After same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa, my partner of 24 years and I decided to marry. Just prior to the wedding, my daughter had had “the sex talk” with my granddaughters. They were asking questions as they drove to the wedding.
“Do you really have to do that every time you have a baby?” My daughter responded, “Yes, you do.”
Silence. Then, “Will Grandpa and Doug be doing that?” Thinking quickly, my daughter responded, “No, they don’t want to have children.”
The three most important questions to answer before coming out to grandchildren are
• Do you have the parents’ permission?
• What is the appropriate information for their ages?
• What information do the grandchildren want?
Raising your children does not give you the right to raise your grandchildren too. Parents’ highest responsibility is to protect their children, and they may wish to keep the entire topic secret. Kids may not look favorably on their parents or grandparents coming out. Negative attitudes about homosexuality are changed most significantly when the negative person has open discussions with two or more close friends or relatives who are gay.
There is no research to suggest that teaching about homosexuality will convert someone from heterosexual to homosexual. All adolescents should begin to receive good information about sexuality before becoming sexually active (25 percent of adolescents are sexually active by age 14).
Children shouldn’t be told more than they can handle. Children’s brains are not mature until well into adolescence, and the rate of their development varies from one child to the next.
A child shouldn’t be overwhelmed with too much information. If a gay grandparent is in a long-term, committed relationship, the idea that they are a loving couple will become obvious over time. I once heard my granddaughter say, “I didn’t know two grown men slept together.” The only necessary response was, “Sometimes when they love each other, they do.”
Since their brains are still maturing, adolescents may not want too much information. Opinions based on stereotypes should be confronted. Children really don’t want details about the sex lives of their parents or their grandparents.
My daughter said to me that she finally was able to understand my relationship with Doug when she grasped that our relationship was based on loving one another, and not based on lust. Children can be taught that sex should come as an outgrowth of a loving relationship, whether or not it is with someone of the opposite sex.
An excerpt from Finally Out
My daughter Krista said to my granddaughter, “You know we’re going to Iowa soon. We’re going because Grandpa and Doug are getting married….”
After a beat, my granddaughter said, “That’s weird.” She thought for a while longer, and then she asked, “Will there be cake?”
Loren A. Olson, M.D., a psychiatrist in Des Moines, is the author of Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight. His blog site for mature men attracted to men, MagneticFire.com, also has resources for their families.