that would help... I'm not sure.

    I was 19 when my Mum came out so I was older, but my younger sister was only 6. I don't really know how she found out... it was just normal I guess. I'm not really sure if anyone told our little cousins either

    Interesting question...

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    Well we've already raised DD with the notion that some ladies love men and some ladies love ladies and some men love men! And that's just the way it is. And we know lots of people with different family configurations as well so no problem there. So I don't think it will be a huge bleep on her horizon. The other (unfortunate) part to it is that kids need to understand that just because we think it's cool not every one thinks so and sometimes there might be issues around talking about it outside of the family (???). Which is a terrible indictment on our society but it's a reality that has to be dealt with.

    Cindy your poor friend, it just goes to show we can't always rely on the penny dropping with our kids, sometimes you really need to spell it out for them.

    Fiona, I guess the good thing about this is because my sis is just getting started on this road and we talk quite often about the way this is unfolding for her, it gives me ample opportunity to discuss how to broach the topic with my DD but also even how she is going to deal with it with her own DD who is younger still. Because the kids may even discuss this amongst themselves. So there won't be any hasty decisions!

    Ren, if it happens to come up in conversation at some point with your mum I'd love to hear how she handled it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marydean View Post
    Ren, if it happens to come up in conversation at some point with your mum I'd love to hear how she handled it.
    Telling my little sister? My Mum is dead but I'll ask my sister sometime- I'm curious too now. I wonder if she'll remember it...

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    I'm sorry to hear your mum has passed, Ren! It'll be very interesting whether your sister remembers or whether it was always just part of the fabric of her life.

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    Default **WARNING** possibly upsetting material

    Quote Originally Posted by Marydean View Post
    I'm really interested in what age you were when your mother started living as a lesbian ... and what you made of that at the time in the absence of any explanation? Sorry - if this is too personal or hard don't answer that!
    Hi Marydean,

    Well, it's a little complicated with my mother.....but here goes......

    **WARNING - possibly upsetting (and long) description of growing up in a bitter Lesbian home.**

    Her first relationship was when I was 9, but I was not aware of it. This relationship was not a live-in situation. It wasn't until I was 11 or 12 years old that I discovered her relationship at that time was not just friendship - as I accidently caught her in a romantic situation (if you know what I mean). She was not aware what I had seen. This was her first live-in partner. I was shocked - but also not really sure what I should feel, as I had been snooping when I found out.

    We had shared access with my father, and on some of her weekends 'off', my mother was less than discreet with her preferences. According to the boy next door, she made advances at his mother. It was this crudely delivered information that made my brother and I promise to each other that we would do everything possible to keep it a secret (particularly at school). On another weekend off, she attended a party at which my best friend's parents were also attending......the result of which was my friend was banned from spending any time with me.

    When I was 16, she asked our permission for her new partner to move in with us....and her reason at the time was "We need another adult in the house to help out". It was at this time that I resented her for not being open, or respecting our intelligence and openess to her choices. She taught us to be tolerant, open people - and imparted her opinion to us that 'gayness' was not a choice, it is something that you are born as. So, imagine how I felt as the eldest child - a constant reminder to her of the way her life nearly went completely wrong.

    As my mother was reasonably social at the time, there were other lesbian couples with whom my mother socialised, some of which had children. Unfortunately, many of those children were much like us, and resented the position that we were placed in. I know that adult sexual activities are by no means the business of children - but I think it was more the 'facade' that was being enacted that was more hurtful. Adding insult to injury, I was often the 'butt' of my Mother's jokes on these social occasions - at which they would all laugh and cheer wildly at.

    Many of the reasons for my miserable childhood were unrelated to my mother's lesbianism, but much of my resentment was targetted at it.

    I am sure that many lesbian women are loving mothers - raising happy, healthy and well balanced children - but at the hands of my lesbian mother, I was nearly destroyed. I became severely anorexic and suicidal until I left home. Today, (despite having many very close gay friends - with whom I have never broached this subject) I cannot help my unfortunate bias against Gay and Lesbian couples having children. I don't like feeling that way.

    Even today, happily married for nearly 12 years, with 3 beautiful children, I cannot please my mother - and although I am sure that she has numerous problems unrelated to her sexuality, I have a deep sense that my hetrosexual preferences have sorely displeased her. I have spent many years trying to please her, but have come to the conclusion that I can never reach such a goal. Although we live in the same town, I no longer have very much to do with her.

    Looking into my complexities, I think that I blame my mother's lifestyle choices for her distrust, dishonesty, disengagement and disappointment in me when I needed her as a parent. This was mostly due to the fact that she resented being 'chained down' by children (as a reminder of her hetrosexual past) and didn't recognise that we were intelligent, sensitive children who would have been most accepting had she have been open and honest.

    No, I have not had any therapy or 'spoken' with a professional about my childhood. My approach in life is to love my children and husband as much as possible, and accept my friends for their strengths, and also their weaknesses.

