“How personal should a parent be when dialoguing with their gay or straight kid about sex?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Steve Reaugh
First of all, thank you for talking to your child about sex. I never got that talk. Sex, for me, always felt like this disgusting and dirty thing that was never to be talked about, never to be engaged in, and never a part of a loving and equal relationship between people who have respect for one another, hearts and minds and bodies and all.
My mother never spoke about intimacy with me because she knew I was gay and she didn’t know that world—and she would tell me later that she wasn’t confident enough to do her own research, especially since she knew I could do the same, and probably do it better. She overestimates my abilities—even to this day—but I got her meaning: she didn’t feel like her own experience was good enough, was worth it.
I think what happened between us was that she was concentrating so much on the content, and perhaps I was concentrating so much on the dread of “the talk.” We both forgot what we wanted so much in the first place: to connect. To be family again.
And there’s no percentage slider anyone can put on that, no easy range of “go this far but not that much,” because that will of course change from family to family, from parent to child. And that really, really sucks. I wish there was an easy answer for you in this, some magical formula I could give you that would never fail.
Or maybe there is: I <3 u.
Forgive the silliness there, but they say it right in all the songs: love is all you need. Think about your child. Is she candid and provocative? Then maybe you can tell your child about your more colorful encounters. Is he sensitive or unsure? Perhaps it’s time to tell your child about a time when you thought you knew what you were doing, but fouled it all up. You know your child. What’s going to resonate best? What does your child respond to? Think about that, and you’ll have your answer.
Because I suspect, like my mother and I did, that you may be worrying about something you already know how to handle: just keep in your mind that it is, after all, a dialogue. This is not some one-time, drop-it-in-the-bucket “sex talk.” Encourage your child to remember that you’re willing to answer anything, hear about anything, and help if you can. Chances are, your kid’s going to be too embarrassed, so a personal narrative might open the floodgates. Or it may not, and that’s okay, too.
But just knowing that this isn’t taboo and that talking about sex is okay—to do that is sometimes all you’re going to need.
Steve Reaugh is a third-year candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing in prose at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His writing, a hybridized blend of drama and memoir, focuses on the depictions and performances of an LGBTQ self in the public sphere, and how that self changes based on both acceptance and non-acceptance. In addition to teaching English and Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, he volunteers with the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Writers in the Schools initiative, which introduces creative writing instruction to Title I schools in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area as a complement to academic success. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, with his fiancé of 3 years, Josh, and their dog, Brooke.