My 12-year-old son just told me he’s gay. How can I help him?

That’s the phrase I searched last December. All the time.

A month earlier he said to me and my older son, “I have an announcement to make to the family. [Pause for dramatic effect.] I’m gay.”

My older son said, “What the fuck! I knew it! Melissa called it!”

I said, “You’re gay?”

He said, “Are you surprised?”

I said, “No. I’m not.”

The first person we called is Melissa. She said, “Oh. Didn’t we already know that?”

When he was six he asked me if people kiss each other’s penises. When he was eight he asked where people put their penises if it’s two boys. When he was ten he started wearing makeup.

I was surprised to hear he had not been sure.

I figured not much would change. Outside of where we used to live, in very rural Wisconsin, I didn’t think I knew anyone who would care one way or the other if someone is gay.

He told his best friend, and she said, “That’s fine. I don’t care if you are gay or straight or whatever. You’re the same person to me.”

I stopped her mom the next day and relayed the conversation. I said, “Her response was perfect. Thank you so much for raising a kid like that.”

At another friend’s house he announced he’s gay at the dinner table. The dad said, “Congratulations!”

I never would have known to say congratulations, but what a lovely thing to say. I texted the dad to thank him.

Everyone he told was supportive except for one adult. My son said, “I have something to say. It’s big news. And it’s important: I’m gay.”

She said, “Are you sure? Are you just saying this to get attention?”

It’s hard for me to even write this. My stomach gets tight and my eyes water. I can remember my son looking over at me, and I knew I had to say something. I said, “That is not a good response.”

I had no idea what else to say. Even now, I don’t know what to write. She said more things, to defend her comment. Which made the situation worse.

But I learned something from my son after that. He knew it was a terrible response and that she was showing that something is wrong with her, not him. He made an eloquent speech to me about people expressing themselves through their discomforts.

I said, “Where do you learn this stuff?” And it turns out he’s been watching YouTube videos about coming out for months. He prepared himself so well.

But then one night a few weeks later he called me into his bedroom. He was crying. He said, “I’m scared of being different.”

How did I not notice that?

I hugged him.

He said, “I don’t wanna to be an outcast.”

I felt so stupid for thinking everything would be fine. Of course he wants to fit in. He’s a joiner. He’s a rule follower. He always wants to make everyone feel comfortable.

I started noticing more. He plays basketball on two local teams and a travel team, and he had always been the fun goofy kid. But now he was a wreck at basketball. He looked like what I’d expect twelve-year-old boy to look like in a roomful of girls. Even though it makes sense, it’s so striking to see the opposite happen. I had never thought of that.

And all his best friends are girls. So he is around lots of girls a lot of the time. But there was a party that was mostly girls and they played truth or dare and one of them dared him to kiss her… he didn’t want to. So he announced to the whole party that he’s gay. And the girl still wanted to kiss him. So he did it. And when he told me this he said, “It was terrible and I didn’t know what to do.”

I started searching again, trying to figure out what to do. Almost everything online was places for kids to go whose parents don’t support them. Then I found a place in Philadelphia that had stuff every day of the week after school for LGBTQ kids: The Attic Youth Center.

I knew it was a big deal to go because my son said to his older brother, “Will you come with? I don’t want to go alone.”

He said, “No! I’m not going, I’m not gay!”

I said, “You are going to support your brother.”

The three of us walked in. I paused. The kids were SO gay. Like, get-beaten-up-at-school gay. I had never seen such young kids being so obviously gay.

My son did not pause at all, so I followed.

One kid introduced himself immediately. Then another. Another kid said he’d give a tour. Other kids joined the tour. They offered him snacks. My son motioned to me and his brother to get lost, and then they all disappeared.

Thirty minutes went by. Forty-five.

He came back glowing. Self-confident like I had never seen him before. Then he asked me if we could go to a cupcake shop: “To celebrate!”

He gushed about how great the kids were. He said he felt so comfortable, and understood. He said, “They walk and talk like me, and they care about what I care about.”

He said they asked him what his preferred pronoun is.

“Really?” I said, “Do you have a pronoun?”

“I didn’t even know what a pronoun is. But they told me. So now I know my pronouns are he and him.”

While he was telling his stories he had way more affect than I had ever seen him have. The visit to The Attic freed him, and I hadn’t even known he needed freeing.

He wanted to go back the next day. So we did. But as soon as we got there they told us he is too young to be there. The laws in Pennsylvania say he has to be 14.

That was a very bad day.

I got the name of a therapist from a friend of a friend.

My son said no.

“Just go once,” I told him.

From her my son learned how to tell girls he doesn’t want to kiss them. But he also learned that it’s okay to want to kiss them. Everything is okay if it feels okay.

