By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
For LGBTQ parents, talking about the birds and the bees can be a little more complicated. We asked a few folks with kids how the convo went down and, if it hadn’t happened yet, how they plan to talk to their children about sex.
Ejiria Walker, 35, is a single mother who co-parents her 8 year old with his other mother. She hasn’t had “The Talk” yet.
Jonathon Broadwater, 32, is a partnered father with a 15-year-old. He first talked to his son about sex about four years ago.
Kelsey Rook, 24, is a single mother with a 7-year-old who first started asking about sex about four years ago. (She is also the writer’s sister.)
Beth Mattson, 31, is a married mother with an 18-month-old. They haven’t yet talked about the birds and the bees.
PQ: When did you start talking to your child about sex? Do you think there is a right or wrong age?
Walker: With my son in elementary school, I don’t think it’s time yet. I have discussed minor issues like kissing and asked if anyone has shown interest in him. I don’t think there is a certain age for the sex talk. But I do think there should be a certain maturity level before you start the talk.
Broadwater: My son was about 11 almost 12 years old when I had “The Talk” with him. I think that children grow at different speeds and start to explore their bodies and sexuality at different times. So whether it’s right or wrong, I think parents just have to use their best judgment and hope for the best.
Rook: Probably around age 3. I just waited until the topic came up; I think the right age is however old your questioning child is.
Mattson: I am currently trying to decide which age I should make sure that all of my brood have condoms, lube, and other safer sex supplies. I have lovingly, carefully, informatively mortified several of my younger relatives when they asked other adults for info and the request got passed along to me. So, hopefully, I will know when my kids are ready and as un-embarrassingly as possible make sure they’ve got the basics covered, with an eye towards resources they can use without my involvement.
PQ: If you’ve had “The Talk,” how did it go? What resources did you/will you use?
Walker: When I do have the talk with him, I would like to refer to Scarleteen.com. That website has quite a bit of information and it’s very informative. There is information for parents as well.
Broadwater: “The Talk” went well. My son asked only a few questions like why I have sex with men. I simply told him that that is what my heart wants and we should follow our hearts whenever we can.
Rook: It was pretty straightforward and specific to the particular incident/conversation that prompted “The Talk.” My child’s questions were pretty limited due to their young age. I got a picture book called “It’s Perfectly Normal,” which addresses human sexuality, safety, reproduction, romantic feelings, etc., in a manner that is accessible to and appropriate for youngish children.
Mattson: Since I am a book nerd, I’ll rely on books about sex just like I do about animals, colors, numbers, and the potty. I’m comfortable talking about sex as well, but I happen to looooooove “A Kid’s First Book About Sex,” by Joani Blank and Marcia Quackenbush…. It’s the only kids’ book I know that covers a few critical points for me — that each family presents sex information differently, that everybody’s genitals are unique, that sex isn’t all about procreation, that sex and feeling sexy are not solely the domain of penis-in-vagina, etc.
PQ: If sex is a continuing topic of conversation, how has that conversation evolved?
Broadwater: Sex doesn’t come up that often in my house. The times that it does it is mostly about masturbation.
Rook: The earlier conversations were mostly about basic anatomy/biology questions about babies and reproduction and why it’s not really appropriate to do X, Y, Z in public places. Kids are naturally curious about their bodies, other people’s bodies, and the relationships and models they observe every day, so questions are always popping up. Now they have more to do with questions around romantic relationships and some basic identity stuff.
PQ: Have you compared notes with other parents? Does your experience seem similar or different?
Walker: I have spoken to other queer parents about how and when the sex talk would happen. I think it’s important to have somewhat of a support system for issues like this.
Broadwater: Yes, I have, and for the most part they are [similar]. I have noticed that when the parents are shy or uncomfortable about talking about sex, then the child is, but only with them. They will get the information from somewhere or someone.
Rook: Yes, other parents seem to take a pretty similar approach, but I remember getting flak from other parents when my daughter was very young because they thought I was too pragmatic, or direct, or something. I also told my daughter very young what it meant to be “gay” and that our family looked different than other kids’ families in our community.
PQ: Do you think the talk would be different if you weren’t LGBTQ?
Walker: The talk I have with my son will be affected by the fact I am queer. I will make it a point to be as gender neutral as possible. Since I do not know if he is heterosexual or queer, I want to make sure that my language reflects that fact that I am ok with whatever gender he happens to be attracted to. I have always been very clear about allowing him to be himself and that includes sex, gender, and orientation.
Broadwater: No, I think my conversation would have been different if my son was LGBTQ, but only by saying when you chose to have sex with another man.
PQ: What advice would you give to other parents?
Walker: To be open and accepting. Allow your child to ask questions and respond without judgment.
Broadwater: Just to remember that having this conversation is part of being a parent and it has to be done. If you are showing that you are uncomfortable, then your child will be too. As parents we should be letting our kids know that sex is normal and natural when it’s between two people that care for each other, regardless if those people are a man and a woman or two people of the same gender.
Rook: To give children explanations that are honest, straightforward, and sensible for their age group. For instance, I’ll tell my daughter what a condom is used for if she asks me, but I might not choose to fully educate her about AIDS until she is a little older. Also, I’ve seen a lot of children shamed and punished for expressing sexual ideas or feelings. I think it’s important to recognize that children have such inclinations and help them negotiate the boundaries of acceptable social behavior and safety.
PQ: If I asked your child right now, “What is sex?” or “Where do babies come from?” what do you think they would say?
Walker: They wouldn’t know what to say about what sex is, but they would say babies come from love and devotion. And from the belly of their born mama.
Broadwater: I think that he would say that sex is something that two people do when they care for each other and he 100 percent knows about babies and where they come from and how they are made.
Rook: I have no idea what she’d say about sex. I’m sure her school experience has given her some ideas I don’t know about. But she definitely knows that babies come from a woman’s womb and are born via the vagina. She knows about sperm and eggs and insertion all that gross stuff.