Savage Love Letter of the Day: Did Her Three Year Old Just Come Out?

Comments

1
I'll echo what Dan said. At 3 years old I wanted to marry my (male) best friend because I wanted to marry someone who like playing with trucks and digging in the sand box. At the same age I also cried when I learned my mom couldn't prevent the sun from going down, I thought animated TV was just filmed in a different part of the world, and that for every TV show there must be a massive auditorium filled with what I imagined were reverse TVs looking towards the show, one for every person watching the show at the same time as me.
Revisit the question once she reaches puberty.
2
Hey, please don't throw a blanket "love is a reason to be happy, not sad" when somebody has just told you love was a reason to be sad. Understand why.

Sure, it's a three year old, they could make no sense, but that's no reason to steamroll over them blind.

Love has certainly been a reason to make me sad.
3
When i was 3 I thought adults with tiny ears and narrow-set eyes were very attractive, while hair with hairspray in it was totally revolting.
4
I think this mom is engaged in too much hand-wringing over her not-yet-three year-old's sexual orientation, when she would probably be better off turning the discussion about how to act toward those people we like (or love). That advice would goes to any parent wherever their child is on the gender spectrum and to whomever their child is attracted. There is always an age-appropriate discussion that probably a lot more valuable to their child than worrying that you're not nurturing their nascent sexual identity. Model love and respect toward people and your children will know that you'll accept who they end up loving.
5
My first crush was
6
My first crush was on this girl named Maripat who sat across from me at the table in first grade. She had those big coke bottle glasses and they made her baby blue eyes huge. The only common characteristic among the girls I've dated over the next 28 years has been distinctive big eyes. Sometimes what you like at 5 endures.
7
From what I've gathered, this is quite common among boys and girls under a certain age. Most children spent a vast majority of their time with female caregivers and identify with with that type of care and love rather than make the more abstract mental connections that it takes to love someone who's support and nurturing is more 'behind the scenes'. My ex who had two boys was very concerned when her youngest (then 4) said he wanted to be a girl; a therapist reliever her when she said that it wasn't unusual for kids that age to express such a sentiment and it didn't mean that he was more likely to be trans later on.

I've always suspect when young children (elementary schoolers, basically) are "gay", it's more of a projection of their parents rather than themselves, since the parents almost always tend to be liberal-do-gooder types. Generally I don't believe anyone can have meaningful sexuality if they aren't having explicitly sexual thoughts. Which, when I was 3, I know I wasn't having.
8
I would argue that a straight but intelligent adult ally who pays attention could have a better sense of the gay experience than a high school kid who just came out does, just because the high school kid hasn't really had enough time to have a proper experience in.

So to echo everybody else here, don't try to project future details on your three year old and don't feel like you have to do anything differently. In fact, being loving and supportive in general is better than trying to show broad support to all the Officially Recognized Marginalized Folk. In fact, if you want to hedge your bets in case your daughter does turn out to be non-straight or even if she turns out to be your son, you'd get a lot more mileage hanging out with a broader variety of people. That way she can see role models from all across the spectrum, and can see that people can be happy and appreciated no matter what sort of people they are.
9
spare me the as-a-super-straight-woman-I-don't-know-what-homosexuality-is-like line of crap. I know it's popular these days to say, "You can't possibly know what X is like unless you're X yourself." But I believe people—good and decent people—are capable of empathy and that each of us possesses a moral imagination, even if not everyone chooses to use theirs. A white person can't know exactly what it feels like to be black in a racist society and a black person will always know better. But a decent white person can listen, empathize, and imagine what it might be like.


As if we needed more evidence that this line of thinking is anything other than a weapon to wield rather than some type of ethical stance. There's no meaningful difference between "know" (to which Dan says a white person cannot do) and "imagine" (which Dan exhorts the LW to do). It's the same fucking thing. Rarely do a I see the damned if you do/don't logic laid out so concisely.
10
But a decent white person can listen, empathize, and imagine what it might be like.


"If you have enough black friends, you become qualified to speak on issues affecting the african-american community"
- Dan Savage (Iraq War Supporter) with another sterling hit, this time in 2017
11
I'd pay more attention to the part where she likes other little kids based on whether or not they're pretty
12
When my son was that age, he wanted to marry our cat, and cried for days when I told him he couldn't. Conversely, my daughter seemed to have zero interest in anyone, until she came out as a lesbian at 12.

