Tell Me About It: ‘I have come to accept my daughter as gay, even though I don’t like it’
Twelve years ago, I found out my daughter was gay. I heard them kissing. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was so hurt, shocked, and oblivious I suppose.
Then my daughter asked if her partner could move in. I said no. They got a flat together and then she said they were thinking of getting married. I said I wouldn’t go to the wedding (they never got married, I think it was down to me). A baby was mentioned. I said, ‘oh you can’t’. My parents never knew. They have both died now, but I couldn’t tell them as they would have disowned us.
I had no one to turn to so I kept a secret for so many years.
Even though her partner was a lovely girl, I always had that distance from her. She then left my daughter for someone else. I have come to accept my daughter as gay now, even though I don’t like it, but I’m able to talk slightly about it.
I’m beating myself up thinking I ruined her life by not being supportive the first year with her decisions. It’s making me ill.
It is possible that you are feeling unwell as your body is expressing the awful grief of having dismissed your daughter’s very essence.
You know the depth of this from your absolute fear of telling your parents and you ended up doing exactly to your daughter what you thought they might do to you. The price of so much fear and shame is that you are unwell, have missed out on what could have been wonderful years with your daughter and the joy that could have been a grandchild in your life.
Your current guilt is telling you that some action needs to be taken. You say that you have come to accept your daughter as gay and, while that is progress, there is a lot more steps to be taken to address the wrong you have done her.
That you want to take these steps offers hope for your future relationship with your daughter and so you must put aside your focus on self-recrimination and totally engage with what your daughter needs from you now.
This is important as you may offer her connection in a way that she does not want, so you will need to start by asking for her forgiveness and guidance on how to be the Mum she would like you to be.
Of course, forgiveness is not a simple once-off thing. Your daughter will need to see the genuine effort you are making to align yourself with her life and to this end you may need to gain more knowledge and experience.
Ask your daughter what books you might read about romantic lesbian relationships, increase your knowledge by researching gay and lesbian support organisations and perhaps you should invest in psychotherapy to look at your own family history of silence, shame and disowning.
Your daughter will be able to tell you what issues you need to bring to therapy and you might even invite her to a session or two so that you are on track and not stuck in avoidance. When we come up against difficult things, we often freeze or block them by pretending they do not exist or by simply looking the other way.
Your refusal to attend your daughter’s potential wedding was an act of that type. In some ways ignoring something, or acting as if it does not exist, is far worse than having a full-blown row – at least in the latter the issue is brought to a head.
So, engage fully now, risk the rejection that might come from your daughter and apply compassion and understanding. Your daughter may well want you to experience what it felt like to be exiled from love, to have your existence denied and your choices derided. If this happens, stand firm, practice patience and consistency and never give up on loving her. By doing this, you are challenging your family’s intergenerational fear of public shaming, and this can only be a good thing.
Clearly silence is a family trait that has a lot of currency in your life and this must be challenged. Even though by speaking you may say the wrong thing, or feel embarrassed, gradually you will find your voice and discover that this level of honesty and courage will be seen by your daughter, and others in your life, as a welcome path to really knowing you.
Right now, what you want to express is your sorrow and hope for a future where you can be your better self – a self that is able to stand up for your family, that can withstand fear of public commentary and that can own your mistakes and ask for another chance.