    I feel very guilty for venting this on a forum where there are many happy and loving lesbian mothers/mothers-to-be - so please accept my apology - but there will always be 2 sides to every coin. Let there be more love and honesty in the world - regardless of sexual preferences.

    xx

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    Thanks AC for sharing something that has caused you so much pain. I'm hearing that this is a really deep wound for you, and I'm sorry that it's pain that is still unresolved. Which is all the more reason why people reading this will be reminded to be present and honest and loving with their own children (no matter what the family configuration or sexual orientation is).

    I blame my mother's lifestyle choices for her distrust, dishonesty, disengagement and disappointment in me when I needed her as a parent. This was mostly due to the fact that she resented being 'chained down' by children (as a reminder of her hetrosexual past) and didn't recognise that we were intelligent, sensitive children who would have been most accepting had she have been open and honest.
    FWIW parts of your story really resonate with my own experience - the disengagement, emotional absence, harsh criticism and lack of approval from my mother had a lasting effect on my wellbeing and nearly sent me to the madhouse. I have often struggled to understand WHY - and my best answer involves understanding how tenuous her own mental health was under the pressures of single parenthood and her own childhood with an alcoholic father (who she idolised) and her own emotionally-absent mother (who I'm sure was struggling just as hard to hold it all together). In my case though it was all wrapped up around issues of spirituality/religion and goodness/badness, which is really fundamental to our self-hood in the same way that sexuality is.

    What I really learned from that was that it's the parent's job to love unconditionally. That's the most important thing we can do. Hopefully when our children are older they will be able to forgive us our flaws, but that is far more likely if they are whole and healthy children who have grown up appreciated as they are.

    I feel very guilty for venting this on a forum where there are many happy and loving lesbian mothers/mothers-to-be - so please accept my apology - but there will always be 2 sides to every coin. Let there be more love and honesty in the world - regardless of sexual preferences.
    Please don't feel guilty for speaking your truth. This is a part of your story, who you are today. And I thank you for trying to be sensitive to the feelings of people who will be reading it.
    Last edited by AnyDream; February 17th, 2008 at 11:02 AM.

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    Not sure if this is relevant or not.

    My best friend is gay and he lives with his partner. he is also my childrens godparents.. We only see them once or a twice a year but I do not point out the fact he has a male partner..

    When Ds8 asked if M was S's boyfriend I just said yes, Of course he giggled about it but then asked a few questions and now is fine.

    I just don't even make an issue as I want my children to not even bat an eye lid at same sex relationships.

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    I just don't even make an issue as I want my children to not even bat an eye lid at same sex relationships.
    That's exactly how I feel! I suspect we will take the same approach with my DDs.

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    Marydean... Shel and I are actually having to think about this now. Not so much with our families, even though Shels sister has three girls (15, 13 and 10) it has always been known to them, and actually they were a part of our TTC, asking us if we knew yet etc, and are very excited about having a cousin (and have never question that it would be there cousin, even though I am the tummy mummy).

    I did have one awkward moment, I had just moved in with Shel, and I was looking after our two youngest neices and the youngest (8 at the time) said "where do you sleep", and her sister burst out laughing and said "yeah where do you sleep" (she's a cheeky one I tell ya!), so not making a big deal about it I said "In there" (pointed to the bedroom) and then she says "But where does Shel sleep?" and I said "She sleeps in there with me"... I just got a "oh, ok!" (all the while the other one is giggling!).

    We've never actually talked about it with them, not made a big deal out of it, and if the girls ever asked any questions we'd answer openly and honestly (age appropriately of course!), and not make a big deal about it as we feel this is the best avenue to take. As a result the girls don't even see it as anything different or abnormal, they're such lovely tolerant young ladies and I am proud of them!

    We ARE dealing with this with some of our friends children though. Our friends have always told their kids that Shel and I are just special friends, and thats their decision as its their kids. We are very conscious not to 'parade it' in front of them, as thats what their parents want and I respect that (her kids are 10, 8, 3 and 6 months). But now its a bit harder with a baby in the picture, and our friend is now worrying that she's going to have to explain everything, so I have ordered some books for her to help explain it. I do agree that the best way is to treat it as though its not a big deal, and just answer questions honestly as they come up, but these books are also GREAT to have on hand when explaining it to kids as sometimes tongue tie can happen, and you're not quite sure exactly what needs to be explained (as the only difference between gay and staright relationships are what happens in the bedroom, and thats not always the right thing to explain!!!!!!!!!!).

    Here are some great titles... (you can get them from http://www.feministbookshop.com or Hares Hyenas queer bookshop or Amazon.com)
    'Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans' by Johnny Valentine (This one is EXCELLENT... its a collection of fairytales with gay and lesbian characters, really helps to 'normalise' gay and lesbians and same-sex relationships by not making a big deal out of it)
    'Mummy Never Told Me' by Babette Cole (deal with many issues that parents amy not be comfortable explaining without the book, like why some woman love other woman)
    Anything by Brenna and Vicky Harding
    'Crabbing at High Tide' by Paul Ishiguchi (a picture book about a child and his dad going crabbing with their two gay uncles; helps explain that people in same-sex relationships are still the same people that they were before they 'came out').
    'King and King' by Linda de Haan
    'Molly's Family by Nancy Garden
    'Daddy's roomate' by Michael Willhoite (Straightforward explanation of parents divorce and a new partner moving in with Daddy. The partner happens to be male and their relationship is 'just one more kind of love'.)

