Family / Parenting

Once Upon a Time I Liked Girls mehat Sean Michael O’Donnell is a 40 year old gay man. He lives in Pittsburgh with his husband and two sons, ages 5 and 9. Sean enjoys Law & Order reruns, Christmas movies in October, and Facebook stalking. He likes donuts and beer. Sometimes he does yoga. He is a regular contributor to The Good Men Project and the author of Sean’s Big Gay Blog.


Once upon a time I liked girls. I held hands with them, kissed them and even pretended to be entertained by their breasts. To all of those girls, I apologize. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just following orders.

I was playing a part and I was not very convincing. But still I tried. And tried. And tried. And tried …until one day I stopped trying and then I liked boys. In the end it was all rather simple: I stopped pretending to be the person I was supposed to be and I started being the person I was. It wasn’t a mystery and if it was, it was one of the Agatha Christie Miss Marple mysteries where in a cast of nuns and photogenic orphans the killer is the guy with the hideous scar across his face who smokes and says things like, “I’ll kill all you nuns and orphans. Every last one of you.”

For me, the only mystery was sex. My parents did their due diligence and talked to me about sex. I believe I was 11 or 12 when my Dad gave me the talk. We were cleaning out the fish tank and, in my dramatic recollection of events, I was so horrified that I put scalding hot water in the tank and killed several fish. After flushing the dead fish down the toilet, my Dad schooled me on the mechanics of sex and for good measure recited that tired line about “being in love and waiting until marriage.”

As for the talk, well, it was a pretty standard by-the-book man-woman penis-vagina narrative. Probably much like the one your parents gave to you; much like the one given to every kid since the dawn of time when heterosexuals ruled the earth. And while I don’t know if my life necessarily would have been easier had I been given a more all-inclusive sex talk, I do know the narrative needs to change for our children because that is not the world we live in. We aren’t man-woman, penis-vagina households.

Our children should hear a narrative that includes their family dynamic, but more importantly, our children should know that — in a world where every love story is between a man and a woman, where every kissing couple pictured on the jumbotron at the baseball game is heterosexual, where adults routinely ask an eight year old boy if he has a little girlfriend — our children have options. They don’t have to follow orders or act out a part in a play they never auditioned for. They can handle the truth. And if in the end they prefer the standard by-the-book man-woman penis-vagina narrative, well, that’s okay too. We’ll still love them all the same.

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