Ask The Totebag: A Parenting Surprise

by Anonymous

Fellow Totebaggers: I am asking your advice anonymously, as my question involves my child. I suspect it will be easy to figure out who I am, but I’d appreciate it if you’d maintain the fiction for my kid’s privacy. Thank you in advance.

Today, my kid (teen-aged) told me that s/he is bisexual, and I don’t want to screw this up.

If you figure out who I am, you will know that I have no problem with this, either philosophically or religiously or politically or any other “-ly.” I am just surprised and unprepared (and surprisingly unprepared), because I had not seen any signs; all prior teenage crushes had been opposite-gender, and while my kid could have been covering, they seemed convincing to me.

I am also not entirely sure this is, for lack of a better word, “permanent”; recently, 4-5 kids in class have come out as gay/bi, and this group of friends is very into gay rights; hard to tell if it is my kid finding an accepting peer group that allows him/her to be him/herself, or if it’s my kid trying to fit in with a peer group/trying on different identities like every other adolescent. But I also know that one standard parental response is to find excuses why that can’t be their kid. And whatever my kid might feel at 25, this is who s/he is right now — s/he has told me, directly, and it is my job to assume that s/he means it. It took a lot of guts for my kid to tell me this, and it was something s/he had obviously worked up to over some period of time. It would be unfair and disrespectful to assume I know better, to treat this as a phase or something that s/he will outgrow.

So where I am now, after a grand total of four hours of thinking it through, is that it’s my job to support, not question. These are some new waters for both kid and parents (for one, the idea of sleepovers just got a lot more complicated), and I need to help my kid learn how to navigate them, on top of all of the other adolescent pressures and insecurities. This is the part that I don’t want to screw up.

For the moment, I just said “you’re always safe with us” and gave the kind of half-hug you can give while driving, then asked if there was a particular crush involved (there is, although like the earlier opposite-gender ones, this one also doesn’t seem to know my kid exists). Now I just need help with the next conversation. And the one after that, and after that. . . .

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251 thoughts on “Ask The Totebag: A Parenting Surprise

  1. My personal feeling is that it’s a spectrum, but maybe one that’s distributed with a peak on each side, rather than a single normal distribution in the middle. So many people could probably identify something or other about themselves that might make them say “hmmm, I wonder…”

    But for the most part, you kind of have to choose one or the other, assuming that the ultimate goal is a committed, monogamous partnership. Otherwise, if s/he is really planning to be “bi,” what’s the end game? Just date without regard to gender and when you meet ‘the one,’ whichever gender s/he happens to be, that’s what you go with? Or do you ultimately marry one, but keep things open for threesomes or swinging? Is that the “conversation” you’re looking to have?

  2. I think it’s one of those things that you make sure the child knows you are accepting of them and are open to talking about it, and let them take the lead on it.

  3. I think you’re off to a great start just by being someone your child could talk to. My son has mentioned various friends that identify as gay/bi whose parents cannot know. One of the boys has conservative religious parents who are likely to put him out. Another friend’s parents have told him they’ll take him in if that ever happens, but those are issues a 15 yr old should not have to be working out.

    As for next conversations, I’ve got nothing, but I know there’s a lot of info on the web. I would highly recommend speaking to a professional.

    I’ve been unable to post this week, but to the Anon with the child health problem, my heart goes out to you. As a parent, seeing your child suffer is the absolute hardest thing.

  4. I agree with Denver.

    As for Milo, I also agree. I think today, for many kids, bi is the first stage of coming out.

  5. I’m not sure how old your teen is but I am well aware of pronouncements like this around 13 or so that are later retracted. Kids this age want to know where they fit in, so labels can be their friends. And then they think about this one girl they’re drawn to, they fail to realize this can happen to straight women, and they decide their label must be bi.

    This was a surprise to me – in my day, ppl only said things out loud (of this nature anyway) after a lot of consideration and when they knew it was absolutely true. Kids these days seem to try on a lot of labels – partly to see how others react, partly to see what sticks.

    I think being supportive and nonjudental and willing to listen is great. Beyond that, I don’t think you need to make much of this until she has consistently felt this way for some time, including through a certain age or maturity phase when you think the pronouncements are likely to remain true.

    IOW it may go away. And if it does, thanks to your excellent response, your kid will remember this as a time when she wasn’t sure about herself, but she was damn sure her parents were on her side no matter what.

    And if it doesn’t go away, she will remember this as a time when she started figuring herself out, and she realized that no matter what she figured out about herself, her parents were on her side.

  6. I can understand why the poster did not identify the gender of her child, though I think it is material if it is a boy vs. girl (perhaps that is evidence of my advancing age and archaic thinking on the matter). If this a girl, it may represent a socially acceptable form of exploring one’s sexuality (depending on the community). If this is a boy, I think this is testing the water to see if it is “okay” to be gay.

    As a parent, I don’t want to be particulatly involved with the sexuality of my kids; I think one is accepting, supportive and sets appropriate boundaries.

  7. What DD & MBT said.

    My youngest has a close friend who says he (the friend) is gay. We’re very close to the family, and we’re not sure the parents know any of this. Like you say about your kid, it could be a phase “hard to tell if it is my kid finding an accepting peer group that allows him/her to be him/herself, or if it’s my kid trying to fit in with a peer group/trying on different identities like every other adolescent.”

    Being there for your kid, avoiding judgmental comments whatever your personal feelings are, is truly the most important. I suggest contacting the local LGBTQI organization in your area, or if there isn’t one, at the state flagship university in your state, for help, guidance, recommendations on how to be a good parent in this specific…can’t think of a better work, and don’t mean to be negative in any way…situation.

    Good luck to you, your kid (this is not easy on him/her either) and the rest of your family. I hope you live in an area where this kind of things isn’t really that big a deal.

    My most opinion-shaping event on the gay topic. Started my first job out of college in the large west coast city best known, at least then, for it’s welcoming of gays. I was being walked introduced around the office and we came to one very buff guy who stood up and said to me “I’m ___________________________, and I’m a flamer.” Absolutely true. He was a good guy, too.

  8. I think Ada may be right on the gender thing and I think Risley is right on with everything else. I don’t remember anyone coming out until well after college in my day, but do remember girls kissing other girls while drunk at parties in college who are now married to men with kids. It just seems that exploration of sexual identity happens a lot earlier now.

  9. As for future talks, I agree w/ Denver – let her take the lead. Remain unshocked. Answer questions, including graphic ones. Be as casual as you can. This isn’t something she needs a counselor for or long talks about, etc.

    I think another goal of kids who say this is to see how far they can go before their parents refuse to answer a question or have a conversation or swear their undying love. They have heard about kids not being able to share this sort of thing with their parents and they want to know if the same is true for them. What are the limits of their parents’ love for them?

  10. Sorry – I keep saying “she” and don’t know why I read that in to the OP. Agree w/ Ada on how this could be a different test run based on gender.

  11. I think everyone else said what I was going to say.

    I have a friend who is bisexual. She’s fantastic, open, and loving. The one constant for me has been to not question her choices but just love her for the awesome person she is. Bisexuality doesn’t define her like heterosexuality doesn’t define me.

    I would say just be there for your child. Don’t treat it as a ‘phase’ but who your child is. And you said that. I’m sure your kid is awesome. This openness just makes him/her more awesome.

  12. Ada’s comment would have been my own, including the disclaimer about old ways of thinking. The degree of danger, both physical and social, to which a teenaged boy exposes himself by coming out, generally means that such a declaration is the real thing. I don’t have experience of a public interim characterization of bi for boys, but perhaps that found in the parent to teen discussion.

  13. Couple of other things FWIW:
    – I think the age of the kid matters. IMO, much more likely to be a phase/seeking acceptance thing if the teenager is 13-14 than if s/he is 18-19.
    – A couple of kids at my kids’ all-boys religious high school wanted to attend the Prom as a couple. Some of the parents were concerned about the decline of morals, etc., if this were to be allowed. The student body really didn’t give a rat’s about the whole thing. The administration supported the couple and they went.

  14. I think everyone else said it. Especially Ada and Risley. FWIW, when I was in college in the 70s in the Bay Area, EVERY girl I knew (practically) went through a lesbian phase. It was part of identifying as feminist at that time. Most of those girls are now married to men and don’t identify as bi. I think the kids are exploring this stuff at a much younger age nowadays.

    And frankly, many young men are so overwhelmed by their hormones at that age that they’re drawn towards anything with a pulse. Again, that eventually diminishes.

    But I wouldn’t ever, ever say “you’ll grow out of it.” So insulting.

  15. Shocked? In this day and age?

    You clearly have no idea what it’s like in some conservative families. I have stressed to my kids from middle school on that they are never to share the info that someone is gay. It is not their’s to share, and they have no idea what the consequences for that person could be if the wrong people find out. (Wrong people could be parents, fellow church members, teachers or particularly awful peers). And by conservative, I don’t just mean Christian. One of his gay friends is the child of religious Muslim parents.

  16. I’ve lost track of how many of my kid’s friends say they are bi. She’s going to prom with one. Or is he gay? I can’t remember.

    Supportive parents are the most important thing, so you have that covered. Everything else flows from that, and there will surely be bumps along the way. But a close relationship will undoubtedly help smooth the path.

  17. I have nothing to add to the excellent advice given so far. Good luck, Anon! I think you’re off to a great start with your child.