From the therapist I learned that everything I know is outdated. For example, I’m pretty sure kids don’t “come out” anymore, because it’s too binary. And “you’ll change when you get older” is a disrespectful response because we can know our sexual preference for right now and that’s all that matters. I learned that kids are coming out younger and younger because, as said, “Being gay is not about sexuality — it’s an outlook.”

“What?!” That’s what I said when she told me that.

And she said to my son, “I can understand why that doesn’t make sense to your mom. Does it make sense to you?”

My son said, “Yes.”

Now my son goes to the therapist alone. Once every week.

He told some basketball players, and nothing changed. Just as he hoped.

And this morning he said, “Mom, you should write a post. I don’t care who knows I’m gay. And maybe it’ll help someone.”

I worried about telling his story poorly. But actually, I’m telling you my story, of finding out my son is gay. And the story will change. Because that’s what stories do.

Other people have learned the infinite versions of one life lived from stories by Mark Twain or interviews with Susanna Kaysen. From writing resumes, I have learned that the idea of one, true story is a myth. A resume is only one snapshot of your life, and you actually have infinite ways to tell the story of your work.

The best story writers realize that no matter if the story is true or not, it’s a real story for the writer. That relieves an author of pressure to tell “the true story” or “the right story.” And the best resume writers realize that what you leave out may change the arc of the story but does not make it untrue.

I have left so much out of this story. More will come later, when it matters, perhaps. Other characters will emerge. Some will feel not so important. But for now, this is the story of how to have a son who comes out at 12 years old. How to help him. And how to leave a story behind for another mother to add to when she is searching like I did.

117 replies
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  1. JoanneBB
    JoanneBB says:

    I’m glad you have been able to support your son and really try your best with this. And I love that you are telling your story in hopes of helping other parents like you. Or rather, other parents with similar questions.

  2. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    This is lovely. Thank you so much for writing, and please thank your son for sharing his story. I know it is going to help so many people. And congratulations to you both!!

  3. Kirk Neal
    Kirk Neal says:

    Congratulations to you and your son. But not all gay boys are effeminate or bad at basketball, just like all gay girls are not butch.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      My son is great at basketball. He’s on a travel team. You make me want to edit the post. Actually, I think I’ll do that now.


          • Nia
            Nia says:

            No, that’s not right.
            Well, I would imagine you can fit in a lot of things when you don’t spend all day at school.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          He doesn’t go to school. He could never do both if he went to school all day. It’s one of the reasons homeschooling feels so much easier to me than regular school. Kids are so much easier to raise if you let them learn grit and determination by doing what they want to work hard at rather than what people tell them to work hard at. It’s so scary to aim really high and risk public failure. Scary for all of us. So we may as well train kids to do that with something they care a lot about.


  4. Lesa Townsend
    Lesa Townsend says:

    Penelope, I’ve been reading your blog for a very long time and I think that this is the very best post you have ever written. It brought tears to my eyes. I especially loved the end, “this is the story of how to have a son who comes out at 12 years old. How to help him. And how to leave a story behind for another mother to add to when she is searching like I did.” Thanks to your son for suggesting you share it. I am sure it will touch many lives.

    • marta
      marta says:

      Same here.
      I’ve been reading for years, often disagree (and very seldom comment) on most things P posts, but always come back because there’s a sense of raw honesty in her writing that is difficult to find nowadays, when everything has to be so “natural” and “slow” and whatever.
      This is beautiful.
      Love on ya!

  5. Pam
    Pam says:

    I briefly read your post. Why I feel you disclose too much information about your son? Please respect his privacy. I would not appreciate it, if my mother would post things like this about me. This is my opinion. Is a matter of respect, in special that some people are ignorant. Please take care of him and make him comfortable to tell you everything he feels. I hope he is surrounded by intelligent and loving people, who understand what real life is about. I would personally remove this post. Your son is 12, is still a young age, to decide regarding his privacy. In practice I would not know how to deal with your situation. This is where specialists would have to guide you. Also know that people like me are embracing everyone, wishing everyone a wonderful life. Yet, we know how difficult other people are, judging to a point that it does not make sense, to put it mildly. Sending my best wishes.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      You should have kept reading:

      “And this morning he said, ‘Mom, you should write a post. I don’t care who knows I’m gay. And maybe it’ll help someone.’

      I worried about telling his story poorly. But actually, I’m telling you my story, of finding out my son is gay. And the story will change. Because that’s what stories do.”

    • A
      A says:

      Pam, I think you missed the part where she says she wrote the post because her son asked her to write about it.

      • Sally
        Sally says:

        And there is a reason why adults make decisions for their young children. Just because he thinks it is a good idea does not mean it is!

