“Is She Gay? Should I Ask Her?”: Advice To Moms Who Have Queer Daughters

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I wasn’t afraid to come out to my mom. She’s pretty liberal and had always been accepting of gay people but more than that, we’d just always been so close. I told her when I had sex with a boy for the first time, and I was honest when I skipped class or wanted to go to a party where there’d be alcohol. Her own mom had died when she was relatively young and she doesn’t have any sisters, so I used to joke that I was more than just her daughter. “I have to be your daughter because I am,” I’d say, “but I’m also your mother because yours isn’t here anymore, and I’m your sister because you never had one, and I’m your best friend… because I want to be.” I have no idea when I came up with that idea, or how a small human decided such big things, but it was true. My relationship with my mother was a giant thing, a beautiful thing, a special thing that I knew I was lucky to have.

As I grew up I found out that not all daughters and mothers were close. I felt bad for them — I could tell my mom anything. So when I went abroad to London and met the girl who would end up changing my whole world, I wasn’t afraid to tell my mom about it at all. I was excited. I knew my mom would love me no matter what, even if I were an axe murderer. That had always been our joke: she’d say, “I will love you no matter what,” and I’d ask, wide-eyed and big-grinned, “Even if I were an axe-murderer?” And she’d laugh or shake her head or just nod and smile back, always assuring me: “I’ll love you even if you are an axe-murderer. But I hope you won’t be.” Coming out to my mom felt safe because I knew that no matter what happened in this life, she would love me.

When I said, “I met this girl Emily and she kissed me and I think I like her,” to my mother’s grainy face over a bad Skype connection, my mom wasn’t happy. I had been casual on purpose. I didn’t have a speech worked out. I wasn’t sure if I was gay or bisexual or confused and I wasn’t really worried about the label. I just wanted to tell my best friend a thing that was happening in my life. I don’t remember exactly what my mom said in response but I know she ended the call pretty quickly. I sat at my desk for a long time afterwards staring at the screen. That was four years ago.

When Riese showed us this mothering forum message board with a note from a mom who suspects her daughter is a lesbian and is asking for advice, it felt personal. The original question, the responses and the followup message from the original mom brought out a feeling of tenderness and understanding that I wish I could have granted my own mother four years ago. I spent a long time feeling angry and misunderstood by my mom, and while I don’t think those feelings were wrong, I’ve also started working through the more complex feelings of understanding my mom, accepting that she is trying just as hard as I am and ultimately forgiving her and loving her no matter what, just as she promised always to do for me.

Here’s what this mom wrote:

I need help. Today I went into my daughters room to clean up a bit since she is away at college, and I found lesbian themed graphic novels under her bed. She never showed any interest in boys, but I always assumed that was just because she was shy. Now I’m starting to suspect that her relationship with a certain “friend” of hers might be more than it seems. I’m very upset, and I don’t know what to do. Is she gay? Should I ask her? Should I confront her about the books? Also, how do I accept this if she does turn out to be a lesbian? I feel sick just thinking about it. I know it is not a choice, but I don’t want her to be this way. I want her to have a normal, happy life, not this.

One person, who wrote that while her own daughter is currently questioning her sexuality, “whatever she figures out, it’s not an issue to us… we want our kids happy and healthy,” (yay supportive mom!), questioned if the original message might be from a troll, because “it can be taken as inflammatory, imo.” True, I felt somewhat uncomfy the first time I read the original question. This person feels “sick” at the idea of a gay daughter? Yikes. The language isn’t the best. But I did not for one instant think it was the work of a troll. I have a feeling that a big part of why this mom went to the effort to post on a message board is because she was looking for assurance and acceptance in a situation that she really wants to be okay with, and it was inspiring to see other parents reach out with words of advice and reason and kindness. I didn’t see any hate on the board, and while I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all the advice this woman was given, I certainly appreciated that every word seemed to come from a place of love and acceptance and wanting what’s best for your child.

Before we go any further examining the advice this woman received via a list of my very own advice for moms with gay daughters, let’s appreciate the poster who pointed out that this woman might be jumping to conclusions. Because much as I wish we could recruit the entire world to the gay baby army, alas, a lesbian themed graphic novel under a bed and a close friendship with a friend of the same sex do not a lesbian make. This person says as much:

There is also a chance that the books you found mean that your daughter is an aspiring indie cartoonist. Or that she enjoys the work of Alison Bechdel. (I have a complete set of Dykes to Watch Out For in my house, half of which were bought by my husband.) Remain open to other interpretations.

Right-o! Hey ma, your gaydar may be off. Totally valid. But let’s assume this daughter is gay, because if we don’t I can’t talk about the rest of the really heartfelt and interesting advice that these humans on the internet gave to another human on the internet, and I really want to do that because it’s good and some of it made me cry. I put together a handy dandy list of my own advice to moms who have gay (or bi or queer or questioning etc etc etc) daughters and as it turns out, many of the message board posters are totally on the same page as I am. This is the list I wish I could have given my own mom.

1. Do not confront your daughter. Period.

So your daughter’s a lesbian! Should you say something to her about it before she comes to you to discuss it? NOPE. This is the #1 piece of advice I would give any parent in this scenario. It bears repeating: Do. Not. Confront. Your. Lesbian. Daughter. Why? Another poster explains:

I would wait until she is ready to talk.  She might still be figuring it all out herself, and that takes time. And, if you feel “sick” about this and want her to have a “normal, happy life” she is probably right in not choosing you as a confidant at this time.

Yes! She might still be figuring it all out herself, totally! When I first came out to my mom she was so hung up on the words — “Are you a lesbian? What is queer? What do you mean you don’t know? If you’re not a lesbian why does it feel like you’re writing off boys forever?” — and I was so fucking confused that every conversation we had felt like an accusation or a fight, even when she wasn’t trying to pick one. In retrospect, that was not all her fault — I was very angry at her for not immediately understanding me, and I didn’t think it was my responsibility to hold her hand through my coming out process especially when I was less than sure what I was even coming out as. I was right in that it’s never your responsibility to make anyone feel comfortable with your sexuality, or any aspect of your identity. But I forgot to acknowledge another truth: Sometimes the people we come out to, the people who love us most, do need someone to hold their hand while they get used to the news.

2. If you’re not immediately okay with this, find a source of support (that is not your daughter).

Part of why I love this message board conversation so much is because this mom is acknowledging that she needs some handholding, and she’s seeking it from people who are not her daughter, and these people are offering to hold her hand. It’s actually a really great, healthy way of dealing with the fact that this news is upsetting to her. Sometimes our friends and family need support. Another person on the message board realizes this and points this mother to a place where she can seek said support, as well as echoing the idea of not putting your daughter through a “confrontation” and challenging the concept of “normal.” I love this person!

