If I loved my children

Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman asked me to contribute to her article on the hate mail and threats received by female bloggers, as we seem to be particularly prone to receiving threats of a sexual nature.

The article is here, but the one thing I did note, is that although I do receive a fair amount of threats relating to sexual violence, threats of general violence are by no means limited to men. Some of the most hateful stuff has been written by women, but women by and large tend to articulate their violent reaction in a different way.

Whereas men seem to want to express their rage in the form of sexual violence, women articulate in it a way that often seems more carefully crafted. Using the metaphor or analogy of a missile, the comments that allude to rape and sexual violence are the equivalent of being at the receiving end of a boulder pushed off a cliff, as depicted in cartoons. Like Wile E Coyote, the sexual jibes knock the stuffing out of you, you are flattened, crushed but spring back into shape pretty quickly, ready to carry on. There is a comic element to men who are obviously so sexually inadequate and insecure that they seek to project the contents of their twisted fantasies onto you, and though desperately unpleasant to read, I wonder if it’s the emotional equivalent of a safety valve, perhaps that’s how they get their jollies, dishing out sexual abuse in a purely anonymous fashion. The worry is always that they won’t be able to keep their fantasies in perspective. If describing how they would like to commit sodomy or other vile acts (I confess to having to reach for the dictionary on occasion, not understanding what noodles had to do with anything) means that I save someone else from receiving the filth, who is less able to take it, that’s all well and good. I’ve set up a pretty effective spam filter in any event, which means that I’m no longer subject to it on a daily basis.

I wonder whether or not I might be hardened to it by my time spent as cabin crew? I remember once a customer filled out a comments card with the following immortal phrase:

“I thought that air hostesses were supposed to be good looking but that Caroline is a complete dog”

My manager suggested that I didn’t submit the card to head office, and checked I was alright, but I was happy to let it go through. The passengers on that particular route were known to be an unruly bunch (Ibiza charter, taking off at midnight on a Friday & Saturday night, giving the young revellers the opportunity to spend all night in the airport pub) and I wanted management to see the level the grief that the crew was subjected to.

I remember recording the following on a flight report, after an incident which had culminated in the Spanish police (who incidentally take no nonsense whatsoever, on they charge with batons aplenty) coming on board to arrest an unruly passenger.

“I asked the passenger if he could put his shoes on for take off , as he was sat next to the exits in an ABP seat. He replied in the negative and told me to get f*cked. I politely explained that if he didn’t put his shoes on, I would need to move him due to safety regulations, but that he could take his shoes off again immediately after take-off. The rule was, I said, for his own safety, whereupon he kicked me in the face and said “suck my toe b*tch”.

Ironically one female commenter felt the need to make the following comment in relation to my post. I have tried to respond, but the New Statesman seems to have a problem with its comments facilities.

I wouldn’t wish for one of your children to turn out to be gay – their sexual orientation will be what it will be, and with a homophobic parent like yourself, a child who’s lesbian or gay will have a much unhappier adolescence than any child should have. But it’s possible, if you love your child, that your love for your lesbian or gay child might just change you so that you were no longer homophobic.

Or less so, anyway.

So, surprise surprise, I am “homophobic”. Yawn. She has clear and concrete evidence that I wish to inflict hurt, harm and hatred upon people with same sex attraction as well having a deep-seated terror.

She knows exactly what my reaction will be if my childen express any tendencies towards same-sex attraction when they are younger. I suspect the reality is that my attitude would be infinitely more open-minded and compassionate than hers. For the record I will be encouraging my children to abstain from sexual activity until they are married and I will try my hardest to prevent them from engaging in any underage sexual relationships regardless of sexual orientation.

Furthermore if any of my children profess to having a crush on another woman, I wouldn’t encourage them to jump to any conclusions about what their sexual preferences might be, as my understanding is that adolescence is often a time of conflicting sexual feelings and emotions. I certainly wouldn’t be in any rush to pigeon hole them into any particular category, because there is a lot more that defines us as people than our sexual preferences. I would encourage them to wait until they are older and have had more general life experience before jumping to any hasty conclusions or doing something that they may later regret.

I would not tell adolescents who thought they might be gay, that they were evil, but would advise about not allowing oneself to be driven by or indulge sexual feelings. I would encourage my children to wait until adulthood before coming to any conclusions and hopefully, if they share my faith, help them to find ways of finding comfort and support. If they reject my faith, they will still be my children and I will still love, support them and be there for them, even if I cannot condone or sanction the decisions they make as adults. Pretty standard parenting stuff all in all.

But no, if I really loved them, I would change my attitude. Sexual satisfaction and romantic relationships are the only path to happiness. Encouraging appropriate sexual behaviour will deny adolescents of their rights to be happy which may only be found via sexual relationships and sexual confidence.

It’s possible that I don’t love my children, and even if I do that won’t be enough and I’ll still have this abhorrent attitude that needs to change. Who said tolerance was dead and who said that the only kind of damaging comments were threats of sexual violence? And just about everyone missed the point that homosexuality was being used as a weapon in the threat to which I referred. Ouch.

