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I have an 11 y/o son who is showing a tendency towards becoming gay. People have seen him walking like a girl but I haven't. I'm thinking that they are just judgmental.

On his computer games he chooses a girl character that is seen by his brothers. He plays most with the girls at school and he is good at volleyball. At the bookstore, out of nowhere he choose a girl stuff like small diary.

Every time we see him acting like a girl we correct him and explain that that behaviour is girly. But it keeps on happening. I am really worried. We want to him to grow up to be normal. I love my son. Please help me handle this situation. We are not encouraging him to be gay but I don't want him to feel pressure or emotionally hurt that the real identity of his personality will be lost. Because I was also thinking that "what if we are judging wrong?"

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Slightly related, but for younger children: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/643/… –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 23 '12 at 7:25
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If he's gay, he's gay. Offering support is better than trying to change him. –  Dave Clarke Aug 23 '12 at 7:51
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Also, volleyball is hardly exclusively a female sport. –  Dave Clarke Aug 23 '12 at 7:59
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Nor is owning a diary girly. Ernest Hemingway surely had a diary. –  Dave Clarke Aug 23 '12 at 8:58
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The movie "My life in pink" deals with this issue from the perspective of a boy who identifies as a girl, –  Abe Aug 23 '12 at 21:27
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5 Answers

First, I think it is worth noting that gender identity and gender roles are not the same as sexual orientation--liking girly things is not the same as being gay.

As far as your specific issues go, I agree with Rhea that these are not big signs that your son is experimenting with an alternate gender identity. Hanging out with girls, using female avatars in video games, and playing volleyball are not unusual behaviors in heterosexual men.

But I'll assume that there is something more going on here. Even so, adolescents and teens sometimes experiment with different roles, just to see where they fit in. Your son knows what things are girly and what things aren't, what he doesn't know is how he thinks and feels about everything in the world. He needs space and time to figure this stuff out.

He also might make fashion choices--for example, wearing makeup or nail polish--that are more about what music he likes than about gender identity. Punk fashion involved makeup, nail polish, and skirts for guys when I was in high school, and I'm sure there's some kind of fashion statement like that now.

The important thing is that he needs to feel comfortable talking to you about whatever is going on in his life. If his behavior isn't dangerous to himself or others, and if he is still doing the things he needs to do like chores and homework, try just leaving him alone about this sort of thing. The important thing is that he needs to feel comfortable talking to you... if he is being bullied at school, for example, you don't want him to think that you'll blame him for acting "girly". You want him to trust you so that he'll tell you if he's having problems. Making him feel like you think he is gay–and that you think that's a bad thing–because he wants a diary is probably going to make it harder for him to talk to you about whatever is going on in his head.

Of course it is possible that your son is gay. It's also possible that one of his siblings is gay and he is not. Being gay is not a lifestyle choice or the result of a persons upbringing, it's a sexual orientation, something people are born with. Stereotypes aside, gay men are not always effeminate, gay women are not always butch, effeminate men are not always gay, butch women are not always lesbians. You truly can't judge a book by its cover.

But if one of your children is gay, the best thing you can do is to accept them as they are. This is difficult for some parents, so there are organizations out there that can help you adjust, notably PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Overall, I wouldn't worry about this too much. As parents, the best we can hope for is to raise children who turn into happy adults with their own place in the world. Keep an open dialog and focus on things that matter.

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Don't you think that whole gender identity thing is archaic, sexist and outdated? From the linked site: "Males want careers, females want to stay home", I know some feminists that would have a field day with that one (if field day means getting really mad) –  bobobobo Aug 24 '12 at 17:21
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@bobobobo: if you read more carefully, the describes "traditional gender roles". It then states that not everyone wants to adopt those roles. –  Dave Clarke Aug 25 '12 at 12:13
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@RexKerr It may be a simplification, but it's largely accurate. The data does not show that there are major environmental factors, and it certainly doesn't show that anything in particular that parents do causes a child to be gay, and it absolutely does not indicate that an 11 year old's sexual orientation can be changed by parental intervention. So in this context, I'm comfortable making the statement that homosexuality is something you are born with. –  philosodad Aug 25 '12 at 13:59
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@RexKerr The data cannot rule out the possibility of some environmental factors. That isn't the same as showing that there are major environmental factors. Any stronger claim is based on a total misunderstanding of both the data and genetics. Given that we absolutely don't know what environmental factors might be in play or to what degree they have any effect, I'm comfortable saying that homosexuality is a genetic trait. –  philosodad Aug 25 '12 at 15:25
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@RexKerr We know that there are genetic factors that influence whether someone is homosexual or not. We do not know if any parental behavior whatsoever has any predictable effect on whether someone is homosexual or not. We do know that parents do not control every aspect of a child's environment, and therefore the exact same parental behavior, given the immense complexity of environmental factors, is going to have different effects, so no, nothing that a parent does or does not do causes their child to be gay, and certainly nothing they do after the age of 11 will change them. –  philosodad Aug 25 '12 at 18:24
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Some straight people have feminine tendencies like Cross Dressing and it could be a case of your son exploring an identity, or your son could be gay. Either way is a different lifestyle choice that will make his life more difficult. In every society in the world being gay is a negative and will expose gay people to ridicule at best and death at worst depending on the culture and it's laws. The last thing your son needs is his family trying to change him and make him something other than what he is.