There is no reason to put her on the defensive about who she is, and that is not going to encourage her to open up to you. Whether she is a lesbian or bisexual or just exploring, having the support of those close to her is so important. Also, she can definitely have a happy life, even if it doesn’t match what you would think of as “normal”. I would start by checking out PFLAG — Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

I begged my mom to check out PFLAG, but she said it wasn’t the right avenue for her. I disagree, but I had to respect her feelings. That said, I think every parent who struggles with any aspect of their child’s identity needs to get support so they can work through their own feelings and not burden their child with the responsibility of dealing with the negative reaction.

3. Do the work.

Newsflash: Being gay is okay, and if you’re not okay with it, it’s your problem. If you’re not in a place where you can accept your gay child, you’re the one who needs to do work, not your kid. Do the work. The following poster suggests, “see if you are capable of growing and changing,” and maybe now’s the part where you all tell me I’m a dumb optimist but I truly believe everyone on this earth is capable of growing and changing. So do that.

Right now you are not in a position to give help, support or constructive criticism to your daughter, because you are living in an angry, shocked, prejudiced place. Give yourself time. See if you are capable of growing and change. I am not saying it is easy, it isn’t. And even if you don’t say a word, your daughter knows the place you are in. Perhaps she is not discussing it with you in order not to hurt you… sometimes two people are two whole poles apart, and their views so vastly different, that there is no middle ground for them to meet in. I think, right now, this is maybe where you and your daughter are at.

A thing that really struck me in the original message was the mom’s concern that her daughter would lead a harder life because she is a lesbian. That’s a fair concern, to an extent. People do a lot of really horrible shit to gay people. Even those of us who are fortunate enough to live in big cities with welcoming communities and ample okCupid possibilities feel the harsh reality that comes along with people hating you simply because of who you are and who you love. It sucks. But the answer is not for all of our parents to sit around biting their cuticles until they bleed, worrying that we’ll be the next victim of a hate crime or miss out on that prime promotion because our boss is a bigot. And as one poster points out, the idea that just because someone is a lesbian she won’t grow up to have a wife and a dog and babies and a picket fence (if that’s what she wants) is pretty old fashioned. Expecting something awful to happen to your gay daughter and using that fear as an excuse for your negative feelings about her identity is a copout. Fight bigotry and hate and the patriarchy, not your daughter.

4. Get over your expectations (and yourself).

There are literally a billion ways your kid could not fulfill your expectations as they grow up and become a human with their own thoughts and ideas. Wanted your kid to be a doctor? Well guess what, she’s gonna be a dancer. Wanted your kid to travel the world? Sorry, she’s a homebody and never wants to leave the country. Wanted your kid to love all your favorite books? I’m sorry, mom, but I’m never going to read Lost In Translation. I don’t know why, it doesn’t even make sense, I’ve just got a lot of other things to do right now and I can’t. You’re going to love her anyway, because that’s what parents do. So treat the whole sexuality thing in the same way and stop asking her to read your favorite book. Maybe try reading one of her favorite books, while you’re at it! A real live gay lady showed up in the message board conversation to say what I just said in a lot fewer words than I used and also to make me have a lot of emotional emotions.

If your daughter is a lesbian, she might still fulfill your vision in every (other) way. If she is straight, she might never fulfill it. Chances are no matter who she is, she’ll meet your expectations in some ways and not in others.

(Side note: When I came out to my mom, the first thing she said to me was: “But I always thought you wanted to get married and have children!” and I said, “I do want those things!” FWIW, my partner and I have been together for 20 years (married for 11, still awaiting legal recognition of our marriage), and we are parents to a daughter, though my mom died before she got to meet her granddaughter.)

This specific point has been one of a lot of contention for me and my mom. She desperately wants grandchildren, and luckily I really want kids (one day, not today!). Win/win! This was true when I was dating men, and it’s remained true since I started dating women. Despite marriage often being looked down on in queer circles, I want to get married (you can yell at me about being a bad queer later but I don’t care, I really want to wear this dress and walk down the aisle) and in New York nobody can stop me.

5. Love her unconditionally.

Moms, listen up: a lesbian daughter can have a way happy life, okay? But you know what kind of puts a damper on happiness? When your mother doesn’t accept you for who you are. That pretty much insures that you’re going to be unhappy for a while, ya know? If you’re so worried about your lesbian daughter’s happiness, don’t be the thing in her life that makes her unhappy. In fact, if you suspect your daughter is a lesbian and she hasn’t confided in you yet, she could be leaving you out of the loop because she’s scared that you’ll freak out, she’ll lose your love and she will indeed be very unhappy. Another wise poster points out this logical possibility:

I’m sure her reasoning for not telling you, if she is a lesbian, is just because she is scared that she will lose your love. Assure her that she won’t lose you, and it will make it easier for her to open up to you.

Even though my own coming out conversation didn’t go as planned, the very reason I felt so comfortable to say anything in the first place is because I was absolutely certain I would not lose my mother or her love. Though she didn’t react the way I wanted to, I was right about the big stuff. Her unconditional love is the reason we are able to have a relationship today.

Things with my mom are so much better now than they were after our initial conversation in February 2009. We continue to work on our relationship because we love each other and we want a relationship, even when it’s not easy. I’m lucky. I know things don’t go as smoothly for some people when they come out to their parents, but the way it happened to me still felt hard. I wish my mom had reacted differently and had supported me immediately. I wish the world didn’t see a lesbian daughter as something to be sad about. Most of all I wish that one day, no one will have to give advice to moms who have gay daughters on the internet, no matter how heartfelt or sound that advice may be, because there won’t be any questions to ask — just love, acceptance, and more love.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Thanks for writing this. Lots of feels on a Friday morning… Is it weird that sometimes I WISH my mom would ask me though? I think it would be easier. It’s so hard to even begin to approach the conversation, so I’ve just been avoiding it forever. She’s also like my best friend and I tell her absolutely everything, except this. Sigh.

    • I was thinking the same thing. I feel like I’ve been more and more obvious about it, and I kind of wish someone would just ask, because the screwing up my courage, finding a way to say it thing is the hardest part, in my limited experience. Of course, I haven’t had a situation where the aftermath was disastrous, so that could be the worst part, and I have a feeling it will be with my mother, and honestly I don’t even know if I could get her to a point where she’d willingly read an article like this.

      • I feel exactly the same way! I think coming out to my parents would be so much easier if they would just ask. Or if they somehow found out without me having to actually bring up the topic and get the words out of my mouth. I’m past the point where I’m confused and unsure of myself, now I’m proud of who I am and I want to share that with my family…but I’m still avoiding that conversation.

        • The awkward bit is when your parents do clearly know, and in fact knew quite a long time before you did, but still hate gay people and drop “don’t you dare” hints all the time.

        • When I was 17 my parents sat at the kitchen table and as I walked by on my way to my room my mom yelled “So, you are gay now?” because my dad had found and read my journal. My parents confronted me and it was the worst thing they could have done. They hated that I was questioning my sexuality and at 17 I was still questioning it. They drove me to Cincinnati every Tuesday for a year for counseling to fix me. And now that we have a wonderful relationship and they have apologized for the whole mess. I know, that had they let me come out in my own time it would have saved us all a lot of heartache. Being confronted about your sexuality does not make the road easier.

