(This post is sponsored by AMAZE.) As a lesbian mom, I’ve encountered two potential pitfalls in talking with my son about sex and gender.
First, my spouse and I were able to explain to him how he was created without ever mentioning sexual intercourse. It involved my egg, my spouse’s womb, a doctor’s office, and far more syringes than either of us wished. Those who worry that talking about same-sex parents in schools will lead invariably to discussions of sexual activity have it all wrong. Many of us could get away with never bringing it up.
Second, even if we told our son (as we did) not only how he was created by also how most mom-dad couples create babies, he might then get the impression that sex is purely for babymaking, and thus something that same-sex couples never do.
While he might have been content to go through life never imagining his parents having sex, we felt that ultimately, an understanding of the full range of human sexuality was more important. We explained that sex was in fact pleasurable, not just practical, and something that one could engage in (once grown up enough) with a willing partner of any gender.
The conversations were awkward for all of us, as talking about such things with one’s parents is wont to be. Our son is almost 14 now, though, and has gone from saying “Ewww” when he sees couples kiss on TV to saying “Hmmm.” Even though he’s not yet dating, much less having sex, I know we were right to be honest and upfront with him so he has time to absorb the information before he gets to that point.
Sex is only part of the picture, though. Learning to treat both himself and his significant others with respect is equally important. As near as I can tell, his romantic relationships will be with girls (and then women)—and in that, I think, having two moms gives him an edge. While we both identify as women, we have never put ourselves into boxes in terms of what that means. We hope that gives him the confidence to be the cisgender boy that he is without feeling tied to particular modes of behavior.
Simply by living our lives, we show him that that there’s no need to divide household tasks, hobbies, or even clothing by gender. I have a black belt in taekwondo, buy many of my clothes in the boys’ department (one advantage of being small), and actively avoid the color pink, but also often wear earrings and love to cook. My spouse works as an engineer (a traditionally male field), likes woodworking, and has short hair, but also does cross stitch. I hope that from this, our son learns to look past a person’s gender to what they are like as an individual, and grows up into a man who respects his female partners for who they are as people.
Still, it feels sometimes that we’ve been navigating the shoals of gender and sexuality without a good map, coming up with explanations on the fly. When our son was younger, relevant resources that incorporated a world in which LGBTQ people existed were few and far between. For topics like what it means to be transgender, where we needed the most assistance because that’s not part of our own identities, we had to search even further. And even though our son does not appear to be LGBTQ himself, we don’t want him to have to use resources that marginalize his family by ignoring people like his parents–and which would not give him the tools to understand and support LGBTQ peers, even as he gathers information for and about himself.
That’s why I’m grateful to see a project like AMAZE. Its videos, with a philosophy of “more info, less weird,” cover a range of age-appropriate and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education topics for 10- to 14-year-olds. They tackle both the “mechanics” of puberty, pregnancy, contraception, safe sex, and more, but also emotional aspects such as consent and peer pressure. There are videos specifically on gender identity and sexual orientation, but LGBTQ people appear in other videos, too, such as the one on healthy relationships, below. A light touch of humor and fun animation keep the videos engaging even as they convey advice and information from sex education experts at Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health.
Don’t just point your kids to AMAZE and be done with it, though. The videos are meant to serve as conversation starters, both to inform youth and to empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their kids. That means we should watch them, too. Even if we don’t then directly discuss the videos with our children (doing so with my son would at this point probably get me an eyeroll and an “I know that already”), they can give us language to address the topics without flailing for words as I have sometimes done.
Long-time followers of this blog know that I don’t often do sponsored posts. I’m picky because while many companies and organizations want to market to the LGBTQ community and to parents, not all of them really support the LGBTQ community with their practices and products. AMAZE does, and I’m happy to have them sponsor this post because it’s something I’d be likely to write anyway. (Shhh … don’t tell them.)