“I’ve been struggling a bit with my relationship with my mom lately. It’s always been a little shaky, but since I came out to her it has been worse. Ever since I told her, she hasn’t really mentioned it. She just keeps saying she doesn’t have anything to say, and I feel like I’m not getting the support I need from her. I feel like I’m being unreasonable, because the fact that she hasn’t reacted negatively should be enough. Do you think i’m being unreasonable?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Mother-Daughter Duo, Kirsten and Lucy
Speaking as both the mom of a child AND as the child of a mom, I get how complicated these relationships can be. When things are in sync, there’s nothing better. But when things are off-track, the parent-child bond can feel like an unbelievably awkward dance between partners with two left feet each. One person steps left while the other goes forward, one goes up while the other goes back. And right now, your rhythm with your mom is definitely off.
Now indulge me in a minute more as I go down this dance-related rabbit hole. Here’s what I’m picturing. You just learned a fun new dance (The Whip? The Nae Nae? Let’s be honest—I have no idea what’s cool—I am a mom, after all) and you want to teach your mom all about it. But your mom has always done the foxtrot—it’s a great dance, and she still knows all the steps from gym class 30 years ago! But now you want her to learn all these new steps to an unfamiliar dance and it just feels overwhelming. So she keeps saying “Foxtrot, foxtrot, foxtrot,” every time you say, “Watch me Whip!”
Believe me, I know this is so much more significant than the silly picture I’ve painted here. You want to share something about yourself with your mom that is meaningful and personal. Maybe you’ve been internally comfortable with your sexual identity for a long time but have just recently gotten the courage to tell the people most important to you. Or maybe it’s something new that you’re just figuring out and you need to talk about it to help you process. But it feels like your mom is shutting you down, and that’s painful.
My finely-honed “Mom Sense” tells me that your mom isn’t trying to be hurtful. Instead, it sounds like she’s struggling herself to come to terms with what she perceives as a big change. I think she’s overcompensating with how new this all is by acting like everything is normal. You point out that she hasn’t reacted negatively—which is not something to be taken lightly. As you know, for some kids, coming out can have incredibly negative consequences—violence, homelessness, and abandonment, to name a few. But not reacting negatively certainly isn’t the same as reacting positively. While I don’t think you’re expecting your mom to throw you a Pride Parade, you would like her to recognize that something big has happened and offer her love and support, and that is a reasonable need to have.
Here’s what I think you should do:
Calmly and kindly (this is important…heavy sighs and eye rolls will not be helpful here) ask your mom if you two can find a good time to talk. Pick a neutral spot where you can talk openly and privately, but where you won’t each be distracted by everyday life at home.
At the meeting, express to your mom honestly how you feel. Tell her that your coming out is significant and important to you, and that because she’s your mom, you need her to acknowledge that more positively.
Let your mom know that you’re open to answering her questions—or to helping her find the answers and support elsewhere. A website like My Kid Is Gay may be what she needs to help her understand what you’re going through and what she’s going through.
Above all, be patient. I know that’s hard, but I really do think your mom just needs more time to process this herself. Before too long, she will be ready to celebrate with you. I hope you’re ready to teach her how to Whip!
You are not being unreasonable. While your mom’s non-reaction can be seen as a positive, because you remain safely in your home without any fear of repercussions related to coming out, it can also have negative repercussions. There is a clear difference between your sexuality being a non-issue and your sexualiy being a not-to-be-discussed-issue. Silence is not the same as acceptance.
You were expecting a different, more outwardly-accepting reaction from your mom, and it is stressful to not have that expectation fully realized. The passive aggression in her reaction is palpable, and that is hard to handle. If your relationship with her has been shaky, it might be hard to separate your need for support about your coming out from your need for support from her in general. That is why I think you need to have a conversation with yourself first.
Ask yourself: What do you need from your relationship with your mom? Would it be easier to broach a conversation about your relationship before you broach a conversation about your coming out? In order to discuss this aspect of yourself with someone, you first have to trust that person. If you don’t feel like you even have a solid foundation of trust between you and your mom, that may be the first step in all of this. I’m not by any means implying that that is an easier starting point, but it may be a more effective one.
If you decide that you truly can trust your mom, then I suggest that you ask to sit down with her to have a conversation about your coming out, and your feelings that you aren’t being supported. Even though her words are hurtful to you, the generational gap between parents and children can often lead to miscommunications and unintentionally hurtful comments. Language and perception change over time, and what she says might not mean to her what it means to you. I imagine this divide has influenced this lack of communication from your mom.
I truly hope the conversation goes well, and that this can be a jumping off point for you and your mom into a new era of communication and open sharing.
Kirsten & Lucy are a parent-kid duo!
I’m Kirsten. I’ve been married to Richard for 20 years (!) and in addition to Lucy, we have 2 dogs and 4 ¾ cats (one of them only has 3 legs!). I work full-time at a non-profit social services agency. I’m basically addicted to Instagram and I love to read, bake, and make art. I’m dying to get a new tattoo. Suggestions? Find me on Instagram or Twitter @kjerstieb.
I’m Lucy, I’m 15, I’m queer, and I have a real passion for making sure that dogs know they are loved. I post stuff on instagram @yung_olson