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When Sex Isn’t Talked About at Home

By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: August 22, 2019 Revised: August 22, 2019

The idea of coming home from school and talking to my mom about how a girl I was flirting with asked me out is a completely alien concept to me. To this day I’ve never addressed anything about my sexual health with my parents beyond telling my mom when I got my first period. Sex and relationships have always been uncomfortable topics in my family, and my parents and siblings did little to help me navigate those aspects of my life. Not having an open conversation about sex at home has influenced the way I’ve grown up, how I view myself and the relationships I have with my family.

Not being able to be 100-percent myself with my family out of fear of judgment has put a strain on our relationship.

My Formal Education

School didn’t help much, either. When I was 11, I walked into my school’s library expecting to receive the dreaded “talk.” We were supposed to sit through an uncomfortable discussion about puberty and sex, topics none of us really knew much about. In 45 minutes, sex was mentioned once, and the message was crystal clear: abstinence is the only way to remain safe and healthy. Not once did they talk about how people who identify as LGBTQ may experience sex differently. It made anything other than a heterosexual relationship seem weird or different. I was frustrated when my school failed to teach me what I needed to know about sex and relationships. It was disappointing to then go home to a family that would do little to help inform me about the things I didn’t understand.

My Family and Friends

I’d never had the stereotypical “birds and the bees” conversation with my parents, so what I did learn about sex was mostly from overhearing my sister and her friends talk about their boyfriends. Anything related to being LGBTQ was never taught or explained, which can be confusing for a middle schooler struggling to figure out her sexual orientation. The most I ever learned at home about being queer came from overhearing my brother and his friends make condescending remarks they found amusing about people who were openly LGBTQ.

When I started thinking about dating, I didn’t understand how or why I didn’t always find the same boys my friends found “cute” attractive or why I thought that girl over there was really pretty. It made me uncomfortable in my own skin, like there was something wrong with me. But because sex or anything related to being LGBTQ had never been mentioned by my parents, I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about it. What if they couldn’t understand or empathize with what I was going through?

In seventh grade, I found out what it meant to be bisexual from a friend who came out as bi. I finally felt relief that there were other people experiencing what I was. Still, I haven’t talked about it at home; the idea of coming out to my entire family scares me. My parents and I have always been close, but as I get older, it seems like we’ve grown more distant because there’s a part of my life we don’t talk about. Not being able to be 100-percent myself with my family out of fear of judgment has put a strain on our relationship. I can’t tell them about the date I went on or ask for relationship advice. So, when my parents or siblings ask about how my day went, it’s like I can’t tell them everything because I’m too worried about how they would react. Unfortunately, it’s made me withdraw from them.

Why Creating a Conversation Is Important

Between my family and school, I was left disappointed and lacking the skills needed to help me figure out my sexual orientation and navigate relationships. I wish my parents had started talking about relationships with me at a young age, creating a foundation for me to better understand sex and sexuality. I know I’m not alone; friends of mine have had similar experiences where their parents didn’t discuss sex or relationships, leaving them confused. I hope more families ensure their children feel capable and confident talking about sexual orientation and relationships.

I know from experience that it would make a big difference if more families created an environment that include open and honest conversations about sex.

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