23 thoughts on “If I loved my children

  1. I’m not sure if my previous comment went through, and if it did, well, take this as a more considered response.

    It’s all too easy, when you see homophobic comments being made about other people’s relationships, to point out by the most direct route that if the maker of those homophobic comments had similar comments made about her own marriage, she’d be shocked, hurt, and offended. Homophobic comments are personal comments – they’re personal to every lesbian or gay or bisexual person who hears them. A sweeping statement that a same-sex marriage is “outside the natural order”, or that it ought not to be allowed because it’s “not Biblical” may seem like a harmless impersonal statement of your views to you, because it’s not about your marriage. But to al the people whose relationships you are casually decrying, it is a personal comment – a nasty, offensive,expression of bigotry. And in many ways, inexplicable. If you’re really confident God loves you better than He loves gay people, why would you need to make a point of shoving the superiority you apparently feel in the faces of people you regard your inferiors? That’s how it looks to us.

    Moving on:

    Look, my mother was homophobic. Still is. I read your smug sureness about how you would be “Open-minded” and “compassionate” and it comes across as something my mother might have said. Because the things you say you would tell your lesbian daughter if she was brave enough to come out to you, are the kind of things my mother said to me.

    And when my mother told me what you say you’d tell your lesbian daughter, it hurt me more than anyone has ever hurt me since. Because I wanted my mother’s respect and support and unconditional love, and when she told me things like I shouldn’t “jump to any conclusions about what my sexual preference might be” (yes, after I’d thought about it hard for three years, and finally screwed myself up to tell her, she told me I was “jumping to conclusions”) because, she said that “adolescence is often a time of conflicting sexual feelings and emotions”. I knew then I didn’t have her respect or her support.

    She told me – consistently, for several years after I came out to her – that she didn’t want to “pigeon hole me into any particular category” – and that hurt me too because she wasn’t respecting my ability to know myself, nor was she willing to support me. She refused to accept me as a lesbian, she refused to seek out support for herself as the homophobic mother of a lesbian, because she kept saying “there is a lot more that defines us as people than our sexual preferences” – true, but she had no difficulty accepting that my siblings were straight.

    Your last quote “I would encourage them to wait until they are older and have had more general life experience before jumping to any hasty conclusions or doing something that they may later regret” could have been word-for-word my mother said to me. It was horrible and horrifying. I cried, and I felt alone. I knew my sexual orientation. My mother claimed to love me, but wanted me to deny what I knew about myself – the coded term “general life experience” meant – she made clear – that I shouldn’t be socialising with the lesbian and gay youth group I’d discovered, I shouldn’t be hanging out with my new friends – all either gay or supportive – above all, though my sister and brother were engaging in normal romantic relationships for their age, I shouldn’t expect to do the same: my girlfriends weren’t welcome in the house and when I fell in love, my mother didn’t want to know. For her, all of that was the result of “hasty conclusions” and she hoped I would “later regret” being a lesbian.

    So when I say that you would make your lesbian daughter very unhappy, I’m speaking from personal experience. My mother rejected me because I am a lesbian. She doesn’t recognise that – she says she always meant to “love, support and be there for me” but she wasn’t, and she made clear, as you’ve just made clear, that she never would be, because she couldn’t condone or sanction the “decision” I made to continue being a lesbian, for the romantic and sexual relationships in my life to be with women.

    When I was a lesbian adolescent, my “confusion” arose from living in a homophobic culture that did not give me any cultural images of women in relationships with each other. I hope things are different for lesbian teenagers now. I needed my mother to love, support, and be there for me – and she thought she could do that while not “condoning” my sexual orientation. She couldn’t. No parent can. You can’t convince your child you respect and support her if you’re going to say those things to her.

    I did figure out that my mother does love me – primarily because I realised that every single other lesbian or gay person who had ever come out to my mother had promptly been cut out of her life completely. I was only cut out partially – my mother, like you, couldn’t “condone or sanction” my relationships, but she couldn’t quit loving me, even if she wanted to know as little as possible about who I was with. But unavoidably, her homophobic feelings created a gulf between us: she hurt me and she refused to admit she was hurting me, because, like you, she saw herself as being “compassionate and open-minded”. Over the twenty-five years since I came out to her, I’ve seen her become less homophobic – which is what might happen to you, with a lesbian daughter.

    And that’s a good thing. Less homophobia is good. But it’s a gulf of pain and loss and separation, and you’ll be the only one responsible for digging it between you and your lesbian child, even if you later figure out you need to try and bridge it.

    1. OK Yonmei, I will briefly respond – apologies if my syntax or wording is not as precise as it should be, I am cuddling my sick children whilst typing on an iPhone. My hope is that this answer will satisfy your constant clamour for me to respond to your comments.

      Firstly, I am sorry about the difficulties that you have experienced with your mother, as you state, she clearly does love you and thank you for sharing it. I am sorry that you felt so hurt and abandoned.