  6. Gail K
    Gail K says:

    We have an organization here in Portsmouth NH called Seacoast Outright. It’s run by a board and a bunch of volunteers and they most amazing thing is the peer group that meets almost every Friday night. Kids come from very far away to be with other kids who are so ready to let each other be who they are, whatever that looks like. I know it was been a game changer for LBGTQA+ kids in our area. The ages range from 12-21, but the kids under 16 usually split into their own group as they have different things to work through then the older group.

    I wish you al the luck in the world. Your son is lucky to have you.

  7. celeste
    celeste says:

    I wish every gay kid in America had a parent who could write and feel this way. May it someday be so.

  8. Liz
    Liz says:

    Thank you for writing this and thank you to your son for saying it’s ok. I think this will help a lot of parents. So great Penelope!

  9. Kay Lorraine
    Kay Lorraine says:

    I always assumed that my youngest son was gay. Imagine my surprise when he married a lovely woman and they seem to be as happy together as two peas in a pod. I guess what I am trying to say is that I would have been fine with it either way. I would like to think that I would have handled it as beautifully as you did. You continue to amaze me….

  10. harris497
    harris497 says:

    I love how supportive you are, and I expect nothing less. I am more concerned that your older son dropped the F-bomb in front of you without flinching. Is it old school to expect kids to be respectful yet comfortable with their parents? Is cursing while in good spirits no longer disrespectful… am I a ludite?

    My2centsworth… probably not even worth a farthing…

  11. Sigrid Chu
    Sigrid Chu says:

    Hello Penelope,

    I would like to thank you for sharing your story as a mother and your son for allowing you to share his story.

    I have only recently followed your blog. I’m learning from you, not only on being a writer but also on being a mother.


  12. Anne
    Anne says:

    Thank you for sharing such an emotional family time with your readers-I will always love you for your truth and transparency as a writer and a mother. I applaud you for being there for your son no matter what he needs to tell you. Also, having him talk to a therapist is the most wonderful, loving thing you can do for him…
    He can discuss things with her that he might not be able to tell you.

    • A
      A says:

      I think the therapist sounds like a snot nose but as long as the boy likes her. Is he 12 or closer to 13? It just seems so young to be thinking of sex. Guess he’s an early bloomer

      • Adam
        Adam says:

        Hi. I’m 49. I grew up in Johannesburg in a conservative, male dominated, sports mad, racist, discriminatory society. I had never heard the word gay until I was about 12, and had no reference points to judge myself against; homosexuality was just not discussed. Ever. And yet…. I knew, without a doubt, that I was attracted to boys from the age of about four ot five. I liked girls to play with as friends, but I idolised and fantasised about being friends with the sporty, lean, sexy boys. Later on, these fantasies included sexual aspects too. 12 is definitely not too young to think about sex, I did, a lot!

  13. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    One interesting possibility to note: If being gay is not about sexuality, but is an outlook, and, if your son decides he does not desire to have that outlook (meaning, “be gay”) for whatever reason (like, “I don’t wanna be an outcast” or whatever), then there may be an avenue to explore for a resolution.

    I’ve heard this experience reported by some people who have chosen some guided spiritual exercises: When they went through the spiritual exercise of forgiving (which they chose to do for their own healing and happiness) a father figure for whatever wounding or failure they perceived, they discovered that their gay outlook suddenly disappeared.

    Of course, I am not saying that all people with a gay outlook have that outlook because they feel wounded or neglected by a father figure and haven’t released that yet through forgiveness.

    But it’s interesting to note that some people report having experienced a sudden shift in that outlook as a side effect when they chose for other reasons to forgive their father figures for their shortcomings.

    • Virginia
      Virginia says:

      Penelope’s son is not gay because of his father and you cannot cure gayness with spirituality programs. Those programs only teach kids to hate themselves and make them more susceptible to depression.

      Penelope, please continue to support your son. There is nothing wrong with him and he sounds like an amazing kid.

    • jarrod
      jarrod says:

      yeah, i’d stray away from this line of thinking. it’s not the most compassionate or generalizeable and won’t make people it’s describing feel good about it.

    • Hunter Woods-Zavaleta
      Hunter Woods-Zavaleta says:

      Sarah No. If he decides to not have that outlook and is no longer gay that just a normal part of development and questioning. The worst thing a parent could do is take their child to “Spiritual classes” to find out what “trauma” has made him this way. It implies something is wrong with you and if you cant change it your a failure. Do you know how many people commit suicide because of this? Penelope sounds like a responsible parent and if she felt her son had “trauma” she would take him to a licensed therapist for that, not an unlicensed church member who decides I can fix that broken kid. Yuck

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        Folks, you misunderstood the comment. It did not say to take him to spirituality classes and try to convert him away from being gay.

