"My 13-year-old recently told me she’s bi. My husband and I are both totally cool with it, as is our 11-year-old son. The problem is my family. I’m worried that my dad and his wife are going to react badly. I’m close to my dad, but I would do anything to protect my kids from getting their feelings hurt. Any advice on how to talk to him about this? I just want to protect my little girl’s feelings, ideally without having to distance myself from my dad."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
My first suggestion is you talk to your kid about what they want. You might find that your daughter ALSO doesn’t want to tell your parents. Maybe she, too, feels like it would be more trouble than it’s worth.
On the other hand, she might feel her identity is worth the trouble. She might prefer to have hurt feelings over (technically) lying about who she is. This varies from person to person. I don’t care if people know my identity. If they know, they know, if they don’t, who cares?! It doesn’t affect them at all and I will live my life open and happy, regardless. However, I have friends who would rather be disowned by their aunts and uncles than hide who they are.
I think what it comes down to is that it isn’t really your choice. The feeling of wanting to protect your daughter at every turn is completely understandable. In fact, it’s fantastic and noble and wonderful and sweet. However, it isn’t realistic. The same way you can’t protect your daughter from a broken heart, you can’t protect your daughter from people who want to disregard her identity or, even worse, hate her because of it.
Your parents might surprise you. They also might NOT surprise you, but if you don’t give them a chance, you’ll harbor a resentment toward them for no reason. If you talk to them (if that’s what your kid wants) you at least have the chance to (as aforementioned) be surprised. OR you have the chance to start that dialogue, to talk to your parents about their concerns, to express your personal upset with their negative reactions, to really help them understand why you daughter is still the same kid she has always been. You have a chance to talk to them about what, until now, was just a very distant idea about the way people identify. Now they have the opportunity to learn from someone they know and love. It’s a cool and very powerful thing. It may take time, but better to invest time then to give up before you’ve tried!
I agree with every word that Dannielle said up there: talk to your daughter first & tell her your concerns, move forward together as a team, and (here’s the point I want to elaborate on) allow your parents time for their process, should they need it.
Of course you want your child to believe that anyone’s love for them could never be affected by who they are… and for the most part, that’s actually completely true. Even people who throw their children out of their homes because of who they are tend to have the exact same amount of love for that child… their love just twists and turns into something horribly ugly because they do not have any tools to process the information at hand.
Now, it doesn’t sound like the response of your father would be so extreme — but even if it is a minor upset, it is sure to cause you pain. Probably, in all honesty, more pain than your child. Either way, it will not make any member of your family feel good… but the most important thing to remember is that the love your parents have for you or your child isn’t going to change — it just may bend and shift as it navigates new territory.
Your dad may not know as much as you do about the LGBTQ community. He may have opinions rooted in things he has heard over the past several decades. My mom was raised Roman Catholic and when I told her that I was gay, we went through over a decade of struggle as we worked through her beliefs, understandings, and love for me.
Don’t be afraid to tell your child that some people — even people who love her — need time to process. Is it ideal? No. However, in the world we live in, it is a reality — and a reality that you and your child will now see even more in your day-to-day lives.
Last thing: Regardless of how your parents react, your kid has the incredible advantage of having YOU in their corner. If your dad says something off base, it is obvious that you will go to bat for your kid. I have had that experience from the kid-perspective, and I cannot tell you the love and pride that fills your heart when your parent stands in strong solidarity with you.
Thanks for being so wonderful.
Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!