  18. “if s/he is really planning to be “bi,” what’s the end game? Just date without regard to gender and when you meet ‘the one,’ whichever gender s/he happens to be, that’s what you go with? Or do you ultimately marry one, but keep things open for threesomes or swinging? Is that the “conversation” you’re looking to have?”

    So of course I’m going into a meeting for the rest of the day, but isn’t this sort of a red herring? Wouldn’t the end game have the same variables as for someone who is 100% straight? I mean, I’m straight, which means I’m attracted to “men,” not just “man”; DH is straight, but would dump me for Jamie Lee Curtis in a heartbeat (and really, who could blame him?) — and yet we’ve both managed to avoid threesomes and swinging with no problem. :-)

    So why wouldn’t the same be true for someone who is bi? You’re still looking for the right person, you just have a larger universe of potential targets. Or, maybe to put it another way, I would assume that whether you’re looking for one person or multiple people has more to do with personality than sexual preference. Right? In which case the “end game” would be for this kid to figure out what their own “end game” is?

  19. All good points. One thing from my teenage years I recall is that there was a lot of difference and growing up between thirteen and nineteen. Thirteen was extremely difficult and I was surprised at how much more sure and settled I felt about myself at the end of my teens.

  20. LfB – Because when you pick one person, you’re not really living as a bisexual, are you?

  21. Milo – sure you are.
    You’re living as a bi sexual who has chosen a certain person. The act of choosing doesn’t wipe out the bi.

  22. Your argument, Milo, is akin to telling a recovering alcoholic, “Well, you’ve chosen to stop drinking, so you’re no longer living like an alcoholic.” It’s challenging how someone identifies themselves based on a snapshot of how they’re living now.

  23. I would say that you’re living as either a heterosexual or homosexual, but in a monogamous relationship, you’re not living as a bisexual.

  24. “Well, you’ve chosen to stop drinking, so you’re no longer living like an alcoholic.”

    That would be a good thing, no?

    “It’s challenging how someone identifies themselves based on a snapshot of how they’re living now.”

    Hopefully people consider their marriages to be more than a “snapshot.”

  25. Milo I think the distinction is that orientation is not the same as action. one can be celibate by vow or life choice, so there is no end game as you put it, and still have a distinct orientation. Same with a vow of monogamy.

  26. I agree with most of the posters. The hard thing about this age is that it could be totally for real who she is or it really could be a phase or exploration – maybe even a test of how much you love her/him. I have a close friend who’s daughter said “I’m not exactly straight.” and my friend said “ok” and that’s been that. She’s 16 and will be who she will be – so I think you may have to wait and see. I think our job as parents is to support them where they are – not necessarily to push them where we think they should be. That’s all – found this link for you that might have some good reading that is better advice than I have to offer. http://www.pflagnyc.org/support/suggestedreading

    Milo – you can totally be bi and be married. It is about the people to whom you are attracted. Just because I don’t sleep with men other than my husband, doesn’t mean I’m not attracted. He’s just my favorite one.

  27. “you can totally be bi and be married”

    Of course, but my point was that if the end game is marriage, at some point you have to choose one lifestyle or the other.

  28. I would add that there is a huge spectrum of how people identify themselves, both in terms of sexual preference and in gender. The term “non-binary” comes up more often.

    I think any advice you would give your child about relationships holds true regardless of the sex/sexual preference/gender of the other person. Toxic relationships are toxic relationships, respectful behavior is respectful behavior, etc.

    Another side, which s/he may already be acutely aware of, is that in some communities (family, school, church or city, etc.) people are not very accepting of people who do not fill the “traditional” roles in the “traditional” way. This lack of acceptance can result in ending relationships with family or friends to being denied opportunities to being a victim of violence. These concerns are generally what holds people back from annoucing their difference from what their community expects. However, if the child is not aware of this, I would find a way to introduce her/him to the reality that like many other sensitive subjects, this might not be the first piece of personal information to share.

  29. “I would say that you’re living as either a heterosexual or homosexual, but in a monogamous relationship, you’re not living as a bisexual.”

    Sure you are- you still find other people attractive. And if you choose to have an open marriage you are ‘allowed’ to act on those feelings.

  30. Milo, I think the confusion is that you are calling bisexuality a lifestyle and I am calling it a state of being and/or an identity.

    To me, “I am bi” means I *AM* bi. It has nothing to do with who you date or marry or live with – it’s who you ARE.

    Kind of like being a Canadian living in the USA. You don’t stop being Canadian simply because you’re “living like an American.”

  31. Kind of like being a Canadian living in the USA. You don’t stop being Canadian simply because you’re “living like an American.”

    All kinds of jokes can follow this statement. :)

  32. OK, then you have to choose the lifestyle. Which is what I meant, because I was very clear in the first paragraph that I believe people fall somewhere on the spectrum.

  33. Denver – ha. On both sides, my friend.

    Btw – our posts crossed. ITA w/ your identity vs lifestyle distinction, obv.

  34. “Toxic relationships are toxic relationships”.
    This is important. Parents may object based on how they see their child being treated in a relationship. Child thinks parents are objecting because of their prejudice towards (fill in the blank).

  35. Milo, you don’t have to choose anything if you’re bi. Assuming a monogamous relationship is your goal, you find someone and settle down. It’s no different than it is for hetero or gay people. You just have a larger pool of people you might be attracted to.

  36. Milo – you don’t, in fact, have to choose one lifestyle over the other unless you have some monogamy agreement. You’re starting with the assumption that that’s the end game – not for everyone.

    And I’m not sure you’re getting this or intending it but starting with that end game as an assumption and saying the kid has to choose sounds challenging and not very open minded or accepting. Which may be fine with you and in line with your feelings on the matter but wouldn’t amount to the same parenting win, IMHO, as the OP scored so handily here.

  37. Denver – The sex of the person with whom you settle down determines which lifestyle you’re choosing.

  38. No, Risley, I qualified that assumption very clearly when I said “assuming that the ultimate goal is a committed, monogamous partnership.

  39. Milo – do you believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, then? Maybe this is the real root of the definitional disagreement here.

  40. Right – “assuming that it is”. My point is that this isn’t a great way to lead off a sentence when talking to a kid like the one in the OP. The assumption is yours and it’s based on your values.

  41. Risley – It’s a combination of both. People find themselves somewhere on a spectrum. A few are definitely, 100% only attracted to members of the opposite sex, and a few are 100% only attracted to members of the same sex. Most are somewhere in between. From this position, a person chooses how to live. Depending on where you are, it can be a very clear-cut or simple choice or not.

  42. BTW, Milo, I hope it goes without saying but if all of this is how you feel then of course you can say all of this to your kids. We are discussing the most supportive and accepting and least judgmental stance and yours isn’t it. Doesn’t make it wrong – just makes it not it.

  43. Milo, I think we’re looking at this from very different perspectives. IMO, the lifestyle would be “a monogamous couple”, whethere that’s a man and a women, two men, or two women. So yes, you’d be choosing a lifestlyle, but it has nothing to do with whether you are in hetero or same-sex relationship.

  44. “The assumption is yours and it’s based on your values.”

    I’m OK with that. I’d be surprised if there were anyone here who didn’t want that for their kids.

  45. “We are discussing the most supportive and accepting and least judgmental stance and yours isn’t it. Doesn’t make it wrong – just makes it not it.”

    Just for curiosity, if your DS told you that his ultimate goal was to have sex with a different woman every week of his life and never have a serious relationship with a single one of them, would you say “Interesting. I’m definitely open to that choice of yours” and be totally accepting and non-judgmental?

  46. From this position, a person chooses how to live.

    Again, IMO, “how to live” means the type of relationships you want to be involved in, and the genders of the people involved are irrelevant.

    And by “type of relationships”, I mean monogamous, polyamorous, non-committed, or whatever else.

  47. “but it has nothing to do with whether you are in hetero or same-sex relationship.”

    yes it does. If you’ve chosen a same-sex partner, you’ve chosen a homosexual lifestyle. If you’ve chosen a partner of the opposite sex, you’ve chosen a heterosexual lifestyle.

  48. Just for curiosity, if your DS told you that his ultimate goal was to have sex with a different woman every week of his life and never have a serious relationship with a single one of them, would you say “Interesting. I’m definitely open to that choice of yours” and be totally accepting and non-judgmental?

    And just out of curiousity, if one of your kids came to you and said “Dad, I’m straight” or “Dad, I’m gay”, would you even think of this. Or would you only think of think of this if they said they were bi?

  49. his ultimate goal was to have sex with a different woman every week of his life and never have a serious relationship with a single one of them, would you say “Interesting.

    Well, if that’s who they are, it’s better to be honest about it than pull a Tiger Woods and marry someone and then constantly screw around.

  50. “Oh sure.
    But we’re not talking about what we want for our kids.”

    Risley – You would say that’s a great idea? About having a different woman every week?

  51. yes it does. If you’ve chosen a same-sex partner, you’ve chosen a homosexual lifestyle. If you’ve chosen a partner of the opposite sex, you’ve chosen a heterosexual lifestyle.

    And this is our fundamental disagreement. I do not believe there is a homosexual or heterosexual lifestyle. In your opinion, what is the difference? What do gay people do differently in their relationships than hetero people?

  52. “How did we get from sexual orientation to promiscuity?”

    When you insinuiated that it’s being judgmental to assume that someone should want a monogamous relationship.

  53. Denver – think of what?

    Think that it might lead to them wanting to have sex with a different person every week. Because you really pulled that idea out of your rear.

