Monday, October 09, 2006

I'm too dull to think of a title

This Wednesday is National Coming Out Day. Em told me last week that she is thinking of coming out at school, as bisexual.

I admire her for being brave enough to consider doing this, but i have a few issues with it. I think she would be doing it for the wrong reasons.

I don't think she really is bisexual. Although i totally get that this is not my discovery, it's hers. She is 15, and a very young 15 at that. She has a girlfriend, who lives on the other side of the country. Which is a very safe place for her girlfriend to be. They communicate mostly through text messages and IMs.

Her group of internet friends are a literary geeky group of girls, most of whom think they are bisexual. It's very in right now, in this group anyway. I really understand the connection that girls around this age have to one another, they are each other's emotional world, because the boys are pretty "icky" still. The first time i seriously had a crush on someone, at 17, it was a woman. But for me, it was all emotional. I was too young and immature to think about the physical. Which is what i see with Em and her girlfriend. She still gets all "ick, gross!" about sex.

Teenage girls have a strong need to feel unique. Actually, i think most of us would like to think we are special in some way, but really, we are all special, which makes few of us really special. Did that make any sense?

It also feels like it will be done as a dare. She and another girl are only going to do it if the other one does. One good thing is that i am not worried about her safety at her school. It is a safe and accepting environment, otherwise i would argue very strongly with Em about doing this.

Bottom line is, i wish she wouldn't label herself. I don't think she knows yet.

So i told her how i felt about the labeling, kissed her on the head and said that i support her whatever she decides. It should be interesting to see what happens.

35 comments:

urban-urchin said...

You really are a good mom. Em is lucky.

Let us know what she decides to do.

daufiero said...

Labels are really sticky, and even if you can get them off, tend to leave a mess.

I have felt such strong emotional love for other women that I could imagine it turning into a sexual relationship if the opportunity ever arose. If things had been different - more open, as they are now - and I had acted upon such feelings as a young woman, where would that have led as I entered adulthood? Once donning the "label," would I have shed it? Wanted to? Been able to?

She's learning how to make adult decisions in a safe and loving environment, and whatever she chooses, your love for her won't change. Feels good to me.

Josephine said...

This is so heart warming.

My best friend growing up (and still) is gay. I knew it when we were about 12. She came out when she was 16 and her paretns kicked her out of the house. It got really, really bad, because of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

She was forced to live with her grandparents, who then kicked her out when she was 17 and they found out.

Anyway, I think you are wise. And labels do stick. But, she's in high school, and high school sucks for everyone anyway, and if you're not in one group, then you're in another. Then she can rewrite herself in college and move on. You're right, though, being bi is very in right now, especially for girls. She's lucky to have a supportive mother like you. Because of that, either way, she'll be okay, I think.

amusing said...

I think it's a shame she feels like it even matters at her age. My god, I was not thinking about sex, or what I was. I wanted a horse. And wondered when we'd move again. And really didn't want to go to the dance because I didn't see the point. Boys were boys. I had friends. Just b/c I thought a boy was icky and I had great girlfriends, I didn't think it made me bisexual. I think it's a shame it matters. Reminds me of choosing baseball teams. Who gets left out.

Mignon said...

I really like and admire your approach. I think calling oneself bisexual was initially a way to appear unique, sensuous and daring, without ever having to "earn" any of those descriptors. Now it's just the de rigeur way to be "edgy" for young teens. I worry, as you do, that as she gets older, the stereotypes associated with bisexuals will be foisted upon her by mean peers, and while one can flip-flop on either gay or straight sexuality, bisexuality seems to be something you get stuck with, you know? Even if you never demonstrate an attraction to both genders. But then, is that really a bad thing anyway?

Maggie said...

I think you made a great move here. Giving her your concerns, but putting the ball in her court and letting her know whatever she does is her decision, and you're there for her no matter what. Labels are tough. But who of us is the same person we believed ourselves to be when we were younger? We have the ability to remake ourselves as we grow and that's beautiful. Having a loving supportive parent there through the changes, tough or not, is the key.

Holly Capote said...

I think most girls are bi. Girls have crushed on other girls for eons. However, a lot of girls are gynophobes. They might want to connect, but stay out of the basement. As far as the label sticking, I don't think that's likely. Most folks comprehend how fluid female sexuality is.

LazyLazyMe said...

Hmm, perhaps I'm reading this wrong but there appears to be the faint whiff of prejudice in the air.

15 is old enough to be sexually active so old enough to decide what you are, and who you do.

If she changes her mind, so be it.

I accept that you feel that she will suffer as a result but it's a hard enough road without condemnation at home.

If she 'declared' her sexuality by kissing a boy in the corridor would this be better than by then kissing a girl?

meno said...

u-u, thanks, things for you to look forward to. :)

de, i can imagine that as well. And it's the label that bothers me. I don't see any need for it at her age, and maturity level.

josephine, that's just fucked up, the kicking out of the house thing. So much for Christian acceptance. I think Em will be ok too.

amusing, you have articulated this in a far more succinct manner than i was able to. I don't think she needs to be thinking about this right now either, at least not in a definite way. God knows she's curious, but not actively so.

mignon, interesting questions. It really is "in" right now, which i find odd, not having grown up that way.

maggie, exactly! who of us is the same person that we would have defended to the death at her age?

