I’m a single Mom with a 13-year-old son. Recently I found my son surfing the internet on gay websites and gay chat lines. When I questioned him about this of course he denied it, but is this something I need to worry about, or is he just being a curious teen? I asked him if he needed to talk to me about it and if he feels that he is gay. He said that everyone at school calls him gay, and his father used to call him “mom’s boy” all the time. I need help to understand what is happening but most important how to understand my son.
From the information you’ve given, it’s difficult to tell whether your son might be gay. Perhaps he is worried about it because of what people have said. At this age, “gay” is an unfortunate insult that boys use freely to put down other boys. He needs to know that receiving this insult doesn’t mean that he is gay, and that he isn’t unless he actually feels a sexual or romantic attraction to males.
What his father said is also an insult – either out of jealousy about your son’s attachment to you, or because your son’s interests are not as “macho” as those of his father. Tell your son that lots of men like things that women like, but that doesn’t mean they are gay. Society has set out a pretty limited role for men – interested only in cars and trucks and building things and sports – and guys who have different interests are not gay, only different from the average male in our society. Guys who refuse to fight also get labelled, as other guys try to dominate them by insulting them.
Encourage your son to develop his own interests regardless of what the other guys say. And help him find smart ways to respond to other guys who insult him, such as “I don’t speak dumb-ass” (a quote from the teenage boy on the TV show “Everwood.”) He may need to find ways to talk back to his dad too, if his dad continues to make these hurtful remarks. He may also benefit from a positive mature male role-model who will encourage him to be a man in his own way.
A guy is also not gay just because gay guys hit on him. I know a young body builder who has lots of gay guys hitting on him, but he knows he’s not gay because he’s attracted to girls, not guys. He is comfortable with his sexuality, and even has a gay roommate and some gay friends.
Some straight guys think they’re gay because they have actually had some kind of homosexual experience. A lot of teenage guys experiment with sexuality with other guys. Often kids who have been sexually abused by someone of their own sex believe themselves to be gay. The fact that their bodies respond to touch from someone of their own sex does not make them gay. They need to look at who they are attracted to rather than who has been sexual with them in the past. A truly gay guy feels sexually aroused by the sight of male rather than female bodies.
The way a person can tell they are gay is if they feel sexually or romantically attracted to their own sex. If this is not the case with your son, he doesn’t have to worry about being gay. But you have an opportunity to educate him so he won’t be prejudiced against people who are different. It’s important for you as well as for your son to know that a certain percentage of the population are just born gay, and that’s the way they are and need to live their lives.
What if your son is gay? Or what if he has friends who are gay? It’s not bad to be gay. The scientific evidence suggests that some people are born this way. If they try to change their sexual orientation it doesn’t work. I know a gay man who was married for 40 years until his wife died, but the entire time he struggled with his attractions to other men, and he is now living happily with a male lover. Gay people are not inferior, and are just as mentally healthy as the rest of the population. Most of them are aware that they are different from very early on. It is not easy to be gay, as gays are a minority group that experiences a lot of discrimination and prejudice. But some people have no choice about it.
What does your son need from you most? The reassurance that you love him regardless of his sexual orientation or experiences. If he’s gay, you may never understand this part of him, but you can still love him as he is. Our responsibility as parents regarding our children’s sex lives is to keep them safe when they are young, to set a foundation of making moral, safe choices, and then to leave the development up to them. A 13-year-old isn’t ready to have sex, but is old enough to learn about sexual behavior and feelings. And if he has had sexual experiences which confuse him, he probably needs professional help coming to terms with them.
It would also be helpful to both of you if you can explore your own feelings about homosexuality, separate from your son’s experience. Many people feel that homosexuality is against their religion. Theologian Virginia Mollenkott, in Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, argues that the Bible condemns not homosexuality but the promiscuity that often occurs in the homosexual population as well as with heterosexuals.
If your son still thinks he might be gay after reading this article, he and you need to find some support in handling this. Some of the Internet sites may be helpful, but many of them are dangerous places for a young boy to go without supervision. Pedophiles troll the Net constantly, and they come in both heterosexual and homosexual varieties. The society called Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) might be a good place to start. They can also tell him which Internet sites and chats are safe for him.