        It said that if he decides that maybe he wants to change his outlook for any reason, some people have noted that they’re gay outlook INCIDENTALLY changed when they went to a single guided session in which they sought to forgive a variety of people for various things, for their own emotional health.

        This is not any sort of conversion therapy, not does it have any aim but to help with forgiveness for one’s own emotional health.

        This is a widely embraced general strategy for making shifts that allow us to move forward: forgiveness. You can read about it all over the Internet. The details of the actual effects aren’t usually known beforehand, other than an emotional freedom.

        Any shift in an outlook would be a byproduct, not the specific goal. But if HE wants to explore the possibility ever of changing his own outlook (assuming the therapist is right and it’s an outlook instead of a hard-wired spirituality), he could try any guided forgiveness exercise to see what might be the side-benefits.

        As long as he has no specific expectations, and just explores openly with loving support no matter the outcome, no harm should come to him. He should not be made to be afraid to explore any option that may empower his deepest desires.

    • Dena
      Dena says:

      I don’t believe in gay conversion nor do I believe in affirming a 12 year old. Just listen love accept. I don’t think gay conversion should be illegal if someone wants it though. I can’t get on board with the idea that any kid is sure of their sexuality but I’d never go against my kids. I just think this overwhelming yes you’re gay here’s a cigar is odd too. Does he need gay friends if as you said he’s very happy with his current ones or is he looking romantically? So so so curious, how does a homeschooled kid meet so many girls? And didn’t you recently move?

  14. Sean R
    Sean R says:

    I ALWAYS look forward to what you have to say, no matter what the topic is. Your point of view always has great insights.

    This time, you’ve written such a beautiful story that it brings tears to my eyes. You’ve given your son wonderful gifts in so many ways. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being a good mom. I know you’re not perfect, none of us are, and we shouldn’t even try. You are there when it counts, and you really try.

    I’m an INTP and have spent so much time trying to figure out what it means to be human following a truly crappy childhood where I was beaten down randomly. I know what it feels like to be alone. My heart aches at all the conformity and how those who are different are treated.

    I hear stories about kids coming out, then being kicked out. I left home at 16. Luckily, it was at a time when jobs were plentiful, rent was cheap, and I could put myself through college. The stakes are so much higher these days, the ability to get by so much more fragile.

    Thank you for putting a small bit of positive peace in my heart. I need it today.

  15. cynthiawoodyard
    cynthiawoodyard says:

    Great job Mama, so proud of you for being such a fine example of how to deal! Wow!

  16. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    That’s very generous for you and your son to leave a story behind to help another mother. As we know, it’s the mothers who stay up all night searching online for help. I too, left a story behind once but it involved Down Syndrome/Autism/PANDAS/Seizures. Now I have a friend in Malta whose daughter could be my son’s twin. Taking the time to share your story could mean the world to another family.

  17. Laura
    Laura says:

    I don’t think you should keep announcing you’re gay. It makes it a centerpoint and it’s only one aspect of who you are I think it’s oretty weird for a young kid to be asking about kissing penises. What did they watch? Did you monitor them ever? Im bisexual and no pronouns aren’t an issue. Gender fluidity is a signal of class and it’s absurd anti science and turns people against accepting gayness inwardly. You can’t bully it not least of all with nonsense. This is a very accepting generation. Push craziness down People’s throats like forced insane pronouns and transgender rights in girls locker rooms(girls have rights too) then you get trump you get backlash and it’s understabdsble. I hate gay activism because it ends up a nudefest. Gayness is ONE ASPECT. Don’t make it all. He doesn’t need a gay click. Sexuality confusion isn’t uncommon in tweens so you have no right to be angry at the lady. If that’s the worst response you got consider it lucky. Try being bi in the 80s. People think it’s cute hot porn or rebellion or Hollywood experimentation and not real desire.

    • jarrod
      jarrod says:

      maybe you should rethink how some of the comments you’re making might make others feel.

    • Grant
      Grant says:

      This comment seems awful hypocritical- you say being bi in the eighties meant everyone saw you as porn or as a rebel. Try being transgender, now or then- everyone thinks you get off on it, or you’re a pervert, or you’re a predator. “Girls have rights too” is absolutely correct, but one of my good friends is a trans girl, and she’s the sweetest person you’d ever meet. All trans kids want to do is use the bathroom for its purpose.

  18. Laura
    Laura says:

    Ps I think it’s not cool
    To be posting this. He should’ve written the entry not you. You have no sense of privacy or boundaries.