          • Oh no, I can’t imagine that having happened to me (even though it did kinda, but I was a super sheltered eighth grader who asked my mom if it was okay for girls to have crushes on other girls and she asked if I was gay and instead of saying, “What’s gay?” because I don’t really think I knew, I said, “Nononono,” and she seemingly believed me and I can’t imagine if it had progressed from there). But as a 24 year old who is pretty comfortable with it and works and supports herself hasn’t lived with her mother for six years, I just want it to be out there. I just don’t know how to say it. Plus I know my relationship with my mother is going to change, probably in a not good way, and while I’m mostly okay with that, I don’t want to initiate that change. It’d be nice if she could do it because I’m so scared shitless. And knowing how pushy and opinionated she is, and how obvious I feel I’m being, I’m just taking it as a bad sign that she hasn’t said anything, because it’s not like her to not insinuate things, or ask awkward questions or force issues.

            But I’m so so sorry that happened to you. Just imagining being 17 and walking past a room and thinking, “Hey, just walking in my own house,” and then being bombarded like that makes me want to puke.

          • I wonder if PFLAG would consider creating a group for parents who want to “adopt” adult queers whose own biological parents have ditched them? That would be nice. I’d like to have parents who’d appreciate my victories, and be happy to meet my girlfriend, and like it if I baked them macarons.

            My own parents don’t even know that I like to bake. Or what I do for a living. Or who my friends are. Nor do they care.

            Come on, PFLAG…take it to the next step and give the rest of us parents who care. We hear you’re a nice bunch, and we come equipped with baked goods, camping skills and an innately awesome sense of style. Don’t waste a good natural resource!

          • I make delicious Nutella swiss meringue buttercream but my parents will probably never know that, so I’m with you on this. <3

          • there is a group like this in israel! i forget the specifics (i lived in israel for 10 months) but they are parents (mostly moms i think) who “take in” lgbtq kids whose own parents haven’t accepted them. anyone from israel (tel aviv specifically though i’m not sure if it’s also a thing elsewhere) out there wanna fill in the blanks of what i’m trying to talk about?

            (and yes, i’m totally into the idea of pflag creating this — let’s tell them to do it! i’m serious, let’s write a letter and get this suggestion going…)

          • @ Jack … I’ll be your Mom. I only have four children and always wanted more. Let me be your first PFLAG Mom… Hugs to you because I want to know what you do for a living and if you have any pets and if you would bake me some macaroons..

          • @ Marika … you can’t be serious … delicious Nutella Swiss meringue buttercream … how can that be?! I already love your adventurous spirit with sweets…Hugs from your new PFLAG Mom <3

          • I wish I knew who you are. My mom would gladly welcome you in and cherish you to the moon and back. I—we—am sending you my love.

          • @ Maggie…You have “only four” children? That’s half a hockey team!

            @ M…much love to you and your mom back.

            @ Marika…would it be wrong to ask if you’d be averse to sharing the recipe for this nutella swiss meringue buttercream you mentioned? This is the kind of thing that makes me want to do Serious Baking Research.

            I’m kinda wishing all of you AS folks were here so we could have a tea party and hide from the cold weather and guard the tiny sandwiches from my snack-stealing cats.

            Vanessa is right. We should propose an adopt-a-queer program to PFLAG. It seems like there’s a need for such a thing.

          • A crazy thing that I have done: I wrote PFLAG Canada and asked if their members might consider adopting us. Yeah, I know, that’s in the same category as “running through the streets with your head covered in honey, trying to summon bees”, but well. Yeah.

            So now we’re discussing if there might be a way to do this somehow…the whole “getting PFLAG parents to adopt queers without parents because we’re awesome” thing.

            If anything comes of this, I’ll let you know.

          • @jackrabbit — that’s AMAZING. please keep me posted — vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com, seriously i can’t wait to hear what happens. i have good feelings about this. xo.

      • It sometimes is easier if they just “find out/know”, but it could be way worse that way too. When I was outed by my mother walking in on myself and my girlfriend, my parents were upset and a lot of that is because they’d felt lied to and left out, even though I wasn’t faking anything or intentionally tying to hurt them… I just viewed it as personal, and none of their business until I decided that my sexual attraction to women was more than just sex. In any case, I think it’s always hard, but the time will come!

    • I agree that this is a great post, it can be so difficult though to find the right time to bring it up – some people try hundreds of times and then just swallow the words back down.

    • I avoided the conversation with my parents for a long time. But telling them on my own terms in my own way was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. I was in charge of the words I used, the timing, and the way it all happened. I got to choose my definition for myself, and I came to the conversation armed with answers for their questions.

      I understand dreading coming out. I really get it. My parents did not react well, and I was told that I could only live with them if I chose not to pursue this “lifestyle.” I moved out that night. Not the next day. That night. I am lucky I did it when I was twenty-two and had a job and a friend with a spare room, and not when I was seventeen with no options. But I knew that would be the likely consequence ahead of time.

      You might just wish that they would ask because you dread the conversation so much that it would be easier if someone took the power away from you. But seriously, gather up your wits and courage, know what the possible outcomes could be going in, and do it. (When you are ready, of course).

      You will feel so much stronger for it. And that’s a big deal, especially when you might be severing a relationship or hampering it significantly for the foreseeable future.

    • i don’t think that’s weird — i imagine if you assume she knows and you’re too shy/anxious/hesitant to bring it up it would be a relief for her to say something. i know what you mean about feeling like you’re lying — after i came out to my mom and before we got to the place we are now she didn’t really want to hear about certain aspects of my life so i’d avoid talking about them to her, but then every conversation we had just felt like a lie or at the very least a lot of omissions. i hope you find a way to come out to your mom when you’re ready and i hope it goes well.

  2. Vanessa this is so beautiful and wise and empathetic and I love you and also I think this should be required reading for moms everywhere, not just moms of lesbos, because to some extent I think we all turn out to be different than what our moms pictured we’d become. Like honestly this piece of writing makes the world a better place. Obviously I’m crying into my coffee right now

  3. I’m sobbing right now and my cat is looking at me very strangely. This is beautiful, Vanessa.

  4. Lots of my straight friends (especially otaku) love to read yuri/yaoi stuff and nobody would ever say they are gay. They just like manga/anime which concentrate on this topic. So maybe she’s not gay, but just fan of everything Japanese? There’s quite big group of mothers (including mine) of teenagers who just overinterpret.

    If my friend’s mum saw my friend while watching ‘L word’, she would definitely say ‘OMG Salome, why don’t you tell me you’re gay?’, but Salome wouldn’t date any girl even if she would be paid for it. She’s just found another tv series to watch and she enjoys it.

    I feel really bad, because my mother is my closest friend, but she’s also really conservative and she won’t accept me as a lesbian quickly. It’s gonna take a lot of time and not telling her I feel like I’m lying to her. But I don’t have any other alternative. Polish mother are quite reserved when it comes to homosexuality of their children.

    Greets from Poland.

