I received an email last week from my lovely writer friend, Kim Derting. She asked if I’d be interested in publishing the below article on raising teens on LORE. I emailed her back immediately, “I want it!”
I wanted it for a lot of reasons, but one of them has to do with a woman that lives across the country from Kim. While Kim is thoughtfully answering questions from her teen daughter regarding her relationships with her gay friends, my childhood friend raised a gay teen as an incredibly conscientious and thoughtful parent. Our notions of sexuality and parenting and our own experiences as teens are no longer enough to guide a child who is being raised in a generation where sexuality is much more openly expressed and teens are gender fluid.
While many parents of gay teen girls allow them to spend time together alone since teen pregnancy is out, my childhood friend staunchly refused to allow her daughter alone time or sleepovers with other gay or bi girls, “Straight, gay or still figuring it out, children don’t have the emotional strength needed to deal with sexual relationships.”
Conversely, I asked if her daughter was allowed to be alone with boys and she shared something I never expected, “Unfortunately, a lot of teenage boys view teenage lesbians as girls who just ‘haven’t had the right boyfriend yet.’ She had some scary encounters with high school boys.”
The one thing both moms have in common and in spades?
The trust of their daughters and their mama lion like protective instincts.
I love that I somehow bridged a subject that is on the minds of two moms I adore who are both approaching the subject from a different vantage point, across the country from one another, with open hearts.
I’m so excited to introduce my friend, Kim Derting, and thank her again for sharing her writerly gifts, thoughtful insights and opening up dialogue between moms.
The other day my daughter asked if her gay-friend-Rob (so totally not his real name) could stay the night.
My answer: No.
To be fair, no is my kneejerk response to just about everything.
Can I have twenty bucks? No.
Can you drive my friends and me to the city tomorrow? No.
Can I get a pony? No.
Usually, after my initial no, I take a second to think about it. Sometimes I stick to that no and sometimes I don’t…you know, because that whole kneejerk thing. (She got the pony, in case you were wondering.)
So after she asked about her gay friend staying the night and got my kneejerk response, she came back with her standard, “Why not?” To which I (maturely) responded, “Because I said so.”
I could have ended the whole conversation there. “Because I said so” is an answer. I’m the grown up and she’s the kid. End of story.
Except, for some reason that answer didn’t sit right with me. Why had I said so, I mean, really? We’d had a similar conversation a few months back, not about a boy, but when we’d talked about another friend of hers, a girl who’d recently come out. We talked then, about how if she were a lesbian I probably wouldn’t want her girlfriend staying the night, and she looked at me in a puzzled way and asked her typical, “Why not?”
“You know…” I answered.
When she gave me a look that made it clear I was going to have to spell it out for her, I finally admitted, “Be-cause. I wouldn’t want the two of you messing around.”
She made a face at me…because I’m her mom and all. And then she considered what I was saying and said, “Yeah. I guess so. But we can still have sleepovers, right?”
“Of course. Right up until I find out the two of you are dating.”
That’s when I got the eye roll. She was fourteen at the time, and fourteen-year-olds excel at eye rolls.
But, here’s the thing, when I was growing up I didn’t have any gay friends…at least none that I knew of, so these conversations didn’t happen in my house. I’m more than happy to have them now though. I’m Glad my daughter lives in a different world, comfortable with peoples’ sexual identities and able to ask me whether her gay friend can stay the night.
My answer is still no…for the time being.
But, she deserved an explanation beyond just “because I said so.” It has nothing at all to do with Rob’s (still not his real name) sexuality, or even that I think there’s anything wrong with letting him sleepover. It’s simply because he’s a boy and she’s a girl and I’m just not ready for that.
I’m not ready for my daughter to be in the world of coed locker rooms or restrooms either. In light of the North Carolina debacle, I should elaborate: I’m not talking about gender neutral accommodations, or that I don’t want trans or gender fluid individuals permitted to share facilities with my kid. What I mean is, is I’m not comfortable with her showering with the football team or having to pee with the rest of the boys at her high school. Not yet, and probably not ever. It’s as simple as that.
In a year or two, my whole sleepover answer might be different, but now she has me thinking. If her friend were trans, would my answer have been different?
Probably. I think so.
Then, at least, the matter would have gone to a vote, because as much as I’d like to think I’m running a dictatorship here, my husband still has some say. I hope he would be as thoughtful as I’ve tried to be, and not give a knee-jerk, back-in-my-day kind of response.
I’m pretty sure he would.
Regardless of the answer I gave my daughter, I’m glad she brought this up. I’m crazy proud of her for her open-mindedness and her huge heart. This world we’re living in is evolving. It’s better because our kids are better. And whether you agree with my decision or not, I hope it at least has you thinking about your answer, your thoughtfulness, your heart.
I hope you’re talking. I hope your kids are talking.
I hope we can all evolve together.
Kimberly Derting is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING and THE REPLACED (the first two books in THE TAKING trilogy).
Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. You can find her online at www.kimberlyderting.com.