      I think there is a danger here of you transposing your experiences onto my situation. If my children were to turn out to have same-sex attraction, there is nothing to indicate that the situation would replicate the one that you found yourself in. After all, I am not the same person as your mother, nor are my children the same person as you.

      You seem here to set conditions upon love. You think that if your mother had loved you that she would have taken a different attitude, but love does not mean automatic acceptance or condoning something that you believe to be wrong or could somehow damage or hurt an individual. Though you will no doubt find this grossly offensive, I would be concerned for my children’s spiritual welfare were they to find themselves with same-sex attraction. Of course, no-one may impose their faith upon another, and thus it would always be up to my children to come to their own decisions, but yes as a person of faith I would worry. That is not born of homophobia or hatred, but put very simply I want everyone to enjoy the beatific vision, the Kingdom of Heaven, being gay does not exclude anyone from God’s love, but I believe that there is a definite danger of endangering one’s relationship with God by engaging in all sorts of things, of which extra-marital sex is just one. It’s not to do with sexual orientation, but to do with what I believe to be an authentic version of love.

      Again, I can foresee your apoplexy here, I am not claiming that people with same sex attraction don’t experience what they believe to be an authentic love, but I am referring to a very precise theological definition which states that sexual love should be within a marriage consisting of a man/woman and open to procreation.

      On a purely physical level, I would worry about my children not being able to have children of their own, unless they chose to go through IVF, which, as you know, I find highly unethical due to the number of discarded foetuses and the eugenic implications of the treatment. On a very personal level, I would worry about the long-term physical effects them pumping themselves full of artificial and synthetic hormones for a treatment which has, if you are lucky, a 25% chance of success.

      This isn’t about hatred, but there would be a fear and a fear that is not irrational. Given that in the latest ONS figures less than 1% of people identified themselves as LGBT, I’d worry about them being in a minority and yes to some extent proper homophobic bullying.

      I don’t actually bully people Yonmei, I’m very live and let live, what you get up to in your sex life is up to you, I voice my opinion on things like same sex adoption and marriage, because I think it’s a matter for public debate, given that marriage is a public institution and these things affect society, but having a negative opinion, does not equate to hatred or persecution.

      You, on the other hand, wish to constantly berate me for my faith and a perceived hatred, one that does not exist in reality. As I have repeatedly said, the tone of all your comments is laced with acerbic aggression. You describe me as “smug” for example. How on earth can you say such a thing with any certainty, not having met me.

      I have worked as cabin crew. I live in Brighton. I am well aware of LGBT issues and my attitude is one of tolerance. It’s not a lifestyle I would condone, but again, I have no wish to persecute you, I just wish some of the vexatious litigation such as that towards the B&B owners would stop.

      No-one in life is going to approve of everything that you do. Stop seeking to be so outraged that others have a contrary opinion and different ethics to you. It is not “wrong” or “hateful” not to condone an action that goes against your principles.

      In terms of pigeon-holing, the problem seems to be that so many gay people base their entire identity around their sexual preferences, which is just a part of what makes us human. You might have felt insulted by your mother’s response, having spent years realising, but perhaps she did not realise that at the time. Not everybody is the same as you though Yonmei, there are teenagers who are genuinely conflicted. I would not encourage any of my children to have sexual relationships as teenagers, regardless of sexuality. I will be encouraging them not to have sex before they are married, so sexuality won’t come into it.

      Respect and support do not entail condoning every single decision. I respect decisions that my family members make, despite the fact that I may well disagree with them. I respect that those are entirely their decisions, if asked I will give an opinion, I may well think it’s the wrong decision, but I accept that everyone has to do what they believe to be right. That is respect. Support means still trying to help, dealing with fall-out, offering your time and assistance. I support women who are traumatised post-abortion, support and condoning an action is not the same thing. I would support my children if they had teen pregnancies, despite not approving the action.

      With all due respect Yonmei, you have decided your own personal definitions of “love, respect and support” and feel your mother fell short.

      We all of us have difficult and complex relationships with our parents, I came to realise a long time ago, that Larkin was right!

      All any of us can do is our best and what we believe to be right. I am sorry its been difficult with your mother, but hopefully now you’ve realised that parental approval is not integral to personal fulfilment. I hope you come to reconcile with your mother. A gulf of pain and separation is usually a two way street. It seems you were only prepared to accept love on your terms and put a set of conditions upon it. That, I would suggest, is the key to your pain. I shall keep you and your mum in prayer.

      1. Caroline, I have to apologise. I deliberately didn’t read your comment at the time, because I was already feeling pretty vulnerable and didn’t really want to know what you had to say: I was pretty sure it was going to be hurtful. I find that the single line in it that makes me feel most for you is your typing it all out on an iPhone – I’ve watched my partner doing that enough times to realise that you did go to some effort. So now I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your effort sooner, and sorry for the hostile comment I made in reply to Somnelier’s, though to be honest, we both benefit by my being calmer.