Holly, excellent observation. And thank you for the term gynophobes. I think that is a very canny description. The only thing i am not sure of is that most people comprehend how fluid sexuality is. I don't know about that. But i wish it were true.

lazy, i am not sure what i said that made you think i would condemn her at home. Tisn't true. 15 is old enough to be sexually active, for some kids. And for some kids to know, without a doubt about their sexuality. Not so much for this one. She is very curious about sex, naturally, but she seems to recognize that she isn't ready. I don't think she will suffer if she makes this announcement either, i just think she would be doing it because it's cool and exciting, not because it's true. Truth is, it's not that big of a deal to me, what she decides.

lu said...

Excellent call. Labels are never liberating, especially not in high school. Isn't the purpose of a label to isolate and contain? Not to mention the sticky residue left if you decide to remove it. No prejudice and no naiveté

I tell my kids and my students to live their lives, be proud of whom they are; we'll see you, no need to hang a sign around your neck.
In high school, labeling one’s self a bit like throwing chum into shark infested waters.

NJBird said...

Hmmm....curiosity is good...fluidity is good. Labels tend to close doors and locks us in. Sexuality just is. There is no explanation. Sometimes it just is. We need to accept ourselves. Some days I see women that I'm attracted to. Others day only a man will do. Just like some days white T-shirts are very sexy and other days wing-tip shoes.

Gretchen said...

I'm filing this away in my mental rolodex for later use. I think you're handling it beautifully.

For me - glad my oldest is six. For now...

Dick said...

I'm going to stay out of this as something like that having to do with females is not at all in my area of experience. But it does seem that one at a young 15 might be too young and/or inexperienced to really know the answer to this question.

Mama P said...

As always, I'm the last to comment, but it goes like this: Call me conservative, but I totally disagree with Lazylazyme. First off, nothing in your post remotely sounded critical of your daughter or condemning. Second of all, I don't care what anyone says: 15 is way too young to know what anything means sexually for girls. Perhaps there are some girls who are super horny very young, but most who start having sex early? It's for different reasons: wanting to be loved. Wanted to be accepted by someone. This goes for girls with boys or girls with girls. I think being gay is totally fine, but I think now, if Em is as immature as you say, that she's connecting to other females on an emotional level because A) her hormones haven't kicked in yet for the boys and B) she is smarter than most kids, especially boys at 15. If she's really gay, great, but now? I don't blame you for being worried about labeling. Sex might have a "fluidity" about it, but teens aren't so quick to be open minded. A label now is rough. But again, if she goes for it, good for her. I'd be supportive, too.

jen said...

what a terrific mom you are - watching and sharing, without judgment, but keeping watchful eye. what a gift you are to her, and she to you. i look forward to hearing what she chooses to do next.

Antonia said...

When my daughter is born, will you come and bring her up?

Anonymous said...

At the high school my children attend, the girls who come out as bisexual are ridiculed for being attention-seekers and are not taken seiously, perhaps for a reason. The kids who come out as gay or lesbian are treated respectfully, for the most part. I find that interesting.

Anonymous said...

I meant seriously.

marian said...

I think that declaring yourself bisexual these days is really different from the way it would have been even 10 years ago. It's not terribly meaningful, I don't think. Just a way of saying that you're not willing to totally buy in to the ken and barbie high school scene. And yeah, I agree with you that she may wind up regretting it, but teenage memories are short. I think you handled it just right.

meno said...

lu, we have the same view of high school. Chum in the water indeed. In all honesty, Em's school is not like that, but mine was.

njbird, nicely put. No need for labels.

gretchen, when i had a baby, i thought a lot about what to do and how to keep that baby healthy and happy. Now that she's older, it's a whole new conundrum. And it's really a blast, much of the time.

dick, coward! :) She doesn't know the answer, but whatever it is is fine w/me.

hi mamap, I'm glad i didn't sound critical to you, as i don't feel critical. I like what you said about the reasons that young girls have sex.

jen, thank you. She really is a great gift, although sometimes it's hard to remember, like this morning when she was yelling at me about something before i was even really awake.

antonia, thanks for the vote of confidence, but she won't need me, she will have you.

anon, damn typos! That IS interesting. And that is what i think might happen. Oh well, Em is already viewed as a bit odd, what's one more thing?

marian, yes, it is different, and very very different from when i was in HS. I also agree that it's not terribly meaningful at her age.

Holly Capote said...

Oops. I wrote: "Most folks comprehend how fluid female sexuality is."

I wrote that exactly wrong.

It should read: "Most folks DON'T comprehend how fluid female sexuality is."

Meno, I suspect you understand that some girls use "bi" as a segue to "gay."

And Meno, I suspect you also understand that we all wish that you were our mom.

