“My teenage daughter says that she’s a lesbian, but she had a crush on a man a few years ago, so it could be a phase. She’s sensitive about the topic and got annoyed when I accidentally referred to her future partner as her husband. I’m trying to be supportive, but I’m unsure whether it’s a phase or if she’s bisexual. How can I get better at this?”

Question submitted Anonymously
Answered by Susan Berland

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I understand your concerns and confusion. I’ll start by saying that her having had a crush on a man a few years ago doesn’t mean she’s bisexual, nor does it mean that her identifying as a lesbian is a phase. She may be bisexual, but that is not how she is identifying. She is identifying as a lesbian. Her crush on a man may have been her trying to explore her orientation or even trying to please you if she thought that’s what you wanted to hear.
Like you, I am a parent. My son is gay. When he came out to me, I experienced a lot of disappointment and sadness about the fact that his life was not going to turn out the way I imagined. I think if he had come out as bisexual, I would have made the same assumptions as many before me: “If he’s bisexual, why doesn’t he just choose to be with a woman? His life would be so much easier.” Some parents hope for that, thinking their child would then be able to choose. Others hope it’s a phase because they are initially uncomfortable with their child’s orientation. 
To “get better at this,” start by educating yourself about what it means to be a lesbian. There are many wonderful resources that are available and easy to find just by doing a Google search, including My Kid Is Gay, Everyone Is Gay, and PFLAG. You obviously love your daughter or you wouldn’t have written in asking this question. Connect to that love and ask yourself if it matters whether or not she is a lesbian. Be honest—there is no wrong answer. If you find it doesn’t matter, let your daughter know that. Tell her you love her and it doesn’t matter, you just want her to be happy. If you slip up and refer to a future partner with a male gender, apologize. Let her know that you are trying and that while it sometimes takes a parent a little time to adjust, you are working on it every day. Ask for her patience.
If, when you answer that question, you find it does matter, that’s okay. It’s common for a parent whose child comes out as LGBTQ to have that reaction. Why does it matter? What about it concerns you? Are you concerned for her or for you? Many of us worry about our child’s safety and happiness when we first find out. Many of us have had dreams and expectations for our children and worry that if they are LGBTQ, they won’t fulfill those dreams and expectations. That’s okay. Some of us need time to grieve the loss of what we imagined our child’s life to be before we can fully embrace them for who they truly are. 
Your daughter came out to you. That indicates that you have an open enough relationship that she felt safe to do so. Congratulations! Build on that trust by being honest with yourself and with her. If you base all your conversations in the love you have for her, then you and she will be fine!

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Parenting Coach Susan Berland is fiercely committed to guiding parents of gay youth back to a loving, accepting relationship when they are struggling to accept their child as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Susan guides parents and their kids to communicate effectively, trust one another and accept one another where and as they are. You can learn more about Susan at http://susanhopeberland.com and read her free report, 6 Secrets to bring peace back to your heart and home.

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