        That said: No, Caroline. I gave you my personal story of what it’s like to be a lesbian child growing up with a homophobic mother because, that, at least, you couldn’t just dismiss as lies – but of course that allowed you to dismiss it as just one person’s reaction to her mother. I’ve known far more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have homophobic parents than you have. Your notion that you can be homophobic and still have a good relationship with your lesbian child, is completely false: you can’t. A homophobic parent either loses their gay child, or loses their gay child’s trust. You can’t hate/despise part of your child and not have your child know it. You can tell yourself that your public expressions of hatred and despite are really totally all about respect and love – but you can’t fool your child. You tell your child that her standing up in church and legally wedding the love of her life is “redefinition of marriage”, and she won’t take that as an expression of your love or respect. You can’t stop being homophobic until you at least accept that you are.

        One of the strangest and yet sweetest stories I’ve heard is of a wedding where the wedding arranger had to have two aisles arranged: because both fathers were determined they were going to walk down the aisle to the altar and give their daughter away to be married. And they did. That is parental acceptance: that is love. Would you be able to love your lesbian daughter so much you could be proud and happy when she married the woman she loved, delighted when your daughter’s wife presented you with your grandchildren? Maybe: but you’d have to walk back from all the homophobic things you’ve said about how marriage isn’t for lesbians or gay men.

        You keep saying, in blog posts of yours I’ve read, that you don’t think your well-publicised “distaste” for two men or two women having sex ought to be regarded as homophobic. Your own private feelings aren’t homophobic. Your belief that you’re entitled to share them with the world is.

        You ask, have I reconciled with my mother? Define “reconciled”? I see my parents several times a month. I’ve talked to therapists, I deal with it. My sister occasionally expresses a mix of irritation and envy that my mother is so completely disinterested in my personal life, when she’s so inquisitive about hers and my brother’s.

        You don’t appear interested if my mother has ever reconciled with me, but then perhaps you already know the answer is No. She is less homophobic than she was, and my coming out to her – my honesty with her – is the cause of that. But she’s not reconciled, because, like you I daresay, she honestly doesn’t perceive her inability to reconcile with me as homophobia.

        “Caroline, I have to apologise. I deliberately didn’t read your comment at the time, because I was already feeling pretty vulnerable and didn’t really want to know what you had to say: I was pretty sure it was going to be hurtful. I find that the single line in it that makes me feel most for you is your typing it all out on an iPhone – I’ve watched my partner doing that enough times to realise that you did go to some effort. So now I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your effort sooner, and sorry for the hostile comment I made in reply to Somnelier’s, though to be honest, we both benefit by my being calmer.

        That said: No, Caroline. I gave you my personal story of what it’s like to be a lesbian child growing up with a homophobic mother because, that, at least, you couldn’t just dismiss as lies – but of course that allowed you to dismiss it as just one person’s reaction to her mother. I’ve known far more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have homophobic parents than you have. Your notion that you can be homophobic and still have a good relationship with your lesbian child, is completely false: you can’t. A homophobic parent either loses their gay child, or loses their gay child’s trust. You can’t hate/despise part of your child and not have your child know it. You can tell yourself that your public expressions of hatred and despite are really totally all about respect and love – but you can’t fool your child. You tell your child that her standing up in church and legally wedding the love of her life is “redefinition of marriage”, and she won’t take that as an expression of your love or respect. You can’t stop being homophobic until you at least accept that you are.

        One of the strangest and yet sweetest stories I’ve heard is of a wedding where the wedding arranger had to have two aisles arranged: because both fathers were determined they were going to walk down the aisle to the altar and give their daughter away to be married. And they did. That is parental acceptance: that is love. Would you be able to love your lesbian daughter so much you could be proud and happy when she married the woman she loved, delighted when your daughter’s wife presented you with grandchildren? Maybe: but you’d have to walk back from all the homophobic things you’ve said about how marriage isn’t for lesbians or gay men.

        You keep saying, in blog posts of yours I’ve read, that you don’t think your well-publicised “distaste” for two men or two women having sex ought to be regarded as homophobic. Your own private feelings aren’t homophobic. Your belief that you’re entitled to share them with the world is.

        You ask, have I reconciled with my mother? Define “reconciled”? I see my parents several times a month. I’ve talked to therapists, I deal with it. My sister occasionally expresses a mix of irritation and envy that my mother is so completely disinterested in my personal life, when she’s so inquisitive about hers and my brother’s.

        You don’t appear interested if my mother has ever reconciled with me, but then perhaps you already know the answer is No. She is less homophobic than she was, and my coming out to her – my honesty with her – is the cause of that. But she’s not reconciled, because, like you I daresay, she honestly doesn’t perceive her inability to reconcile with me as homophobia.

        “I will be encouraging them not to have sex before they are married, so sexuality won’t come into it.”

        Well, so: you will be encouraging them not to tell you when they have sex, and to take any problems they have to someone other than you.

