I debated on whether or not I should write this post because I want to protect my daughter’s privacy, but after discussing it with my husband, we thought maybe this would be a good place to go for advice. This might even be a chance to help out other parents as well. I never use my daughter’s name and I will keep it vague.
The other night while relaxing in the living room, my six-year-old told my husband and me that she’s gay and has a crush on a girl in her class. She was very calm and matter-of-fact. It took me by surprise and my first reaction was that she’s so young so I shouldn’t take it too seriously.
But when I thought about it, there has never been a time in my life when I didn’t know that I was a hetero-cis female – even when I was little. In elementary school, I had crushes on boys in my class, older boys, male teachers, famous actors, etc. There was no doubt in my mind that I was straight, so maybe even at her young age, she is certain about who she is. I decided I will take it seriously and hope she continues to feel comfortable talking about it with us. We tried not to make a huge deal about it but we made sure she knows we will always accept her for who she is and will love her no matter what.
It’s kinda sweet because we have been hearing about the little girl she has a crush on for quite a while. She even refers to her as her girlfriend. When she called her her girlfriend in the past I just wasn’t sure if she meant a girl that’s a friend or someone she was attracted to.
I grew up out in the country and so many of my younger friends and family had a difficult time coming to terms with their sexuality in such a conservative area. It affected them well into adulthood. Times have definitely changed since I was a child and I’m also really glad that we are raising our daughter in the city, but will it be enough to keep her safe?
I am also concerned about how older relatives might treat her.
To my LGBTQA+ readers, how old were you when you came out? How did you feel as a young child? I’d love to hear from other parents. Do you have suggestions on how I can support my daughter? She’s so young – how can I make sure she feels safe?
From what I’ve heard in the community 6 is young age to know you are queer, but it’s not uncommon.
My childhood had a lot of repression so I can’t really say personally. I can’t remember most of my childhood because of that.
My advice: make it clear that you accept her sexuality/gender whatever it is and however it changes. Also that she doesn’t have to tell people if she doesn’t want, and that you are going to respect her privacy on this. Or support her if she decides to just tell everyone.
There might be a local queer kids/youth group that’s appropriate?
My guess is that at this point there is no way to be “sure” either way. But some people can live decades before they are sure.
But it almost doesn’t matter because (as with trans issues), there is a lot you can do to accommodate your daughter without having to make any irreversible decisions. Just because someone may be LGBT+, that doesn’t obligate them to come out to everyone all at once. So I’d say to let your daughter say what she wants, but don’t rush to tell anyone else. Let her decide who to tell what when.
Whether or not she turns out to be LGBT long term is a separate question from how the object of her crush views things. The other girl may be thinking that your daughter is just a friend. There is no benefit in forcing anyone to assess or judge things yet. I think when you talk with your daughter you should accept what she says, but don’t exert yourself to tell anyone else about it or about your analysis of its validity.
Your daughter for example might end up being a lesbian but one who wants to stay closeted for a few more decades. Or, as you suggest, she might not yet have taken on adult definitions of some terms. But ask yourself exactly what it is that your daughter has asked you to do now. As I see it, she is implicitly asking you to allow her to describe things in private to you in a certain way, without contradicting her. You don’t need to think much, judge Mitch, or say much at this point. You don’t have to tell this to any relatives unless she asks you to tell them.
Overall, to an outside onlooker, being supportive won’t look much different from being oblivious to it all. It’s really only when your daughter brings it up that you have a duty to recall what you have heard from her and to be supportive. It’s not the neighbors business, and it is almost not your business much either.
So I think you have valid instincts here, and just need not to feel worried about this.
Some Old Programmer says
You’ve both already done an enormous amount by being calm, accepting, and loving. Never underestimate the value of that.
I don’t know how much my experience is applicable (62yo gay man, came out at 26, married with 3 kids). But I marvel at the self-assurance it takes to come out at 6. It’s very common to wonder if your kids’ sense of self will evolve, but I doubt that her sense of attraction will change; the data on that is pretty clear.
Will she be safe? I don’t know. Parents naturally tend to be anxious about their kids (I’m certainly no exception). She will run into homophobia–all kids do, but where a straight kid will take it as an insult, a non-straight kid will understand that they are the other. A supportive school can be a real help; my kids have used the GSA to find friends and support.
It’s cold comfort to say that it’s better than it was (and it is). But it’s not a steady march of improvement. Acceptance seems to wax and wane, and all of the sub-groups of the LGBTQ+ community are perceived and treated differently by society at large. Currently transgender people are having a very rough time of it (a source of anxiety for me, as I have a transgender kid). Be there for your daughter, just as you have been when she first came out to you, and she has an excellent chance to grow up happy and healthy. Good luck, and a huge virtual hug to all of your family.
REBECCA WIESS says
And sometimes it’s a safe place to feel attraction at an age when the opposite sex folks of your age are a bunch of dorks. Don’t box her in from either direction.
A good friend of mine on a forum often told us that he was aware from a very young age (3-4) that he was gay. And he told us that once when he was 10/11 he was going through the dictionary looking for something or other when he chanced upon the word “homosexual”. He was stunned. “Wow! They even have a word for someone like me.”
What you mean by “coming out” can vary, depending on who you’re coming out to–just a close inner circle or pretty much everybody. When to come out is an individual decision, but it is always an advantage to be able to be yourself, no shame, no guilt, no anxiety. You badly need a space (however small) where you can just be yourself.
My “transgender memories”, as I call them, go back to the age of four. It was at that time it was communicated to me that what I was was very, very bad, and that’s when I was driven into the closet. It took decades of struggles and angst before I finally emerged.
“Just be yourself”: beautiful words, but so many of us are unable to actually live them.