My Daughter Says She Is Gay

“… and I don’t believe her. I do not believe that my daughter is gay.”

Okay. Hold on for a second and take a big, deep breath.

I don’t know if your daughter is gay. I don’t know if your daughter is “just experimenting,” or if she is bisexual. One thing I DO know is that your response to her recent disclosure is critical. If you show anger, hurt feelings, sadness, or disgust… this will have a negative impact on your beautiful “child.”

All teens go through a period of sexual identity formation. All human sexuality exists on a spectrum. In other words, most people are not 100% gay or 100% heterosexual. There is a lot of grey area here. You went through this process, and so did I. This is simply part of being human. If you are heterosexual, you may not even know that this was something you went through. But, you did. You figured out your preferences, your attractions, and your “type” for dating.

This is exactly what your teen is going through. She is exploring what type of person she is attracted to, why she is attracted to that kind of person, and she is trying to figure out what the appropriate response is to each of her attractions. She may be questioning if she is gay, confused about if she is gay, or she may know she is gay. She has chosen to disclose something very personal to you, and this is a big deal. Many teens do not talk with their parents about sexuality at all, so be happy she came to you!

My daughter says she's gay

If you tell your daughter that you know she is not gay, and that you know she is “just experimenting,” or that she is confused or ridiculous, please know that your response has the potential for devastating (and long-term) psychological and emotional impact. The most common side effect of parental rejection is low self-esteem and complete distancing from parents. Your part in this can easily be prevented. Your response will help her move through her confusion (if she is in stages of identity confusion or identity comparison) or it will help her realize that she is okay, she is lovable, and she is not the only person out there who is gay. Take-home message: DO NOT SHAME YOUR DAUGHTER FOR DISCLOSURE.

Many kids know they are gay between the ages of 7 and 9, and choose to not come out to family until the age of 13 and older. Kids are often taught that being gay is “wrong” or shameful to the family. Because of this, they hide or try to change their sexuality. Much research shows that trying to change a person’s sexuality is damaging and ineffective. We cannot change our children’s sexuality more than we can change whether or not they have natural talents in math or gymnastics. We do not control our children and who they become at all.

I cannot tell you if your daughter is gay. I can tell you that this is not for you to figure out. This is her journey, and she has come to you telling you that she is gay. Please support her in her process. Please do not try harder to get her to fit in with her heterosexual friends (if your daughter wants to try harder to fit in with gay/bi/queer friends). She will see this as rejection of who she is. This will also prevent her from connecting to a community (and resources) that will include her and help her understand her sexual development. Teens who do not gain support at home are much more likely to have depression, attempt suicide, use chemicals, and are at much higher risk for HIV and STDs.

Follow your daughter’s lead. If you feel fear, sadness, anger, shame, worry that you will be judged, please do not try to work through this with your daughter. Work with a therapist who has knowledge about gay/bi/queer/trans populations. Talk through this and work out your own emotions so that your daughter does not end up needing to worry about your feelings about her sexuality. Her sexuality is for her to figure out, just as your sexuality was yours to figure out.

Be kind to your daughter and kind to yourself.

All my best to you,
megan

**Source: Ryan, C. Supportive families, healthy children: Helping families with lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender children. San Francisco, CA: Marian Wright Edelman Institute, San Francisco State University, 2009.

22 thoughts on “My Daughter Says She Is Gay

    • Hi Kitty,

      This is more complicated. I suggest working with a therapist (who is supportive of your sexual identity) and then eventually coming out to your parents. You will need more support in talking with them if they have strong religious beliefs about being gay/bi, etc.

      I hope this helps.

      megan

  1. Thank you. This was very helpful. I wish my daughter had come to me and told me she was gay. I was told by another parent. I have to admit that hurt. I did ask my daughter (who is 14) about it and told her I loved her no matter what. I asked why she hadn’t told me. If she thought her father and I would not love her or would love her less, but she just shrugged. She has never shared much with us – unlike our older daughter who tells us everything. I asked about her girlfriend – Is she nice? What is she like? Why doesn’t she come to the house so we can meet her? Generally, just very short, one-word responses were given to each of my questions. I’ve always been very liberal. I do not believe that being gay is a sin or something to be ashamed of. I did, however, cry myself to sleep that night thinking that my sweet child had been going around with these feelings and felt like she couldn’t approach me with them. She did tell her sister (who did not tell us – she said it was not her story to tell – and she’s right). I guess it is good to know she has someone she can talk to about things. I just wish that person was me.

