Parenting --Teens/my gay 13yo son going to sleep away camp for the first time this Monday.
My 13yo son came out earlier this year. Which I am totally cool and ok with. I also kind expected from an early age. My concern is next week he will be starting summer sleep away camp for the first time, (besides the one night camp outs he had in the pass at our local sleep away camps). He will be gone for two weeks. I know he would be of course showering and changing with other boys, and I don't want him to be getting made fun of for looking or "getting excited" ect. He is not flamboyant or anything, (nor would I care) so that is not a concern. This is the first time he is attending to this particular camp with these kids from all over the place, and I don't know if they will be as tolerant as the children at his school, we live in a very progressive area. I told him he should come to whom when and if he wants when he feels he is ready. My question is should I inform is counselor ahead of time, to see if he could get his own changing and showing area, if needed. The thing is I don't want to "make it a issue, bu making it an issue". Any advice would be great.
My other concern is should I give him any kind of sex talk and if so how, just in case he meets a other boy them. Of course I gave him the whole STD and HIV talk but what else should I tell him. I know there want be any unexpected pregnancies, off course, and I am very open mind sexually. But what should I tell him to be safe. Because the back of my mind says if I had a 13yo straight girl now way would i let her spend a whole month in a cabin with all boys.
You know your son better than I can after reading your description, so here are my thoughts based on working with gay teens including foster sons.
I wouldn't want to segregate him from the other campers. A question in my mind is from your saying that the kids in his school are tolerant. Does that mean he is out to the whole school. If that is the case then he already has some idea of how to navigate in a non-gay world. Hopefully, the camp he is going to is progressive enough that they can work to make sure that gay identified kids can have an equally good experience as the rest of the kids. If that isn't the case, then you are setting up a disaster.
I wouldn't worry about the separate showers and the changing area. If he is going to a school with a gym, he has navigated showers already. I would probably let the counselors know that he is a perfectly adjusted normal gay teen and that you are letting them know mainly so that they can be on the lookout for any negative aggressiveness from other campers.
The following is based on my assumption that he is out to everyone and would be disclosing that at camp: I would discuss with him the realities of being out and how that can elicit negative reactions from others, so his choices concerning general disclosure of his sexuality needs to be tempered by an analysis of the social climate he is in at that moment. By no means am I encouraging you to get him back in the closet. He does need to know that ultimately he has to be responsible for his actions and disclosure to some kids might mean he will need to defend himself. My mother used to say, "Discretion is the better part of valor."
The other thing I would discuss with him is the same thing that I would discuss with a non-gay kid going to a coed camp. Just because someone is attractive to him doesn't mean that they are interested in him. Part of life of being gay is to know when it is appropriate to approach others for dating, etc. and when not to do that. It is a lot easier in the non-gay world because everyone with a dress is in the fair game category. In the gay world, it is a bit more tricky to figure out who is in the tribe and who isn't. If he is out to the world, part of that problem is overcome by the fact that those interested in him will feel free to approach him.
The only other thing I might discuss with him is that if he should find a willing partner, they need to stay within the behavior code of the camp, which I am sure includes a ban on overt sex by anyone.
I hope this all helped. You can always reply with follow up questions if you want or need to. If you go to my website, http://TheParentsCoach.com
there are a bunch of useful parenting tips on my blog. There is also a parents resource page with recommended books. My favorite one, which is required reading for all my clients, is "Parent As Coach." It is low price, a quick read, and it transforms even pretty good parent/son relationships. You absolutely need to buy and read this book. If you click on the title it will take you right to the Amazon.com page to order it.
Because I know that departure date is coming up fast, if you have any additional questions, my phone number is on the website, click on the "Call Me" button and it is a toll-free call.
Jason Wittman, MPS