Is it okay for me to make jokes about my daughter’s sexuality? My daughter jokes a lot… and I don’t want to feel like I can’t be natural around her, but I also don’t want to offend her.
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Kirsten and Lucy
Oh gosh. I hope it’s OK to joke, or else we’ve been doing this gay thing wrong the whole time! You have to understand, my family LOVES to joke and tease. A LOT. In fact, I’ve often said our family motto should be, “We mock therefore we love.” (Can anyone offer a Latin translation of this? It would sound so much fancier.) Basically, if we tease you, it means we like you. And I have a big gay family, so jokes about sexuality are just part of the fabric of our conversations – both with my adult siblings and with Lucy.
But here’s the deal. Like with everything that relates to families, it’s all about your style and what makes you all comfortable. If joking is what you do, and your daughter is comfortable joking about herself, then more than likely it will be fine that you join in on the fun in some way. But it’s also definitely worth a conversation about what it means and what the acceptable limits are. Maybe you could say something like, “I’ve noticed that you seem to joke around about your sexuality. I’m wondering if you’re joking because you think it’s the only way to talk about these things.” If she says no – that the joking is just part of the everyday fabric of life – then I’d go a step further with something like, “I’m wondering if it would make you feel weird if I joked around about this with you too?” And if she says it’s fine, or even that it would be weird if you DIDN’T joke about it, follow-up with a version of, “Let’s talk about what we think the limits should be. Are there any topics or terms that you can think of that we shouldn’t joke about? I love and respect you and would never intentionally hurt your feelings. Please tell me if I ever go too far.”
However, if you sense that joking is your daughter’s way of masking painful feelings, then you need to handle this much more delicately. Make sure that she knows that the lines of communication are always open and that you’re ready and willing to talk about her sexuality whenever she’s ready. Since we may not be members of the LGBTQ+ community ourselves, we have to make sure it’s clear that we come from a place of respect and understanding. We have to be willing to take feedback from our kids about what it means to them to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and how we can support them.
I am pretty sure that 99% of our answers to questions in this space come back to three things: love, respect, and communication. I think these ingredients will serve you well here as you work through this with your daughter.
In my opinion, it is easier for someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community to make jokes about themselves or issues in the community, because they know what it’s like to be a member of the group. It is very easy for others to make jokes that may seem harmless to them, but that appear off-color, or are misconstrued as an attack or an offensive statement. For this reason, I think that having a personal conversation with your daughter is the best course of action. Find out why she makes the jokes; is she making them to get out of uncomfortable situations? To make herself laugh? To make others laugh? This is important because it is easy to use humor as a defensive tactic, and her jokes might not purely be for humor’s sake. Find out whether or not she is uncomfortable when non-LGBTQ+ people make jokes about the community and about sexuality in general, then ask if she would feel comfortable if you made jokes every now and then. Make sure she knows that you simply want to feel natural, and that you would never seek to offend her. If she recognizes and understands that you respect her and her sexuality, then you have a better chance of gaining the ability to make jokes. This is not a situation you want to test by diving in headfirst with a comedy routine.
Respect for your daughter is paramount here, and since jokes are such a subjective matter, you have to know what will be okay before you test the waters. Is there any specific material that is sensitive that you may need to avoid? For instance, my dad used to make jokes that he didn’t see as offensive, but really seemed rude and unnecessary to me. I later found out that he was making the jokes coming from a place of no knowledge about the group that he was joking about, and once he became informed, the jokes stopped. Make sure that you are informed about the stuff you are making jokes about! This goes for any matter, but especially ones involving sexuality and identity! It is very easy to say something offensive when you are ignorant about the subject.
In short, have a chat with your daughter, make sure you are fully informed about an issue or an opinion or an identity before you make a joke about it, and make sure that your daughter is comfortable at all times.
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
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