“My daughter has stated recently that she is asexual. I have read numerous books and watched the “Gender Revolution” documentary on National Geographic. I am completely fine with this news! The problem is that she no longer wants anything to do with me or any family members (including her twin brother). She says that she was never validated or loved by the family? She is almost 22 years old, and I never once had any indication that she felt so “different” (her words, not mine). I love my child! HELP.”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Kristin Russo
First of all, I want to say that I am so sorry that you are trudging through such a difficult time with your daughter. It hurts to love someone so very much, and then to find out that they haven’t been able to receive that love in the ways you’d hoped or intended. It also hurts to love someone as much as you love your daughter, and to know that she is hurting. This is a hard time for you both (and, it seems, for much of your family), but the key lies in those last five words of your question: “I love my child! HELP.”
You are reaching out for help in many places, it seems—here at My Kid Is Gay, but also through reading books and watching documentaries. All of these things are powerful efforts at moving closer to your daughter. Even though you may not be able to see each other clearly just yet, you will get there with time, patience, and continued work.
Right now, your daughter has told you that she feels she wasn’t loved or validated growing up. This doesn’t mean you do not (or did not) love her or that you do not think she is valid… but it doesn’t take away those very real feelings that she is experiencing.
In my work with LGBTQIA communities, I have learned valuable lessons around “intention” and “impact.” A person can have the best of intentions in their actions, but those actions can still impact another person in a negative way. This doesn’t mean you are bad or wrong–and it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t love your daughter–but it does mean that space must be made for her if she asks for it. It also means that the impact she has shared with you is real, no matter what the intentions were on your side of the experience.
There is a lot of weight to carry when you grow up in our world as an LGBTQIA person. Even if you have supportive and loving parents, much of what you see around you doesn’t reflect your experience. Think about the television shows and movies that you have watched over the past two decades. Have you ever seen an asexual character on any of them? Probably not. Think about the news stories or the things that have been talked about at your dinner table, or at family barbecues over the years. There is a very good chance your daughter has felt, for a long time, that she didn’t have a space to talk about her feelings or to express herself truthfully. This is often how many of us feel even if a loving space exists, because the noise created by all of the “normal” ways of living in this world is so very, very loud.
I had countless experiences with my family growing up where I felt entirely invisible. Even talking with most of my cousins, who were my age and accepting of my bisexuality, didn’t feel entirely “safe” to me. Despite their acceptance and love, I never felt like I could jump into the conversation with my own anecdotes about dating girls when they’d talk about their boyfriends and girlfriends. It felt like the needle on the conversational record would scratch, even just for a moment, and I didn’t want that pressure or that spotlight. I just wanted to be able to mix in with all the other noises just like everyone else did… but I couldn’t.
You see, even though my cousins loved me and accepted me, two other factors were at play. First, the world around us made it hard for me to feel their love and acceptance. The world made it so that the needle would scratch, even the tiniest bit, when I talked about my experience. Since no one is exposed to bisexuality (or, in your daughter’s case, asexuality) as much as they are exposed to heterosexuality, it just happens. Second, some of their acceptance didn’t actually feel like acceptance. They couldn’t know this, and their intentions were good—just like yours—but when they asked certain questions or assumed certain things, it hurt. It made me feel more invisible.
I can’t know exactly what your daughter is feeling, but I am sure that these threads run through her experience. She is hurting for many reasons; some of them may not have anything to do with you or your family, and some of them do. My advice to you is to keep working and to put a big focus on being open, being receptive, and listening so, so closely to the things that she does share with you. You mentioned that one of the documentaries you watched was centered on gender. This is GREAT, because we can all stand to learn a lot more about the complexities of gender, but your daughter may have felt frustrated when you told her this, because her experience of asexuality likely doesn’t have much to do at all with how she experiences her gender. She might feel like you just don’t get it, and not be able to see that you are trying, and that you are trying because you love her. Ask her questions. Tell her that you don’t know everything—you can’t know everything—but that you are willing to read and watch anything she recommends, or to talk to her about anything she wants, whenever she is ready.
For now, that might be your entire conversation. It will hurt if she isn’t ready to talk, but your job as her mom is to give her that space. In a month or two, reach out again. Patiently, lovingly, tell her that you know she is hurting, and you know that you may have messed up in ways you don’t even understand, but that you love her and you are there to hear her, to learn, to grow, and to continue loving her.
She may have to heal her wounds a bit on her own first, but I promise you: if you can be patient with her, give her the space she needs, and continue to approach her with openness and compassion? You will grow together. I know you will.
If you haven’t already read our articles on asexuality, you should also check them out! They are all available right here.
My love to you both, and to your family.
Kristin is the CEO & Co-Founder of both Everyone Is Gay & My Kid Is Gay. She also hosted & produced the first season of First Person, a video series on gender and sexuality from PBS Digital. She co-authored the book This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids (Chronicle, 2014), is the co-director of A-Camp, and holds a Master’s in Gender Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan.