The revelation didn’t come in the form of a loud proclamation or even a heated family argument, our sixteen year-old granddaughter just took the first steps on her journey by sharing multiple photos of her hugging and holding hands with other teenage girls.
At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the pictures, but as the weeks progressed, I started to gather that these posting were a little more than casual friendships. Society in general has always been a lot more accepting of female displays of affection, but when our granddaughter confided in me that she had accepted a date with a senior female classmate to the annual prom, I instantly realized this wasn’t just two girls hanging out anymore.
Having revealed an artistic side in her early childhood, our granddaughter had been enrolled in a high school for the arts to further develop that dream and investigate all her career possibilities. Already aware of the fact that in her school homosexuality was a lot more accepted for both males and females than other public schools in our city, I began to worry. Staying up at night I wondered if this acceptance had anything to do with her choices, or whether she had actually realized she was a lesbian. That’s when I decided that it was time to broach the topic with her parents.
Believing that this sudden interest in the same sex was nothing more than a phase, her mom and dad had basically dismissed the prom invitation and were secretly hoping it would all blow over in the months before graduation. Her own father literally dismissed my concerns by leaving the room while her mother argued that it was all because of the artsy-type friends she had surrounded herself with. I wasn’t so sure and decided to work on some extra one-on-one time with my granddaughter.
As the months passed, she began speaking more freely of her feelings at family functions, leaving her great-grandparents absolutely befuddled by her comments. When my own mother asked me how a young girl who was still a virgin could even know that she was gay, I was at a loss for an immediate response. I’m pretty sure I mumbled something about yearnings and desires, but ultimately ended the conversation by asking my mother how she could confirm that my granddaughter was still a virgin at sixteen. Especially since it was a topic my granddaughter and I had yet to even broach.
“She’s never even had a serious boyfriend,” was my mother’s response. Firm in her belief that virginity was a state that could only be breached through heterosexual relations, my mother was confident that the girl was still untouched. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so confident and found myself wondering about prom night and the usual aspirations of high school couples who vowed to cement their budding relationships with advanced acts of intimacy on that very night.
In short, I was worried that my granddaughter might be considering having sex with her date and might not be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that followed upon loosing your virginity, whether it be in a heterosexual or homosexual encounter.
When I tried speaking to my husband about my concerns, he was ready to dismiss it all as adolescent stupidity. Just a young girl reacting to her school peers and wanting to make a name for herself by acting up and being different than the public school children she had been raised with during her entire elementary education. “At least she won’t get pregnant,” he’d chuckled.
Granted, her new high school friends were a motley collection of souls, but the ones I had met seemed genuine. There was a definite range of personalities representing the entire LGBTQ community in her contact list right alongside the rough and tumble neighborhood kids she still spent time with since she’d first learned to negotiate the sidewalks with her bike. I figured that my granddaughter’s eclectic mix of friends was good exposure for a teenager. This would ultimately teach her tolerance and she’d have an accepting attitude regarding alternate lifestyles that might not be exactly the same as hers.
“At least it’s not one of our grandsons,” my husband gratefully pointed out, disgusted at the mere thought of men’s bodies joined in anything other than manly competitions of strength or endurance.
A prevalent opinion in our working class neighborhood as the term ‘fag’ was always uttered with a shake of the head and a silent prayer that this unspeakable label was never attached to your family’s surname.
Obviously, I was going to have to start dealing with this situation on my own, which I found to be rather worrisome, as I wanted to respect my granddaughter’s privacy, yet I didn’t want her to feel that she was forced to navigate the minefield of her teenage sexuality all by herself.
Hello, my old friend Google. I spent countless days learning everything I could about the ‘gay lifestyle’ for teenagers, which apparently didn’t spare anybody from the usual bouts of jealousy, broken hearts, bullying, and even sexually transmitted diseases.
Admittingly scared about the statistics surrounding teenage suicide and drug use, the numbers just firmed my resolve to help my granddaughter find her way, no matter which path she chose to make her way into adulthood, she wasn’t going to walk down it alone.
My research showed that nearly one third of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide in comparison to less than ten percent of heterosexual youth. Those same youth also rejected by their families for being LGBTQ were of course on the higher end of the spectrum.
I continued to read about demographics and the ‘two-spirit’ term now coined by many indigenous North Americans to explain members of their community with both male and female personas. This culture and its resulting terminology were continuing to evolve, and I’m sad to say that the two-spirited term was something even an educated woman like myself hadn’t been aware of before all my research.
My granddaughter did attend prom with her girlfriend, although their relationship fizzled out shortly after. She dated a few other girls, but after her own graduation, she met a boy that captured her heart and she fell deeply in love.
It’s been awhile since she graduated high school, and just as her first serious boyfriend has moved on, so has she. There is absolutely no talk of lesbian relationships anymore, and the entire family has just chalked up her high school crushes to teenage angst in a search to fit in and ultimately be accepted at her arts school.
I ask myself what kind of polarizing effect my granddaughter might have had on the family dynamic if she had continued to have lesbian relationships into adulthood. The family was obviously willing to forgive her teenage girlfriends as ‘a stage’ where she didn’t know what she was truly doing, but I’m not so sure how accepting they would have been with her having an adult female partner, or wife.
Wanting to believe that we are loving and an accepting family, I can’t be absolutely sure. ‘We dodged that bullet’, still seems to be the prevalent attitude among the family when anyone mentions my granddaughter’s high school years.
I truly believe that I would have accepted whoever she chose to love as long as they were worthy of her heart. And as a proud member of THE FIFTY CANDLES CLUB, I will also continue to work at educating my family. A loving collection of souls who need to realize that life isn’t always black and white, and to be truly happy, we must all embrace the entire rainbow.