Struggling with Sexual Identity

My husband and I suspect our daughter (age 15) is a lesbian. Is it best for us to broach the subject with her or best to wait until she is ready to talk with us?

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 21, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: My husband and I suspect our daughter (age 15) is a lesbian. We’ve actually suspected so for a few years now and the high school years have made it more clear to us. She has not said anything directly to us, or to anyone that we know of. We want to fully support her as best we can. Is it best for us to broach the subject with her or best to wait until she is ready to talk with us? I don’t want her to feel pressured to come out but I also want her to know we are in her corner. 

Answer: I like your last sentence.  This is probably what she needs to hear from you, that you are in her corner. Struggling with sexual identity is difficult. All of us thrive when we are authentic to who we are, however, it can be the hardest thing to talk to loved ones about. Big questions like: Will they be hurt? Will they disown me? Will I bring shame to the family? Will they expect me to change? You, however, seem to hit all the right notes of accepting and caring.  

By your words and actions you can continue to let her know:

  • you care about her  
  • you love her just as she is
  • you are open to conversations on all subjects 
  • you are willing to learn about differences
  • you want to support her

Your daughter will talk about it when she is ready. She may be in a state of questioning herself. Some individuals have reported being “outed” by someone before they were ready, and this had been damaging. You can demonstrate your acceptance and support by such things as attending events involving the gay community, inviting your gay friends to your home, or perhaps watching movies that depict gay characters. Many parents have gone down this road before you and can provide valuable information. Investigate organizations that focus on these issues like The Family Acceptance Project, PFLAG, and other online and community resources.  

Note to all parents: As parents, we hold a vision in our heads as to who our children are, what they will be, and what their future relationships will look like. Sometimes the picture in our head does not match the current reality. This can cause distress. It is important for you to allow yourself time to work through this and get support if you need it. Individual or family counseling can help. Always stay focused on loving your child, no matter what. The goal is for us to nurture and raise, what I think of as good humans; which are healthy, independent, adults who care about themselves, each other and the world.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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