My Parents are Sometimes Cooler than I Realized

When I read Queenie’s open letter to parents about how to talk to one’s children about gender and sexuality, the thing which struck me the most was … my parents didn’t need that letter (well, not most of it).

My parents, as far as I can recall, never said “when you have kids” or “when you have a boyfriend”. They sometimes would said “if you have a kid…” or “if you get a boyfriend…” – but adding an ‘if’ definitely cuts down the assumption/expectation load.

And my parents never, ever said “when you get married…” – it would have been downright strange if they had, since they aren’t married themselves.

My mother once did make the assumption that I wouldn’t have kids, and that stung, because I hadn’t told her I didn’t want kids. But it only happened once, as far as I can remember.

My parents, despite their rather open-minded attitudes about sex, never discussed the mechanics much with me (I somehow managed to not know about the birds and the bees until the age of 10), so in that way they were pretty even-handed in their discussions of penis-in-vagina versus other kinds of sex – unless it had something to do with getting pregnant, or they were making a joke (when talking to each other, they generally weren’t comfortable using sexual humor when talking to me directly), most of their references to sex were non-specific enough to distinguish PIV from other varieties.

While my parents certainly are not experts on gender and sexual minorities, they at least get the 101-part-one stuff, and they usually don’t pretend to know more than they do.

I remember how I first discovered the existence of trans-people. My father enjoys the work of Wendy Carlos, and has a number of her albums. As a kid, I noticed that her newer albums credited “Wendy Carlos” and that her older albums credited “Walter Carlos”. I asked my dad why. He said that she had been living as a man, but then chose to live as woman, or something like that. It may not have been the best way to explain trans-genderism/sexuality, but I was mainly left with the impression that my dad likes her for her music, and that fact that she is trans is not important to him. I got the message that if people don’t conform to cis-norms, it’s not a big deal.

The one part it would have been nice if my mother had taken to heart is Queenie’s tip #4 “Just because you grew out of it doesn’t mean your kid will” – that happens to be the subject of one of my first posts.

That isn’t to say that I think my parents approach to sex education was perfect. Far from it … ha ha ha. But it’s easy for me to spot the points where I wish my parents should have done a better job … and to overlook the points where they actually did a better job than the majority of parents out there.

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