  2. And I want to say something else –

    I’ve just shared something very personal with you (and of course, now with the Internet at large).

    I know a lot of people who had very similar experiences to me. I could have written that comment in a less personal way, reporting the general experiences of people rejected by their parents in the way you plan to reject your lesbian daughter – parents who refuse to admit, as I suspect you intend to refuse to admit, that they are rejecting their children, denying them support. But I chose to write it in the form of a personal statement describing my own experience with a homophobic mother, because I felt that we might communicate better on that level.

    I could be wrong. I hope I’m not. But I am attempting to communicate my personal experience with good intentions – hoping you’ll respond the same way.

  3. But evidently, you prefer not to respond to this, but instead engage with me on a level which you can redefine as a personal attack on you. You don’t want to respond to this comment, and I do wonder if it’s because you actually prefer to engage with gay people who won’t ignore your homophobia, on a level which you can define as a personal attack.

    Interesting. And sad. And I think that unless you opt to respond to this thread, on this level, I should quit feeding you,

      1. Well, that’s rather my point. You found accusing me of personal attacks, and engaging in a complicated argument about what your gay acquaintances think of your homophobic beliefs, a “better thing to do with your time” than respond to me on a personal level. You found it better to try to twist the discourse into something you could define as a “personal attack” and to accuse me of hectoring you, than to respond where you would have difficulty twisting what I said into a personal attack.

        We can agree to disagree on whether it’s better to spend your time arguing and accusing than to engage on a personal level. Is that what you tell your children – better fight than discuss?

      2. Yonmei, I am going to respond to your other comments, which I do appreciate, when I have time to give a considered response.

        I appreciate your honesty in terms of your personal account.

        I am happy to discuss things in a civilised fashion, but if you re-read your comments, the level of personal aggression does not incline me to think that this is going to be fruitful.

        You have misread everything I have written, not once have I stated that homosexual/lesbian people are inferior or that I hate them or engaged in any “gay-bashing”.

        Quite the opposite. I believe that we are all of equal dignity and worth, regardless of race, creed, colour, gender or sexuality.

        With respect you miss the point and misinterpret almost everything.

        I am currently breastfeeding my baby in the nursery of my on-campus University, following a lecture and am about to feed the toddler her lunch.

        Please appreciate that this is my blog which I respond to when I have the time, but I do have greater priorities than to defend myself against a continual onslaught of comments, which are, quite offensive in tone, and berate me for not telling off another commentator.

        I really do suggest that you go to another site and vent your ire there.

        I am not intending to respond further. This is futile and I think it is clear who the troll is. I shall no longer feed.

  4. The only reason people use homosexuality as a “weapon” against you is because they know how upset you would be if one of your precious Catholic children turned out to be gay. The fact that you claim to be a feminist is laughable. Your beliefs make the world WORSE for everyone – especially women.

    I hope your children will be gay, because it might give them a reason to break away from your regressive beliefs and contribute to making the world a better place. Otherwise their future is the same as yours – slavishly supporting the crumbling Catholic church.

    People like you hold the world back from making any progress.

    You are happy to preach from your white, middle-class, stay at home mummy perspective without thinking about how your ignorant beliefs actively make the world worse for everyone. The biggest comfort I take from the existence of people like you is that you are part of a dying world.

    You are ridiculous. Catholicism HATES women, and it hates you. You’re a pathetic masochist.

    1. The problem with this comment, Sonneillon, is that it too comfortably fits into Caroline’s preferred narrative of herself as a persecuted individual. As she acknowledges in her comment to me, in her busy life she prefers to engage with hostile comments – her preference is to fight, to engage in battles, to provoke hostility – and then to blame those she provokes for being hostile. She doesn’t want thoughtful and personal conversations with people whom, in any case, she regards as her inferiors.

      1. Yonmei – I am afraid that your attempts at psycho-analysis fall woefully short.

        If you read through my blog you will note the following:

        1) I am a mother of 3 children
        2) I am a full-time student

        This is my blog, I respond as and when I have time. For the record I had 3 university presentations and a 5,000 word presentation due in at University last week.

        Secondly I spent the entire weekend at a training course with my young baby in Leeds.

        Thirdly, on my return home from Leeds, my baby came down with severe gastroenteritis which has spread to the whole family.

        Furthermore I had a 1200 word article and deadline to complete.

        So, as you can see all of those things, took priority, as indeed do my family.

        I respond to various blog comments as and when I have time, not dictated to by aggressive combatants who have nothing constructive to say.

        Two weekends ago, Yonmei devoted the whole of a Saturday and Sunday to writing extremely long blog comments. I did my best to respond promptly and give her the courtesy she deserves, however my family comes first. Following that I had university work to complete. Again that takes priority.

        Yonmei you have absolutely no grounds or evidence to state that I don’t want thoughtful conversations, you will see I often engage with those who disagree, but to be honest your whole aggressive and combatative style is absolutely no inducement to enter discourse when your entire disposition is one of personal attack and ad hominem.

