“My daughter just came out to me, but in the last few months I’ve noticed that most of her friends are also gay. Did her friends turn her gay?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Lana Halperin
This seems to be a pretty common worry for a lot of parents of queer kids! I’m not a parent, but I can understand what it might look like to a parent if they see their child go through a transformation of any kind after getting involved with a new group of friends. It can be a natural instinct to connect the dots and assume those new friends caused that change.
The answer to your question on face value is pretty clean cut – no, your daughter’s friends probably did not turn your daughter gay. As people much smarter than me would say: correlation does not imply causation. While I don’t believe you’ve actually said this to your daughter, if someone was to say to a newly out person your friends turned you gay, the message under the surface is a particularly negative one. The take-home message is that their identity is something negative that warrants being excused away or, even more troubling, that their identity isn’t legitimate or believable. In summary – it implies that their friends created something negative and changed them for the worse.
The reality is it can be very difficult for queer kids to find people they can relate to on a daily basis. Even with the most supportive families and allies, sharing experiences with others going through similar challenges can be incredibly helpful. Many queer kids struggle to find others and establish themselves in a community of likeminded people, but it seems your daughter is one of the lucky ones who has found a network.
It might be helpful to frame your question from another angle – while not “turning her gay,” your daughter’s friends actually could have been a direct cause in your daughter coming out to you. If anything, your daughter’s friends could have helped “turn” your daughter into the version of herself who felt comfortable and confident enough in herself and her identity to come out by creating a support network and sense of community that perhaps she had never experienced until that point. In that sense, her friends most likely created something positive and changed your daughter’s life for the better. Your daughter possibly has done the same for them.
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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