Am I pushing my son to be straight?

I'm as liberal as they come, so why does it bother me when my 6-year-old kisses another boy?

Published May 31, 2011 9:20PM (EDT)

Ask me about politics, and within two minutes' time, you'll peg me as the most bleeding heart liberal you've ever met. And I wear that badge with pride. Many of the big rights issues of our time -- equality for women, African-Americans, the disabled -- have ostensibly been won. So I'm left to rage against the injustices our gay brothers and sisters face. What makes this easy is my sincere affinity for the culture: the show tunes, the raunchy jokes, the endless grooming, Fire Island, Barbra Streisand and now Lady Gaga. I'm with you, even if I'm not, you know, with you.

When my son was born, we raised him on the folk music of the '60s. When Jacob went from taking tiny first steps to dancing in the kitchen with me, I loved it. His natural affinity for dance left me brazenly bragging, "If he wants to take ballet, I would gladly support him." My liberal husband flinched slightly but he accepted it. We both knew ballet doesn't make somebody gay. Sexual orientation is born, not made.

As he got older, Jacob expressed no interest in ballet. At 6, he's busy playing sports, making friends. And he's an affectionate child, physically demonstrative with me, his grandparents, his sister and his friends. Especially his friend Max. They are best buds, and I've watched them grow together with affection. Yet, there are times when I physically remove them from each other.

"We don't touch our friends," I've lectured them a million times. "Hands to yourselves."

Eventually, this graduated to, "We don't kiss our friends on the lips," and, "We don't touch anyone's wieners but our own!" (Yes, I'm that annoying mother who speaks in the inclusive plural.)

If my son grows up to be gay, well, I'll embrace my son-in-law with open arms. But right now he's 6 years old and I find myself denouncing "gay" behavior, no matter how normal it might be in a developing child. I know I'm walking a fine line. If he's "born this way," I'm harming his self-esteem; but, in reality, I'm not going to tell him it's appropriate to kiss and touch other boys.

My true litmus test is asking myself whether I would react the same way if his friend was a Maxine. The brutal, unvarnished truth? No. Of course, I would discourage inappropriate touching, but I might think the relationship was cute. I might suggest they get married when they grow up. I might take a picture so I could show him his first girlfriend when he's older.

In the end, I'm not ready to put my money where my mouth is. Not yet. When it comes to my 6-year-old son, I don't react to "gay" and "straight" behavior in the same way. I'm only a supporter in the abstract.

A hypocrite.

By Jaime Franchi

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