Since coming out, my daughter has turned into a militant liberal feminist. She won’t accept any other viewpoints about homosexuality except that it’s right. She won’t accept that I have my own perspective—which is that I don’t accept it. Isn’t this just as bad as if I tried to indoctrinate her in what I think? I’m not trying to change her mind on the issues, I just want her to respect that I have my own beliefs and stop being so intolerant.
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Alyse Knorr
I’m sorry you’re having a hard time communicating with your daughter right now, Anonymous, and I’m very glad you wrote in to My Kid Is Gay to get advice. This shows that you’re taking steps to better understand where your daughter is coming from, and that you want to grow closer with her. Parents can feel surprised when their child comes out, and they may even worry that their child has become someone different from the person they raised. In some cases, your child may develop new interests, including new political beliefs, after coming out. For a parent, this can feel like just one more change to get used to. I understand if you’re feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under you. So let’s look at your question bit by bit.
First off, let’s explore what you mean by the word “militant,” which connotes someone using violent, extreme measures to force someone to agree with them. Is your daughter speaking to you violently, or with passion? Is she forcing her opinions on you, or defending her own opinions strongly? Is she being aggressive about her viewpoints and demanding that you change your mind, or is she thoroughly explaining her reasoning behind why she believes what she believes, and why it’s important to her? The reason I ask is because sometimes when a person we disagree with explains their position to us, we interpret them as being much more forceful than they usually intend, simply because we disagree with them. So to begin with, I would urge you to carefully consider in what ways exactly your daughter is being“militant” and “intolerant.”
For instance, if your daughter exhibits passionate emotions when she discusses LGBTQIA or feminist issues with you, there’s a good chance she’s doing so because these matters are fundamentally important to her day-to-day rights as a gay woman. It may be difficult for her to say, “I respect that you feel differently” if she feels that your belief system does not support her identity or her rights. For you, these political debates are about abstract belief. For your daughter, they actually impact her real life, such as her access to housing and employment, her job security and opportunities for career advancement, her mental health, and even her physical safety. This might account for the strong emotions she feels when they come up for discussion.
What’s more, she may also be trying so hard to convince you that being gay is okay because she wants so badly for you to think she’s okay. Kids never stop wanting their parents’ approval, no matter how old we get. You can tell her, “I’ll love you no matter what, but I don’t accept that you’re gay” as often as you want, but sadly, she’ll probably hear that second part of the sentence much more loudly.
Now let’s talk about the word “intolerant.” It sounds like your daughter is refusing to accept that you do not accept homosexuality. And while I understand how, to you, this stance may seem similar to your own strong feelings about LGBTQIA issues, they are actually quite different. While your opinions are based on your perceptions and overall beliefs, your daughter’s are based on someone telling her that her very person is wrong and that she does not deserve to have equal rights. That can make a person exceptionally passionate. Try to imagine yourself in your daughter’s shoes–has anyone ever told you that you deserve less than full equality because of the way you look, the gender you are, or the gender of the person you love? This traumatic kind of experience both transcends and inspires politics; throughout history, when a group of people seeks to right historical wrongs and fight injustice, their passion is often first labeled “radical” or “militant” due to its intensity and significance.
In the end, my advice is this: if you can’t find common ground on this, you may want to avoid political conversations with your daughter entirely. But if you must discuss politics, remember that sometimes hearing someone fiercely disagree with a belief we’ve held for a long time makes us want to dig in our heels on principle and cling even more tightly to our original belief. I encourage you not to do this. Instead, open up your mind to the other possibilities and see if you can grow and possibly evolve your position on this topic. Learn more about LGBTQIA issues and issues of gender equality, so you might see where your daughter is coming from a bit more. If you can find even an ounce more common ground with your daughter, communication will likely become much easier between you two.
I would also strongly encourage you to learn more about your daughter’s identity and about LGBTQIA rights issues. This doesn’t mean voting Democrat—it means learning to accept your daughter for who she is and to believe she is entitled to the same rights that you have. Again, your daughter may never be able to accept that you don’t want her to love who she loves and be who she is. And she should never have to accept that. Clearly, you raised a strong person who feels just as passionately about politics and current issues as you do. Embrace that! Learn from her! Read this poem by Kahlil Gibran, go to your local PFLAG meeting, explore all of the resources on My Kid Is Gay, and read This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids. Your daughter will love so much that you’re seeking out more information to learn.
Alyse Knorr is the author of two books of poems, Copper Mother (Switchback Books, forthcoming 2015) and Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books, 2013), as well as the chapbook Alternates (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, ZYZZYVA, Drunken Boat, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. She received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She is a co-founder and co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an inclusive feminist press, and teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
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