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Teenage friends having a sleepover

The sleepover dilemma

By Michelle Richards

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My nephew has a friend who has come out as transgender (female-to-male) in high school. He truly is just like one of the (other) boys when it comes to sports and other traditionally “male” activities. Most of his friends’ parents have accepted this development except for one thing: When it comes to sleepovers, he is not invited. Although he is “one of the boys” when it comes to everything else, because he still has female genitalia, he is unable to join the guys for overnight activities.

While this seems unfair, the situation calls to mind just how heterosexually-biased our society truly is. The parents who deny him sleepovers are doing so because of the age-old rule that boys and girls don’t sleep together because something might “happen.” However, this ignores the fact that some boys are interested sexually in other boys (so much for not setting up tempting scenarios) and some girls are not sexually attracted to boys.

When my own daughter came out last year as bisexual (or, as she prefers to call it, “pan-sexual”), I experienced my own moment of pause. (I tell this story with her permission.) Her speech team was headed to the state tournament, and I was all for her attending, but then I learned the girls would be housed in one hotel room together and the boys in another. While chaperones would be accompanying them, they would have their own rooms. With a teenager who could potentially be physically drawn to either a male or female, suddenly all bets were off. Those simple rules such as “boys in one room, girls in the other” suddenly didn’t seem quite so simple!

So basically I had to rely on trust and the good judgment of my daughter, not an easy thing for a parent to do. It helped that her girlfriend at the time was not going along for the ride or the sleepover, so that made things easier for my husband and me to swallow.

I also couldn’t help but remember that when I was her age, I went on a ski trip and spent all of the time with my guy-pals, including one night falling asleep in their room. Nothing happened—and there was even contraband alcohol involved in that particular scenario, which could have weakened resolve and encouraged poor decision-making.

The moral of the story therefore is that boys + girls (and raging teenage hormones) do not necessarily lead to sexual activity. Instead, a fun but (shall we say) uneventful sleepover involves a much more complicated formula such as the individual personalities and attractions of each of the boys and the girls correlated with their ability to overcome possible temptation and attractions. Sure, it’s a lot harder than the simple rule of sleepovers that we’ve come to accept—but no one said parenting was easy!

Photograph above: © 2008 Fotolia XI - Fotolia.com

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