Grandmom’s Innocent Question May Be Harmful

By Amy Dickinson | November 3rd, 2023

Is it OK to assume a teenager is straight?

teenager at the Doncaster Pride Festival in 2017 - image by Shauntaylorhome. Article: Is it OK to ask teenagers about their romantic relationships while assuming they are straight? Or is that innocent question harmful?

Is it OK to ask teenagers about their romantic relationships while assuming they are heterosexual? Or is Grandmom’s innocent question harmful? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say.

Dear Amy:

A couple of years ago I overheard my sister ask one of her teen grandsons if he had found a girlfriend yet.

Later, I explained how uncomfortable that question had made me when I was a gay teen who had not yet come out.

I suggested that if she had to delve into a young person’s love life, that she should reword the question so that it doesn’t assume that the person is a heterosexual, maybe instead asking, “Have you found a special someone in your life yet?”

She blew me off, saying that if the boy was gay, he would have told her.

Last week I witnessed her doing the same thing to yet another grandson (the original boy’s cousin).

I lack the words to describe to her the fear of rejection by their families and friends that many (most?) young LGBT+ people go through while working up the courage to come out to their families.

Every time a family member says something assuming that they are heterosexual, it just makes it that much harder to share the truth – if the young person is not heterosexual. Grandmom’s innocent question may cause more pain.

I would hope that people who love the young folks in their lives give those youngsters the message that it is OK to be who they are by not assuming they are straight.

– Out and Proud

Dear Out:

Thank you for highlighting how potentially damaging this assumption can be – especially for a young person.

I need to add that – honestly – I find that the overt curiosity about any teenager’s romantic life on the part of grandparents (and other adults) can seem unduly intrusive. Let a teen volunteer this information, if they are inclined.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from Grandmom’s innocent question to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2023 by Amy Dickinson

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