  54. “And this is our fundamental disagreement. I do not believe there is a homosexual or heterosexual lifestyle. In your opinion, what is the difference?”

    The difference is that in one case your partner is the same sex as you, and in the other your partner is the opposite sex.

  55. OP – Today’s post from everydayfeminism.com is “The Whole Truth of Coming Out of the Closet” in comic form. I think it is insightful about the spectrum.

  56. “Think that it might lead to them wanting to have sex with a different person every week. Because you really pulled that idea out of your rear.”

    No, that came from Risley’s insinuation that to assume an ultimate goal of mongamy is to not have “the most supportive and accepting and least judgmental stance.”

  57. The difference is that in one case your partner is the same sex as you, and in the other your partner is the opposite sex.

    And in either case, you are having sex with one person. I don’t see a lifestyle difference.

  58. I’m having trouble following this conversation, but it seems Milo is saying that once a bisexual person has chosen a monogamous relationship (as a “lifestyle”), then he is no longer bisexual. Is that what you are saying?

  59. Milo – sorry, I may be creating confusion bc I’m on this blasted phone and can’t cut/paste and can’t write a lot.

    But I really meant that you appear to be arguing against a kid saying they’re bi, and you’re making the case that well, in the end, you can’t be bi b/c you have to choose, assuming you want monogamy.

    Overall, it’s the argument of someone trying to talk a kid out of being bi, or trying to get them to see there’s no value in identifying that way beCuse for practical purposes, where you’re concerned, it can’t last. And it’s this overall message I’m getting from you, along the lines of, “Well, this is all well and good right now, Sally, but you and I both know that you’re going to have to sing a different tune if you want monogamy, so why are we even wasting time with this BI silliness at all?”

    Which could be a misinterpretation of what you’re saying. But you seem very resistant to letting a person claim BI as a status and then own it for the rest of their life.

  60. “And in either case, you are having sex with one person. I don’t see a lifestyle difference.”

    Then I’m not sure how else to explain it. The distinction is self-evident. Pretending it’s not is like saying “Oh is she black? I wouldn’t know. I don’t see race.”

  61. Risley – You’re reading way too much into it and perceiving a hostility that is not there.

  62. To be clear, I didn’t expressly ascribe the word “hostility” to you and didn’t intend to imply it. Hostility hasnt come to mind for me. Your last response to Denver makes me think, as he and I have both said, that he and I have a very different view of sexuality than you do, and I think thatay be the root of the confusion.

  63. I mean, I have no idea what your comment at 12:36 means, yet you seem to think your point is obvious and we are missing something. Skin color is not the right analogy at all.

  64. “that he and I have a very different view of sexuality than you do, and I think thatay be the root of the confusion”

    Then what would be your definition of homosexual? Because I suspect that our definitions are the same.

  65. And, Risley, if you’re open for a hypothetical conversation, I’m curious why you’d be less-than-supportive and openminded to your DS’ plan to have sex with a different woman every week of his life.

  66. I didn’t say I wouldn’t be open to that discussion with DS. I merely said my “oh sure” response was to a different question.

  67. “I would say homosexuality, like heterosexuality and bisexuality, are immutable”

    Well, that doesn’t define it, but OK. I think there is definitely strong biological pre-programming that constitutes the orientation. But like I said already, there’s still a choice in whether or how you live and express that. From the spectrum aspect, for some it’s going to be very clear and others will be more on the fence.

  68. It strikes me that many of the nuts and bolts of sexuality are really not an area for parental insight. Relationship issues are a richer area for parental help and those issues look to be mostly the same without respect to sexuality (although leaving accidental pregnancy out of the mix may make things easier).

  69. Although after spending 15 seconds considering it — and this is why I said YIKES to your raising it in this chat — I can absolutely say that I believe any shrink would advise that a kid who wants to bang a different girl each week had an issue that should be addressed. It’s not the sign of an emotionally healthy person to want to use ppl like that. Raising that question in a discussion about bisexuality gives off this tinge that you feel being bi is equally unhealthy or deviant or whatever term you might use for a guy who has sex with that many people.

  70. I can absolutely say that I believe any shrink would advise that a kid who wants to bang a different girl each week had an issue that should be addressed.

    Shrinks are all about enforcing certain social norms — usually liberal ones. That particular strategy won’t get you anywhere, Ris.

  71. “Raising that question in a discussion about bisexuality gives off this tinge that you feel being bi is equally unhealthy or deviant or whatever term you might use for a guy who has sex with that many people.”

    Nope. You’re not going to pin that on me. As I have already stated, I raised it because you took issue with my qualified assumption that the ultimate goal would be a monogamous relationship. You said that such an assumption was not the way to have “the most supportive and accepting and least judgmental stance.”

    It was a hypothetical to prove that you, yourself, don’t have “the most supportive and accepting and least judgmental stance” because you’re citing shrinks who you imagine would call it “deviant” or “unhealthy” and an issue that needs to be addressed.

  72. Then I’m not sure how else to explain it. The distinction is self-evident. Pretending it’s not is like saying “Oh is she black? I wouldn’t know. I don’t see race.”

    I’m not saying I don’t see the gender difference, I’m saying I don’t see the lifestyle difference. IMO, a man marrying a woman and a man marrying a man have the same lifestyle: a monogamous, committed relationship.

  73. I’m having trouble following this conversation, but it seems Milo is saying that once a bisexual person has chosen a monogamous relationship (as a “lifestyle”), then he is no longer bisexual. Is that what you are saying?

    +1

  74. “I’m not saying I don’t see the gender difference, I’m saying I don’t see the lifestyle difference. IMO, a man marrying a woman and a man marrying a man have the same lifestyle: a monogamous, committed relationship.”

    Agreed. So what term would you prefer we use to describe the gender difference?

  75. So Milo – is a gay man who chooses to marry a woman because say his church or family doesn’t approve, still gay or is he straight?

    Bisexual means you are attracted to people of both sexes, not that you actually HAVE sex with both sexes all the time. I think Risley’s Canada example was spot on.

    In the end, what does it matter what it is called?

  76. Milo – but we are talking today about how to respond supportively and not judgmentally to, “I am bi.” Just bc there’s a supportive and non judgmental response to that statement doesn’t meant the exact same response must be used in the contact of any discussion with a kid.

    And RMS – I’m no shrink but the ones I know would have no issue with “I am bi” and would absolutely have an issue with “I have a goal of nailing a different woman every week for the rest of my life.”

  77. Agreed. So what term would you prefer we use to describe the gender difference?

    That’s not what we’re talking about. You’re saying the homosexual lifestyle is different than the heterosexual lifestyle, so I’m trying to find out what that difference is. Again, IMO, the gender of the participants in a relationship does not define the lifestyle of the relationship.

  78. Context, not contact

    And that was in response to your “you’re not going to pin this on me” post. You are trying to connect two things that do not connect.

    I am saying your reponse to this situation isn’t open minded and non judgmental. It isn’t an effective response to say, basically, “Oh yeah? Well, I bet YOUR response to this completely different situation wouldn’t be open minded!”

  79. If my son were to say “I have a goal of nailing a different woman every week for the rest of my life.” I think I would tell him that he is going to probably need to lower his standards a bit and make sure he stays in good shape, because that is a task that is not going to get easier with time. Of course if he becomes a professional athlete then this is a much more achievable goal.

  80. “is a gay man who chooses to marry a woman because say his church or family doesn’t approve, still gay or is he straight?”

    Leading question. Like I’ve said multiple times, I think it’s a spectrum.

    “In the end, what does it matter what it is called?”

    I don’t know. I really don’t think anyone is disagreeing, except for the fact that DD and Risley seem to insist that we are. “Your definition is very different…”

    It’s almost as if we’re desperately searching for someone to profess the slightest bit of intolerance. Well, I ain’t it.

  81. Houston – ha! Same reason we have any discussion I guess. Why/why not?

    I’ve gotta fly in a minute anyway and before I do, very happy to switch gears. Milo and I aren’t ever going to agree on this, so it’s all just chatter.

  82. “Again, IMO, the gender of the participants in a relationship does not define the lifestyle of the relationship.”

    When we’re talking about whether it’s a homosexual- or heterosexual-lifestyle relationship, the gender of the participants is the key criteria.

  83. “I am saying your reponse to this situation isn’t open minded and non judgmental.”

    Based on what?

  84. Milo – I completely disagree. You and I don’t agree on this at all. It’s fine, and we don’t have to keep discussing it, but I would never say you and I are in agreement on this.

    And haha – “leading question”? What is this, Matlock? In any event, she can ask leading questions because you are on a different side of the argument than she is. In technical terms you were being a hostile witness and leading questions are absolutely allowed for such witnesses.

  85. I think the trouble with what Milo seems to be saying has to do with labeling.

    I think the terms homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual are about the sex one is/is not attracted to and this does not change in the same way one’s race does not change. Same-sex or opposite-sex relationships are chosen, just as single-race and inter-racial relationships are chosen.

    The main difference in the example above is that sexual orientation is not a physical characteristic that is visible to all at birth the same way race is.

    A person who identifies as bisexual, who is in a relationship with a person of the same sex, would still identify as bisexual in that their attraction to both male and female has not changed, but they are in a same sex relationship. I think labeling that person as homosexual would be offensive.

  86. Risley – Where do you see disagreement?

    And I said “leading question,” although that’s probably the wrong term, because she said “If a gay man does …., is he gay?”