        FWIW, I have been trying to give your very moving personal testimony some considered thought and I thought it was powerful enough to let stand on it’s own. I thought to attempt to tell you what you should or should not feel, would have been very disrespectful.

        However I shall respond with my thoughts, later, when I have a moment.

        My preference is certainly not to fight, or provoke battles. To borrow your narrative, this is a clear case of victim blaming. I want thoughtful and considered debate, what I do not want is invective such as this, or the pop-pyschology of someone who is absolutely furious that I dare to voice a dissenting opinion and who is not prepared to tolerate my viewpoint, whatsoever, having already decided the motivations upon which it is based.

  5. I think it’s a very sane thing to say to a child ‘Let’s just grow up first and see how you feel then’, I had feelings for girls in my teens and talked to my, very open-minded mother about it who said ” I’m sure all people feel attracted to someone of the same sex from time to time, just wait until you’re older and see if those feelings are the same, or if they change”. By by early 20s I began to see a very slow shift towards wanting to be married and have children (but not enough to actually date men!) and it wasn’t until I was 28 that I could say ” Women are beautiful, but I’m ready to date a man now”. As I’d been celibate all the while (I never believed in sex before marriage, so had I stayed more attracted to women, I would have stayed celibate) it was much harder to FIND someone who shared my views, but when I did it was wonderful to date without the pressure of sex, and get to know him properly. We’ve been married 11 years now and have 2 beautiful children. I don’t think it’s bad advice to teach children that they shouldn’t grow up too fast and that sex isn’t all-important. Looking back I think my mother was a wise old lady…if she’d said when I was 14 or 15 ‘Yes, sure bring a girlfriend home’, it might have got her kudos for being so open-minded…but I probably wouldn’t have met my wonderful husband, and wouldn’t see my beautiful daughters growing up. To each their own, but I think the harsh remarks against the blog-holder are a little over-the-top.

    1. “I think it’s a very sane thing to say to a child ‘Let’s just grow up first and see how you feel then’”

      Really? So why do so many parents crazily (according to you!) refrain from saying this to their sons when they say they fancy girls, or to their daughters when they say they fancy boys? If you’d told your “very open-minded” mother that you had feelings for boys, do you suppose she would have said to you “I’m sure all people feel attracted to someone of a different sex from time to time, just wait until you’re older and see if those feelings are the same, or if they change”? Or would she just have asked you nice social questions about the boys you were having “feelings” for?

      “if she’d said when I was 14 or 15 ‘Yes, sure bring a girlfriend home’, it might have got her kudos for being so open-minded…but I probably wouldn’t have met my wonderful husband

      Really? You think the man you love and married would have been unalterably put off you – refused to speak to you or get to know you – if you’d dated girls when you were a teenager?

      “and wouldn’t see my beautiful daughters growing up. ”

      You think dating girls as a teenager makes you sterile for life?

      It’s true, had your mother not insulted and denied your feelings, but instead respected and accepted you as you are, you might have had life experiences that you have not had. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have met the right person for you in the end – nor that you wouldn’t have decided to have children with him. (Unless of course you secretly feel that if you’d been allowed to date girls as a teenager, you would eventually have ended up in a relationship with a woman, because you still basically prefer women to men….)

      1. Yonmei I have allowed the comment, but please could we stay civil.

        Johanna doesn’t sound unhappy as a result of her mother’s wise advice, quite the contrary.

        Her sexual preferences are irrelevant in that they are no bar to her enjoying a loving and fulfilled relationship.

        That parting comment is a cheap shot and not something that I am altogether comfortable hosting, but have allowed some leniency in this instance.

        You seem to be uncomfortable with the idea that someone who *may* have a sexual preference for women is able to have a loving and happy relationship with a man. Why does this bother you and what have the poster’s sexual preferences have to do with this, unless you are going to attempt some pop-psychology based on your personal feelings.

      2. “You seem to be uncomfortable with the idea that someone who *may* have a sexual preference for women is able to have a loving and happy relationship with a man.”

        Steady on, Caroline! How on EARTH do you get that from what I wrote?

        FWIW, one of my oldest and dearest friends is bisexual – I went to her wedding this year. She thought she had a settled preference for one gender, but then the right person for her showed up in her life, and lo – she got married! very happily, thus proving that if you are bisexual, as I think probably many more people are than identify themselves to pollsters (or realise themselves – Tom Robinson is a famous example of a man who didn’t know he was bisexual until the right person appeared in his life) it’s very definitely the person who matters.

        It is entirely possible that it is good advice, if your daughter comes home from school and says “Hey, there’s this boy in my class I REALLY like!” for you to reply “Yes, dear, but supposing when you grow up you realise you really prefer women? Don’t commit yourself too early!” Are you going to tell your daughters that? You seem to think this is “wise advice” for teenagers who might not really know what their sexual orientation is… and given how mahy people discover a capacity to be attracted to both genders later in life, perhaps it is.

