Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


First, My young children -- elementary school age -- have heard the word "gay" and want to know more. They already find the idea of sex simply "awful," so what is the best way to introduce them to this without telling them too much, too little, and neither scolding them for their usual initial reactions of horror as with any idea of love and relationships. It comes up more and more and they strain to understand and make sense of things, sometimes long before they are ready. Any thoughts?


I'm delighted you're thinking about how to answer these questions for young children, because now is when your children are learning values about people with different sexual orientations. Now is when they're hearing words like "dyke" and "faggot" on the playground, so it's the right time to provide alternatives.

It's important not to put any more emphasis on sex than you would in explaining heterosexual relationships to children in grade school. I'm sure you've thought about how to explain heterosexual relationships and sex to your children, especially how to do that in a way that fits their level of emotional and cognitive development. I'd use the same strategy in considering how to explain gay and lesbian relationships.

Also, there are books written for varying ages that will help you explain. For instance, one popular work is Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman and Diana Souza. Another is Uncle What Is It Is Coming To Visit by Michael Willhoite.

Thanks for being so thoughtful about teaching your children!


Author and psychologist Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D. has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional audiences, and is the author of the new audiotape, NOT HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.


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