  87. Milo – I’ll respond to “where do you see disagreement” when I’m home and can cut/paste but it’s the identity/lifestyle thing.

    And I just was kidding re your “leading” objection – we hardly follow any rules of that sort here.

  88. Milo – “lifestyle” is not a good descriptor. WTF are you saying is the difference between a “homosexual lifestyle” and a “heterosexual lifestyle”? If a person who is bi chooses to be partnered, he/she can choose a partner of either sex, but that choice doesn’t have any bearing on his/her “lifestyle”.

  89. Moxie asked if he’s STILL gay, and my guess based on all you’ve said here is that your answer would be “no” or at least it would NOT be an unqualified yes. So I thought hers was a good question that gets right to the heart of what I see as a major disagreement.

  90. L – Same question as I asked DD. What term would you prefer?

    Risley – I think the objection should have been “suggestive question.”
    “A suggestive question is one that implies that a certain answer should be given in response,[1][2] or falsely presents a presupposition in the question as accepted fact.”

  91. Milo – and I feel there is no objection to Moxies question. She and I would say the man is still gay. Based on all you’ve said here, she and I assume your answe is that he can’t still call himself gay bc he’s not living a gay lifestyle. She wasn’t suggesting an answer to you – she was verifying that you answer that differently than she and I do.

  92. “Moxie asked if he’s STILL gay, and my guess based on all you’ve said here is that your answer would be “no” or at least it would NOT be an unqualified yes.”

    Would your answer be an unqualified yes? Wouldn’t it depend on whether he gets any enjoyment at all from his wife?

    I’m not sure how many times I can say that I think people fall somewhere on a spectrum. From a statistical or graphical standpoint, just about everyone’s designation would be qualified in some way.

  93. Milo, why do you need to give different terms to heterosexual and homosexual relationships? Dating is dating. A boyfriend is a boyfriend. A girlfriend is a girlfriend. A wife is a wife. Etc.

  94. ” Based on all you’ve said here, she and I assume your answe is that he can’t still call himself gay bc he’s not living a gay lifestyle.”

    No, I never said that.

  95. Anon — I think it’s terrific that you’ve already been supportive, and that you are so determined to continue to be supportive. My traditional immigrant parents did not meet me where I was when I was growing up; rather, they did everything they could to get me to conform to the strict and narrow norms of their culture. I wasn’t going to conform, but I also wanted to avoid direct conflict, so I basically just stopped telling them important things about my life at an early age. I really wish that our relationship could have been different.

    As so many others have said, keeping the lines of communication open is the #1 priority. Everything will follow from that.

  96. “Milo, why do you need to give different terms to heterosexual and homosexual relationships? Dating is dating. A boyfriend is a boyfriend. A girlfriend is a girlfriend. A wife is a wife. Etc.”

    By that logic, why was this OP even a topic today?

  97. Damn, did I pick a fun day to miss (she says between meetings and rush to train). Awesome Ping-Pong match to catch up on. Let me just add:

    “A few are definitely, 100% only attracted to members of the opposite sex, and a few are 100% only attracted to members of the same sex.”

    Personally, I’m not sure I’d trust a woman who says she’s 100% straight. Because let’s face it: boobs are awesome, and I kinda think anyone who says otherwise is lying just a little bitty bit. :-)

    And Milo, not meaning to fan fire, but I think the use of the word “lifestyle” is triggering a lot of the objections. It is a well-known and well-used word by the anti-gay-rights crowd, designed to frame orientation as a “choice” instead of as part of someone’s identity. I don’t think you’re trying to use the word in that sense at all — the first thing you said was that you think people basically are what they are and that it’s sort of a spectrum. But that word almost automatically triggers the “it’s an identity, not a choice” response. So I would put it along the lines of how DD said it: straight/gay/bi is the identity; the “lifestyle” is promiscuous/monomogamous/etc.; and then the particular “relationship” is straight/gay (although I guess a threesome could be bi).

    [Ducks and runs to train — sorry!]

  98. The direction this conversation has taken is making me think of my daughter’s friend whose parents are both moms — they are in a couple of extra-currics together and went to elementary school together. His parents have pretty much the approved level of parental involvement in his and his brother’s activities and school; basically the only differences between their family and the general run of school families are that (1) their boys are probably nicer and better behaved than average and (2) the parents are a same-sex couple. So I’m scratching my head to distinguish the lifestyle difference.

  99. Not that Milo needs any help, but stop bullying him.
    He did not even say anything to indicate he is against any kind of lifestyle.

    Things have come to a point now where voicing any opinion other than current popular liberal pet opinion subjects you to bullying. Especially when it comes to such preferences. I can find such lifestyle deviant without harboring any hate for those holding those preferences. (If it were my kid, I will feel sad but accept things for what they are and nothing will change in the love and respect. I feel for that kid). I will certainly be accused of prejudice and hate if I openly say so.

  100. “So I’m scratching my head to distinguish the lifestyle difference.”

    The lifestyle is that they’re both moms.

    If the term “lifestyle” triggers an unhappy association, what would be a better term?

  101. By that logic, why was this OP even a topic today?

    Because someone submitted it.

    And seriously, anon – bullying? We’re having an engaging discussion among friends with different opinions.

  102. I guess it shouldn’t come as a shock that Milo is exactly as….what is the right word…square…as he seems. Not it a bad way (I certainly don’t think he has a hateful or prejudiced bone in his body) just in an amusing personality quirk sort way.

  103. Milo –
    The point is “the term you prefer” has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the “you” in that sentence. It has to do with describling or labeling the relationship or person using the terms the person wants to identify themselves with. A great spectrum of terms exists to express one’s identity.

    However, I did give you a set of terms – same-sex relationship, opposite-sex relationship.

    Even then this is not black and white. If a person is physically male, but prefers to present as female and is attracted to men and is in a relationship with a man, then is this a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship? The two individuals know they are both physcially male, but to the public they appeat to be male and female.

    IMO – The OP may be worried about any range of things, but some might be: (1) the reaction of the community to the child, especially if relationships develop that will be viewed negatively, or (2) his/her own feelings about identities outside of the heterosexual “norm”, (3) how to respond to questions when his/her only experience is with the heterosexual “norm” – expecially if these relate to sex or (4) how to continue to have a open trusting relationship with his/her son/daughter.

  104. Risley – Bullied is not a term I would have chosen. What I have felt is what I said earlier. There’s a certain eagerness underfoot to find someone who is not toeing the party line of total and unqualified acceptance, tolerance, and support of any possible sexual permutation, and to flush that out and prove it wrong. Like I said, my actual views on the topic are not going to render any fodder, but I think you are kind of eager to insist that we must really disagree about this somewhere. It’s hard to imagine another conversation on here where we would become so obsessed with someone using the approved terminology.

    Anon – I’ve had some interesting conversations with my uncle about what my grandparents went through when he “came out.” And the family of his long-term partner are still far less accepting than my relatively conservative extended family.

  105. “This definition matches my understanding of what lifestyle means:”

    HM – It would be interesting, then, if we’re just playing word games, why many would insist that the two Totebaggy moms who live in your school district and do everything they’re supposed to do raising well-behaved children are considered part of a different “community.” Because that’s certainly a loaded term.

  106. We’re “playing word games” because it’s counterproductive to have a discussion when people have very different understandings of what key terms mean.

    I’m not sure who you’re asking me about in your second paragraph. Who are the “many” whose reasoning you’re asking me about?

  107. “Who are the “many” whose reasoning you’re asking me about?”

    Anyone who speaks of the LGBTQ “community.”

  108. I agree that with a younger teen, especially female, there is a good chance that it is merely trying on new identities or even confusion about the differences between sexual and non-sexual attraction. We’ve all probably had same-gender “crushes” before; in today’s very accepting climate I wonder if kids are more quick to assume it’s an identity? Whether this is a permanent identity or just a phase, I think the most important thing is just unconditional love from the parents and for kids to feel they can come to you about anything.

    One thing I wonder with bisexual teens though- how do house rules work regarding sleepovers and the like? I mean, if you wouldn’t let your 13 year old boy have a sleepover with a girl, do you also ban sleepovers with other boys if he is bi? Do you ask “is this just a platonic friend?” before agreeing to such a thing?

  109. Clearly you have some sort of point you’re trying to make, Milo, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to go back and forth teasing it out. I’ll check back in later.

  110. HM – The point is simple. Why do we have to be so, so careful not to imply that a same-sex relationship in any way constitutes a different “lifestyle,” if we then turn around and insist that those who are living the exact same lifestyle as any other responsible, married couple are part of an entirely separate “community”?

    Like I said, it’s all just word games about what is currently on the approved list.

  111. it’s all just word games about what is currently on the approved list.

    It’s about being polite. At one time it was OK to call Asian people Oriental, flight attendants – stewardesses, Native Americans – Indians. Now it’s not. If you insist on using a weighted an generally considered impolite or offensive term, you’re going to offend people*.

    *Just try calling one of my beloved USAIr flight attendants “stewardess” you’ll be tased and zip tied to your seat so fast it will make your head spin.

  112. “At one time it was OK to call Asian people Oriental, flight attendants – stewardesses, Native Americans – Indians.”

    Sorry, Rhett. “Indian” is back: http://www.nmai.si.edu/
    You got to get with the times, buddy.

  113. Milo,

    The foundations for the present collections were first assembled in the former Museum of the American Indian in New York City, which was established in 1916

    99 years ago it was the correct term – yes.