    • Hi Blair,

      Thanks for your message and it makes sense to me that your feelings were hurt by your daughter not coming to you. I don’t know your situation at all, but I wanted to mention a couple of things. First, you responded to her beautifully. Your response to her may help her feel more able to come to come to you with other difficult life circumstances. Second, it is very normal for teens to talk with their friends about their sexuality and not their parents. Please do not personalize this too much. You have raised a girl who is learning to rely on herself and the support system that she builds. This is absolutely what you want her to be doing. This is a sign that she is maturing and meeting her developmental task to be independent. I know that might be hard on you (many of us don’t want to see our kids move out!) but that will be your grief work. There is a certain amount of grief that every parents feels as teens take steps toward independence.

      Keep talking with her. You love her and she knows it. You responded to her disclosure like a rock star. The love you showed her will stay with her forever.

      Warmly,
      megan

  2. Hello, my daughter just came out to me yesterday saying she was pan-sexual because she likes people for their personality. But i looked it up, that’s not what that means. And when i tried telling her she might be Bi instead because that makes more sense from what she was feeling. she got frustrated . i still feels shes too young to declare herself something when she doesn’t even know who she is yet. ……. help im at a loss

    • Hello CM and thanks for writing,

      The most important thing right now is that you support your daughter, not that you try to help her understand her sexuality from an intellectual standpoint. If she is a pre-teen or teen, she is not too young to be thinking about her sexuality. She will figure it out over time, and she just needs to know from you that you love her no matter what her sexuality is. Please do not argue about the label. She will move through her questioning phase with fewer complications if you let her figure it out on her own, while sending a clear message: That you love her no matter what. If she comes to you for support or if she wants resources, then you get to help with problem-solving. Until then, your role is to love and support. I hope this helps.

      Best to you,
      megan

      • Actually, Pansexual means to love no matter the gender, or the genitals or the appearances. ~Love from a Pansexual 17 yr old.

    • Hello CM,

      Your daughter IS young and teens are declaring themselves younger and younger these days. Where this may be uncomfortable for you, please know that many teens will change their label as they age, learn to understand themselves more, etc. Your daughter might be pansexual or bisexual, but the most important thing is that SHE figure this out for herself. I know it is hard as a parent, but she will live her entire adult life living with the consequence of every kind of decision she makes. The hope is that she will end up trusting who she feels she is, and that she will be supported by you. Again, please remember that this label might change with time.

      Hope this helps.

      Thinking of you,
      megan

  3. I saw a hickie on my daughter’s neck today and months ago saw one on her “best friend”. at that time I knew well enough that neither go out with guys. They are always together. My husband and I have already been questioning what was going on for a while but they have been friends for a long time. Today when I confronted her about the hickie she freaked out and started crying. This worried me because I thought she had been hurt or possibly lost her virginity randomly. When she told me she is “with” her friend I asked if she was in love with her or just experimenting. I have been honest with my daughter about my experiance with another female but told her that I still know I am not gay. She thinks that I have something against gays so she thought I would be furious. I wasn’t, I am more upset that she sleeps at her friends and I have basically adopted her friend and yet they have lied to me. I would not allow her to have a boy sleep in her room with her so I feel the rules are the same. I still at this time can’t fathom the idea of them actually being a couple because they really just seem like friends but now I can’t allow them to have sleep overs. I also feel like I should have a talk with the other girls mom to make sure she is aware of what is going on. I told my daughter I still love her no matter what But she has told me about boys she likes too so I don’t know which is true.

    • Hi Shea,

      Your hurt feelings make sense to me, as your daughter was not honest with you. It seems as if you feel taken advantage of. Regardless of whether or not your daughter is interested in guys, I think it makes sense to no longer allow sleepovers with her current girlfriend. Remember that teens have an entire relationship behind closed doors that we know nothing about. It is not important for you to investigate what is currently going on; rather, support your daughter with what you currently know.

      Warmly,
      megan

  4. My 15 y/o daughter called me yesterday and told me she was dating a girl. My husband is furious. He says he does not support gays and he can never look at her the same again, their relationship is broken. He said he does not want her to have sleep overs anymore and doesn’t trust her. She is away right now but will be back soon and he intends to tell her just how he feels. His word: disgusted. I am so scared our family is about to be torn apart, I know it will. He’s her father and is going to tell her how he feels, there’s no stopping that. I’m in the middle, I love her no matter what, and I love him, this is our baby. I respect both of their feelings and I cannot change how either feels. I feel so lost right now. Parents are supposed to put up a united front, that’s how we’ve always raised them. I have no idea what to do! He’s disgusted and she will hate him for not supporting her, it will break her heart. I told him that and he just said, so be it. He’s so against it he’s willing to lose his so so so close relationship with her. No amount of counseling will mend the relationship, only help deal with the loss of it. This is so heartbreaking.

