The Gay Talk is the new Sex Talk. At some point, everyone with kids in their lives will have to sit down and explain what these words mean while trying not to giggle, squirm or look awkward. Except you probably won’t be sitting down when either subject comes up. You’ll be standing in a supermarket queue surrounded by people straining to hear your answer to the question: “What does gay mean?” while unpacking your pasta sauce onto the conveyor belt.
Good luck with that.
The fact that The Gay Talk is a relatively new thing is wonderful because it means same-sex relationships are no longer underground – unlike my own childhood when I didn’t know any gay people. In hindsight, of course I did. In fact, I was surrounded by them but in the seventies and eighties, the closet was much bigger and more oppressive so they were invisible to me, even as a teenager.
There were no openly gay celebrities (remember the shock when it was eventually revealed Rock Hudson died from AIDS and had been homosexual? Even Liberace never confirmed it), no gay characters in TV shows or movies and no gay people in public life. It’s only decades later that I realised my most beloved primary school teacher was a lesbian, an older cousin was gay and one of my favourite aunts was a lesbian although she hadn’t told anyone yet, especially not her husband and kids.
My very limited understanding of homosexuality came from the occasional drag queen and a couple of glimpses of The Freak on Prisoner who I recall had some lesbian leanings. So The Gay Talk never came up for me although I very clearly remember having The Sex Talk with my Mum when I was about seven years old. She took a pre-emptive strike approach, talking me through the whole shebang from conception through to birth in the hope that I’d have all the relevant information way before I needed it.
This is a philosophy I’ve continued with my own kids. Well, I’ve continued it with my daughter who – like her mother – has an insatiable appetite for information (my sons have always wandered off when I tried to explain sex to them).
At the moment, she is stuck on the pain part of the giving birth story and is currently leaning towards adoption. At a recent family dinner, she politely enquired if she could adopt one of her pregnant aunt’s twins. “I want a baby but I don’t want anything to hurt,” she said. Quite an apt metaphor for parenting, really.