Hänni said...

Meno you're such a great mom. Em is very lucky you're so accepting and objective.

I remember you writing before you thought this was a phase. Be that as it may, you encourage her to find her own path and that is wonderful.

Mother of Invention said...

That is an extremely tough situation. I agree with all you've said here. She is just too tender an age, inexperienced in relationships with both sexes to make an accurate decision. She is also too much influenced still by her peers to make it HER decision.

You've done the right thing and have let her know you are supporting and loving her no matter what she does or is.

meno said...

to holly, (who really should have her own blog) i thought it was rather sweetly naive of you to think that people understand the fluidity of sexuality. But now i see that the one word changes your thought into one more in line w/reality. And yes, i understand that Em may be gay. I am fine with that. From what i have observed, i don't think so, but hey, my opinion ain't what counts here. Although it may mean that i have to kill any assholes who threaten her because of it. I'm ready! You're too old to be my daughter. :)

hi hanni, thank you for the kind words. It's not hard because i really do accept her as she is. And if i didn't, how stupid would that be? She would still be the same person, only less happy.

meno said...

mother, thanks for the words of support. I sort of wondered if i would get blasted by anyone for this post, as this can be a sensitive issue. It's been heartening to see that everyone gets it and no one has been mean or judgmental.

Holly Capote said...

Yeah, I'm too old for you to be my mommy, but I can still wish.

As far as my own blog, if I had one, my editors would drop a piano on me...I struggle to meet deadlines as it is.

LazyLazyMe said...

Sigh...but...heterosexuality is a label.

We're suggesting that one label is better than another because one is the norm here aren't we?

Sorry to disagree Meno, I'm sure the overwhelming majority are right :)

Holly Capote said...

lazylazyme, you make a good point, but I think that meno concern is this: when one labels oneself as the Other, one must deal with bigots. It would be great if "bi" were just another label, as devoid of pejorative connotation as "straight." In some circles it is, but some folks are always pining to hate those that deviate from THEIR expectations. A good mother will worry about those hankering to hate. A bad mother will join those that hate and toss a daughter from her home.

h' said...

Meno, fantastic job. You are such a great mama. I have many gay friends, and have raised (hopefully) my kids to be accepting of all manner of people. We have talked at length about sexual persuasion, and how they and their friends view themselves. I just want their happiness, no matter where they end up, which is what I'm hearing from you.

On another note, I think alot if not most women develop strong bonds with some friends, stronger than with other friends, and aren't emotions a big part of sexuality? If not for the physical aspect,(I really like my husband)I have long said I could be gay. I just can't get past the imagery, though....

holly said...

oops...

meno said...

you all just carry on without me....

lazy, i would have the same advice/feeling if she felt the need to stand up and declare herself as heterosexual. What's the hurry with the labels? But one reason that she said that she might do this is to show the people at her school that there are gay/bi people among them. And it's the need to do that is what makes one of those labels different than the others. And i don't assume that the majority is right. And if i start one more sentence with "and" i'm going to have myself shot.

holly c. (there are two hollys now) Em is part of the generation that will start to make it true that gay/bi are just another label.

holly, Yeah, other than hugging and kissing, i'm not interested (which is what the other holly called gynophobic, a favorite new term of mine) that's how come i'm pretty sure i'm not gay, but hey, who knows what life will bring? I guess i should say, i'm not gay yet.

Marsha said...

I hope that someday I will have as much perspective as you when dealing with my 15 year old daughter.

meno said...

marsha, so tell me why you don't think you have this perspective now. I am serious, i would really like to know.

bobealia said...

You are right about bisexuality being very "in." It's not that serious of a proclamation. However, when I was going through my experimental stage, I made sure that my mom knew nothing about the amount of drugs I was injesting or the sex of the people I was with at any given time. I think I knew I was experimenting and I wanted to keep it private. High school can be so awful, does one have to declare anything? Wait until college at least...

Carolie said...

Meno, you sure are a cool mom!

I'm 40 now, but in high school, my female friends and I all claimed bisexuality at one point or another. (We were all "arty drama-club types.") I think a small percentage of us migh have actually kissed once or twice after sharing a bottle of Riunite, but that's it.

One of my friends eventually came out as gay, the rest of us eventually decided we were straight. I think part of it was curiosity, and a HUGE part was "look at me, I am not a conformist, I'm special and DIFFERENT!" which we all seemed to be saying in unison!

One friend wrote lots of poems about it all, including one claiming to love two other girls (I was one of them) but ending with "...but I also have a man (her 16-year-old boyfriend) in need of my care, and so good-bye."

Another poem had the line "I love men in general, and women in specific...is it enough to say that, reading Woolf, I wanted to touch a girlfriend's cheek because she was there, and breathing, and loved?"

Em may come to the conclusion that she is gay, or bi, or straight. For now, I think she's in the process of figuring it all out...and at least with a girlfriend 2,000 miles away, she's less likely to have to make huge decisions like what to do about a pregnancy!

And you are a great mom to be able to let her be whoever she needs to be.