15 Feb 2009

Not a eunuch

I've written a post as part of Dave Hingsburger's Blogging on Sexuality carnival.

I've often heard other parents of autistic children lament that their child will "never marry or have children of their own."
My response:
  1. How do you know?
  2. So what?
I didn't have children so they would provide me with the opportunity to wear a fabulous hat at their wedding or to ensure a supply of grandchildren when I'm older. I've given them life and it's now theirs to live as they choose.

In raising these 3 children, I aim to teach them about relationships and sexuality. I hope they will develop the ability to make safe, healthy and wise choices. I want them to feel empowered, to have fun, to have respect for themselves and others. Their lessons started early: they have always had their questions on bodies and life answered honestly and age appropriately, they've known the correct terminology for body parts and been offered little bits of information relative to their understanding. Instead of waiting until they are of a certain age and sitting them each down for "The Talk" we have lots of chats as we go along. There's a lot more to learn yet.

holding hands

I've also had to explain these concepts to my autistic son. He is taught about his body and to expect to be treated with dignity and to have his privacy respected. I want him to learn how to avoid exploitative encounters. He is learning like all children, what is and isn't appropriate in certain situations, and as he grows, he will be helped to understand the physical and emotional changes he's experiencing. As for each of my children, I hold no expectations for how, when or even if he will want to have romantic relationships. But he will be a man and his sexuality is a given and a right. I don't assume that just because he's learning disabled he's some sort of eunuch and I will help him however I can to learn how to negotiate the perplexing, fraught but ultimately exciting and joyful complexities of relationships. Whether marriage or children will be part of this path is up to him.

I recommend you go read Dave's own post which is just awesomeness and power and all that's great...funny as hell too.

9 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thanks for joining in with the day on sexuality. I love the assumption that your boy will be a man ... and mourn that it is so rare.

Ed said...

"I didn't have children so they would provide me with the opportunity to wear a fabulous hat at their wedding or to ensure a supply of grandchildren when I'm older. I've given them life and it's now theirs to live as they choose."

That is a great statement!

I was given every indication and often told directly that being me (who is autistic) meaning learning disabilities, mental defects etc. should never consider marriage. I never doubted this was true until several months before I got married at age 36.

One of the biggest surprises has been learning how much incorrect assumptions had led to my belief about myself. Societies prejudices are too often the deciding factor in such issues.

lisadom said...

Yeah, there is a doctor here in the republic at a major children's hospital who says that to parents. I met a few of them at early bird and it really seems to get to people.
I guess I have always been the one day at a time person, regardless of disability - I never looked down the line at owning a toddler - when I had a newborn, or indeed planned any of their futures out before I knew that I was to be twice exceptional parent.

As for sexuality? I did plan that I would raise my son to respect women and appreciate them as equals - whoever he chose to love. My major plan for my daughter was to try and raise her without turning into my own mother.
Now that I know they are "different" I still wish that for them, but a big part of me doesn't want them to grow up at all. I guess I have evolved into an Irish Mammy !
At best I hope for a nice big gap between toilet training and training for health and hygiene etc. Enough time for me to recover from the former.

As for eunuch? OH MY GOD, but there is an 11 year old in my house with fuzz on his upper lip and whatever the opposite of eunuch is - going on. I grew up with 3 sisters and was so NOT ready for this, but fortunately his school is. They don't get that many pre-teens in ABA schools so Boo is something of a proto-type, but there is a older child in one of the other branches and the Director of our school met with them and shared notes and he will be starting a "my body" program very soon. Thankfully.

I agree with you about being factual when questions are asked. Nothing is worse than growing up and realising that you were lied to as a child.
The stork brings a baby, it comes out of your belly button, eating your crusts gives you curly hair.

I still don't eat my crusts.

xx

Lindsay said...

I think my mom might have assumed I'd never have romantic relationships, although I didn't feel like she was denying me anything. I am glad now that she did not burden me with expectations that I'd have a conventional love life.

However, I do wish I had been told how to avoid exploitative encounters --- I had such an encounter early in high school, mostly because I didn't know it was okay to say No. I thought I needed to be nice to the person, even though he was a total stranger, and ended up having an unwanted sexual "relationship" because of it.

It sounds like you've already given your son this information, though.

Sharon said...

@Dave, thanks for thinking this up. You're an inspiration.

@Ed, I've no doubt that social prejudices affect individual's self image and quash personal ambition. It's great that you were able to fight that and do what suits you with your life now and are also doing so much to warn people of those dangers.

@Lisa, it's easier said than done. I hope to live up to my words but I'll screw up loads no doubt and worry too much. I can already see the transition to adulthood with my daughter and Duncan's only 2 years younger. But still like you, I just takes things day by day while staying aware of the bigger picture.

@Lindsay, that's a good point thanks. It's important not to assume that someone will have a relationship when they'd rather not. And I have to say that the most important word to be able to communicate for anyone, is NO. I wouldn't say I've already given my son this information but I'm certainly working on it!

Xbox4NappyRash said...

This was just wonderful.

My sister has a son with learning difficulties, and recently she's been discovering that those difficulties don't exclude him from the normal early teenage encounters.

It's been hard for her to come to terms with.

Sharon said...

Xbox, thanks. It's not easy. I hope your nephew enjoys his teenage years and doesn't stress his mum out too much!

Xbox4NappyRash said...

He will most probably accomplish the former, but most definitely not the latter!

fgeegf said...
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