    • Yeah, I immediately wondered if the graphic novels in question were yuri. That being said, most of my straight female otaku friends are really into yaoi, but not so much yuri. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who was into yuri (male OR female) who wasn’t attracted to girls in some way, but that might just be my experiences.

  5. My mother asked me if I was a lesbian annually from 1987 to 1990. I had NO clue that I was until I fell in love with a woman in 1990 (yes, I am old) so her questions always struck me as strange. I look back now and wonder what she saw in me that I didn’t see in myself. Anyway, when she asked that last time and I said “yes”, she freaked out and I realized that her annual question wasn’t because she wanted to understand me but because she wanted to be reassured.

    Now I am a mom and my hope is that I am building the kind of relationship with my kids that will make them feel like they can talk to me about anything. At the very least, I figured my kids would never have to worry about coming out but then my son asked me if I would be disappointed if he was straight. My heart broke because I just want my kids to be loved. Parent/child relationships are always complex.

    • I completely sympathize with the confronting question thing every year. My mum’s been doing that for years. I recently came out to her 4 days ago. She cries every night and when she goes to work. I’m 22 and have a girlfriend. I’ve known that I was a lesbian for many years now.

      She thinks she’s done some huge error in her parenting. Dad will react more than her when he finds out, if he hasn’t already. I know it because we’ve had arguments about how one can “turn” gay for a few years.

      I can only hope that this turns out for the better. I need to find a job.

      I feel really heartbroken at how much pain I’ve caused my mum already.

      • It’s so hard, fia, I know. But here’s the thing. She will get over it one day. Years from now, she will probably wonder why she made such a big deal about it. It hurts like hell at the moment, for you and for her, but she *will* get over it. People get over terrible, terrible things: family dying; war experiences; brutal crime. She will get over it because she has to: there is no alternative.

        This is not your problem to fix: it is hers. It’s not her fault that she feels the way she does – she has been raised to believe certain things – but still, she will have to work through it herself because you can’t fix this for her. You can try to help by putting her in touch with PFLAG or getting her books like the one by Ellen’s mum (if she is even open to such things). Perhaps it may help her to know that she is no more responsible for your orientation than a parent is responsible for their child being autistic, or a genius, or both – it’s just biology. But you can’t fix it for her. All you can do is keep yourself safe and be true to yourself while you wait out the storm. ((hugs))

  6. This is great. I’ll never forget how I felt as a teenager when my mother said to me, “So what’s up with you and Becky?” and I was utterly unprepared to tell her. So I just burst into tears. I was 16, I was just figuring out what was up with me and Becky and with my sexuality in a broader sense. I didn’t know how to react and I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

    Eventually, though, I was. And I feel lucky that my mother has been really supportive over the years and we are totally at ease talking about my relationship. I wasn’t ready to open up to her right at that moment, and I was angry at the time that she forced the issue, but my mom has always been a champion for me and for queer causes in her own life.

    12 or so years later, what is up with Becky is that I married her. So I guess everything worked out okay.

  7. “Sometimes the people we come out to, the people who love us most, do need someone to hold their hand while they get used to the news.”

    This is wonderful. I got really lucky with my mom, who is wonderfully and adorably supportive, but there are some other people in my life who I needed to give more time to adjust than I did. And that wasn’t very fair of me. Will definitely be sharing this piece with others.

  8. Vanessa, may I say that I am ecstatic that the big poofy flowery dress got worked into this post?

    Also, this is awesome advice. I hope it gets to the top of the google searches for gay daughters, or whatever parents google when they need help to understand their child’s sexuality.

  9. i totally agree about the not confronting your daughter part. if she doesn’t know, if she’s not ready to come out to herself, you’ll have an awkward conversation.

    my mom and dad are wonderful and i knew they would support me no matter what but i still waited until i was in college and in an actual relationship with a girl to come out. i wanted to be sure. and i didn’t know how to answer the questions that would come up.

    it did lead to some awkward stuff right before i left for college when i was out to some friends. i remember my mom read an article about a queer kid who got killed in our state, and she was freaked out about it. she said, “I’m so glad you and your sister don’t have to deal with that kind of hate” or something. What she was saying was, I am worried about how queer kids are treated! Which is totally valid. What I heard, though, was, “I’m glad you’re not gay!” which made me somewhat uncomfortable. Watch your assumptions, and the words you use.

    The key point is of course that bad things can happen to anybody, gay or straight, and anybody can fail/defy/challenge/alter their parents expectations for them. the latter is a good thing.

    A turning point in my relationship with my stepdad, on the other hand, was when he told my mom he wasn’t totally comfortable with me being gay, but that he recognized it was his problem to deal with. that was very honest and open of him, and i have a lot of respect for how he related to that. And he never put that process on my shoulders either.

  10. I’m, like, 95% certain this is my GF’s mother…and I’m the “friend” she’s talking about.

  11. this is a really great list, vanessa! i’m really close to my mama too and i wasn’t necessarily scared of coming out to her and she wasn’t necessarily not accepting, she just didn’t know what to do. and i feel you on the pflag thing. i’ve been bringing up them and other sources of information for years. xoxo

  12. To me the advice “don’t ASK” seems to be quite a good one. As mothers, who ask this question mostly do it in a state of concern or fear. A mother who is completely okay with this possibility, who loves you and respects you exactly the way you are and who really KNOWS you – I don’t think she would have or want to ask you. She would just know. And wait for you to be ready to tell her. But if your mother asks you out of an frightened / scared / uneasy impulse – I guess it would be a devastating start for this conversation that you’re already scared of.

    My mom actually asked me this very question when I was 16 and had this really close (but non-lesbian) friendship with this friend of mine. She went on about how I would never find a boyfriend (I was 16!!) when I was always hanging out with this girl. And then she did it. She asked: “Or are you GAY?” And her voice was so full of “better answer with NO!” that it shocked me. It was the first time ever that I knew she would not be okay with me being gay. And it hurt. And I wanted to tell her how much that hurt in this very moment. And all I could say was “NO. I’m not.”

    Well. I AM. And I wish she wouldn’t’ve asked me back then. Cause I guess this one uneasy question kept me from realising that very summer how I was in love with this girl at school and it made me feel proud and okay when I had my first boyfriend instead. And it was always in my mind when I tried to tell her four years later how I had fallen in love with my first girlfriend. And it was on my mind when she couldn’t oppress her disappointment when I told her three years later that I had once again fallen in love with a woman – and that me being gay simply wasn’t “just a phase”.

    So, mothers: if you KNOW or have the strong feeling that your kid might be gay: don’t ask. But tell her it would be okay so very often and assuring that she can’t help but coming out to you.

    So, daughters: if you want to be asked, ask yourself why. Do you desperately need the assurance of your mom? Then try to figure out whether you’d really get that assurance. Otherwise it could make you feel even a lot more shaky and insecure than before. And than ask yourself why she doesn’t ask. Does she already know? Then go tell her. Would she be simply okay with it? Then go tell her. Would it freak her out in a negative way? Then maybe wait for you to be able to handle that hurtful experience.