  114. When I was an exchange student in Northern Europe, I was quite surprised by the tolerance for sleepovers of any variety – among potential sexual partners or not. My conservative host family was an outlier when they did not want their 16 year old daughter’s boyfriend sleeping over (though he did when she was 17 with their permission).

    Would you all ever allow a potential sexual partner as a sleepover in your home? At 22? At 16?

  115. Rhett — the Smithsonian is the Museum of the American Indian, and it opened this century. Also, in case you are curious, Eskimos are totally cool with being called Eskimos. (However, not all Native Alaskans are Eskimos, so careful…)

  116. “would you ever allow…?”
    ever is a long time, so yes to that.
    22? ummm, maybe, depends, all that. (When DW-24 and I-27 were engaged and going to visit my folks, my mom sent my sister-24 to stay at her boyfriend’s for the weekend so DW & I didn’t sleep together)
    16? Not in the same room. There are friends of middle kid, boy-girl twins. Their parents allow sleepovers for both kids simultaneously. Boys in the basement; girls on the 2nd floor.

  117. Wow. I picked a rotten week to be out of town because of some great topics this week. And damn it, next week is spring break so I’m gone again. (Roll out of bed and onto the boat kind of thing.)

    I agree with all the posters today, and I think the OP is doing the best thing by being accepting. If her child’s sexual identity is clear now that’s okay if later s/he chooses to self-identify otherwise, that’s okay, too. I think the most important thing is to be accepting of what the kid is telling you and be supportive.

    Junior is only entering his teens. I absolutely have no clue as to his sexuality. I suspect he may have an inclination in some way– or maybe not. He doesn’t date yet and seems to have friends of both sexes. I won’t say I don’t care if he ultimately identifies as gay, straight or bisexual. I think it would be easier for him if he were completely straight if there is such a thing. But I also think it would be easier for him if, as a man, he is taller than not and smarter than not and more physically fit than not. I wouldn’t mind grandchildren some day, but I don’t care about perpetuating my genes (whoever owns Coors does) and if Junior and his partner want kids someday, well happily even in places like Florida couples of any kind can adopt should a judge follow the laws. (I’m not sure about single people. Given Florida, probably not.)

    But I will love him whatever he turns out to be. He’s not smarter than average– I know that and I might even love him more because of that. I don’t know how tall he is going to be or how fit or wherever he is going to be sexually. I’ll still love him unconditionally and support him.

    But I also have very definite views of how he will live his life. I don’t want him to be promiscuous. I don’t want him to be dishonest. I don’t want him to steal or hurt people. And I do want him to choose his partner carefully and if he has one, I want him have ONE in a committed relationship. And I do and will continue to have opinions on these things and to tell Junior my opinions. I also know sometimes my opinions change. (After all, Jackie’s kids appeared to be supportive of her relationship with Maurice and he was married to the marriage counselor.) Whatever, I hope to still love my kid. And no matter what he does, he will still have access to me. If he wants.

  118. Being offended is our new national pastime.

    Think of the Lord Grantham going from white tie to black tie. What is considered polite and proper changes over time – always has, always will.

    Speaking of Downton Abbey:

    Ancient Lady to Cora and Robert: How are two bearing up? I do feel for you. It must be very trying. But I do admire you for putting on a brave face.

    Cora: I wonder if you remember that my father was Jewish.

    Ancient Lady: Oh… I’m afraid I…that is… how interesting.

    Chuckle.

  119. I think Risley misunderstood me. Psychiatrists tend to enforce UMC norms. Right now, gay=fine, promiscuous !=fine. What’s wrong with promiscuity? Ris said something about using other people, but that’s a red herring, I think.

    Milo, in my endless battle with my church denomination, people who oppose ordination of gay pastors keep saying “it’s the lifestyle” the object to, and they clearly mean the 1970s San Francisco gay bathhouse culture. That’s not how most gay pastors live. That’s one reason why “lifestyle” sets off alarm bells for some of us.

  120. My kid is a few years out of elementary school, but back when she was and first learning about the Indians (Native Americans) in our area, her teacher told the class that the correct and proper term was First Americans. The teacher specifically told the kids not to refer to them as either Indians or Native Americans, but only as First Americans. So is it now back to Native American?

  121. Rocky – I get it. According to my uncle, it was direct familiarity (for professional reasons) with that sort of “lifestyle” in that time period that was at the root of my grandfather’s initial horror. But he was accepting very soon thereafter.

    For First/Native/Indian Americans, I kind of like the late-19th-century term “the Nations.”

  122. Rhett,

    Principal Skinner to Edna Krabapple: I’ve always admired your tart honesty and ability to be personally offended by broad social trends.

  123. Would you all ever allow a potential sexual partner as a sleepover in your home? At 22?

    At 22 with the boyfriend they’ve had since sophomore year? I don’t know that there’s s a lot of value in pretending to not know exactly what’s going on.

  124. “Things have come to a point now where voicing any opinion other than current popular liberal pet opinion subjects you to bullying. Especially when it comes to such preferences. I can find such lifestyle deviant without harboring any hate for those holding those preferences.”

    @Anon – I don’t know that people telling you that your are wrong is bullying. I think the reason that the reactions to people who use words such as “deviant” and don’t embrace acceptance is that those kinds of words literally kill. Words like that make young people who are gay or bi or trans feel like there is something wrong with them and like they don’t belong. Words like that are a big part of the reason that the suicide rate for gay teens is four times that of straight teens. And wrapping those words with a closer like “of course I don’t hate them” or “I would love them” doesn’t make the words less painful. It is no different than if I were to utter a racial or religious slur followed by “of course I don’t hate muslims.” So when people say things like that I will come back and I will come back strong because words matter, words hurt, words kill.

  125. “What’s wrong with promiscuity? Ris said something about using other people, but that’s a red herring, I think.”

    What I noticed was that Risley jumped straight to what she assumes a psychiatrist would say.

    It would certainly be an interesting discussion topic.

  126. “I think the reason that the reactions to people who use words such as “deviant” and don’t embrace acceptance ”

    What is the required amount acceptance that everyone has to embrace? You’re essentially blaming certain teen suicides on people with traditional religious values. That’s not exactly embracing acceptance, either.

  127. “There’s a certain eagerness underfoot to find someone who is not toeing the party line of total and unqualified acceptance, tolerance, and support of any possible sexual permutation, and to flush that out and prove it wrong.”

    I don’t think “eagerness” is a fair term at all, and I don’t think you meant it to be fair or even polite. I wasn’t, in fact, “eager” to find someone here who’s intolerant. I would loved to have NOT found that. But, you waved your arm and wanted to be noticed and we all noticed.

    I will absolutely agree that I don’t think your views, as expressed by you today, could be deemed as “unqualified acceptance” or tolerance. And I have certainly pointed that out. I’m not sure I’ve tried to prove it wrong. I’m not sure I care whether you’re tolerant or not. I’ve thought you had some things wrong here in terms of identity and lifestyle, and perhaps I’ve tried to point that out, but I thought I was trying to point out that I feel differently about those definitions as they apply here, not that you are wrong. But I’m not sure if that’s an honest assessment of my intent here. I do think you’re wrong, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that came out in what I’ve written here. And although I’m not the know-it-all type or a person who thinks I have all the answers and tries to show others they don’t, I could understand if you took some (or all) of my comments today to imply that I think my position is the correct one. I’m not sure I’m sorry about that, but let me think on it — maybe I should be sorry for that.

    “[M]y actual views on the topic are not going to render any fodder, but I think you are kind of eager to insist that we must really disagree about this somewhere.”

    No, I haven’t been “eager to insist we must really disagree.” We DO disagree and, it being 2015 and all, I would really prefer we didn’t. But we do.

    Your posts here do not show you to be accepting, tolerant or understanding of a person who identifies as bi, or gay. Other than me, you’ve posted the most, and not one post has seemed accepting or tolerant. Others have posted a single comment, and it’s clear how they feel. It’s impossible for me to believe that after 10+ posts from you on this, we have all misunderstood how you feel. So, if you truly are accepting and tolerant on this issue, such that you and I truly have no disagreement here, then I’m not sure why you appear to have done your absolute best to pretend otherwise. Maybe you’ve been playing devil’s advocate all along — who knows. But if you think you’ve come off as accepting and tolerant, you’re wrong. And if you think it’s clever to come off us intolerant and unaccepting, and then say at the end of the day that actually you ARE tolerant and accepting, well, I disagree. It’s not clever, and it’s really not a way to have a civil discourse. It’s gamesmanship.

    “It’s hard to imagine another conversation on here where we would become so obsessed with someone using the approved terminology.”

    Terms like “obsessed” and “approved terminology” aren’t accepting and tolerant. They’re indicators that you don’t think the proper terminology matters as much as other people think it does. There are certain issues where terms don’t really matter. There are certain terms where they matter a great deal. Part of being accepting and tolerant is being respectful of people’s feelings — and using the terms that make them feel respected.

  128. I think the term is First Nations people in today’s Australia. That sounds like a good choice to me.

  129. “What’s wrong with promiscuity? Ris said something about using other people, but that’s a red herring, I think.”

    What I noticed was that Risley jumped straight to what she assumes a psychiatrist would say.

    I honestly don’t follow what this part of the discussion is about. I’m totally not opposed to discussing it. It just seemed odd to me to bring up promiscuity in a discussion of bisexuality.

