BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
Explaining Gay Relationships to Kids
Berkeley Parents Network >
All Kinds of Families >
Explaining Gay Relationships to Kids
My son is 4 years old and I am looking for advice on how to
explain gay relationships to him. His closest two friends (who
are boys) have female gay parents. Their relationship is
completely normal to him. This leads him to ask me questions
such as ''can boys marry boys, Mommie''? I am in a dilemna. The
legal answer is no, but I do not want my son to question his
friends' parents relationship. He is too young for me to
explain the current politics. So I simply told my son ''Yes,
they can marry'', even though I knew my answer wasn't right.
Then he says that he is going to marry all the boys in his
preschool class. His preschool teacher recently said that he
was kissing boys when they did not want to be kissed. Note that
we are very affectionate at home (he has two older sisters) and
kiss a lot. So....how should I really talk to my son about gay
relationships? In his mind, kissing boys is the same as kissing
girls because he has not been told otherwise.
And here is the last question. Can sexual orientation become
evident at this age? Three of my son's six uncles are gay, so
if there is a heriditary component, the genes could be there.
Well, I'd certainly be interested to hear what others have to say -
especially those gay members of this community. But here's my
straight-mama's perspective: you answered your son's question just
perfectly! In your opinion (or so it sounds to me), it IS okay for men
to marry... so answer with your heart, and teach your kids what you
believe to be right, not what the current law is. Keep the dream
alive... those first lessons form the basis of our beliefs, and maybe
he'll be one to help make it true in the future. As for the kissing, I
would not worry about him kissing boys versus girls, but would focus
teaching him to refrain from doing anything to someone that the other
person does not want -- whether that be kissing, touching, or taking a
A 4-year-old is not too young to hear that his friends' parents would
like to get married, but that the State says they cannot... and that you
think that's unfair... and it's called discrimination. As for his
unwanted kissing, don't let the school treat it differently than if he
were kissing girls when they don't want him to. You're in a great
position to discuss boundaries with him, including other's boundaries
and his own.
And, finally, as far as the sexual orientation of your 4-year-
old- let that go. Maybe we can tell, maybe we can't. I promise he'll
grow up eventually (too fast) and then you can see (or maybe he won't
know, or won't want to define it so narrowly!).
Your answer that ''boys can marry boys'' IS correct in some parts of the
world (Netherlands, Canada, Massachusetts). It might be legal in CA as
well pretty soon.
Kissing boys IS the same as kissing girls in this case. Your perspective
needs to be one of teaching him boundaries with other people's bodies
and space, rather than focussing on attraction to one gender over
another (he is probably too young to understand the distinction between
romantic love and friendly/familial love anyway). It is only okay to
kiss people if they say it's okay, regardless if that person is a boy or
girl. Not everyone likes kissing (so it doesn't become of rejection of
him; just a personal preference thing).
And teaching him to understand that some people express their happiness,
love and like through hugs and kisses (your family), and other people
express it differently (don't ask me how; I'm still trying to figure
that out, being an affectionate person too).
It really doesn't matter where he'll end up sexually; only that
kissing/touching must be consensual.
My male cousin loved dressing up in dresses when he was little.
Low and behold when he was in his early twenties he announced to the
family that he was gay. This was a guy who had girlfriends and
heterosexual sex in high school. I think a person is born the way
they're born and if that's the case than you may be able to see signs of
the future in your son. I'm pretty sure my five year old daughter is
heterosexual and has been from day one, eventhough she's very athletic
and almost never wears dresses.
But she flirts with boys, talks about marrying them, and loves kissing
and hugging them. Of course, the future can always change but for now
this is the way it is.
As for talking with your son about kissing boys perhaps a good approach
would be to talk to him about boundaries. I tell my daughter that it's
always o.k. to let someone know you like them but that it's a good idea
to ask a person if they want to be kissed or hugged before doing it.
You may have seen it already, but Tuesday's Dear Abby column in the
Chron referred to a booklet from the Children's National edical Center
titled ''If You Are Concerned About Your Child's ender Behaviors.''