  13. One of her biggest comebacks has always been, “I want what’s best for you. And I’m telling you now, you are on the wrong path, and it will lead to such difficulties….!!”

    So, I get this… and I wish I could just anonymously e-mail this link to my mother!! But then, she probably can’t read all this English.

  14. My mom confronted me just a few weeks before I had ‘planned’ to come out. Like Vanessa, I had a really open relationship with my parents and I knew that they would love me regardless; growing up, I knew their lesbian friends before I knew what lesbians were. But I’d been so confused for so long and was really hesitant to say anything until I had figured it out or myself. So when my mom casually threw it out there over a phone call(“So your dad thinks you might be gay, how about that?”) I ended up hemming and hawing and saying things like “maybe like 80/20? I mean, I definitely like girls.” I really wanted to be honest with my family but I still wasn’t at a point where I could be honest with myself. My seeming indecision led to some well-meaning but incredibly awkward conversations during which my mother asked me to “keep my options open, because you’ll meet lots of new boys at university next year”. It took a few more months of introspection, panic, googling naked pictures of both sexes, and one drunken night of spectacularly bad decision making for me to be ready to ‘come out’ a second time, this time with all my eggs in one basket a better knowledge of who I was and what I wanted.

  15. I’m still figuring out my own sexuality and nowhere near ready to talk to my mother about it, but I’ve recently recalled a strange conversation we had when I was 18 with her asking probing questions about my friendship with a girl. At the time I was confused by her questions and it didn’t go anywhere.
    Five years later I’m wondering if she was trying to ask about my sexuality and if so must have suspected I wasn’t straight way before I did. Which kind of blows my mind and I have no idea what to do with.
    This post was encouraging and will be stored up for future reference for when/if I’m ever ready to talk to my mum. Thanks.

  16. Thank you for this Vanessa! Mom, got depressed when she found out. Deep down, she really just wanted to get some confirmation that she didn’t do anything wrong in her raising me. Once I told her she did an excellent job and I’m still me, the whole family knew and she stood behind me through it all. I’m lucky…some aren’t so…thank you for this.

  17. uggh. when i was 17 and dating my first girlfriend ever, i ended up lying to my mom a lot about who i was hanging out with/where i was because i was NOT ready to have a “hay i’m gay” conversation with my mom yet. thinking that all of my lies surely meant that i was drinking/doing drugs/sleeping with boys, my mom read through all of my texts when i got home one night, including ALL of the schmoozy texts i’d ever sent to my girlfriend. yikes. i wanted to die! the next my mom asked “sooo anything you want to tell me about this girl?” even though we both knew that she knew perfectly well what the two of us were doing…

    i wasn’t ready to be out yet, and i felt dragged out, and ultimately my mom was extremely loving and supportive about me dating women, and it felt so good to not have to lie to her about it anymore, but for a long time i felt hurt because she had forced me out of the closet. i felt like something very important had been taken away from me.

    give your kids some time, momz and dadz. be supposrtive but don’t force it.

    • My mom did a similar thing to me, not with the snooping through my stuff, but she cornered me during lunch one day and asked me, “What’s going on with this girl? Are you DATING her?” And it felt horrible. I wasn’t at all prepared to have that conversation with her and then she goes and asks me in public! AH

      I agree with you Jamie that while it felt good not to have to lie anymore, it also hurt to be forced out of the closet without being ready because suddenly, EVERYONE else in my family knew too and I hadn’t even figured out things in my own head yet.

      The message from this mom connects a lot with me because my mom said almost the exact same words about feeling sick to her stomach to my face. I think that while it might take off some of the pressure to have your parents ask you about your sexuality, it also forces you to take a side on something you still might be confused about. And in my case, it left me with no time to figure out how I wanted to articulate my feelings about being gay to my family and friends.

  18. so this may be one of the things that I print off and hand to my mom (since she’s technologically illiterate) when I come out, js.

  19. i am crying into my keyboard. happy tears. i love you vanessa, and this post reminds me why i love you. i am glad we have mom feels <3

  20. I think one of the other most important things a parent can do is make their household a supportive one. Obviously, not every parent is GOING to be tolerant, but when you are judging people or making jokes, think about how your kids would feel if they were that person. Even if you are 99 percent sure your kids are straight, or gay, being accepting of all people makes you a decent human being and makes it SO much easier to come out.

    I mean, I grew up in a super liberal family and I still ended up sobbing in the car like “I LIKE GIRLS WAAH” even though my parents’ reaction was like “…..okay, whatev. We love you?”

    And no, that doesn’t mean be a PFLAG mom before you even know what the deal is, but as your kids are getting older realize that they will be absorbing messages far beyond what you are actually saying.

  21. So, I am 100% terrified that this is actually from my mom. Like for real. I don’t even want to read all of it that’s how much it could my own mom about me. I am sort of horrified in this very instant.

  22. I struggled with this one myself, as a parent. I was pretty sure my daughter was gay or bi from the time she was 8, and as she got older, I did want to ask (from sheer nosiness, I guess, since it really didn’t make any difference to how I felt about her!) but I never did, because I figured it was up to her to tell me when she had worked things out for herself and felt comfortable talking about it. I just made sure to be obvious about being an LGBT ally (this was before I realised I was bi myself – doh!) so she wouldn’t feel anxious about coming out.

    One day, when she was 13, she snuggled up to me and said, really quietly: ‘Mum, I think I’m gay.’ And I was totally not ready in the moment; didn’t know what the right thing was to say, to not make too big a deal of it, yet help her feel accepted and celebrated. So I said, ‘OK, cool!’ It felt so inadequate!

    And then I started to worry that she was putting herself in too limiting a box at too young an age, and that while she was attracted to women, she might also find herself attracted to men when she was older, and might end up having an existential crisis about it because she sudddenly wasn’t who she thought she was. So I added that sometimes what we want and our attractions can change throughout life, so she might find herself attracted to a guy one day, just as I hadn’t realised I was attracted to women till I was older.

    And then I thought: ‘OMG! That sounds as though I’m completely not accepting what she just told me, and she might think I’m not really OK with her orientation!’ So then I started trying to do damage control by going back to how it was cool that she had herself more or less figured out and knew what she liked – while carefully avoiding asking whether there was anyone in particular she was attracted to (because I figured she would tell me that when she was ready).

    So yeah, it felt a bit like a parenting fail, even though I’m bi myself, and had been expecting her to tell me this one day, because I really wanted her coming out to be perfect for her and I don’t think I achieved that. So it must be a lot harder for straight parents who are really not expecting it. On the other hand, I guess I didn’t do too terribly badly from her point of view, because once we’d finished talking, she rushed off to find her dad, all confident and happy and excited to be coming out to him. :)

  23. Vanessa- amazing writing from you as usual. Thanks for posting this. I’m a Mum AND I HEAR YOU! thanks for the great advice… If my daughter ever needs to have this conversation with me I feel better prepared for it!

