Parents’ sexuality

I have mentioned in the past that talking with your children about your own sexuality is generally a bad idea. However, there may be times when it is warranted.

The blog Sexuality In Art recently reviewed a graphic memoir called Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. The story is centered on Alison as a young girl, coming to grips with her own sexuality and budding homosexuality and her father’s closeted homosexuality. It sounds like an astute and honest look at emerging sexuality and sexual awareness.

Alison portrays a time and a place where it may be appropriate for a parent to open up and talk in some very general terms about their sexuality. Alison appears to be grasping for that very conversation, trying to lead her father into it, however clumsily.

Looks like it might be a great read, well worth the time of anyone trying to understand a young girl, particularly one grappling with homosexuality, either personally or in her family.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Why do you think talking about your sexuality is a bad idea? How else do you impart your values? I’m obviously talking about the more general aspects rather than giving specifics but I don’t understand why it would be a bad idea.

  2. It’s really the talking about specifics that are problematic. Talking about values and talking about sexuality and talking about sexual values are all critical to a solid parent/adolescent relationship.

    What I’m referring to here is really the statements that include:

    “Well, the first time I had sex…”

    “I dated a guy/girl once who…”

    And things of that nature. That’s just way TMI for teenagers. They believe they are inventing, discovering sex. And the thing is, they are! They are inventing and discovering their own sexuality. So comparing it to other’s experiences doesn’t tend to be helpful or influential, and talking about a parent’s sexuality is more likely to get a gross-out than a lesson-learned.

  3. I see where you are coming from. I guess my position is that I will answer a direct question though not volunteer information. We are pretty close and I guess the older she gets the more we tend to slip into “girl talk”.

  4. Yes, always answer direct questions is a good policy. But even still, it’s best to keep it to exactly what your teenager asked – and not slip into reminiscing like you would with your girlfriends. If it feels right, that can ease up as teenagers turn into 20-somethings…

  5. I have experience on both sides of the issue here.

    Many eons ago, I told my mother I was a lesbian. She told me her one experience being hit on by another woman. It was disconcerting to me. First, it was clear that she wanted to “identify” with me … she wanted to be on my level … she wanted to show me that the homosexual world was not out of her experience. It was just so weird. (her narcissism) But the good thing about it was that it was clear she wasn’t judging me; that she didn’t judge the woman who hit on her, although she didn’t accept the advances.

    Shift forward to my oldest daughter. I really don’t remember what I talked to her about when she was young, but she was about 10 yrs old, and we were camping with a friend of hers. It was dark, we were all cozy in our sleeping bags, the two girls on the other side of the camper from me. My memory is that it was out of the blue, but there probably was a context. My daughter says to her friend, “Hillary, you can ask my mom anything. She knows EVERYTHING about sex.”

    Shift forward 13 years; this daughter falls in love with a woman. I’m getting an inkling of this, but its not out in the open. Turns out, she was afraid I would judge her for a lesbian relationship! How could that be???

    We all have our own experiences, in our own worlds. The same person will remember different things from the same interactions. Memories are poor. What a mystery it all is! I think oftentimes our intention, and our way of being in the world, is what is remembered, rather than the specifics. We all get it wrong so often, its amazing and wonderful how resilient humans can be.

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