        “Her sexual preferences are irrelevant in that they are no bar to her enjoying a loving and fulfilled relationship. ”

        Her sexual preferences are hardly irrelevant – she’s a happy bisexual. That opens the possibility of a loving and fulfilling relationship with either a woman or man. I’m just concerned that her mother made her think that if she dated girls as she would evidently have preferred, she could never have a loving and fulfilled relationship – which is obvious nonsense, both from her own experience as a married bisexual, and from the direct life experiences of so many other happily monogamous bisexual people.

  6. Thank you Caroline. Yonmei, I can honestly say that my mother was right: those feelings did slowly subside as I grew up, and were gradually replaced by a deep desire to be a wife and mother. Had I acted on my teenage impulses (and I would say the same to a straight child: grow up FIRST) I may indeed have had lesbian experiences,but I’m sure I would have regretted it- I have never believed in sex before marriage-so as I said, I would simply have remained celibate. There are things I don’t compromise on, and that would have been one of them. To you it may have seemed narrow minded, but for me there is a great freedom in allowing the body and mind to mature, to grow up, get a job, see the world a little, before even thinking of settling down. By the time I was 28, I can honestly say my preference had shifted towards men. Now, I agree that may not happen to everyone, but by engaging in sexual activity at a time when the mind and body are still developing, it is virtually impossible to know what your true feelings are. I’m just very fortunate that I met my husband when I did, when I was ready for a serious relationship. We had a lot in common, and because we both felt sex was something for AFTER the wedding ceremony, we got to know each other properly by simply talking to each other, something we still enjoy doing now. Had I gone down the road of experimenting with my sexuality at the age of 14/15, I would probably have labelled myself, and been labelled by other people, as a ‘lesbian’ and chances that I then YEARS later would have felt able to admit my feelings for a man, are probably quite slim. When I was at university I had a very brief encounter with the ‘lesbian scene’ in the city where I studied in the Netherlands, and it was very feminist, very anti-man, in fact to me it was off-putting. There was a lot of posturing about how ‘we’ didn’t need men, but for the vast majority of time in history since the world began men WERE needed to keep the species going. For me depicting homosexuality as ‘another normal’ has never made sense: in nature we’ve always needed one female and one male to reproduce, so that is obviously how it was designed. Also, I wonder, would I have been able to stay with one partner for life, had I become sexually active at such a young age. At least by guarding my heart against any romantic involvement, with either sex, until I felt I was truly ‘ready’, I have saved myself a lot of heart-ache. I have enjoyed being single, I have enjoyed seeing the world and when I finally did get married I knew it was right, for me. These days I do tell my children to enjoy life, enjoy being children: the grown-up world can wait! I hope they will see the world, find a good career and learn about themselves first too, because I think these days sex is given far too much media coverage and children grow up far too fast. Young hearts are easily swayed one way or another, as many parents will tell you. I’m very proud, and grateful to my late-mother: she would have loved me, no matter what, I was her world and as long as I was happy I think she wouldn’t have minded what I did in life. But she was right: Grow up first, don’t put yourself in a box, give it time. Well, she knew: she was also 28 when she met my father, and 31 when I was born. I suppose we were both late-bloomers, and she saw that in me I think. I don’t regret following her advice one bit.

    1. Johanna, If you feel it was right for you to avoid all sexual experience till you were in your late 20s, then that was right for you. You are the only and best judge of what was right in your life: if you discovered in your late 20s a capacity to be sexually attracted to men when previously you had only ever been sexually attracted to women, many bisexual people do say that their attraction to one gender or another varies over time: it appears to be a normal component of human sexual orientation to be variable. (I can say for myself that while I have always and exclusively been attracted to women, who I have been attracted to has varied over time: and I certainly agree that a person is going to be a far better partner-picker in their late twenties after they’ve grown up, figured out what they want to do in life, seen the world a little (or a lot!) etc.

      I’m an advocate that people should do what feels right for them, according to their best judgement at the time, basically. (I’m not an advocate of parents encouraging their children to lie to them about when they have sex, which is the clear response of most kids when their parents and teachers tell them “don’t do it till you get married” – except for the ones who then just rush into early marriage.)

      “but by engaging in sexual activity at a time when the mind and body are still developing, it is virtually impossible to know what your true feelings are. ”

      Er… No.

      Each person has to do what feels right for them. Please note, I’m not disagreeing that you did what felt right for you. The first rule of knowing what your true feelings are is to be honest about what you truly feel. To tell another person “You can’t KNOW what your true feelings are because you are having sex!!! ” is insulting – is like me telling you “you can’t KNOW what your true feelings are because you DIDN’T have sex” (which I didn’t say, and won’t).

      “Had I gone down the road of experimenting with my sexuality at the age of 14/15, I would probably have labelled myself, and been labelled by other people, as a ‘lesbian’ and chances that I then YEARS later would have felt able to admit my feelings for a man, are probably quite slim. ”

      Er… No.

      I mean, just… No.

      You can’t know what didn’t happen.

