“I am the parent of a gay daughter who came out a year ago, but had been questioning her sexuality for several years. She recently told me that she had been dating a woman for a year before she told us, and I felt hurt that she could not trust us to tell us that before now. Several adults in our community told me they already knew she was gay when I talked to them a year ago, and that was hurtful. Any resources for us?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Sarah Simon
Ahh, yes. The age old “but you can trust us!” dilemma. First of all, you haven’t done anything wrong! You seem to be a part of a great parenting team and your daughter loves and respects you. As hard as it is to see, this isn’t a matter of trust. You are an absolutely awesome parent for raising a child who is grounded enough to feel comfortable talking to other adults, asking for support when needed, and fostering mature relationships outside her family circle. Coming out can be confusing and scary, and it’s possible that your daughter felt like she needed to go through her own process and work things out by herself (or with other trusted adults) before she came to you with the information.
I remember being seventeen and just beginning to come to terms with my sexuality when a girl hit on me for the first time. Afterwards, I had a panic attack and stood in the kitchen sobbing to my mom, telling her, “I’m straight and I don’t want this.” There are a zillion contradictory feelings and steps to the process of accepting your sexual orientation. Like your daughter, I also dated a girl before I came out to my parents, not because I didn’t trust them, but because I needed to work things out for myself and explore my feelings first and on my own terms. I needed to confirm that these feelings were a very real part of who I was before I bore my soul to my two most trusted confidants.
The best way to address this is to talk to you daughter about what you’re feeling. It is okay that you are feeling hurt, and you can definitely incorporate those feelings into your conversations. You’re allowed to tell her that while you know it wasn’t her intention, and while this situation remains entirely about her, you did feel hurt when she spoke to others before she came to you. Ask her if there is anything you can do to make her feel more accepted or comfortable in talking to you upfront about these issues. Listen to her. Hug her.Tell her you’re proud of her. Tell her you love her. Tell her that you respect her space, privacy, and the process she needs to go through in order to feel comfortable with herself. Tell her that you are always there for her, no matter where life takes her. Tell her that she can trust you with anything and you will try your hardest to react with the utmost grace, love, compassion, and understanding. Tell her that you support her, that you support her relationship, that she is always enough, and that she never has to live up to anyone’s standards but her own.
That really is all you can do. There is no truth serum you can slip into her pancakes in the morning, nor can you rush her emotional process. If your daughter has been questioning her sexuality for years, it is fairly likely that she hasn’t just been hemming and hawing over “am I straight or am I gay?” She might have been battling some internalized homophobia, she might have been contemplating her gender identity, she might have been wondering if she’s bisexual, or any number of other things. Sometimes it’s easiest to live your life and see what works— throw the pasta against the wall and see if it sticks—rather than coming out to your parents every time you start to understand your sexuality in a new way. Dating a girl for a while before she officially came out to you might have been her way of solidifying her identity for herself before telling two people who likely matter more to her than anyone else on this planet.
I know this is a complicated matter with lots of emotional, moving parts. Hopefully this gave you some perspective and is a good stepping-stone to understanding what your daughter is going through, and how you can help. As for some great resources to further educate yourself, My Kid Is Gay is an amazing resource! Peruse some of the other articles on here – even if they’re not directly related to what you’re experiencing, they might lend some interesting points of view or help you through any upcoming issues. Also, PFLAG is a fantastic resource—both their website and in-person meetings—where you can find out more information regarding parents’ roles in their children’s sexualities.
Sarah Simon has been writing for My Kid Is Gay for two years. She is an ENFJ/ Sagittarius who usually can be found with body glitter on her face and English Bulldogs on her mind. Sarah is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied Queer Theory and Psychology. She is currently a candidate for her MA in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence. In between pots of very strong coffee, Sarah makes rad mix tapes for her friends, cooks fun vegetarian food, and cackles at the thought of destroying the patriarchy. Follow her on Instagram @glitterpawzz and on Twitter @misssaraheliz
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