    • Jackson Quinn
      Jackson Quinn says:

      Seriously read the whole thing if you are going to make a comment. The son literally asked for this.

  19. Laura
    Laura says:

    He does look kind of androgynous but I find it very handsome. I doubt he’s against being different. His hair is dyed (but everyone does that now) but he’s also homeschooled thatcreally makes someone diff but in a good way. Seriously though I didn’t grow up w social media. I’d be mortified if my mom outed me. Is he cool with this post?

  20. Shaun Cassidy
    Shaun Cassidy says:

    Thankyou for this!

    I am 52 and have wanted to tell MY coming out story, but i feel like its just a story, and not something that would help your son’s generation. Your story confirms the fact that, in 35 years, the world has changed significantly, and so have the mums of gay kids. Well done for being you and for helping him figure it out. And well done for knowing you cant be all that he needs and knowing to look elsewhere. BRAVO!

  21. Sharon Solomon
    Sharon Solomon says:

    You tell your son for me that I love him like a Jewish grandma! He’s a great person with a great family! He’s going to great things one day!

  22. Beth
    Beth says:

    Your stomach got tight and your eyes watered when someone said something that you felt was cruel to your son. That is the exact feeling that I have when YOU use the R word. I have a sister with Down Syndrome. Maybe now you will stop.

    • A
      A says:

      Ok but the r word has changed over time. Look at her use of beat up gay. Surely that’d offend someone. You can’t control Speech. She wants to be politically correct to be high class signaling (money not character) but she’s the most non Pc person, she’d get lynched by the Pc crowd pretty fast if she tried to fit in (and you see her trying) I have two kids with serious issues and I’m only hurt when people predict their future or stereotype or say something targeted and rude. If something isn’t targeted at you thicken your skin. Not just for yourself but for your child. I’m serious.

      • Grant
        Grant says:

        You are incredibly cruel. Telling someone to thicken their skin has no effect on the “thickness of their skin”. This person was trying to make a point. You are trying to hurt them.

    • Jackson Quinn
      Jackson Quinn says:

      Thank you for coming out and saying this. I personally hate it when people use queer or fag in derogatory ways. However, I have also learnt that sometimes people don’t necasarily mean to be offensive to minority groups. This doesn’t mean it’s okay, it just means that it takes time to get people to realise how hurtful their comments can be. We need to approach this issue with compassion not accusation.

  23. Rebecca Stafford
    Rebecca Stafford says:

    If only all LGBT kids had parents like you Penelope (and, for that matter, if only all kids had parents and caregivers who modeled unconditional acceptance and love).

    Congratulations to you and your son.

  24. Graham
    Graham says:

    As a therapist, I know that confusion about oneself is fueled significantly by the confusion we experience from others towards us. Your willingness to let your son lead the way is so precious. He is lucky to have a mother like you.

  25. A
    A says:

    First off gay is sexuality. To state otherwise is to confound an already confounding situation for a young kid. He doesn’t need an indoctrinating smug therapist who acts like mom is not woke. The pronoun obsession is a power grab and you can’t compel others to use silly pronouns. Nor should you.
    No one doubted you’d support him but where is his dad and stepdad in all this? You seem to feel Kids don’t need two parents which is fine but why erase two dads? Maybe it’d help him to talk to one of them. Didn’t you think both kids were autistic at one point? I know there’s love but one thing that’s ruffled me since day one is your competitiveness and exploration of resources. Your services took from other kids. But only the best for you. Use the farmer for a farm upbringing for your kids then discard him when he won’t give up his whole life. There’s such a sense of entitlement a lady can’t even ask a question that while rude should hardly constitute anti gay thinking. I mean all you do is pine for attention and how can that not rub off? For you attention is validation. You need to be famous or have your kids be. You’re like the anti heroine in sunset blvd. Your best friend is nowhere near your age making you more a mother figure. There’s not a single thing about you that seems autistic but there are other diagnoses that seriously fit. I don’t believe in validating any feeling anyone has let alone a young kid. Gay fine. But you’ll raise a monster is everything is valid. What if he said he didn’t want to be a world class cello player you’d go Beserk! Don’t stereotype rural people. If 70% of people accept gay it ain’t just city folk. But many people including us City folk loathe obnoxious gay activism. So so many gay people. I worry you’ll promote this in him or use his sexuality to advance career goals same as you did with the meaningless Spanish last name. I don’t understand how you’re not in therapy after parental abuse because you have huge issues in your personality as a result. I read this post less as you being scared and celebrating your son and more as yet another look at me look at me. Again no one doubts you adore your kids. No one thought you’d ever not be accepting. Newsflash most gay kids ARE accepted by parents. I even saw it on the stupid Mormon polygamy show. The mornon Dad parents accepted it immediately. And I understand parents who worry who wanted grandkids or have certain religious beliefs- it’s not easy. For you religion is vague. It isn’t for everyone. If sexuality is all about how you feel and not how you’re born you’re going to validate people who want to change it. I think sexuality is inborn but now the culture is encouraging experimentation which is fine but don’t be surprised by others not buying in. If you live in a major city being gay is as uneventful as being bald. It’s silly to expect never to have a bad experience. But you can have that as easily for being Jewish or you know the whole nasty white guy privilege business. You prob buy into that but point is everyone takes crap for something. You can’t protect him from the world. He feels very loved and very supported. He’s super talented and interesting. He’ll be fine.