  5. Hi I am a single father of a 14 yr old daughter. Ive raised her since she was born. Her mom left us shortly after she was born. She just told me that she likes girls not boys. We talked for about an 1 hour to 45 mins. Afterwards she told me that she thought that I was going to yell and be angry I wasn’t I kept my cool. I told her that I loved her and no one was going to love her more or care about her the way I do. Is this a phase? She has this friend that she txts. My daughter told me that she has strong feelings for this girl but is scared and afraid that her friend does not feel the same way. Should I be worried about my daughter? I worry about her all the time but now this. Im lost . How do handle it from here on out? Help? Much appreciated.

    • Hello Brian,

      Congratulations to you that you raised your daughter to be able to come out to you at 14. It is difficult to say whether or not this is a phase for your daughter, but the best thing you can do is just love her along her journey. If this IS a phase for her, your love and acceptance will allow her to get through the phase without unnecessary heartache. If it is NOT a phase, your daughter will never doubt your love for her, and she will not have to deal with increased stress (among many other risk factors) associated with a non-supportive parent. The hardest thing about your situation is that there are no definite answers, and you will just have to allow your daughter to take her own steps on this journey. You will be there to support her, no matter what.

      Again, you handled her coming out to you beautifully.

      Hope this helps.

      Warmly,
      megan

  6. Hi, my 19 year old daughter came out to me recently. I hope I handled it okay. We had been having an open dialog about gender and sexual orientation, pondering the mysteries, you know, and so I was not completely surprised. However, I am a bit surprised how I secretly feel about it – I believed I was completely open minded, but it still makes me worry that she is not on an easy path. I suppose no one is. Anyway, she has asked me to pass the news on to her dad (we all live in the same household). I don’t know how he will react. I don’t want to make a big issue of it, but is it right that I be the one to tell him? I feel that I have been placed in the middle of a sticky situation.

    • Hi CJ,

      A couple things:
      1. Your response (“she is not on an easy path”) is a normal parent response. The reason your response is normal is that our society is still working towards full acceptance of LGBTQ people, couples, families, etc. Discrimination and hate crimes DO happen. You are her mom and you want her to be safe. I urge you to find a PFLAG group (http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=194&srcid=-2) to help you work through this very normal response.
      2. You are in a bad position with her dad. It might make sense to speak with your daughter again about why you feel uncomfortable about telling him yourself, and see if the two of you can tell him together. Find out what makes her so afraid to tell him. Will he likely have a negative response? my hope is that you and your daughter will come to a better answer together.

      Warmly,
      megan

  7. I have a question if you don’t mind. A little boy who is 8 years old in my family has for the pass year said that the was gay. I told his mother that I would accept him if he was. She was worried and I told her he might just be curious and grow out of it if that was the case. If not he was still loved. Since then she makes his “coming out” an announcement to everyone they meet and he has become more and more flamboyant in his behavior. He likes to say that he might possibly be gay and then gushes on and on about shopping. I am worried that he might be confused and that they are using this for attention of some kind. Do you think there is a cause for damage as far as he is concerned? Thank you for your time.

    • Hello WorriedA,

      Without knowing more about this family, it is hard for me to take a position. That being said, the most important thing for this boy is that his parents love and support him, no matter who he is. If they are using it to get attention, my hope is that this was not an intentional thing on their part. If it IS intentional, sure it could be damaging. Ultimately, though, most important is that they love and support him. Eventually, his sexuality will not be such a big deal to those around him as time passes.

      Hope this is helpful.

      Warmly,
      megan

  8. My 11 (almost 12) year old daughter told me the other day that she likes girls. We didn’t have much time to talk, but I did not over react and what I said was that I love her and that we will wait and see. I tried to ask a few questions (such as how long have you known this) but I couldn’t get any direct answers. She said “for a while” or “I don’t know”. We recently moved to a new town and she started a new school. She had a boyfriend and broke up with him, it was mostly a text/pen pal relationship. She said she did it because she was a lesbian. (I read a text that she sent to a friend from our old state.) This new town is a small and very close-minded town.

    I am upset but since this happened, just a couple of days ago, I just try to be myself and tell her I love her like I always do.

    We both love and accept her, but I am so worried. She is a highly intelligent girl and has never quite fit in socially or intellectually, because her IQ is so high and physically she is so much more developed than the other girls and boys her age.

    I wonder if moving here somehow propelled her to making this statement, as a way of fitting in?

    My husband is upset because he is wondering why she did not tell him too?

    Thank you for this blog!

  9. Hey

    So, once a 12 year declares she likes girls. Should I limit slumber parties and such. I wouldn’t let her boyfriend spend the night why let her girl crush?

    Thanks

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