You are asking the wrong question, what you should be asking is "How do I support my son?" You can't make someone not be gay, they are or they aren't, it's not up to you. Acting like you can change someone is a form of Denial, and will lead to conflict. I know several gay people who are estranged from their families because they couldn't accept them, and it hurts both sides. If your son is gay then you need to learn to accept it. There are groups to help you come to terms with it, for instance PFLAG.

It may be a phase that your son is going through, or it may not. Either way the best thing you can do is support your son and encourage the rest of the family to do the same. It's not the answer you want I'm sure, but it's the answer you need.

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You shouldn't worry about your son choosing the female avatars. In fact, that may be an expression of heterosexuality, his interest in female characters.

So, like others have said, "effeminate" behavior isn't necessarily an expression of his future sexuality. Maybe he's gentle, and maybe he doesn't like traditional boys stuff that typically involves roughhousing and aggression. Maybe he prefers playing house to playing baseball. So what? It means he has a gentle persona. That doesn't mean he is gay. Gay means he has a sexual attraction to men. If he is not expressing this, then you have no reason to believe that he is actually going to become a homosexual man.

Liking girl's stuff may actually be the opposite of what you think. Hanging out with girls may be a way for him to get closer to girls - a way for him to earn girlfriends as it were. He can't earn them the traditional ways of being macho and cool. So he befriends them. Unfortunately he may have to contend with "the friend zone" in his adolescent life, but that's how it is.

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What is his school like ?, a lot of schools are very hostile to masculinity. If he is being indoctrinated to belive that what are traditionally feminine values and behavior are the normal and expected good behavior for everyone then that might cause your son to behave in a feminine manner.

Apprantly some people think this is a silly statement to make so i will put some links up to support this point of view. They will be baised towards the UK which is where i am from but i doubt the situation is any different in the US.

We don't do our sons any good by ignoring how the education system is letting down boys.

One in four primary schools in England still has no male registered teacher. In total, women make up three-quarters of registered teachers - which includes all state school teachers and also teachers in the independent sector who choose to register with the GTCE. Only 12% of primary school teachers are male, compared with 38% of secondary school teachers. There are just 48 male teachers in state nurseries. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14748273

Feminised curriculum 'has thrown boy out with bathwater' http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/jun/13/schools.uk3

Deborah Orr: The truth about our 'feminised' society http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/deborah-orr/deborah-orr-the-truth-about-our-feminised-society-441117.html

Feminising education is of benefit to no one http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/3641881/Feminising-education-is-of-benefit-to-no-one.html

The War Against Boys http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/304659/

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why the down vote ? –  matthew Aug 25 '12 at 20:07
    
I suspect it is the general tone of your response. –  Dave Clarke Aug 25 '12 at 20:21
    
I didn't realise there was a tone to my response. –  matthew Aug 25 '12 at 22:42
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"why the down vote ?" = because it's a rather silly statement. Any data to back up the claim? –  DA01 Aug 27 '12 at 6:39
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Interesting links, but questionable. The 'outdoor activities' article, for instance. A superb idea, but assuming 'outdoor activities' is male-centric, is quite sexist and rather missing the point. The rest of the articles seem to be griping about the imbalance of genders in teaching roles (a valid concern) but doesn't come to very pronounced conclusions and seems designed moreso to simply promote the phrase 'feminization of education' which smells very politically contrived. In either case, they are all referring to academic achievement--not affects on gender identity in children. –  DA01 Aug 27 '12 at 16:20
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If you want him to be "normal" treat it NORMAL. Kids at school will make fun of him and will be a bigger impact on his decision to act girlie or not than what you could say to him. Making him feel abnormal will lead to way more problems in his life than being gay. I live in Utah and have a cousin that recently said she was lesbian. Her parents are super religious (her dad was a bishop and now stake president in their religion) and very conservative. Obviously they wanted all their kids to be "normal" but the worst thing they could do is not be supportive, this would alienate them form their daughter and cause more stress in her life than already placed on her in society.

People who try to "pray the gay away" end up very hurt that they can not change their feelings and wonder why God hates them. Also, not all boys who play with dolls and do girlie things grow up gay. My son loves barbies and is now a star football player who is obsessed with girls. My friend's son wanted clothes for his "dolly" for his 4th birthday, now rides BMX almost at a pro level and loves the ladies.

Here is a video that has BYU students talk about their experience at BYU and with their family, thoughts of suicide because their parents wouldn't want them to be gay and death would be better than letting people know they were gay.

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