Download it from www.dcchildrens.com/gendervariance in English or
Spanish. Or order it by writing CNMC, 111 Michigan Ave. N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20010.
I think that there is a book out called ''heather has two mommies'' or
something like that that talks about this.
Here's my opinion. Since my son could talk, we have been using the term
''in our culture'' to explain things. This helps to explain things that
don't necessarily seem logical, by giving them a cultural context. So,
in our family, the answer would be ''In our culture, people who are the
same sex can form lifelong partnerships. They are not yet given all of
the privileges that married people are (for example, if Bob and Jim have
been together for forty years and Bob gets sick, they won't let Jim into
the intensive care unit because they aren't married.), but in many parts
of our culture, we give people in partnerships like this the same exact
respect that we give to married people.''
If your son wants to talk about kissing boys and getting married and
such, I would just say that in our culture, we respect other people's
body space and we do not kiss, hug, or touch them unless we have asked
first. Also, kissing and getting married is what mommies and daddies do
and ... that will be a while!''
It's funny. I was raised by hippies and never wore clothing.
While we will still walk from the bed to the bathroom with no clothing
on, I usually will put a pair of panties on with my son around and am
careful about not displaying too much. When he has asked me about
things, I have explained that what I have is called ''my privates'' and
I have left it there. IMHO we adults try to tell four year olds and
such way too much information, often not the stuff that they are really
interested in at all. So I'd err on the side of being a bit didactic
and talking about how interesting it is that the role of society is
evolving a bit, and that the laws haven't quite caught up with culture,
in giving full and total support.
Among other things, this will probably bore him enough so that he won't
be asking many more questions about it for a while.
My son was around 5 when he asked us about some good friends who are a
gay couple. I told him that they were in love and they lived together
like they were married. I was honest and told him that laws right now
only let men and women marry, but that we all hoped that might change so
people could marry the people they love, no matter if it is a man and a
man or a woman and woman. I kept it that simple and he got it.
Actually, he said it was totally unfair that our friends couldn't be
I told him he was right to be upset and that's what it takes to get laws
He has kids in his school with gay parents, so the concept of gay
couples has never been a big deal (my son is 10 now).
As far as kissing other kids, that is another issue. You should probably
explain to your son that forcing his affection on other kids isn't the
right thing to do, whether it is a girl or a boy. That's a lesson about
respecting other people.
I think you have handled things just fine in terms of the marriage
thing. I told my son the same thing.That two people who love each other
can marry. Now that he's older (8) he understands that there are two
kinds of marriage; the legal kind and the kind in your heart. He
understands that some people don't want to let people who are the same
gender get legally married and laws need to be changed to allow it but
that for example his two aunties had a wedding and are married in their
hearts and in our eyes. I think for a 4 yo the kind of marriage that he
sees before him in terms of two adults raising a child is much more real
and important than the legal kind. As for kissing boys or girls why is
it any different? It's very nice and loving to kiss people but only if
they want to be kissed. Perhaps you could role play or explain to him
that he needs to ask before he kisses someone. I don't see how the
gender of the kissee enters into it! Will he turn out to be gay? Only
time will tell but I do remember my sister having crushes as a young
girl on girls and I'm pretty sure my son is hetero because he fell off a
chair when a pretty blond woman looked at him and had a crush on another
girl in kindergarten. On the other hand for years he said he was going
to marry his male best friend when he grew up...so we;ll see but I hope
to be a proud mother of the groom whether he marries a bride or another
groom, let's hope with full legal rights, either way some day!
best to you
I am heterosexual and told my daughter the same thing in
preschool- I was going more from a gut/ ethical/ idealist standpoint,
and to a preschooler their understanding of marriage/ committed long
term relationships/ parents/ love has nothing to do with the law. I am
curious what others say because now at 6 and less socially savvy than
others her age (doesn't deduce certain things from observing or tv), she
feels she can marry her best girl friend and I don't think it's related
to whether or not she is/ isn't gay- she just has a simplified notion
that you can marry whomever you want to. Anyhow the kissing sounds like
it's his affectionate nature and the teacher mentioned it hopefully
because preschoolers need to learn to respect others' boundaries, such
as ask first if the person wants to be kissed (normal that he wouldn't
automatically know or think about that, the teachers should be helping
it.) So is he likely to be gay? please take the worry/ curiosity off
your list, love and support him as you have been, and find out later.
