“Coming To” Versus “Coming Out”
Many children present themselves to their parents as non-conforming to gender stereotypes, i.e., the little boy who loves lipstick and girls clothes. In some families, this happens at a very young age.
Whether this child grows up gay, straight, or somewhere else along the continuum is not today’s question – today I’m thinking about the idea that children are not “in the closet” right away, not when they are young. So, a lot has to do with the parents’ reactions. Not everything of course, society does plenty of instruction on gender roles, but parents will respond. Maybe with confusion; maybe they
ignore the non-conforming behaviors; maybe they are indifferent or supportive – somehow, they respond. We live in a world where the ideas of “Boy” and “Girl” are very powerful and often seen as either/or.
Some parents will be disapproving or angry if their child is non-conforming to their expectation about gender behaviors. some sisters and brothers will be embarrassed. Some children will try very hard to comply with their parents’ wishes. This opens the door to the “closet”.
What can parents do? After all, most parents are dearly trying to bring up healthy, happy kids who will find their place in the world. And all parents are faced with the job of trying to be responsive to their particular child (complete with unique needs, abilities, and difficulties). One area where we can all do better as parents is to try to respond to the real child, not to our own wishes and expectations. We can help our children remain authentic and not have to create a “false self” in order to be
acceptable to us.
some source material from: D. Ehrensaft, Ph.D. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 2011, V.28#4 528-548.
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