  130. You’re essentially blaming certain teen suicides on people with traditional religious values. That’s not exactly embracing acceptance, either.

    To quote MBT, ” One of the boys has conservative religious parents who are likely to put him out.” I don’t think that’s acceptable.

  131. I “tolerate” promiscuity in the sense that I didn’t say anything when the girls on my soccer team would have unprotected sex with half a dozen guys at a party. I think “tolerance” is quite different from respect or acceptance. I didn’t respect their choices. I’m not even sure whether I “accepted” them- I thought their sexual choices were none of my business and I had no desire to discuss their behavior with them.

    I am uncomfortable convolving tolerance, respect and acceptance for people of any persuasion.

  132. “We DO disagree and, it being 2015 and all, I would really prefer we didn’t. But we do.”

    Disagree on what? If I replaced the term “lifestyle” with “same-sex partnership,” are we good?

  133. Milo –

    I agree that if you do not fit the social “norm” for where you live, you are considered “different”. The level of tolerance for people who are “different” will affect whether your chances of facing more challenges – be it housing, work, relationships, which businesses and/or professionals are willing to provide you with goods and services. This is true for a variety of factors that make you “different” – race, ethnicity, religion, dress, disability or sexual orientation.

    So, for a moment, let’s pick a difference other than sexual orientation. Let’s use religion. Do people who are of a different religion have a different lifestyle? Does worshiping in a different way to potentially a different God on a different day make it a different lifestyle? Are people of a different religion refered to as a community, as in Muslim community or Jewish community? Are they sometimes considered part of a “different” community even though they are bringing up well-behaved kids? If I am devoutly religion A, would I be unsettled if my child tells me I think I really believe religion B? Is it just a phase, or are they really serious in their belief system?

    I am not sure you would be making the same comments if we changed the difference we were talking about?

  134. Milo,

    Are you around later? I’m making risotto and need someone to help me stir the pot.

  135. “blaming certain teen suicides on people with traditional religious values. That’s not exactly embracing acceptance, either.”

    There is a big difference between accepting something that someone has no choice over and someone’s choice to believe things that cause harm to others. Religion is a choice. I don’t think religion is due any greater level of respect than any other idea or thought someone might have. Hate is hate regardless of whether you wrap it in Jesus or Allah or whomever one chooses to follow.

  136. “I am not sure you would be making the same comments if we changed the difference we were talking about?”

    I’m not even sure what we’re supposed to be arguing about here. For a while, we were hung up on whether having a same-sex marriage should be referred to as a distinct lifestyle. Is that really what this all boils down to?

  137. whether having a same-sex marriage should be referred to as a distinct lifestyle.

    You just refereed to Bob as the new negro hire and now you’re wondering why you’re suddenly meeting with Peggy in HR.

  138. “Do people who are of a different religion have a different lifestyle?”

    As a religious person, I would definitely say I have a different lifestyle than mainstream America. I live by a different calendar, have rules for what and when I can eat, live by a moral code that is not mainstream, and have prayer and other religious activities integrated throughout my day.

    Now I don’t think belonging to a religion automatically is a lifestyle, but being devout can be one. For instance, I wouldn’t say simply being Jewish is a lifetyle, but living as an Orthodox Jew likely is.

  139. @Temp Handle on March 19, 2015 at 2:14 pm:

    Thank you for your post. I am the original OP, and the reasons I posted were, in decreasing order of importance, your 4, 1, and 3. This is something that is outside my experience, and I am aware it can be a very fraught issue and do serious damage if the parents screw it up, so I want to access the collective wisdom on what to do and what not to do — your point 4 is THE most important consideration for me. Even if the advice ends up being “manage this like any other parenting question,” that alone is reassuring.

    I am also worried for my kid because of your point 1: we currently live in a very accepting community, but I know there are many people and places that are not so accepting, so how do I prepare the kid to handle that without coming off like I’m trying some “scared straight” program? Kid is young enough to still feel invincible, as if one clever, sarcastic comment will slay all dragons. I am old enough to know better, including recognizing that being different can sometimes risk real physical danger.

    And I do feel a little sad today. Not because of who my kid is, but because who my kid is will make my kid’s life harder and expose the kid to a new universe of words that hurt and people who don’t accept. I want to become Elastigirl and wrap myself around my kid in a protective tent that makes all the bad stuff bounce away, while Mr. Incredible stands beside me and punches everything and everyone into submission.

    But I can’t. So like so many other parenting things, I need to figure out how to help prepare my kid to deal with it. Which is where your point 3 comes in: since this is something I have never dealt with myself, I need to figure out the best way to do that.

    Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and advice today.

  140. “You just refereed to Bob as the new negro hire and now you’re wondering why you’re suddenly meeting with Peggy in HR.”

    Oh, come on, that’s not even close.

    Moxie – When you refer to anything less than full acceptance as “hate,” how is that any different than believing a certain type of partnership is “deviant”?

  141. “Anyone who speaks of the LGBTQ “community.””

    Milo, your questions about the term, “community,” as above, are a point of contention for many in the LGBTQ “community,” who point out that many of those in that “community” have little in common with others in that “community” other than their LGBTQ-ness. Many in that “community” take issue with others in the same “community” speaking for them.

  142. Oh, come on, that’s not even close.

    Depending on where you work and who you said it to, it would be treated in a similar manner.

  143. This is just my perspective, but I see a difference in semantics, with Milo looking at things in a somewhat different way than nearly everyone else in this discussion.

    But Milo, I hope that if your kid tells you what the OP’s kid told the OP, you won’t respond as you did to the OT. IMO, it’s better to just be supportive, and deal with the ambiguity yourself.

  144. “Milo,

    Are you around later? I’m making risotto and need someone to help me stir the pot.”

    Haha! Rhett – you win post of the day!!

  145. Speaking of political correctness run amuck, our middle school social studies teacher insists that the kids not use the term “founding fathers” because it is sexist and instead use the term “framers.” Of course as we all know of and the kids like to point out, all of the founding fathers were male.

  146. @Milo – telling someone that they are deviant is hate. It is. Saying things that hurt people is hateful. If someone were truly accepting and kind they would, at the very least, keep their opinions to themselves.

  147. LGBTQ is soon to be the new “colored.” According to Wesleyan the preferred term is LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM. Which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf*ck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism.

  148. “founding fathers”

    In a debate I recently judged, one of the competitors referred to Abraham Lincoln as one of the Founding Fathers.

  149. Milo – No that is not what is boils down to. The point is you are making a lot of assertions about and attempting to label people based solely on one factor – sexual orientation. I am asking that you reflect on your assertions and ask, if the factor being discussed was some other factor, would you be making parallel assertions?

    If I understand your comments correctly, you have a relative who is not heterosexual. I find some of your comments insensitive at best and offensive at worst. Assuming this relative does not know you are Milo, it would be interesting to hear his/her take on your comments today.

  150. the new “colored.

    Snort.

    Milo reminds me of Sheldon whenever he talks to Mrs. Davis the Caltech Human Resources Administrator.

    Milo: Did you meat the lovely new colored girl they just hired?
    Milo: What do you mean they need me in HR again!?!

  151. And my uncle is far from politically correct. You’d surely find his comments to be a lot worse.

  152. Moxie, they ARE different in so much as humans are designed as hererosexual beings. So deviant is a bad word now? It’s a big leap to blame such an opinion as cause of teen suicide. Suicide is a tragic result of multiple messed up inputs and chemistry. Calling something deviant is complete different than hate. Stop calling it as such. Also, comparing calling such behavior deviant to hate and persecution perpetrated in name of color and religion is frankly insulting and belittling of those problems.

  153. “We DO disagree and, it being 2015 and all, I would really prefer we didn’t. But we do.”

    Disagree on what? If I replaced the term “lifestyle” with “same-sex partnership,” are we good?

    – Honestly, I don’t think there’s one post of yours from today that I agree with. IMHO, Rhett @ 4:07 has it nailed.

  154. Calling something deviant is complete different than hate.

    I don’t think Mrs. Davis, the Caltech Human Resources Administrator would agree.

  155. I wonder if Sheldon Cooper et al have caused an increase in the number of applications at Caltech.

  156. @ milo – no it doesn’t go both ways because as I’ve said before there is a difference between something that a person is that is not their choice and a flawed ideology that is ostensibly about love but is so often used to separate and discriminate.

    @Anonymous – Humans are also designed as homosexual. Humans are sometimes designed without legs, or blind and with differing levels of intelligence. The use of deviant in this case is not as a scientific term indicating something to the left or right of the mean. It is used as a pejorative and to imply that there is something wrong with the way in which people live and love. Would you call someone born with cleft palate as deviant? How about an albino?

    As for the suicide, if you do even a little bit of reading on the subject one of the primary causes of suicide is depression and children who are called names and ostracized by their communities can and do become depressed as a result. Feeding this belief system, is giving oxygen and support to the people who kick their gay children out of their homes or force them into therapy to make them “ungay”. You cannot just throw things out as your opinion and not own the fact that they hurt people and have consequences. Life is not a reality show. And I will continue to call out hate when I see it. I mean you can’t even use your regular handle or put a pretend name to yourself you are so proud of your values.

  157. Moxie, Many opinions hurt people and have consequences- I’ve worked with people who think women/mothers shouldn’t be engineers and know lots of people who think mothers shouldn’t breastfeed in public. Some people have ostracized me for my decision to breastfeed in public.

