I am a heterosexual mother of a five year old daughter and 11-year-old son. My lesbian sister is planning her “commitment ceremony” and wants my daughter to be the flower girl.
My 11 year old son knows his aunt is a lesbian, but has never really seemed to mind. We have never really discussed it, because it has not been an issue. Now that she is planning basically a “wedding,” it is an issue.
My son is somewhat repulsed by the thought of her getting married to another girl, and my daughter doesn’t understand it at all. She told me they better find two guys if they want to get married!
I’m worried the kids will feel different about their aunt and her partner after watching them get married. I am also worried they will be teased if their friends find out. So, my question is, should the kids attend the ceremony if they don’t want to? How do I tell my sister about my concerns without hurting her feelings?
Should the children go to the ceremony? Yes. This will be a wonderful learning experience for both you and your children.
I can’t imagine a parent letting children wiggle out of attending an aunt’s wedding to a man. That’s the same standard to which supportive family members should hold themselves when acknowledging same-sex relationships.
You say you haven’t discussed “it” because “it” isn’t an issue. Obviously it is. “Family defining moments” — like commitment ceremonies — make this all the more apparent. Gay relatives who have always assumed that straight relatives were totally accepting suddenly realize that’s not completely true. Family defining moments are rarely simple, so it’s up to the grown ups to help the kids along, even when they don’t have all the answers.
Your kids are saying they don’t want to go, but listen to what they are really saying. At five, your daughter only knows a partnership to be between a man and a woman because she has not seen any other possibilities. At 11, your son thinks it’s “repulsive” because any reference to anything “gay” in his world is followed by a bunch of fifth grader boys saying, “Ewwww….” (A previous Q & A was about a gay father’s 11-year-old son who said being gay was “gross.”)
They both have very normal responses for children their ages who are being raised in a homophobic world. Until you give them permission to talk about this with you, and unless you model how supportive you are of your sister, they will continue to be uncomfortable with this. Currently, there is no indication in their lives to assure them that their aunt’s sexual orientation is acceptable.
Considering you put quotation marks around “commitment ceremony” and “wedding,” I wonder if you do indeed question the importance or validity of the event. Your children could easily be picking up on your lack of enthusiasm. You worry that your children will see their aunt and partner differently after the ceremony. They probably will, but I don’t see how that could be a bad thing. They will see them as a couple, like their other married aunts and uncles.
I know you want to protect them from being teased, but I don’t see how keeping them away from the ceremony will prevent that. Part of your conversations with them needs to include talking to them about how to handle potential teasing. If you don’t insist they go and find out how shockingly normal the event is, the only thing you are “protecting” your children from is the opportunity to open their minds and hearts.