“My teenage daughter came out to my wife a few months ago, but not to me. She doesn’t know that her mom told me she’s a lesbian. My wife says she’ll tell me when she’s ready, but it hurts me that my daughter feels uncomfortable talking to me about it. How can I support her while giving her space?”
Question submitted Anonymously
Answered by Lana Halperin
First, congratulations and thank you for being a supportive, accepting dad. That’s awesome.
Who knows why your daughter is holding back from you at this time. She might not even know. I understand why it might hurt, but keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a lack of trust in you. She might be afraid that you will start to see her differently, or she may have a friend whose father reacted badly when they came out, or perhaps it took her all the courage she had just to come out to your wife, and she needs some more time before doing it again. No one can read your daughter’s mind. Being a teenager, let alone an LGBTIQ teenager, can be incredibly difficult, confusing and unpredictable.
What can you do now?
Be patient. This is her journey, on her timeline. I believe you are right to give her space and continue to respect her privacy; if you reveal that your wife told you, she could feel betrayed. Continue life and your relationship as normal.
The only thing in your control is the power to provide the best environment (one that is open, responsive, inclusive, accepting and safe—all the best things) for her, for whenever she’s ready. Don’t give her any reason to believe that you would be anything but supportive.
Of course, you can slip some LGBTIQ-friendly conversation topics around the dinner table, but only if that feels natural and won’t tip your daughter off or stress her out. Don’t interrogate her, put her on the spot about it, or be coy with leading questions—that could backfire.
Whatever you do, it has to be true to the relationship you already have with your daughter.
On the other hand, if you feel like there’s room to improve on your relationship with your daughter, make sure it’s gradual and natural. If you suddenly and dramatically change your behavior, it could have the exact opposite effect and make her withdraw or get angry when she realizes that your wife has outed her against her wishes. Set some time aside to hang out, but keep it casual without the obvious “agenda” or putting pressure or expectations on it.
Patience, love, indirect support, and more patience—that is how you can support her.
From what I can gather from the steps you’ve already taken, she is very lucky to have a dad like you.
Lana Halperin is a 25 year old law graduate from Perth in Western Australia, currently living and working in Canberra (Australia’s largely forgotten, under-appreciated capital city). She recently helped establish a social network for LGBTQ young professionals in Canberra and will gladly talk for hours about musical theatre, reality television, ladies of comedy and/or her fondness for bicycles and trampolines.
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