    • ab
      ab says:

      A, the tone and content of your rant perhaps reflects your need to remove the beam from your eye before picking at the speck in other’s eyes

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      Are you able to block that person who claims to be an “A”? I give that last response an “F”!
      Love your family ♥️

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I try to not block commenters. I think it’s important to hear the people who totally disagree or have a different frame of reference.

        If someone starts taking over the conversation with stupidity I jump in. Usually I’ll tell someone they can’t comment any more on that string.


      • Brooklynhype2012
        Brooklynhype2012 says:

        Suzan, listen to yourself and evaluate your desire to “block” someone who doesnt share your opinion. Hats off to Penlope for her response. Your blog is definitely worth reading.

  26. Jo
    Jo says:

    I really want to understand this “Being gay is not about sexuality — it’s an outlook“.
    For me, I’ve known I was kinky my whole life, starting as a kid, but I also knew the last thing I ever could do was tell anyone. That changed when I was 25. It’s a huge weight off me. And yes the sex is part of it, but it’s not everything. I feel like it’s who I am. I’d really love to read research that explains this more in depth.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Kids are coming out way before they are sexual. Which means they are identifying their non-sexual outlook as gay. I see my son trying to figure out how to connect with kids as friends and straight kids don’t seem like a match. It reminds me of the gay kid in the show Big Mouth who is sort of commentating on school life instead of being in the midst of it — because his outlook is different.


      • Morgan
        Morgan says:

        Gay children that don’t come out during their school age years are almost always commentators, unless of course they pretend to be straight. I had a few male gay friends in middle school and high school. They did not relate to straight boys and a lot of them feared socializing with each other because they didn’t want to be outed. Being a teen is awkward and when your sexuality does not link up with the social norms in your community it’s even harder. It’s hard for schools to create a “gay community” to make the gay kids comfortable because then you have the parents that don’t even want their kids exposed to that. Sexuality has got to be a much easier thing to deal with when you’re home schooled and not forced to conform to any type of social norms.

  27. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    You’re a great mom. And it’s a great story about a boy’s self-discovery and how his mom tried to help him get to a place where he can be his true self.

  28. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I, for one, found this post shocking.

    You let your son the cellist play basketball? Do you know how common finger injuries are in basketball?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s funny. Yeah. It’s a problem. I worry a lot. Sometimes I step in: He has played a team two times where there’s a really rough player. My son took three charges the first game and five the second game. I told the coach my son is not playing in the next game against that team. And I don’t let my son do push-ups as punishment for missed baskets because I think it damages the kids’ wrists.

      He has given up so much for cello. It’s hard to know where to draw the line.


      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        It is hard to know how to advise one’s children about risks. My son practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with adults, and I worry sometimes about a wrenched shoulder. He’s had no injuries so far, either from rolling or from thousands of pushups and burpees.

        At his current school, my son gets pressure on a constant basis to join the football team (he’s 6′ and 250 pounds at age 13). But he has ideas about which sports would pose too much of a risk (influenced by his viola teacher’s opinions), and those include basketball and lacrosse as well as football. His teacher would probably drop a student if he messed up his fingers from sports. I’ve seen him tell a girl’s parents she should quit after she came in repeatedly with torn up hands from crew.

        My son is headed to a private school in the fall, where he will of course have to play sports all three seasons, but they don’t have a football team and their basketball team is too good to want him, so it’ll be less pressure.

        That said, he rode horses for years when he was little. Horseback riding trumps all the team sports for hazard. What was I thinking? I dunno… everybody should know how to ride a horse?

  29. me
    me says:

    “Mom, you should write a post … maybe it’ll help someone.”

    What an awesome, thoughtful kid: to want to help others by having his story shared.

    His maturity and self-awareness – at 12 years old – is inspiring.

    Bravo, little brother.