      Many bisexual people (as noted above) discover their true sexual orientation (as you did) later, sometimes much later, than adolescence. Sometimes they’re already in a relationship with a committed partner, and the “discovery” is something they’ll never act on in real life because they are monogamous. You might still have met the man whom you married, realised he was right for you, and decided that you had to identify yourself as bisexual. If you have strong feelings for him, you would have had those strong feelings whether or not you identified yourself as lesbian or as bisexual. Your belief that you would not have been able to be honest with yourself about what your feelings told you, does suggest that your mother did a real job on your self-respect with her “wise” advice that you ignore your feelings for other women.

      “Also, I wonder, would I have been able to stay with one partner for life, had I become sexually active at such a young age. At least by guarding my heart against any romantic involvement, with either sex, until I felt I was truly ‘ready’, I have saved myself a lot of heart-ache. ”

      True. Falling in love with the wrong person means pain. That you opted to save yourself from love and pain by staying clear of romance is … well, fine, that was right for you, but … people do fall in love. It’s one of our human characteristics. If you love someone you make yourself completely vulnerable to them, and if they love you, they’re vulnerable to you. Yes, that means the person you love can hurt you worse than anyone else in the world, but telling kids “Don’t fall in love because you’ve got bad judgement at your age and you’ll only get hurt” is one of those pieces of advice that can’t be taken: it’s ordinary and human for people to fall in love.

      “I hope they will see the world, find a good career and learn about themselves first too, because I think these days sex is given far too much media coverage and children grow up far too fast.”

      As opposed to the good old days when girls got married at 12 or 13? I was just re-reading Laura Ingalls Wilder the other day – she got married when she was barely 16, and in “By The Shores of Silver Lake” she and her cousin hear of a girl getting married at 13. In the 19th century, in Victorian London, girls of 10 or younger were sold into brothels for adult men.

      “For me depicting homosexuality as ‘another normal’ has never made sense: in nature we’ve always needed one female and one male to reproduce, so that is obviously how it was designed. ”

      Well, if you look at how our closest relatives in nature live, how we were “designed” to live was in groups of males and females, with affection and sociability expressed by sexual contact without regard for gender, and females coming into heat (and therefore becoming sexually attractive to all the males) on a regular basis unless pregnant or breastfeeding. I’m quite glad we don’t live as we were “designed” to live – I’m happy being monogamous with my partner, and it sounds like you are too. Why wish for “Nature” when that would mean sex with the dominant male of the troop whenever you went into heat?

      1. I haven’t got time right now to engage with this at length, but I am intrigued where you have got the notion about how you believe humans are designed to live. By looking at groups of monkeys and apes?

        You might be intrigued to learn that experiments on a colony of macaque monkeys showed that they all engaged in solely heterosexual behaviour up until the females were given contraceptive hormones whereupon all the males began homosexual activity, having lost interest in the females. Once the contraceptive hormone was withdrawn all male to male activity ceased. Lesbian activity is not commonly observed in primates to the best of my knowledge.

        When it comes to only engaging in sexual behaviour when “on heat” as you so charmingly put it, I practice fertility awareness and thus any sexual activity has to occur outside of this small window. Secondly I am currently exclusively breastfeeding a small baby and find the concept that I am not sexually attractive as a result, rather spurious. As does my husband!

      2. “I am intrigued where you have got the notion about how you believe humans are designed to live.”

        Well, when people (as Johanna did!) introduce the hypothesis that we live the way we do because of how we are in Nature, I do tend to point out that if that were so, we’d be living like chimps! And we don’t.

        We have thousands of years of recorded history and our contemporary cultural observations to tell us that the normal range of sexual orientation for human beings is heterosexual to homosexual. People who try to argue that homosexuality is “outside Nature” are arguing an absurdity as far removed from facts as people who argue against evolution or people who argue that humans are “naturally” meant to live in mixed-sex monogamous pairs.

  7. Yonmei, thank you for sharing. I think we all make choices in life, and I suppose I can see where you’re coming from. However, I have read similar things to what Caroline mentioned about the effects of the pill on men, and on women’s choices of partners and I do wonder if in the future the ‘rising figures’ of homosexuality will be linked to the rise in chemicals, contraceptives and pollutants. I know from charting my fertility -when we were trying to have a baby- that my husband was naturally more drawn to me when I was ovulating, so nature does seem to have a mechanism in place to ensure the potential for conception. But I concur with Caroline that he finds me attractive all month long ;-)!

    1. “and I do wonder if in the future the ‘rising figures’ of homosexuality will be linked to the rise in chemicals, contraceptives and pollutants”

      I think the rising figures of people openly identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are easily explained by the legal system not trying to lock us up any more and society in general not trying to kill us – and of course the centuries-long revolution in women’s rights ensuring that a woman can live independently of her father without having to be married to a man, so that lesbians are no longer forced into marriages against their inclination.

      Trying to blame your attractions to women on “chemicals, contraceptives and pollutants” seems a rather self-hating way of thinking about your own sexual orientation.

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