Just keep your relationship with your kids solid and honest, and everything else will fall into place.
13
'As a super straight woman, I don’t know what homosexuality is like.' 🤫
14
Wow this is pretty neurotic. Stop worrying/thinking/stressing about the sexual orientation of your toddler. Yes, just practice radical acceptance, unconditional love, and teach her how to treat others. It’ll all be fine.
Also, agree with @2: no reason at all to just outright dismiss the emotion your daughter reveals to you! ‘I’m sorry youre sad sweetheart can I give you a hug?’ ‘Tell me more about why you’re sad.’
15
My second love, potatoes, proved to be much more reliable than the neighbors’ daughter.
This letter along with #2 on the main thread made me wonder if I missed the memo re “parental confusion” week.
16
At 3, LW, her feelings outpace her understanding. Her feelings and understanding far exceed her ability to articulate. You're right on the money about expectations and such. But be careful about allowing your desire to be progressive get in the way of just being her mom.

Kids will take you aback. A standard response should usually be "hmmmm...tell me more." Reflect, ask questions and when you think you've caught her drift, help her find the words that best express it. It ain't easy. I gather from your letter that this is your first\only child? I was far more uptight with my first - wanting so much to get everything just right and thinking any misstep will doom my child to misery and psychiatric bills. With the second, I was more like hey, the dog licking your whole face is probably as good as a bath.

So just know that any one awkward moment is not a crisis. A life modeling love and acceptance for her and the diversity of people will be what carries weight. You're doing great. Have faith in yourself.

17
In a recent column we were talking about selective religious beliefs as though that were a bad thing. I'd say there were no religious beliefs that aren't selective.

And now here's selective take what your 3 year old says seriously beliefs. It's similarly difficult. If your 3 year old tells you she's hungry, I'd believe her and give her lunch. If it turns out she doesn't eat it, I'd guess she wasn't really that hungry. Happens all the time. Kids say stuff.

Sometimes they say wildly imaginative stuff so you lightly make a distinction between what's real and what's make-believe and encourage her imagination when she talks about wanting to live on a big farm with horses. If you're unsure about what's real and what's make-believe yourself, you ask for an explanation of terms. It's likely that a 3 year old doesn't have a clear image of what mucking out stables is like but does think she'd like to pet the horse. Similarly, 3 year olds likely don't have a full understanding of what marriage means, or even what pretty means. So you ask them and smile and don't let on that you think everything they say is adorable and not to be taken seriously.

"Pretty" probably means "I'd like to say hello". "I want to marry her" likely means I'd like to be her friend and play with her toys." Who the hell knows?
18
@larrystone007 @5 Ha! I love how this reads "My first crush was larrystone007."

NARCISSIST!!!!!!!!!!!
19
But what about the CHICKENS????????
20
Small children often reach the "why" stage. They ask why the sky is blue, why dogs have tails, why they can't go up the tree like the squirrel, why Sister gets to go to school, and why Daddy's penis is so big. Somehow parents only get all upset about the last one while they'll cheerfully make up an answer for the others. Smart kids have merely learned that if they ask something that begins with why, parents will keep talking to them which is what they want at that moment.

It should be the same with love and marriage. Kids love cookies. They love kittens and pink sneakers and Kindergarten Teacher. They hear the expression "in love," and without knowing the distinction between love and in love, they use the new term. They're in love with Sponge Bob and skunks and pillows and their best friend. And as with the question about Daddy's big penis, parents start writing to advice columnists on the in love with a friend one.

How about "That's nice" or "You can be in love with anyone you want."
21
"Generally I don't believe anyone can have meaningful sexuality if they aren't having explicitly sexual thoughts. Which, when I was 3, I know I wasn't having."

I thought boys were cute when I was 4 and 5 years old. I didn't have any explicit sexual thoughts, but I didn't feel girls were cute. I think most people are aware of their orientation well before the teen years.
22
When I was three, I told my Mom I wanted to turn into a girl. I didn't have the vocabulary to explain it, I wanted to grow up and marry "the prince," and only girls got to be princesses, so...