    I never had this conversation with my Mum, but I did with my sister. It took me 28 years to tell her but she had the best reaction ever…

    Me- “So erm… I’m a bit kind of gay”
    Sister “Oh my god that’s amazing!!!! your ex husband is going to die when he finds out!!”… He already knew but, we both just burst into hysterics at this point!!

    yeah thats right people. BEST.SISTER.EVER.

    • HA! that is indeed the best reaction i’ve ever heard. and thank you for the kind words…i’m so pleased to hear from a parent’s perspective that this advice is sound! i’m just a kid making it up as i go along ;)

      • It’s incredibly important for parents to hear from a “kid’s” perspective, though. Because when people explain how the different reactions from their parents felt for them, then it helps us to better understand how our own kids might feel, so we can maybe do a better job of helping them feel totally supported. It’s hard to get it right, especially when most of the world is telling your kid that they’re faulty, and so they fear that you might think so, too, deep down inside, even when you think there is no obvious reason for them to think that.

  24. This moved me a lot. I wish I was like the author and had a decent relationship with an accepting parent.

    My parents are extremely homophobic. I was raised to believe that being queer is a contagious disease and that you should be careful not to get too close to ‘people like that’ because there is something wrong with them. We still aren’t allowed to watch programmes on the home TV that center around gay stuff. I am 22. My father leaves the room when gay men come on the screen because he’s so disgusted and I change the channel if he’s in the room to avoid a fight.

    My mother is very prominent in our local church, and it’s the centre of her social life. It makes her really happy, but they are deeply homophobic. We run the bible study group out of our living room, and last week I was sitting in the kitchen eating toast and I could hear them listening to a recording of how the “Gay Agenda” is threatening their religious freedoms. If I were to come out as gay, even if she came to accept it, all her friends might reject her. It would certainly be a huge source of shame and embarrassment and I know I’d feel terrible for doing that to her.

    I’m still studying and so consequently am completely financially dependent on my parents. I don’t really think that they’d cut me off if I was outed, but it would make things extremely awkward between us. I know that in their eyes I will have failed them by being gay and I’ll be lucky if I can ever bring a partner home and have them accepted by my family. My sister brings home her lovely boyfriend, who I really like, but part of me is just seething with jealousy that I could never do the same. Not that I’ve actually had a girlfriend yet.

    I have to live with them this summer whilst I’m working, and I just dread the thought of sitting at home wishing I could be somewhere where I felt like I could be myself and meet girls rather than alone in a tiny town. Where I grew up is so small it doesn’t even have a single gay bar. Outside of university, I don’t know any other gay people anyway.

    I bet you are all picturing me living in some tiny town in Oklahoma or whatever but I live in England, a country where gay people can get fucking married. Yet my life is still like this.

    • ((hugs))

      My parents are a lot like this (though much older than yours now) and I live in the UK, too. I’m sorry. It seems like a forever prison when you’re stuck at home with them, but you will get out one day. That won’t end the problems in your relationship with them, but you will have more freedom to be yourself, at least.

      When you do get out, please remember that your life is your own, to live in the way that is right for you, according to your own ethical code. Try not to hurt your parents unnecessarily, of course, but please don’t distort your life to please them and their ideals.

      I hope that doesn’t sound patronising. I just remember a time when I used to think that if I got pregnant while not married, I would have to have an abortion – even if I really wanted the baby – just to spare my parents the pain and shame. I told my big sister this, and she told me that was just plain wrong, to even think of making a major personal life decision like that based on how somebody else would feel about it. I realised that she was right, and yet it was not a conclusion I could have come to alone at that point, and I might have made some bad decisions without it. So I’m passing her words along, just in case they come to you, as they came to me, at just the right moment.

    • Yeah. I remember when I came out I had it figured in my head how to deal with things if they completely rejected me and how it might go if they accepted me, but I wasn’t prepared for an outcome that threaded it’s way down the middle and how it would complicate our relationship: UK too. My mum loves me but her sense of social shame created a lot of tension and hurt, at the time, that has lasted.

      Echoing Bhan, and especially given your parent’s attitude to gay relationships, secure your independence first. Even if they don’t cut you off, your dependence will damage your ability to renegotiate your relationship with them. The support and validation you will hopefully gain in the meantime will stand you in good stead.

      Make sure you have your own space during the summer; internet with a door. Do your best to get out and plan-in times you can get away on weekends to decompress, see people and be yourself. I’m sorry there’s not much else to it, and that it’s gonna suck for a while still.

  25. My straight, male friend is the first person that I talked to in my group of friends about my sexuality. He was awkward and sweet about the whole thing. I knew that my bestfriend had a hunch about me and I knew that she would be supportive but I couldn’t tell anyone that close to me yet and she is horrible at handling serious situations.I grew up in a very conservative area with a religious mother and I just kept everything to myself. I never would have expected him to be like my surrogate Pflag mom. According to him, he went to LGBT chatrooms, centers and even teachers trying to figure out the right way to talk to me about it. He started randomly throwing out hints about different lesbian and gay characters and how he was cool with it. He picked “Brokeback Mountain” for one of our movie nights and mentioned how it was “such a heartbreaking love story” At that point I thought he was trying to tell everyone that he was gay so we talked and then he told me what he was doing. It was absolutely adorable and it was nice to have someone close to me that was on my side. I love that he didn’t just come right out and ask me, he took the time to do research and find some support for himself before he approached me.

    That was probably off topic but I just needed to get that out. It’s so lovely to find a friend like him, especially a male friend. He’s a total feminist activist now.

  26. I wish my mother had read this last year. The moment when she came up to me asked “Do you… do you like girls?” was the worst one of my life. Her voice was SO fearful, so… disgusted. As if that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
    I, of course, denied it. Strongly. I was panicking inside.
    After that, I cried on my best friend’s shoulder for hours. I didn’t tell him why and he didn’t ask.
    I don’t get it. Her best friend is a gay guy, she even goes to pride with him. Yep, and his boyfriend. SHE GOES TO PRIDE. But when it comes to lesbians, it’s just disgusting. When I was little I even used to repeat what she says “I’m fine with two guys kissing, but two girls are weird” (when I was eleven I realized that was just plain stupid. And it would still take me three years to find out I liked girls).
    She’s such a hypocrite and it makes me so terribly sad. She doesn’t say being a lesbian is wrong, but she makes no effort to hide her disapproval. When she sees someone who’s a butch, she says “If you’re a lesbian, at least, please, don’t be that kind of lesbian”.
    That made me go through such an though time last year. By the end of the school year, I found myself in really dark state of mind.
    I eventually had the strength to get back on my feet… but I don’t think I would if I hadn’t discovered Autostraddle. If I still thought I was so very lonely.
    These articles, this site and everyone in here help me everyday, even though they don’t know it. They help by simply existing, being and sharing.
    So, thank you, Autostraddle, for saving me.

