Sexuality: What Does It Matter?
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for...
I was having a discussion with my 7-year-old daughter the other day about sexuality, and why for some people, it's hard to really process that they are one way or another. She was curious why some teenagers - mostly girls - she knows like other girls were still wound up a little about liking other girls, and why some kids in general were struggling about issues that boiled down to their gender identity.
"Kaitlyn," I said, "some kids have a hard time with this stuff because we are brought up to believe that we are either boys or girls, and we should only like the opposite. Like, with you being a girl, there's a lot of people who believe that you should only like boys. Sometimes that's really hard to deal with when you know you're going against expectations."
She frowned, then pounded the bench she was sitting on. "But Mom, it doesn't matter!"
Inwardly, I let go of the breath I was holding. I remember hearing a little cheer in my head that she had gotten the message that I'd tried so hard to ingrain in my kids from an early age - that it didn't matter if they decided they were boys instead of girls, or if they were straight or gay, or if they even decided they identified as teddy bears. They were going to be safe and loved by the people that mattered most in their lives, and they were going to treat others the same way.
Unfortunately, that message doesn't always get out to the rest of society. LGBT youth are far more likely to complete suicide than any other group in society; Egale Canada reports that suicide rates among youth who identify as LGBT are higher, either because these youth have been rejected by their parents, or they have experienced bullying in one form or another. 28 percent of trans and two-spirited people, for instance, have attempted suicide at least once, and according to a Massachusetts study, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
Small wonder the generation that's coming up currently is going through so much. We see on social media all sorts of memes and commentary about how weak some of these individuals are, because they were hurt by something someone said, but are they really all that weak? Bullying is far more insidious than it used to be; with so many kids carrying smart phones at earlier and earlier ages, access to the cyber world is now far more instantaneous than it ever used to be, and there are so many individuals that are not taught responsibility behind a keyboard or the screen of a smart phone.
There are also so many parents out there whose dreams become seemingly shattered when their children announce that they are a member of the LGBT community. As parents, we all have dreams for our kids; that's normal. We want them to grow up, be productive members of society, have children of their own and turn to us for grandparent duties or just support or advice. For so many, that vision turns to dust when their child or children informs them that they are LGBT, and it shouldn't.
Loving your child shouldn't mean denigrating them because of a personal truth that they hold deep within themselves. It's their truth, and it has nothing to do with you; they are telling you because as their parent, they want reassurance that they are still loved and cherished as they always were. As parents, we just want to see our kids happy in the long run as they find someone (though they may be far happier on their own - that, too, is also a choice), so what does it matter if they have a partner who is the same gender that they are? Who cares if they tell us that they identify as transgender?
Of course, there's also the fear that something could happen to them. That, too, is normal, and even heightened following such events as the shooting in Orlando. My mom once told me, almost immediately following her diagnosis of bone cancer, that she could get hit by a bus while crossing the street, so why sit around and mope?
Life is far too short to hide and avoid your own truth. Kids have enough to worry about, given how truly messed up this world is, so why are some individuals adding something like a kid's sexuality or gender identity on that pile as something to worry about or even be afraid of? We need to break out of this enforced binary shell that we are so entrenched in and start listening to our kids when they bring issues like this to the table.
As my daughter said, "It doesn't matter."