As an out gay dad, William Dameron has fielded a lot of requests from straight parents about their suspected gay sons. It’s not the parents’ concern that is a problem; it is their stereotypes.
Dear Straight Parents:
You have come to me for advice because I am an out gay father and you are wondering if your child may be gay. First, I want to tell you that you are doing a wonderful job of raising your children in an open and loving environment. Many children today have the opportunity that I did not have when I was a child. You tell your children that it does not matter who they love, that you will always love them. This is one of the most important things that a child can hear, that your love is unconditional. Children need to hear this. Repeat it often.
There are signs that he may be gay, you say.
He likes to play with dolls.
He is sensitive.
He does not like sports.
He likes to dress up in girl’s clothes.
He likes the color pink.
James Franco is his idol.
He is effeminate, flamboyant even.
I can tell you from my vast experience that all of these signs point to the conclusion that your son may indeed be straight.
That’s right, he may be straight or he may be gay or he may be transgendered. The only thing these signs mean is that he likes to play with dolls, that he is sensitive, that he does not like sports, that he likes girl’s clothes, he likes the color pink and that James Franco is his idol: nothing more. I don’t even want to address the offensive effeminate, flamboyant comment.
See, while you are trying to be very sensitive to your child’s sexuality you are missing out on one of the biggest opportunities, and that is to discuss how stereotypes mean nothing. All of the “signs” that you have pointed out to me are stereotypical depictions of gays. There are a few on the list that match me, but if you were to use this list to try and figure out if my husband was gay you’d be out of luck. Let me describe his traits:
He loves cars and has rebuilt dozens with his father.
He loves sports. He is a huge Patriot’s fan and played football, tennis and basketball in high school.
His definition of a good movie is one with lots of explosions.
He was the high school prom king.
He calls women “gals”.
He pees standing up, with the bathroom door open.
He loves me, body and soul.
That last one was a trick and I wanted to see if you would catch it. It is perhaps the only way you would know that Paul is gay. There is only one other way to know: if he tells you so.
I know that I am simplifying things here and that you want some magical insight or you want me to use my “gaydar” to let you know what I think. But if I did that I would be perpetuating another stereotype, that all gay men know another gay man when they see one. I don’t. If anyone tells you that they do, they are lying.
Let your son play with dolls. Let him dress up in girl’s clothes and paint his room pink. Have a tea party with him. When he tells you that he has a girlfriend the proper response is never, “Oh thank God, I thought you were gay,” and the proper response is not, if he tells you that he has a boyfriend, “I knew it, I told your mother!”
My single piece of advice to you, whether your child is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight, is that children learn from what is unsaid as much as from what is said. Love your children no matter who they are, but show them that they cannot be bound by the shackles of stereotypes and then watch them soar.
—art by bree95/Flickr