Q: I teach fifth grade, and every fall we study genealogy and create what are called “family trees.” I have a new student this year who has two dads, and I think he’s adopted. How do I handle this topic appropriately in class?
A: First of all, kudos to you for being sensitive to this subject—the family tree project can be a tough one for adopted children – actually for anyone whose roots don’t match the classic format, whether that means kids with two LGBT parents; single parents of any kind; or grandparents and any other adults serving as their guardians.
The wisest approach is to discuss the lesson with the child’s parents in advance so you can develop a plan as partners. In fact, don’t be surprised if the dads approach you directly about how the larger topic of how their sexuality may affect their child at school. No doubt, they’re worried about potential name-calling or bullying. As for the family tree lesson, this topic has likely come up for them already, so they may have some good ideas on how to handle it smoothly. Let the parents know that you respect their family structure and want to honor it in a way that instills pride in their child—which is, after all, the whole point of the lesson.
Finally, when it comes time to start the project, do your best to explain to the entire class that families come in all different shapes and sizes, even presenting some varied examples that include gay families and others. And then see where your new student takes the exercise himself, with your guidance if necessary.
“How does my daughter know she’s gay?”
Q: Last week my 17 year-old daughter told me that she’s gay and has a girlfriend. I think she’s really too young to fully understand her sexuality and want to ask her whether this lesbian relationship is really just a phase. Is that okay?
A: Not really. This question is usually posed as a means to deny or object to someone’s true sexual orientation, and it can be perceived as either uninformed or at worst hostile. Even those who may “questioning” their own identity or experimenting have a right to decide whether they want to embrace some particular term or identity (and I’m not suggesting that’s the case for your daughter). When someone comes out to you – especially a child of yours -- keep in mind that she has given this matter much thought and has also put great trust in you. It’s not likely to be a “phase,” just as your own sexuality, when it first came into bloom, probably was not. And you probably knew at 17 that you were straight, right?
“My friends want to set me up with every gay guy they know”
Q: I moved east about six months ago as a single guy. While I do happen to be looking for a boyfriend, I find it very annoying that every straight person I’ve met knows one gay man to set me up with. You know the drill – the gay neighbor, the gay hairdresser, the gay mechanic, the gay lawyer. I certainly appreciate all the good intentions, but how do I explain that just because I am gay doesn’t mean I want to be matched up with every gay man they know?
A: Hey, be thankful that you have so many friends who care enough to try and set you up. And while another man’s sexual orientation is not enough to make him the match of the century, it’s also true that meeting someone through a friend gives you a leg up over a chance encounter online or at a club. Definitely don’t be snarky with your matchmaker friends. Instead of giving them the “just because I’m gay” line, ask questions about the guy: How old? What line of work? Truly single? Funny? Smart? Red-headed? Why do you think we might be interested in each other? Don’t make it into an inquisition, but find out a little about the potential date—besides the fact that he’s gay. If you like what you hear, ask for an introduction -- on email, through a social media site – or let your friend know it’s okay to give out your phone number. And even if you don’t end up going out with a particular fellow, thank your friend for trying to help you out. And keep trying.
“Looking for a second date but don’t want to beg”
Q: I had a wonderful evening earlier in the week with this woman I met in the neighborhood wine store. The sex was great, too. I called her a couple of days later and haven’t heard back. How many times can I call back before I look like a loser?
A: Give it one more shot. She may have lost your number, been out of town, or otherwise been distracted. If she still doesn’t respond after a second attempt, it’s much more likely that was a one-night stand and she’s not interested in a second outing.
Steven Petrow is a past president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and writes for the Huffington Post and The Advocate. He’s also the author of “The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette.” Learn more at www.gaymanners.com