How My Four-Year-Old Son Came Out to Me: As Straight
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Tommy’s always been open about his crushes on both princesses and real little girls, and yet we’ve still had people ask us if we worry about whether his sexuality will be affected by his upbringing. In fact, this happened from the beginning of the process, in places we least expected it. When Abbie, Tim and I first began the donation procedures, the fertility clinic required that we receive approval from a state-appointed psychologist. At the meeting, the doctor asked us basic questions about how we planned on structuring our family emotionally and legally. She assured us that she “approved” of our right to have a family. We answered her questions and smiled politely, but at the end of the session she turned serious and said there was one more issue she needed to bring up.
“There are no conclusive tests,” she began, “but some studies show that children who have two gay biological parents might have a higher chance of being gay themselves.”
The three of us stayed quiet, stunned.
“Is that OK?” the doctor asked.
After a few seconds, I broke the awkward silence. “Forget it,” I said, turning to Tim. “We can’t use you as the donor now.”
The doctor looked confused.
“I’m just kidding,” I finally assured her. “We think being gay is fine, so we’re OK if that happens.”
A few weeks before our wedding at City Hall, Abbie and I tried to explain to Tommy in simple terms why we planned to get married again. We waited until after his bath, when he is at his calmest, and sat him at the table with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. We told him that all of the people in the state voted, and finally enough of them thought we should be allowed to get married. I watched him struggle to understand as he picked at his dessert, though it wasn’t exactly foreign to him to think that other people did not approve of or understand his family.
Kids have laughed at Tommy when they learn about his two moms. Kids are kids, sure, but he’s also witnessed strangers ask Abbie and me the question, “Who’s the mother?” and he’s seen them grow silent and uncomfortable when we answer, “We both are.” He knows that when we go to the gay pride parade in the summer we are celebrating a part of ourselves that not everyone deems worthy of celebration.
In many ways, Tommy is growing up in a family very similar to the one I grew up with. He lives with two parents who have a loving relationship. He is surrounded by a large, extended family that gets together most Sundays for dinner. Of course, there are also plenty of differences. I grew up in a harbor town on the Long Island shore where I spent summers riding my horse through the semi-deserted ruins of abandoned estates on the Muttontown Preserve. Tommy recognizes that a windy subway station means the train is on its way, and by the time he was 3 years old he could walk well over a mile. But the biggest difference, of course, is that two women, his mothers, are raising him. His dad lives in a studio apartment in Chelsea. Often they spend their time together, which we call “Dadurdays,” eating cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery and taking pictures at Chelsea Piers.
I didn’t realize that I was gay when I was Tommy’s age, but by fifth grade I understood that something about me was different. I was obsessed with the movie “Dirty Dancing,” and I knew enough to pretend to love Patrick Swayze rather than Jennifer Grey. While my best friend fantasized about the bad boy who makes good, I stayed quiet. The hiding came easily for me, but not without the consequences that affect most gay kids, primarily shame.