Even though many people say they always knew they were gay, I think it's
way too early to be definitive or put into one box or another, and
supporting him would be the same either way at this non-sexual age.
You know, I would focus more on the kissing people who don't want to be
kissed part, and save the talks for when he asks you more direct
No one should go around thinking that they can kiss or hug someone
without permission, and it's never too late to start that learning
My preschooler asks hard questions sometimes about sex and
relationships, but usually just one at a time, spread out over weeks. I
try to just answer her question (and I think you did a fine job
answering your son's about marriage, because marriage is about more than
the government's part in it...), not the questions I see behind the
question, if that makes any sense.
So if it were me, I'd talk to my son about making sure that someone (of
any gender) wants to be kissed before doing it. And then wait for the
rest of the questions as they come.
And I also think it's way too early for a sexual orientation label.
That can wait, too.
I am a single lesbian parent of a five year old girl. My
daughter has been having a lot of questions and understanding
much more than i'd like for her age. So, I am looking to find
info and support to help me explain how mommy loves different
from how her friends parents love. I didn't think i'd be doing
this so early but, i want to make sure i try to put positive
and open mindness into her before other input. If you have any
positive ideas please reply.
Signed: loving mommy
I highly recommend the Lesbian Moms list on Queernet. I've been
part of this list for more than 10 years and don't think my son
would be as wonderful as he is without their support.
Go to www.groups.queernet.org . Under ''New Visitors'', click
on the ''explore'' link. Scroll down to the ''moms'' link which
will take you to info about the list and how to subscribe. You
will receive a request for further info before you are
subscribed. (This is to help ensure that people joining the
list aren't there to cause trouble.)
Warning: This is a *very* high volume list. You either need to
be very comfortable using your delete key, or have an abundant
amount of time for email.
5 years old is actually just the age children start asking
these questions. Your daughter is simply looking for an
explanation, facts, if you will. Explain it simply and as you
know it. In the end, the way you love isn't that different.
Love is love, and she will understand this. Try not to make it
bigger than it is. My children don't differentiate gay and
lesiban relationships from ours. They see it as two people who
love each other and have children too.
There is a great support organization for lesbian and gay
parents called Our Family. You can look them up on the web
at ourfamily.org. They have done all kinds of workshops on
dealing with issues like the one you are concerned with
right now. Connect with them and you'll create some
wonderful relationships for your family.
You may already know about these resources, but I would check out
Stephanie Brill's ''Queer Parents Primer,'' as well as the Our Family
Coalition, http://www.ourfamily.org/ . Good luck!
Another lesbian mom
Have you connected with tthe Our Families Coalition? They could
be helpful in hooking you up with other families like yours you
have already delt with this issue. You might also try Tapestry
books, they have some great books for non traditional families
that are for kids.
All the Best,
Hi lesbian mom,
A great group for getting exactly this kind of support and more (friends, adult time)
is the Mamas and Papas group in SF. We meet every other Saturday, with child care
for our kids, at the Gay and Lesbain center, from 10-11:20 (9:30 for helping the
kids get adjusted to the child care). This Saturday we are discussing schools, but
we often discuss how we are talking about being gay to our kids, how to handle
questions from our children's friends, how to handle comments by our children's
friends' parents, etc. It's a great group, mixed gay and lesbian, mixed couples and
single parents, mixed racially, etc. I hope you can make it sometime. Feel free to
email me if you have any questions or if you'd just like to meet beforehand so i can
help you find the room, etc.
I am heterosexual, but I have lesbian and gay friends. I am very
casual about it with my own kids, explaining that people can
fall in love and marry anyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity,
religion, nationality etc. It certainly helps if you are around
other lesbian and gay parents. There are books that can be
helpful in introducing the topic too.
this page was last updated: Nov 22, 2008
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network