At age 7, Amelia’s oldest son began to identify as gay. At age 7, her middle son said, “I want to be gay.” How do you respond to the unexpected?
I write a lot about my oldest son, but he is not my only. I am lucky enough to have a total of three sons. My other two are just as amazing as the first, in my totally biased opinion. My middle son is now 7, the same age that my oldest was when he started identifying as gay. It should not have been a shock to me that around this same age, my middle son would start having questions and opinions about his older brother’s orientation, but it was. At first it was just a normal part of his life that wasn’t interesting enough to think about. “My brother is gay, but does anyone want to play Mario Kart?” was pretty much his opinion on the subject. But that has started to change.
A few months ago, it was one of those horribly disgusting summer days where the heat and humidity just won’t quit. As luck would have it, two of our very good friends, Sam and Toby, have a pool and invited us over to save us from the heat’s torture. Sam and Toby live in a very cool and expensive part of town not too far from us. They have a house that our kids refer to as “the castle,” and a carriage house that is bigger than our home. They boys love Sam and Toby and love visiting their place. We had been in the pool for a couple of hours, and all the manic energy that kids release in a body of water had dissipated. We were taking some time to just chill in the cool water.
My middle son was tired, so he was nestled against my chest as I floated on my back.
“Mom,” he said, breaking the silence.
“Yeah, baby?” I said sleepily.
“I want to be gay.”
That brought me to a halt. I brought him into my arms and put my feet safely on the bottom of the pool.
‘Well,” I started, then stopped. This was unexpected. My middle son had never had boy crushes like my older kid, and last year he wanted to marry a female classmate. Neither of those was a big deal. It was the way that he phrased his sentence that made me pause. He wanted to be gay. That was so different from our older son, who simply announced that gay is who he is.
“Why do you want to be gay, sweetie?” I asked, his little head still snuggled into me.
“When I am grown up, I want to live in a big house like this and have a pool.”
Ah, OK. So this was something very different. It just so happens that none of our heterosexual friends live in big houses with pools, so I could see where his thought process was coming from.
“Being gay isn’t something you can want and wish for,” I told him as I stroked his wet, blond hair. “Being gay is something you are.”
He raised his head and looked at his older brother. “He gets to be gay.”
“Yes, he does. But he’s gay because he wants to hold hands with other boys. He wants to have boyfriends and maybe marry a boy one day.”
“Like Toby and Sam.”
“Yes, like them. But that doesn’t mean he’ll have a house like this. Does Michael have a house like this, or Johnny?” I asked, mentioning two of our other adult, gay friends. My son shook his head. “And you don’t have to marry a boy to get a house like this. Some of Sam and Toby’s neighbors are like Mommy and Daddy, a boy and a girl. So no matter if you like boys or girls, you can still grow up to have a big, fun house like this.”
“OK,” he sighed and put his head back on my chest. I know I could have left it there, but something pushed me forward still. I bounced his body until he was looking at me again.
“Do you like boys or girls?” I asked, looking into his eyes.
He cocked his head and thought for a minute. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“And that’s OK. Not everyone figures that out when your brother did. You have lots of time.”
“When you do figure it out, I won’t love you any more or any less than I do right now. No matter who you like, Mom will always love you to the Moon and stars and back again.” I hugged him close to me. Then I whispered into my son’s ear the game I have been playing with all my kids since they were born. “Who is my best boy?”
He smiled up at me. It was that smile that pulls at my heart, the one that takes over his entire face. “Me.”
“That’s right.” I then looked to his older brother, who had been listening to the whole conversation, and said to him, “Who’s my best boy?”
“Me!” He yelled back.
Then I turned to our baby boy, sitting in a chair beside the pool, a towel over his head and downing chips like he hadn’t eaten in days. “Who’s my best boy?” I hollered up at him.
“Me, Mama!” he yelled, sending chip bits flying. “I’m your best boy!”
“That’s right!” And I turned my attention back to my middle son. “You are my best boys. And you are all perfect just the way you are.”
“OK,” he said on a sigh, resting his head on my chest again and closing his eyes. It looked like our conversation was over.
But that was just the beginning of the questions. We’ve answered them all, because he should be free to ask them. What my middle son reminded me is that being gay isn’t only his big brother’s story. We are a family. Having a gay son is part of my story too, and part of his dad’s. Having a gay brother is part of my other two sons’ stories, and that should not be belittled or ignored. And since it is part of their story, they should always be allowed to ask questions, and it’s my job as their mom to answer them, honestly, every time.