    Hope this helps!!!!

    I also wanted to write, just as a side note, to butterfly*kisses... I understand your resentment to your parents. I had a similar upbringing (minus the lesbian mother, my parents are straight and still married), and as a result I suffered anorexia for 7 years, numerous hospital visits and suicide attempts, and finally escaped that when I moved out of home... I can kind of understand that you attribute this to your mothers sexuality, because it is probably a major part of her life, though I really wanted to say that I really don't think it was her sexuality that caused any of that (I'm sure you know this, but don't be offended... I am a little shocked that you are biased against lesbian and gay couples having children, when ANY person can harm their child and their sexuality is usually never a part of that). I hope you are able to accept that any couple can respect and raise a happy, well adjusted child, just like any couple can harm a child, regardless of sexuality. I kow I hold prejduices based on experiences as well, some of which I hate and I feel very guilty for so please don't think I don't understand or that I am attacking you for venting or being open about your situation. I guess I just needed to stand forward and separate myself from the experiences you had with your mother, and hope that one day you are able to move past your prejudices against gay and lesbian parents.

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    MD, congrats to your sister for having to courage to be herself.

    My mum announced she was a lesbian when I was 18. I did suspect it for a while because about 6 months prior she cut her hair short and started hanging out with a lesbian lady from work. I was at uni by then so it didn't really affect me but my brother was still living at home and was 13 at the time. When she called to tell me I asked how he was reacting to the news and she said he was fine, still cuddling up to her on the couch to watch t.v etc.

    I don't have a problem with gay people but I am ashamed to say that when I was home for holidays and a lady friend came over I retreated to my room. I just couldn't watch my mum canoodle with another woman.

    After a couple of years dating woman she realised that a man friend was the one for her and is now married to a really cool guy.

    I haven't ever talked to her about her sexuality but can only assume that she is bisexual.

    Two of my best friends are gay. I am planning to let Will know as he grows that men love ladies and sometimes other men, hopefully he will just accept it if he grows up with it being the norm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by leasha0986 View Post
    Here are some great titles... (you can get them from Segment Publishing : Design.Develop.Host or Hares Hyenas queer bookshop or Amazon.com)
    'Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans' by Johnny Valentine (This one is EXCELLENT... its a collection of fairytales with gay and lesbian characters, really helps to 'normalise' gay and lesbians and same-sex relationships by not making a big deal out of it)
    'Mummy Never Told Me' by Babette Cole (deal with many issues that parents amy not be comfortable explaining without the book, like why some woman love other woman)
    Anything by Brenna and Vicky Harding
    'Crabbing at High Tide' by Paul Ishiguchi (a picture book about a child and his dad going crabbing with their two gay uncles; helps explain that people in same-sex relationships are still the same people that they were before they 'came out').
    'King and King' by Linda de Haan
    'Molly's Family by Nancy Garden
    'Daddy's roomate' by Michael Willhoite (Straightforward explanation of parents divorce and a new partner moving in with Daddy. The partner happens to be male and their relationship is 'just one more kind of love'.)
    Thank you for this list!!! I was just about to start hunting for some children's books like this for my pre-school teacher & parenting kit

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    hi, my DH's best friend from grade 5 is gay, he and his partner (now they are married they had a commitment ceremony late last year which was beutiful - i was the 'best man'!) have been a big part of our lives including, of course, our kids. Josh who is nearly 13 asked about their relationship when he was about 5 i think the conversation went like this:

    J: Mum are A & R brothers like me and Zak?
    Me: No josh they are lovers like Dad and me.
    J:What does that mean?
    Me: Well it means they love each other like Dad and i love each other.
    J: oh they love each other like you and Dad.
    Me: that's right Josh.

    That was how Josh found out about different kinds of families and how love can be found between men and women, men and men and women and women. DH and i hadn't even thought about it much it was just another normal friendship and when josh picked it up we answered his questions and moved on really. Eventually Zak picked up that they weren't what he saw alot of but i think that kids acceptance of situations, if treated normally, is usually easy and matter of factly. kids pick up on how their parents react and responded similiarly, positively or negatively, depending on the parents reaction. anyway that's my 2 cents worth.
    beckles

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    Thanks everyone for your fantastic & considered replies. The consensus seems to be, as I suspected, to answer any questions as matter as factly as possible without making a big deal out of it. Leasha, that's an excellent list of resources, thanks very much for that.

    Arte, yep I'm pretty proud of my sister and delighted that she can now step up for the happiness that she deserves !

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