updated 8 Jan 2011, 10:22
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Thu, Jan 06, 2011
The Star/ANN
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Dealing with the 'gay' tag
I HAVE a 19-year-old daughter and a 12-year old son. My son has always been very close to me. 

In many ways, my son is in a league of his own. He is very creative and artistic. His talent can be seen in his many art pieces and they have won several awards and even been published in the media.  

Lately, his interest has turned to creative face make-up, fashion styling and designs. Although he excels in Maths and Science subjects, he has now set his mind to be a fashion designer when he finishes school. 

Due to his interests, he often experiments with his clothes and his style is trendy and unconventional. Because of this, he is often teased by some of his friends, especially boys who call him sissy, girly and effeminate. Some have even called him gay. 

Being exposed to the meaning of gay and what it represents, he has googled on this subject to find out more. Now he thinks he really is gay. 

I have explained that others cannot appreciate his uniqueness, hence the teasings. I assured him that he is definitely not gay, he is just a normal healthy boy who is gifted with creative talents.  

In my heart, I assure myself that this is merely a phase he is going through and it will pass, but he seems very affected by this and I can sense that his mind is in turmoil. At least he has shown that he wants to shake off this “gay” tag. 

I encourage him to dress in the kind of clothes boys his age would wear, and play sports. My daughter even told him that it’s all right to be interested in girls. While he seems genuine in “changing”, he just has no interest in these interventions we have set out for him. 

Please advise if there is a more effective way of dealing with this predicament that my son and I are going through.
Worried mum of gifted child 

Your 12-year-old son is a pre-teen. Like his peers, he is curious about sexuality and human relationships. He has many questions on the subject of sexual orientation. He will base his findings on what his friends say and what he reads on the Internet. 

Before you start talking to your son, do some research on the subjects that he wants to talk to you about. Be honest with your own feelings. Deal with your own biases before you approach your son. You need to gain his trust so that he will share his concerns with you. 

At his age, he is more interested in the fashion industry and not on sexual orientation. Separate the issues at hand. You can set up opportunities for your son to explore all fashion-related occupations and learn about the successful individuals in the field. Highlight their talents and struggles for their art. 

In today’s society, both men and women can enter occupations that used to be gender-stereotyped. If you are able to promote this positive insight to your son, you will help him see things differently. There are men and women who are increasingly moving into and succeeding in non-traditional careers. They followed their dreams and did well. 

A pre-teen like your son is often misled by the media on human relationships and their sexual orientation.  

Much of the information he gets is not related to him. He must be able to turn to those who are closest to him for help. 

Conduct regular family discussions to talk about the going-ons in your children’s lives. This way, your son can find opportunities to voice out his concerns and worries openly. Be sure to listen without prejudice. 

Acceptance is what you should have for your son instead of trying to change him. You can make it possible for him to face the world with pride and dignity. Be more concerned for his feelings. Let him know that he is loved unconditionally. 

Being masculine does not mean he needs to act in a macho way. We need to respect people for their differences.  

Everyone has a great deal to contribute to making a better world. Your son knowing this will eventually learn to be comfortable with his own behaviour. 

He should feel proud of his interest in fashion. Having such determination to excel in a trade at such a young age is commendable. Make time for him to pursue his interest.

Whenever your son feels chided for his behaviour or his interest, your support should be unwavering. Only those who are insecure will try to make others feel lousy about who they are.

His self-assurance will show those who taunt him that he is strong and not a weakling.

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