  27. there are actual tears streaming down my face. i really only came out to myself last winter, and im still in the process of figuring myself out, as i think i am entitled to be at 18. the number one reason that i am still not out to my parents, as liberal and accepting as they are, is the fear of what my mother will say. after i was elected to be the chair of my schools GSA (back when i thought i was just a really, really supportive ally lol/questioning) my mom asked me: wait, youre not gay are you?! i obviously demanded to know what she meant by that, and she responded by telling me about how difficult my life would be if i was gay, and how that just wasnt the happy, simple life she envisioned for me. to this day, i am still terrified of her reaction when i finally do have the courage to come out to her.
    so, mothers of the world:
    please, do be gentle if you decide to bring it up. i dont know what my mothers intentions were when she asked me, but being asked like that made me regret even putting a toe out of the deep, deep closet i was living in. i hope that you find this article, and our responses, out of some desperate, frenzied googling just as i did, when i was grasping at anything to make sense of my feelings. i hope that you can look past your own expectations, and be the support that your (maybe) gay daughter probably needs.

  28. I definitely needed to hold my mom’s hand, especially through explaining that no, it isn’t a choice, yes, I still want to get married and have a family, and no, my life isn’t going to be any worse off or harder because I get to be happy now. That helped my mom accept me within s month or so. My dad never gave me the chance to hold his hand, so it took him about 7 months (and the week before meeting my girlfriend) for him to be okay with it because he heard that it’s okay from a peer, not from me.

  29. Hmm. I dunno. My mom has asked me whether or not I was gay, but gently.

    My sister has starkly told me I was gay, told me I needed to be more open with my sexuality, and told me that she wants me to share with her so that we can be closer.

    It was uncomfortable in the former circumstance, infuriating in the latter and neither made me feel particularly share-y. So don’t do that, moms.

  30. I really want to send this to my mom. She’s already said that she doesn’t want a gay daughter, but I still hope that I’ll be able to tell her one day years from now.

  31. I think don’t ask is solid advice, especially if the asking is done in an accusatory manner.

    That being said, I think it would have gone unsaid forever if my father didn’t end up asking me. I was absolutely heartbroken over the dramatic, over-the-top finale of my long-term relationship, and my father had never met my partner because I lived far away and was way too chickenshit and have had enough abandonment issues from growing up that this just felt too heavy to throw onto the pile. I kind of made excuses to myself like, “my personal life is none of their business!”

    Anyway, on my trip home over the holidays my father cornered me in the office and said, “So this relationship, was this with a girl?” I answered, “yes.” He told me that he was hurt I had kept important details of my personal life from him and that he just wanted me to be happy.

    So while being cornered was no doubt terrifying, in my very specific, personal situation, it worked itself out.

    • On the flip side, my mother suspects but none of us will bring it up to each other, and she just tries lurking my facebook and playing a guessing game with whoever I’m in the same photo frame with.

  32. I love this, I think that having that source of support is so important. I know my mom talked with my aunt and was able to use her as a source of support.

  33. I wish this article had existed 12 years ago when my mom cornered me at Christmas and forced it out of me. She spent the better part of the holiday alternating between verbally abusing me and hiding in her bedroom like a Victorian Englishwoman overcome with “the vapors”. Our relationship has never been the same since. I tell her as little as possible about what’s going on in my life.

  34. I love this article – beautifully written as always!

    My mother found some poetry I had written on the computer talking about my bisexuality (I wasn’t exactly good at subtlety). She didn’t talk to me about it, though, which was the right choice. This is how my now-infamous coming out story came about (her response was “Did you think I didn’t know that already?!”)

    I won’t tell my wife’s full story because it’s not mine to tell, but her dad asked her if she was gay. That lead to some very uncomfortable months, but they did come around fairly quickly.

  35. Thank you so much for this beautiful post! Your relationship with your mom sounds like it has an uncanny resemblance to mine with my mom.

    My mom knew I was gay before I even acknowledged it. She had found and read some pages out of my journal full of confused babblings about having feelings for a lot of my female friends and a week later this book appeared on my bed: http://www.amazon.com/GLBTQ-Survival-Guide-Queer-Questioning/dp/1575421267/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362809298&sr=8-2&keywords=queer+questioning+teen

    I am really lucky my mom was so accepting and amazing, but a part of me does wish I could have figured things out on my own in my own time frame and come out to her once I was ready.

  36. When I came out to my mom and told her I was in a relationship, she said (and I quote) “that’s okay, just be cool about it.”

    It reads as more accepting than it sounded. She didn’t want to hear about it, I don’t think. But then, she was never thrilled about the idea of my having a boyfriend, either. (Sexuality is one of many things that don’t get discussed much in my family.)

    All things considered, I would rather she’d flipped out.

    (My dad was more supportive and interested, though we still don’t have the subject come up that much. Besides, I’m single again so maybe it doesn’t matter…)

    • That’s pretty much the same deal with my parents: ok, you can’t change it, but don’t tell anybody. And by extension I can’t even tell them about my girlfriends or anything lgbt-related because they don’t want to hear it. And they wonder why I don’t call them as often as they demand I do – what’s there to say?

      I so desperately want to come out on my family-safe FB account (all my relatives and such) mostly to see if anyone else is also like me. But it would be so futile.

      • Haha my parents couldn’t deal with my boyfriend’s existence either…they adored him, but it was always ‘friiiend’ and ‘you should go study’.

  37. Thank you for posting this, it’s really important. I might show it to my parents but they might be even more confused and upset that I’m making a big deal over it…

  38. Thank you thank you thank you for this article. I read it last night, and later that evening I finally came out to my mom. Scary as hell and she was so incredibly awesome about it. I heart you Autostraddle!

  39. When I was 19, I had this really complicated relationship with my best friend (later my first girlfriend) that was tearing me apart, so I ended up telling my mom on the phone one night. I was very depressed and had been for a while and she just came out and asked me if I was “unhappily in love” with someone. And I said yes and told her that if she thought about it she could probably guess who it was. And she could. This is not something I recommend, since I myself presented this relationship as a negative thing to her (which it was, but she didn’t need to know that). My mom was shocked, and really wanted to discuss it with me several times, she cried, felt sorry for me, wondered if she had done something wrong etc. She did non of these things to be cruel, she just needed to vent and get some answers, but it made me feel like it was really hard for her to accept it and that she felt like my sexuality was such a tragedy that should be hidden. That hurt me, so after my first gf and I split up, I didn’t speak to my mom about my sexuality for a long time. Not until I was dating seriously again, and to my surprise, my mom was very interested in this new girl and really positive about it. And I was like, WTF, are you okay with my sexuality all of a sudden?! And she was like, oh it just took me a while to get used to the idea, I’ve been fine with it for years(!). It turned out she had accepted it and gotten over it without me even knowing – communication failiure on both ends. So, now everything is fine and dandy, she has embraced my new gf like a second daughter (turns out a lot of the negative feelings she had about my first relationship was because she disliked the way my then gf treated me). So, my advice to everyone and their Mother is: communicate, tell your mom that you’re actually happy with your queerness. And give her time to think it over. Like my mom told me: “You’ve known this for a long time, but I just found out.”