    But I don’t think they “hate” me, they just have different opinions than I do. I agree that name calling is juvenile and inappropriate, but the people I know haven’t done that to me. (posting under my own handle, as usual)

  158. I’ve worked with people who think women/mothers shouldn’t be engineers and know lots of people who think mothers shouldn’t breastfeed in public.

    And they should be called out for that, should they not?

  159. Rhett, I completely disagree- part of living in a diverse culture is where we CAN tolerate each other’s differences but work together on the things that matter. As long as they think I’m a competent engineer, we can disagree on whether breastfeeding at a restaurant or library is socially appropriate.

    It’s like recognizing that Muslims and Jews think eating pork is immoral, Hindus are often vegetarian, and Christians don’t usually have religious dietary restrictions- we can still work together.

    But I think you’re right about some workplaces, and maybe Moxie’s point is about behavior beyond opinions about whether pork is an acceptable dietary choice.

  160. This is the reason for “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” WCE, I suspect you have been following that advice today. If the guys who don’t believe women should be engineers had followed it you wouldn’t even know their opinions on the subject (though you might suspect). Sure, expressing disapproval isn’t the same thing as expressing hatred, but it doesn’t fall under the category of “saying something nice” either.

  161. As long as they think I’m a competent engineer

    You just said they dont think you are.

  162. @WCE “I’ve worked with people who think women/mothers shouldn’t be engineers and know lots of people who think mothers shouldn’t breastfeed in public. Some people have ostracized me for my decision to breastfeed in public.” Have large groups of people called you deviant and told you that you will go to hell for that? There’s big difference. I don’t know that any woman was murdered or beaten specifically for being an engineer.

  163. HM, I really appreciate your noting that expressing disapproval is not the same as expressing hatred. I had a great conversation once with a colleague who left Iran when the Shah was deposed about what tolerance means- I wish I could have a similar conversation with you. I think much of the root of today’s discussion lies in differing definitions of tolerance (or acceptance or whatever)

  164. Moxie, maybe not specifically for being an engineer, but lots of girls have had acid thrown on them for trying to attend school, just not in the US. There is a big difference between “I don’t think childcare is good for young children- they should be at home with their mothers whenever possible” and throwing acid on someone’s face.

  165. You are correct WCE – but there is a HUGE difference between “I don’t agree with it” and “It is deviant.” It is the belief that it is deviant that makes people think they are less than and should be abused. In the end it seems (not saying you because I don’t know) but most of the folks who use Christianity as their reason for being “against” homosexuality spend more time hating the sin than they do loving the sinner. People ARE born that way so it seems silly not to agree with it. Do you not agree with people who have birth defects?

  166. It all gets extra thorny when you try to distinguish between legal tolerance and moral tolerance.

    For more:

    “1. The Concept of Toleration and its Paradoxes
    It is necessary to differentiate between a general concept and more specific conceptions of toleration (see also Forst 2003, 2012b). The former is marked by the following characteristics. First, it is essential for the concept of toleration that the tolerated beliefs or practices are considered to be objectionable and in an important sense wrong or bad. If this objection component (cf. King 1976, 44–54 on the components of toleration) is missing, we do not speak of “toleration” but of “indifference” or “affirmation.” Second, the objection component needs to be balanced by an acceptance component, which does not remove the negative judgment but gives certain positive reasons that trump the negative ones in the relevant context. In light of these reasons, it would be wrong not to tolerate what is wrong, to mention a well-known paradox of toleration (discussed below). The said practices or beliefs are wrong, but not intolerably wrong.”

    Etc. It goes on.

    Forst, Rainer, “Toleration”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

  167. Honolulu Mother,
    “If you can’t say anything nice” is a good rule that the More-Accepting-than-Thou crowd on here would do well to heed. This thread was insane, with posters flying off the handle and finding offense where none was offered. The hypocrisy of “tolerance” at its finest.

  168. Moxie, nice try. Way to set up strawman arguments and putting words in my mouth. You don’t know me and wouldn’t know me even if I used my regular handle. Yours and the other poster’s almost militant and hateful (there it is ) response is one of the reasons I chose to go anonymous. I have had bad experience of online death threats on a completely lame ass issue on a mommy board of all the places. The HUGE irony is, that I am on your side of the issues.

    Also, you nicely skirted my claim of comparing me saying “deviant,” to persecution based on color, religion and gender. It’s a huge devaluation by you of those experiences.

    I am really disappointed and pissed off about certain comments made here today. It was mostly a civil conversation addressing OP’s concerns otherwise till then.

  169. I just read the article in the Huffpo that WCE linked to this morning. Well worth a read. How many tortured religious calculus geniuses did your high school have, anyway, WCE?

  170. Yeah, this is anon, and I don’t care, but I think Risley was way out of line today.

  171. Hey Rhett, pass the risotto over here.

    What if you had a child who grew up to be sexually attracted to children? The usual response is, “that’s not okay because children can’t consent.” But that’s not the true foundation of the revulsion people feel. If you tell your kid s/he’s deviant and unacceptable because s/he’s a pedophile, and s/he commits suicide, is that okay?

    This particular issue really bothers me, because if we’re going to go around saying “Baby, I was born this way”, then that applies to pedophiles too. They can’t change their sexual orientation. Shouldn’t we be treating them with compassion instead of the horrified revulsion that usually meets them?

  172. Anon: You raise some legitimate points, as do others, which brings me back to the productivity of this conversation. That said, if you’re a regular, I hope you think that it’s safe here to post controversial opinions using your regular handle. If not, I think that’s a problem.

    Rocky: Oh, goodness. You’ve just jumped the shark.

    We had such a nice thread–OP had some legitimate concerns. Now we end up with *this*??

  173. I didn’t jump the shark. It’s a perfectly legitimate question. And I think we answered the OP’s original question pretty thoroughly. Saying, “oh gracious, why did you have to bring up an analogy? And just when I was about to have my tea!” isn’t really an objection.

  174. Darn my phone battery is dying and it is so hard to post on a phone. Houston, honestly that one experience and the passion I felt here does not make me comfortable enough to use my regular handle.

    Rocky, um, I don’t even dare go there.

  175. “Does it make a noise when you unsheath the Phd in philosophy?”

    @Rhett — I totally heard a “fwsssshhhh” over here – you? I am now standing down for the evening, as I am clearly outmatched and outgunned. And also not nearly drunk enough to touch *that* particular sword with the proverbial 10-ft pole. :-)

  176. Rocky – Along the lines of saac supporting Reagan, this may surprise you and Rhett, but I agree with you. Not only that, I’ve argued that very point, and in real life, no less. A while back, our lovely, family-friendly, sought-after neighborhood was tarnished when a neighbor’s barely adult son still living at home was busted with kiddie porn on his hard drive. He went on the sex offender registry. I don’t know the details of the pictures, whether it was actual young children or 16 yo’s. I’ve watched enough Law and Order SVU to figure that someone, somewhere is victimized at the other end of the camera, but then I’ve also heard that some level of animated images can be illegal, so I don’t know.

    Anyway, some of my neighbors were like a lynch mob. One was actually talking about how she was going to follow his mother whenever she saw her leaving the house and try to convince them to move. As gently as possible, I made some of your points, and all they could say “But Milo, you’ve got YOUNG KIDS!!! You want that animal even looking at them when they’re riding their bikes or getting off the bus???”

    I think a lot of our sex-offender laws are un-Constitutional and unjust. Basically, in legal and social terms, we really don’t acknowledge that there’s much difference between the orientation and the willingness to act upon it. We just assume that “they” are all animals, and we assure ourselves that it would never be the case for our kids because, well, it must have been caused by abuse, and our kids aren’t abused, so we’re good.

    I have a feeling that it’s far more common than we think; most just will never act on it.

  177. “people who are looking to be offended will insist that making an analogy means that you are implying being gay and being a pedophile are somehow equivalent”

    Exactly. I would have been skewered if I had originally made Rocky’s point. “OMFG, Milo, are you seriously comparing the two? That’s just awful! What does that have to do with this discussion?!?!”

  178. @Rhett — I totally heard a “fwsssshhhh” over here – you?

    I totally heard it!

    But, to your point, I think it’s a fascinating question. Indeed, one of the biggest political questions of or time is: What percentage of our current prison popuation was, at one time, receiving mandatory inpatient psychiatric care in state hospitals?

  179. I have no doubt that if one of Milo’s children approached him as OP’s did, he would respond with sensitivity and tolerance. I *think* that this is probably a subject that he hadn’t given much thought to before this conversation. I also think he probably doesn’t get offended easily and gives people the benefit of the doubt when they say things that might not be in the best manner. I am a little uncomfortable with this whole exchange.

  180. this may surprise you and Rhett

    Certainty not, you’re like Mr. Spock. You can intellectualize human behavior and always reach eminently sensible conclusions. But, you don’t understand (grok) what makes normal humans tick on a base level.

  181. Rhett – my views on the topic are probably not what you’d expect of a knee-jerk law-and-order Republican.

  182. I’ll say this to the OP – If in the course of your child discovering who they are, they get together with partners whose character you do not approve of, don’t be silent. Similarly, if there is unsafe behavior in person or online – protect your child, even as you help your child navigate the next few years.

  183. Ditto Louise at 6:54. A friend of mine came out at as a young college freshman. He quickly became involved in an affair with a much older professor, in a class he was currently taking. If it had been an 18 year old girl with a 50 year old man with that kind of power differential, I think most people would have pointed out to the girl that this was not a healthy situation for her. But other than me, most friends of this guy thought that it was great that he was finally “out” and “free to be himself” and acted like this relationship was a good thing. I was really concerned for how that relationship would affect his adjustment to college among other things and wish his parents or someone had been keeping a closer eye on him.