I knew I liked guys then. Like, romantically liked them. Not like that's who I want to play with, but who I wanted to be "lovey dovey" with. I didn't know how to express it, but I *definitely* was into guys from a *very* young age. Never did anything about it until I was much older, but I had the feelings.
23
I will add, though, that I also had ideas about marrying girls. But in my mind, it was all about pairs figure skating and waltzes, and nothing about bedrooms.
24
At three or four or five or six I'm pretty sure I had no idea of "orientation" sexual or otherwise. I do think the word "love" can be confusing for kids because they hear people say they love their dogs, cats, cars, houses, airplanes, books, computers, phones, kids, parents, siblings and even the view as well as what ever the heck girlfriends and boyfriends and spouses happen to be. I know I was interested in sex (or at least very interested in knowing what girls had under their clothing and a few other things as in what do we do with a penis and does that have anything to do with what females have?) starting in the second grade. Don't recall any love or lust objects until a bit later but I was so impressed with them I don't recall any faces until several more years passed. I'm sure some "know" early but I'd guess that a lot of us are pointed in one way or another but we don't really know what we are pointed for, just what the why and how and what the attractions grow to mean so would be very possible for some to be thinking they know what they want but they just don't know enough to know what they know and don't know (shades of Dick Cheney!). I've had friends that say they recall stuff from less than a year of age...I know I don't and I try to be careful with my memories, some are real, some I've learned from family stories so they are not as valid to me as an actual memory and some are just putting things together and I have a few that are like me in a diaper going trick or treating and the real memory is a picture of me taken when they caught me hitting the neighbor's houses so I can not honestly say..."Yeah, I remember looking up at people in my soggy diaper as I was begging for candy." I know it happened, I've heard the stories and seen the pictures but I don't think I really recall what it was like. I do see some mental snap shot type memories that I think are real since they are from the height of a toddler's eyes.

I really think that OP is wasting her time getting worried about this and her worry might cause more problems than just waiting and seeing. As 17 said...kids say stuff...they also lie they also at times have no idea what they are actually saying, they might mean something grossly different than the words they used. After two kids (30 and 27 now) very often the best thing was to relax, wait and ignore.
25
When I was three, I found the bag of dog food in the kitchen and decided I should eat it. I also wanted to marry my cousin.
I have since stopped eating dog food, and I did not marry my cousin.
26
Kids that little don't know shit. Have a calm and patient manner, and agree that she can love whomever she likes.

Persistence on the point will be a better indicator. If she's crushing on girl celebs or girls at school when she's five or six you'll have a better idea that this same sex attraction thing is probably a real thing for her.

Sportlandia: ever been called an asshole? If not, let me be the first.
27
I think we should bring our kids up queer and be happy and relieved when they turn into any kind of decent people. But I made the 'queer' point because it's often necessary explicitly to avoid homophobia--to avoid making parental love conditional on a kid's being a certain kind of person, having certain sorts of normative feelings and behaviors. My own childhood was one where I thought that I needed to suppress central elements of my character to win my father's approval. So I'd be all for saying to straight parents (and to anyone), 'make the effort to be positive and anti-discriminatory about queerness'.
28
Three years old? My response would have been, "That's nice honey." Kid will move on to some other random thought in roughly twenty seconds. Three year-olds say all kinds of nonsense, for pete's sake, they're just learning how to process a crazy world. Be supportive, correct them if they say nasty shit, but don't get all bent out of shape about it. 98% chance they have no idea what it means and are just trying out new words, or looking to see what kind of reaction they can get out of you. Sometimes they do get stuck on some annoying thing or even some gross or mean thing. Best tactic is to say, "That's not nice and I'm not talking to you if you say it again" and then ignore in the future. They'll get bored with it if you don't give them feedback (and any future comment, even, "Don't say that again, it's nasty" is reinforcement... "Hey! I get attention when I say, "X!"
29
Atheism @26: You're not the first.

I remember up to the age of eight or so, the opposite sex were "disgusting" and "had cooties" and we didn't want to associate with each other. The majority of those kids grew up straight or close to it. Let your daughter tell YOU what her sexual orientation is, once she figures it out.
30
I agree that this is no reason to freak out; LW should just show kindness and empathy toward her daughter no matter what, make sure the kid knows it's okay to be queer, and not overthink her sexuality just yet.

That said, I do remember having crushes on girls and boys from a very young age. Maybe not 3, but definitely by 4 or 5. And lo and behold, I am indeed bi. Children can develop sexual/romantic feelings at different times, not everybody makes their self-discovery before they're out of elementary school.