  30. A
    A says:

    “The best story writers realize that no matter if the story is true or not, it’s a real story for the writer.” This line reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s, “How to Tell a True War Story.”
    It’s in his collection The Things They Carried, and it’s so powerful. I recommend the entire collection, actually. I’d never read war stories, never been interested in doing so, but I was floored when I read this collection.

  31. wrecks
    wrecks says:

    As a primary care (healthcare) provider, I would like to share educational points. All (or most) children go thru a period of gender/sexual identity confusion between the ages of 10-15. This is a known fact. Research demonstrates that approx 85% will eventually “settle” in the identity/preferences of their biology (i.e., male, feel like a male, attracted to female- as an example). Because we know this (if you don’t believe me, check with respected Children’s Hospital Gender programs)– we don’t “encourage”, “discourage”, celebrate or shame any confusion or feelings. WE discuss, listen…answer questions…and allow time (and hormones) to unfold as they will. WE have enough confusion in society without parents affirming sexual orientation immediately in 12 year olds who “think” they are “gay” (your son’s words)…most of these “children” aren’t even thru 30% of puberty!! To be most helpful, I suggest that you attend some continuing education seminars at any Children’s Hospital in the nation…and then heed their advice on how to handle 12 year old conversations, questions, confused physical and emotional feelings….Not from a seat of judgement, but from the seat of being educated. Twelve year olds need parents who are still driving the bus. God bless and good luck!

    • Dena
      Dena says:

      Honestly I know gayness can start early and guess I was a super late bloomer but had zero zero zero interest in guys till I was 14.5. Kids seem exposed to way too much nowadays. Do you really need to pick out a sexuality by age 12?

      • Pam
        Pam says:

        From the therapist I learned that everything I know is outdated. For example, I’m pretty sure kids don’t “come out” anymore, because it’s too binary. And “you’ll change when you get older” is a disrespectful response because we can know our sexual preference for right now and that’s all that matters. I learned that kids are coming out younger and younger because, as said, “Being gay is not about sexuality — it’s an outlook.”

        “What?!” That’s what I said when she told me that.

        And she said to my son, “I can understand why that doesn’t make sense to your mom. Does it make sense to you?”

        My son said, “Yes.”

  32. Jen
    Jen says:

    Thank you to both you and your son for sharing this story. Must have taken sone strength for you both to make the announcement to those you know (including regular readers of your blog)

  33. Hunter Woods-Zavaleta
    Hunter Woods-Zavaleta says:

    Thank you. Thank you for being so supportive of your son. Thank you for the love and compassion you show to people. I was that 12 year old boy once and so was my husband. It took my father years to get where you started out but he too has come around. My #1 fear of being me was my families acceptance. Many people never have to question whether their family will disown them for being who they are. Let alone a 12 year old child. Its a lot to process at such a young age. There will be good days and bad days ahead for your son. Bursts of confidence and reasurrance,and bouts of confusion and self doubt. But he has you by his side to take that journey with him and knowing someone is in his corner will mean the world to him. Thanks again for being an ally rather than an adversary. Best wishes to you and your family.

  34. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    In my city P-flag is big.
    (Parents friends families of gays: the term included lesbians back when the L word, like the H word, had a stigma)
    Or was, I’m out of date. I can remember when my city had a number of gay bars, now there is only one. Why? Gays (GLBTQs) can now go to normal bars as themselves.

    I like how, unlike my favorite minority group, gays have not kept changing their name to try to outrun stigma.

  35. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    Oops. I just re-read my above comment. The L in P-flag surely stands for lesbian.
    I guess my mouth ran ahead of my brain, maybe because the first two lesbians I knew told me to call them gay. I don’t know if they would now.

    The part about only one gay bar in town (population one million) comes from a radio interview last year on the local CBC station.

  36. John Harvard
    John Harvard says:

    With respect, your son is two years too young to be in The Attic. You turned him loose in there for 45 minutes…unchaperoned. Inappropriate. In fact, this entire post is inappropriate—independent of whether the minor child subject suggested you write it. Why do you think that public disclosure and discussion of your child’s sexuality wouldn’t put him at elevated risk from predators? Certainly it must, and the exposure isn’t worth the adulation you receive for being a progressive mom.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Newsflash: If you have a blog as big as mine, people stop you in the street. Strangers. My kids have been experiencing this for a long time.

      And as a reader of this blog you already knew enough about my son in order to be predatory with that knowledge. I trusted you with all the other knowledge you have collected about my family life. If you were going to use the knowledge you gain from my blog to hurt my kids you could have done it plenty of other times.

      And if you want to tell people how to raise their kids so they don’t get hurt by people with nefarious intentions, then maybe you should spend your time advising parents to stop sending their kids to school so they don’t get bullied, abused, or shot.


