I need some help. I have written to you in the past as well as read your blog everyday. I respect your advice so I am back again. I have a 9-year-old daughter who I suspect is gay due to some comments she has made and her response to pictures of men vs women. For example, she told me that when in Kindergarten, she thought another girl classmate was so pretty. I am comparing this to my other daughter who had a crush on a boy in kindergarten and my own crush on a boy in first grade. She has never indicated that she thinks any boy is cute but often mentions how pretty some girls or women are. She also had a friend over recently whom she could not stop hugging and saying how cute she is.
I guess my questions are: Is she too young to know if she is gay or not? I am not sure if I should initiate a conversation about it or wait until she is older? Would she be able to handle this at this age?
I am going to be honest: while I am not proud of this feeling, it makes me sad to think that she (and our family) may face difficult years during middle and high school. I will absolutely be supportive and there for her, I just don't wish this for her. I obviously realize that I cannot change things, and I know that in the real scheme of things, this is minor, but I have no direct experience with helping someone deal with this.
How do I proceed right now, if at all? I have not told my husband of my suspicion yet.
From: J, Reading
I so admire your love, concern, and honesty. I wish I could say that your assessment of what she potentially would face in middle and high school is misguided. But, despite huge gains in our culture, that just isn't so; gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual teens face a higher incidence of bullying than other teens and a higher incidence of health risks (like suicide and depression). I don't mean to scare you but, yeah, you are right to be gathering information sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, are you jumping to conclusions? She's 9, not 19, and it's not unusual for girls this age to have crushes on other girls and not be lesbian. Is she too young to know if she's gay? There's no formula for this: Many adults who are lesbian or gay will tell you that they knew at this age but just as many will say they didn't. Some will say they can look back now and see that they were, even if they didn't recognize it then. I hope we hear from some readers who can share their experiences.
Nancy Gruver is my go-to person for girls this age. The mother of daughters, she's co-founder of daughters.com and New Moon Girls magazine, and author of "How To Say It To Girls: Communicating with Your Growing Daughter." These are all wonderful resources for parents of preteen girls.
Here's her answer to your second question:
"You know your daughter best. If she's self-reflective and you know or think that she's wondering or worrying about her attraction to other girls, then it makes sense for you to open the topic with her so she knows you are willing to listen to her feelings and questions and that you'll always support her.
"If she's not very self-reflective, she may not have given any of this a thought yet at the age of 9 -- to her, it's just the way she is, and she doesn't question it. That's likely to change as she gets older and you want to help her be ready to handle the awareness that she's part of a group that is unfairly discriminated against.
"One easy way to open the topic of her feelings if she doesn't bring it up and you feel it's time, is to have conversations about gay and lesbian family and friends. You can ask if she thinks their romantic feelings are any different from the ones you and your husband have. And then just listen. She'll give you the cues or questions on where to take the conversation next."
Lastly, I'm wondering if you haven't shared any of this with your husband because you're worried about how he will react. I hope you are able to talk to him; having the support of each other -- no matter what issue you have with a child -- really does help. Here are two good resources: The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educational Network works to create safe schools; PFLAG, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
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