  184. I was just thinking recently that given the numbers of posters and kids, it is surprising that no one here had mentioned a kid being LGBT. Statistics suggest there would be a couple kids who are.

    I think you’ve already done the best thing by being open and supportive. Your child knows that you are an ally now. Sorry to say, I think there will be many people who take this identity as some kind of comment on themselves, or invitation to reflect on their own understanding, which can be a lot for a young person to bear. You can help your kid learn how to not take those things personally.

    I’m glad your kid is in a school with supportive peers. (From what my guy says about his MS, I don’t see how anyone could come out there). Our society is setting ever more rigid parameters for two gender identities; imo, this leads to kids who don’t think they’re he-man or a princess to try on different labels. My son recently announced that he’s a metrosexual. As he explained more, I found out he still isn’t interested in the “sexual” part. He just wanted to say that he cares about how he looks and doesn’t see black male role models he wants to emulate.

    Good luck to you and your kid! S/he is lucky to have a parent whose first concern is how to best be supportive.

  185. RMS – we have a distant friend of the family struggling with that right now – the friend’s child was arrested for image possession. What do you do in that case?

  186. L — Dude, you’re the one who went to law school. I want more research into whether reading child porn has an expiating effect or an enhancing effect on people who suffer from pedophilia.

  187. Spock is not only lacking in emotions and empathic specify, he was also driven by logic and reason (not by data). The first half applies to Milo; the second does not.

  188. This topic is difficult for those of us with friends or family who have been victims of fear and hate due to their sexual orientation. A friend and her partner were given 6 hours to vacate their apartment when the landlord found out they were a same sex couple. Another friend, who came out to her immediate family, had one of them tell extended family she was a child molester, not a lesbian – somehow they were the same thing to this family member. Ruined her relationship with extended family for years until she found out what they’d been told. A male college classmate holds religious beliefs that even though he is gay, he should never engage in a sex act with another man. Very few people know this about him. He has chosen a celibate life in line with his religious beliefs, but has been put in many uncomfortable situations with well meaning people who would try to set him up with the “right girl”.

    So, it can be difficult to discuss some of these things in unemotionally when you know how hurtful some of the comments would be to the people you know if they were reading them.

  189. “Empathic capacity”, not specify.

    I got distracted during the first post and forgot to include the following:
    Time will tell whether your child is similarly experimenting with different ways to describe his/her unique self or does have a “nonstandard” form of sexuality. What will last is the warmth and support and “nbd” attitude you are showing about your child and this topic.

  190. SM – recently I met with a marketing group and in their introductions they mentioned that they were a well dressed bunch. Yep, the guys were dressed like metrosexuals..
    I did feel like I needed a fashion makeover after meeting with them.

  191. “Spock is not only lacking in emotions and empathic specify, he was also driven by logic and reason (not by data). The first half applies to Milo; the second does not.”

    Jesus, saac! Nice to see you, too.

  192. I have intentionally stayed out of today’s discussion, but have to say I don’t consider Milo to be lacking in empathy or logic.

    I agree with Austinmom. We have close family friends whose son committed suicide after a lifetime of his father not being able to accept the fact that he was gay. This child actually changed my mom’s acceptance of our church’s teaching that it is a choice. She met him first when he was 18 months, and said her first thought was “Oh my gosh, he’s gay!” He never changed, and his father never could accept it. He was beaten so badly waiting for public transportation that he was in a coma for a while. In asking me to pray for him, my mom told me he was beaten up because of his lifestyle. In my naive high school self, I didn’t know what that meant. My mom told me drugs, because she couldn’t bring herself to say gay. (This was 30 years ago – she can discuss it nonjudgmentally now). When he took his life, he timed it so that his dad would be the one to find him. My parents were the only ones at the funeral, and my dad then called me every day at college for weeks to make sure I knew there was nothing I couldn’t talk to him about. It had a very profound effect on my views towards being gay. Clearly, this boy would not have chosen this path for himself. Even though I see myself as sensitive to this topic, I don’t find anyone here to be unkind or malicious in their statements. But I do think we’ve beaten it into the ground.

  193. The first half applies to Milo; the second does not.”

    That’s not true at all! I think your having issues with the empathy/sympathy metric we’ve discussed in the past.

  194. Louise, lol!

    Austin and MBT, so sorry to hear about your family & friends! I only have a couple of gay friends, and the worst violence I’ve heard of in my circles is a guy in my dorm who was a leader in the campus LGBT movement. The flyers and posters on his door were burned. One of my son’s former instructors is gay. We stay in touch, and I’ve got to say that seeing him interact with his teammates in an adult soccer league was awesome–he gave as good as he got, for example declaring that he liked the goalie position because he got the best view of his teammates.

    Milo, if you’re just now realizing that I feel you are not empathetic, that kind of proves my point.

  195. Do you realize how often you insult Milo?

    It takes two to tango. Saac is the little (or big) sister Milo never had.

  196. “A male college classmate holds religious beliefs that even though he is gay, he should never engage in a sex act with another man. Very few people know this about him. He has chosen a celibate life in line with his religious beliefs”

    In a different time and place, he would “have a calling.”

    Pedophiliac tendencies also, in a time and place, lead to a similar “calling.” Having two different reasons for the same “calling” is one reason a lot of people conflate being gay with being a pedophile.

  197. I always appreciate the conversation here, especially on topics like this when so often on other blogs the comments break down and become hostile. There is a lot of respect amongst the commenter that I appreciate.

    That being said saac, as a frequent reader and infrequent poster (difficult to post at work), you are frequently and unnecessarily rude to Milo.

  198. Happy First Day of Spring, everyone! (She says from her little north-of-Boston town where it is now 19 degrees outside.)

  199. NoB – it is truly spring here – still cool (low 46/high 69), rain off and on but the flowers and trees are blooming. By Easter, the trees will all have leaves.

  200. Seems like a Totebag-appropriate frolic and detour — this is what DS and all of his friends have been singing lately:

    Although my inner Grammar Twit winces just a little bit at the failure to use the subjunctive. . . .

  201. Wow, I missed an interesting conversation. I will just note that I think there is a more than average chance that DD will end up LGBT, but won’t know for a few more years. She has been pretty consistent about her choices since she was around 3. We’ll see….

  202. “Also, you nicely skirted my claim of comparing me saying “deviant,” to persecution based on color, religion and gender. It’s a huge devaluation by you of those experiences.”

    @Anon – I didn’t address your claim because it doesn’t make any sense. Equating discrimination based on sexual orientation with discrimination based on color is a perfectly appropriate and valid claim. It seems to me that you are upset that I have made assumptions about the kind of person that you are based on this one variable. I’m betting that despite you thinking that homosexuals are deviant, you think you are a pretty good person who does nice things for your friends and your community. You don’t think it is fair for me to judge you this way and you would doubt my sincerity if I were to say, “I don’t like what you are saying, but truly I harbor no ill will toward you.” Well, THAT is exactly what it feels like to be on the other side of the argument.

    @RMS, I would say that the fundamental difference between say a pedophile and a homosexual is that homosexuals aren’t hurting anyone. Just because they may both be inborn (i don’t know about pedophilia) involve the naughty bits doesn’t mean they are comparable.

  203. Moxie, they’re comparable in that they are both sexual orientations. I agree that in our culture and in many, many other cultures, we consider acting on child-directed sexual impulses as damaging to the child. I endorse that, even, because I just am not that much of a relativist. But they’re both sexual orientations, and culturally we’re schizophrenic about how we deal with them. Some of the very same people who say “homosexuality is just a lifestyle choice — just choose to be straight” (my pastor and head of Elders says this) are the same people who think we should lock pedophiles up and throw away the key because they’re incapable of change, or of choosing to be celibate.

  204. @Rocky — FWIW, I think the distinction makes sense, I am just not as sure the science on pedophilia is as far down the line as on homosexuality. I know some of the arguments are similar, i.e., people used to think that homosexuality was a psychological issue caused by childhood trauma/abuse, now there is more understanding that it is innate; people currently think that pedophilia is a psychological issue caused by childhood trauma/abuse, but there is now some science suggesting that it is innate. I am not up on that science, and there were some holes in the article I think Rio posted earlier, but it is interesting and worth further study.

    But in any event, I think the distinction between identity and behavior is a completely valid one. One of the things that Gene Weingarten wrote in his weekly chat was that he has a great deal of respect for the character of pedophiles who do not act on those impulses, because they face temptation every day that the rest of us don’t, and every day they make a conscious decision not to act on those feelings because they know doing so would be wrong and hurtful. I have to agree with this.

    Of course, Moxie’s distinction is also completely valid when it comes to the behaviors, and I totally share her view on that. I don’t care who you sleep with, as long as you’re not hurting someone in the process.

  205. haven’t read all of the comments, but it is definitely a spectrum. The Kinsey scale
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale
    goes from 0 (hetero exclusively)-6 (homosexual exlclusively) with perfectly bi being right in the middle
    even if you choose a monogamous lifestyle, your identity would still be bi

  206. on topic there are some great YA GLBT books I would have your child read, depending on maturity level and age
    Andrew Smith has some great ones: Grasshopper Jungle the MC is Bi and his best friend is gay

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