      • Kate
        Kate says:

        I don’t really have an opinion on what or how other people choose or do in the context of their children… I think maybe it’s impossible to judge from the outside how to handle any situation… it’s all interesting and it’s all different. I like the way Penelope handles her stuff and I also like the way I’ve seen others handle a similar (but HOW could it be ‘the same’ really at all!?) situation to the one discussed here… But! I bloody love the last paragraph here- I can’t wait to tell a few friends… (a Handy riposte to the well meaning strangers who occasionally stop to question me about letting my children climb a tree uncomfortably high (uncomfortable for watching adults who don’t know them mainly) I’d love to have the nerve to throw that comment around a bit! Excellent. *perfect finger gesture emoji here*

      • Jackson Quinn
        Jackson Quinn says:

        But the intention of the post was pure. It is up to us to ensure that this child and many others like him are kept safe regardless of sexuality or otherwise. Your argument is like saying ‘what was she wearing’ at a rape trial (a bit extreme but still)

    • C Baker
      C Baker says:

      Why do you think that public disclosure and discussion of your child’s sexuality wouldn’t put him at elevated risk from predators?

      You need to prove that this is a risk. You can’t just go “oh, but it’s obvious”, because it’s not obvious to me. I’ve never heard of a predator targeting a kid because they heard the kid is gay through the internet.

  37. Kathy Berman
    Kathy Berman says:

    How wonderful you all have each other. You are able to parent while staying a friend. Tough but this is what love is. Your sons are able to have the best life by finding who they are and doing what they love. I am happy for all of you.

  38. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “He told his best friend, and she said, “That’s fine. I don’t care if you are gay or straight or whatever. You’re the same person to me.”
    Those people are truly the best friends. They accept you for who you are. They’re not trying to change who you are. They understand you.
    “He’s a joiner. He’s a rule follower. He always wants to make everyone feel comfortable.” I think I was very much the same way when I was much younger. Not so much now. I found you have to make yourself feel comfortable first before you can make everyone else feel comfortable. It will vary with the circumstances so there’s no set formula. Life is non-linear and unpredictable so while goals are important, being present and able to adapt is more important.
    You say you’ve left a lot out of this story. That the story will change. Very true. What’s also true is a person can tell their story and another person will hear and interpret it differently than the storyteller based on their own life experiences and knowledge. And it’s fascinating to me how you weave career stuff into posts such as this one. Masterful.

  39. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    How nice that your son can go to the attic youth centre in two years. Maybe there’s a secret side door.

    Back in the 90’s, where I lived, religious bigots were so sure being gay was a choice, a choice presumably made carefully after adulthood, that they couldn’t believe in child gays. Unless, that is, the child was magically hypnotized by a gay teacher or other adult.

    Back then society, including school kids, scarcely knew there was any such thing as gay community.

    One of the horrors of being a gay adult back then was having your heart torn by knowing there were innocent gay children struggling, despairing and thinking they were alone… Knowing the kid’s plight, while being legally helpless to reach out to them.

  40. Veronica Díaz
    Veronica Díaz says:

    You are a brave, smart and beautiful woman. This can’t be easy, but you guys are lucky to have each other. Thank you for sharing this. XOXO

  41. Dena
    Dena says:

    So much here. Good and bad! I’ve prob forgotten a lot but here are my points not that anyone cares :)
    Of course Penelope wants attention. She’s an attention whore. But she also likes to share to get it out. She’s a pretty good writer to boot. I was moved. This is def the best post I’ve read in a while.
    Basketball is like the least dangerous team sport. Would it be better if her kid was a fat blob? And injuries heal.
    Do people really recognize you on the street? I didn’t think more than hundreds read this but what do I know?
    I am not concerned with sexual predators but agree maybe this wasn’t cool to write. Your son is only 12
    I found myself shocked beyond belief what your son asked at a young age. Was he watching sex movies? It is weird as heck. You have to monitor Kids sometimes even if you’re a free spirit. Letting 8 year olds YouTube all day while they’re not doing cello seems pretty crappy.
    Look you paid for a ton of tutors and lessons and made sure your kids practiced. That’s not exactly letting them follow their hearts. It’s far more momager tiger mom.
    You’re afree spirit in the sense that you work and leave them be but when it’s work time you’ll pay any money and do whatever it takes. Time will tell if their habits can be sustained without your funds and your lording. It’s a good probability.
    No I don’t think transgendered people should be in locker rooms. Bathrooms aren’t a big deal because there are stalls. But kind of off topic.
    I do think you need to steel yourself against offense. The last thing a kid needs is a parent breaking apart easily. That’s my opinion.
    Good luck to you and yours! The center sounded pretty cool. He’s quite young. He can wait.

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