‘Gay’ Is a Label My Kid Didn’t Need to Learn But She Did Anyway

I used to have a “straight but not narrow” magnet on my car. It fell off (or was stolen) a long time ago, but it summed up my family well. We are pro-marriage equality, pro-LGBT rights, anti-hate.

My husband and I are heterosexual parents raising our little girl to believe that love is love. Period.

But I have to admit I was shocked when my 8-year-old daughter used the word “gay” the other day.

Shocked because I realized I’d never explained to her what it meant. Shocked because when I pressed her to see if she knew what she was saying, she looked me in the eye and said “Uncle D. and Uncle W., they’re gay, right?”

Right. Her beloved uncles are gay, and although the Supreme Court finally declared unconstitutional a key portion of the Defense Against Marriage Act that denies them the rights afforded my own nuclear family, the fact is my daughter still can’t dance at their wedding. They live in one of the more than 30 states in our nation that still deny gay couples the right to marry.

She hates that. In the way that only an 8-year-old can be angry at an entire state, she has bunched up her little fists and glared at me and pronounced the entire state of Pennsylvania “mean.”

But she’s never used the word “gay.” Until now.

I’m not upset that she knows the word, not angry.

The fearmongers clutching their pearls earlier this week when the New Yorker released a cover featuring the backs of creatures with a marked similarity to Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie to celebrate the repeal of DOMA’s section three worry that allowing kids to acknowledge sexuality means forcing them to think about sex.

I know better. My daughter knows about sexuality. She knows that her mother and father love each other, that her uncles love each other. And not once in her 8 years on earth has she mentioned sex.

She’s a normal kid. She sees love and only love.

Kids don’t equate sexuality with sex. Adults do.

So yes, I’m fine with my daughter knowing that gay people exist.

But I’ve put off this day for years, put off using the word “gay” because I didn’t want to put a label on love. I didn’t want her to think of her uncles as other, as different from Mommy and Daddy. They aren’t. They put their pants on the same way. They get up and go to jobs and buy groceries and watch TV and eat cheese and pledge the flag.

They are Americans.

They are people.

Who just happen to be gay.

Do your kids know the word “gay” yet? How have you discussed it in your house?

Have you “liked” Inside Out Motherhood on Facebook yet?


  1. I know this day will come at our house, but so far we haven't used labels. I have told my sons about recent Supreme Court decisions, in terms of "some people don't think other people should get married, like your E's dads or A's moms, and that's not fair or kind or right." But I haven't labeled anyone as "gay" or "straight." I've just said that some people think that men should only marry women and women should only marry men. My three-yr-old, at this point, if he sees two guys walking down the street together, assumes that it's "two daddies." He doesn't yet understand that sometimes two men can just be friends, because he's never seen two men together who aren't a couple. 🙂 I know one day they will learn the labels, but I'd really rather they didn't. It feels like a loss of innocence.

  2. My children have been raised with all types of people. We have 'gay' friends so it wasn't unusual for them. Until my middle son came home from school one day asking what gay was. We explained in an age friendly way. He shrugged his shoulders and that was that. Until a few days later when he came home and said he might be gay because he loves his best friend. 🙂

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