• A mum has shared a heartwarming conversation she had with her 6-year-old son about his sexuality. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
“I just thought of something crazy,” he said. “What if two boys married each other?”
Samuel Leighton-Dore

16 Oct 2019 - 11:21 AM  UPDATED 17 Oct 2019 - 12:08 PM

It can be tricky for parents to navigate conversations around sexuality with curious children, as was made apparent when a mother wrote in to Slate for advice this week, explaining that her six-year-old son had started asking questions about sexuality. 

Writing to Slate's parenting advice column, Care and Feeding, the mother revealed that her son had approached her with a revealing line of intrigue - one that she thought had a “testing-the-water tone”.

“I just thought of something crazy,” he said to her. “What if two boys married each other?”

The mother responded by explaining that everybody is different, and that sometimes two men do fall in love and get married.

The boy then told his mother: “I think I’d like to be gay when I grow up.”

The boy then told his mother: “I think I’d like to be gay when I grow up.”

“I told him what I want is for him to be happy," the mother wrote. "Then we talked about trains for a while."

However, the six-year-old's father responded differently, saying: “He’ll always be my son and I’ll always love him, but I might have some trouble accepting that. Life is harder for gay people."

The father also suggested that their son was far too young to be grappling with his sexuality.

“I asked him to at least be prepared to be supportive if he comes out (again?)," the mother wrote in her letter. "It’s my understanding that at least some queer people do know they’re queer by age 6."

She continued: “I hope I handled the talk well. I didn’t think this would come up this young! Should I revisit this or let him lead?

“I don’t want him to feel like being gay is a big deal that we need to have family meetings about. But I don’t want him to think I’m ignoring it hoping it goes away either.”

The Slate advice columnist, Rumaan Alam, was quick to praise the mother for handling the subject so tenderly and using clear, loving and age-appropriate language.

On the father's position, Alam wrote: “He says he might have trouble with the adult your child grows into while noting that life is harder for gay people. One way to assure life isn’t harder on our queer kids is for their parents to insist it not be."

Alam continued: “Your partner isn’t wrong to be skeptical – your kid is so very young. But his parents know him best, and you think it’s possible he was trying to communicate something to you about his future self. Maybe he was.”

They went on to point out that "there’s no checklist to being the best ally possible" and that it was up to them to nurture their son's curiosity.

“This might be as simple as seeking out different kinds of storybooks (if you’re at a loss, talk to your local librarian),” he wrote.

"If you raise him with a sense that his parents are understanding and supportive of all people … you’ll be raising him to be a man who cannot keep issues at arm’s distance, who has learned a sensitivity to the variety of ways there are to be human.”

While the writer's son might not end up being gay, it's worth noting that everyone's coming out journey is different.

While the writer's son might not end up being gay, it's worth noting that everyone's coming out journey is different. For some, it's a process navigated through puberty - for others it doesn't even begin until they're in their late 20s, 30s or even 40s.

Still, as a result of the LGBTIQ+ rights movement, the average age for coming out has been steadily decreasing for the past decade.

According to a report from The Guardian, research conducted by LGBTIQ+ organisation Stonewall in the UK found that LGBTIQ+ people over the age of 60 had an average coming-out age of 37. However, for those in their 30s, the average age of coming out was 21. 

Younger still, for the study participants aged 18-to-24, the average age was 17-years-old.

Another result of greater LGBTIQ+ visibility in the media and the recent legalisation of same-sex marriage could be that children simply feel more comfortable expressing themselves and asking questions about different relationship structures than previous generations.

Which, when handled with sensitivity and open-mindedness, can only be a positive thing.

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