“My daughter and her girlfriend will both be at our family’s New Years Eve party this year. I’m a little bit worried about the possibility of a public kiss between them. It’s just that there are going to be young kids there and I don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate for that age group. Can I say something to my daughter?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Teresa Kane
Happy New Year! 2017 has been challenging for many of us, and I, for one, am looking forward to a fresh start. I love any good excuse for a party, especially one that brings together friends and family. Having said that, I also know that mixing family and friends (especially during high stress times like the holidays) can sometimes be a delicate situation.
When an LGBTQIA person comes out of the closest, their family members have to decide whether (and to what extent) they are going to come out too. Are they going to stand up to a homophobic preacher by telling him about their gay son? Are they going to introduce their daughter’s wife to their boss or call her a “roommate”? Does your trans kid get a paragraph in the Christmas newsletter announcing his new name? In this case, the question is whether your daughter is allowed to kiss the person she loves in front of your community.
Navigating all this can be difficult, especially at first, and it’s totally okay to feel a little weird. It’s not often that we see queer relationships represented in the media, and chances are slim that you see a same-gender kiss in your favorite holiday rom-com. I now identify as queer, but the first time I saw two men kiss in college, I was a little stunned. It wasn’t something I was used to, and I admit that it made me uncomfortable. But even though I was uncomfortable, I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t try to change the world around me to adjust to my comfort levels. I got over it, because they weren’t doing anything wrong.
Your daughter and her girlfriend aren’t doing anything wrong either.
Instead of talking to your daughter about refraining from kissing at the party, I suggest you talk to yourself first. Get out your journal and ask yourself the following questions:
• What is this really about? Is this about protecting kids’ delicate sensibilities? Is it about having difficult conversations that you don’t feel prepared for? Is it about internalized shame and embarrassment?
• What are you afraid might happen? That the kids will be mean to your daughter? That your friends won’t want to bring their kids over ever again? That your daughter might feel embarrassed? That the kids will think it’s okay to be queer? Is it okay with you if the kids think it’s okay to be queer?
• Would you feel the same way if your daughter brought home a guy to kiss? Is it about expressing sexuality in general, or is it specifically discomfort with queer affection? If that’s the case, what can help you get past it?
Digging into these questions, whether alone or with a trusted friend or therapist, can help you sort through your feelings.
While I don’t have any children of my own, I have spent the last 20 years working with students of all ages. But I also wanted to get another point of view, so I took the question to several of my friends who are parents. My friends are Jewish and Southern Baptist and Muslim and atheist and agnostic. They are Pakistani and Japanese and white and Latinx and Arab. They are from Texas, Maryland, California, Oregon, Tennessee, and United Arab Emirates. They are all straight (as far as I know) and all have kids under the age of ten. I asked them if they would feel uncomfortable with their kids seeing two queer women kissing at a New Year’s Eve party. Every single one of them said a version of the same thing:
“Nope! We talk about how families and couples can be different from ours.”
“We’re working on raising an open-minded little kid.”
“I let my kids know that people love people and that it’s not always a woman loving a man.”
“We talk about it a lot. My daughter asks me if girls can marry girls because one of her classmates has two moms.”
“One of the highest priorities from the beginning was to de-gender love.”
A lot of them said that their kids think kissing is gross in general, but that it didn’t matter who was doing the kissing. Many of them said they might feel uncomfortable with their kids seeing serious making out, but that the gender of the kissers is irrelevant. Furthermore, there are several articles on this site alone that reinforce the idea that talking to kids about LGBTQ people is surprisingly easy, because they typically have not yet learned from society that being LGBTQ is “bad” or “abnormal.”
I realize my sample is skewed, since these people are all friends with me—a queer woman—and therefore must be accepting of LGBTQIA folk. Still, it reminded me how different parenting is today than it was, even just 15 years ago. Gender and sexuality never came up in my house, but now they’re part of everyday conversation in many households. I had never heard of the word “transgender” when I was in sixth grade; last week a middle schooler asked me what pronouns I use. The national conversation around sex, sexuality, and gender is shifting.
If you think it’s going to be an issue, you can talk to your friends with kids ahead of time. Tell them your daughter will be there with her girlfriend and let them decide what to do from there. Hopefully it will be an opportunity for them to talk to their kids and all be a little more open-minded because of it. If, in the end, they decide to keep their kids at home, that’s their choice—but that is not a negative reflection of you as a parent or your daughter as a queer person.
It’s just New Year’s. It’s just a kiss. It’s what every other adult in the room will be doing. It’s a celebration of a year gone past and hope for a beautiful future. The kids will be jumping up and down and yelling and blowing noisemakers and all around them, adults in love will be kissing the people they love. What a wonderful way to start fresh.
Teresa Kane is a teacher and writer living in Portland, OR. Her writing often focuses on the intersections of her queer and Muslim identities. She has degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University and studied American Sign Language at Gallaudet University. She is passionate about art, feminism, interfaith dialogue, and correct grammar usage.