  40. I came out to my mom in 1982 at the age of sixteen. She stood on one side of the stove and I on the other.The kitchen being the place of my confession that day. A love letter that I had written to a girl landed up in the school psychologist’s office and they rang my mom. That was South Africa at the height of anti-apartheid uprisings and it was a small town on the Highveld. We exchanged sparse words : Are you gay? Yes mom. Those were the only words about it until years later at the age of twenty six that I had my first relationship with a woman.

    • This sound like the beginning to a book I would totally read! Please write it!

  41. approximately 90% of you made me cry and i’m so glad these words struck a chord with so many of you. i feel silly responding with hearts and hugs to all the kind comments but i really don’t know what else to say — i had a hard time writing this because in some ways things still feel very fresh and i didn’t want to hurt my mom, but at the same time it was so big and so important to me that i knew i had to. i wasn’t sure if i would show this to my mom or not but i finally decided to do it — her response was so loving and kind, so open and respectful, i really feel like we are in a whole new world of our relationship. i hope those of you who are struggling with your parents right now are able to find love and acceptance in the future, and if you never get those things from your family i hope you are able to find it somewhere else because you deserve it. and, for the record, you will always find it here on autostraddle.

    thanks for letting me be sentimental, friends. this post brought out the Feelings with a capital fucking f.

    OH, and to those of you who have had positiveamazingawesomeincredible experiences coming out to your parents — hug them extra tight tonight and say thanks. i know they’re just doing exactly what they should do and they don’t “deserve a cookie” so to speak, but as is evidenced by this tiny sampling of comments, not all parents do the right thing in this scenario…so if your parents are awesome, they deserve to feel that love right back, ya know?

  42. Super late to the party, but I have to say…I really wish my mother had just asked or something.
    After coming out to some really supportive people at college, they encouraged to come out to my mother. I was far less sure of the possibility of a positive outcome than they were, and spent the better part of a summer trying to figure out how to tell my (conservative, Very Catholic) mother…and what I was going to do/ where I was going to go if she kicked me out.
    Once I finally was able to get the words out, it was met with an anticlimactic, “oh, I already knew that.”
    It would have saved me so much stress if she’d just spoken up.

    And then she spent the next 2 years feeling hurt and thinking that I was hiding my love life from her and not sharing important parts of my life with her…at which point I had to explain that I just lead a boring life and have had no love life.

    • I agree, there’s a ton of comments being like”don’t confront your child” but it would’ve saved a hell of a lot of heartache for them to just ask.

  43. Loved this article. I had come out to my family 2 years ago but my mom didn’t really acknowledge it since I hadn’t met any girls (I came from a small city in Ontario Canada). I now live in NYC and I had a date with this girl but still felt like my mom “didn’t believe me” sooo I sent her a facebook message RE coming out.

    I posted it to my blog and buzzfeed then posted it online…which I did not know. A few days later a friend from back home told me she saw it, then it blew up and I sent my mom the link:


    she is incredible, my brother is gay and has been married for 6 years but its still scary.

  44. My mother read my diary and confronted me about it harshly, and it still hurts to think about it. DO NOT CONFRONT YOUR LGBTQ CHILD 1!!1111!!! THIS IS SO IMPORTANT DON’T INTERRUPT THEIR FIGURING OUT PROCESS AND DROP A THOUSAND-POUND LOAD ON THEM

  45. My coming out happened in the worst possible way. I was 19, and had spent my highschool and elementary years in a catholic school where every parent-teacher conference, the nun would accuse me of the sin of ‘homosexuality’ before my mother. Of course, Sister Mary was DEAD wrong because I didn’t have a girlfriend or a boyfriend during Highschool. Not that I was confused, I just wasn’t interested in anyone. And boy o boy, my mom was my staunch defender back then. “you’re being judgement, sister. I raised my girls with tough love so that they’d all be numb to the horrors of this here goddamn world when they grow old – and if you can’t see a shred of ‘modesty’ or ‘effeminacy’ in this lady, then that just means I succeeded”.

    And then I was 19, and I fell in love. WITH A GOLD DIGGER. And she ran off with 50,000 dollars after two years of being with each other. And the day I found out about what she did, I was having having dinner with my mother and sister, and I actually found out through SMS (someone texted me hat that they saw my ex leaving town with somebody – and that they were obviously in a relationship) I WEPT. And because I never show any emotion in front of anyone – my mother being no exception (we are close nonetheless), my mother KNEW I had breakup. And she asked with who, and I said with “X”, because I felt so vulnerable and weak back then – not to mention financially torn apart – and I just needed someone to help me stand up for once. She comforted me and even attempted to locate my ex (she said so that she and my sister could wreck her face) but since then, we’ve never spoken about my sexuality.

    One time, I actually tried reaching out to her about my being gay, and she said “didn’t you learn your goddamn lesson, girl?”.

  46. Even though this post was written some time ago, I still wanna say thank you for writing it. This is a great resource that I hope my mum would actually read.. I came out to my parents a couple days ago, and shit. hit. the. fan. Hopefully with time things will get better.

  47. This was lovely to read, and #3 really hit me in the feels. I was so scared to come out to my parents even though I knew they’d be accepting, but I was terrified that I’d have to explain myself when I just couldn’t. I still waver between identifying as queer/bisexual and I’m not sure I’ll ever have a perfect label or definition for my sexuality. When my mom told me that she was afraid of what I’d face if I did turn out to be queer, I just didn’t know how to handle that. I still don’t really. I was so angry that I had worked so hard to do something so difficult, and the response I got was about her having fear for me. No one told me that coming out would involve also carrying my mom’s feelings, and it felt so unfair to me at the time. Oof. Yeah. Feelings.

  48. Thank you for writing this. I have noticed that my teenaged daughter has been looking at hentai. But I was unsure of how and what to do. I feel that I am a very open minded person. And I want my daughter’s to be happy. ..no matter what. This really help me to understand that I might be jumping to answers that she her self don’t know how to get.

  49. Ok. I am freaking out (just a little). After reading this I realized I made the biggest mistake in asking my daughter if she liked girls (she made a weird face at something I said about cute boys and I just blurted it out). Did I royally f@$! Up? She answered me honestly (said she isn’t sure but she does like girls) and I responded with the “if that is who you are you will be supported by your father and I. We love you, whoever you end up being and no matter who you love”. But after reading this I am afraid that asking her is going to be an issue for her.

    • Well, I wouldn’t grill her or ask repeatedly. Let her come to you. But asking once on a whim? Maybe a bit awkward… but I wouldn’t call that royally F-ing up, especially given that what you said to her after was really good and supportive.

      I’ve forgotten what the comments say by now—I’m sure there are many pearls of wisdom within. My only advice would be, don’t fling a bunch more questions her way (unless she makes it very clear she’s cool with that), but don’t never bring up the idea again, either. I say this because MY mom’s response when I told her I liked girls was “that’s okay, just be cool about it.” End of discussion. 99% of the time, my parents are completely silent when it comes to LGBT-related… well… anything. You don’t have to have deep discussions about it, just work it into whatever “hey this was in the paper this morning”-type chatting you do over breakfast.

      (As far as conversation starters, I just started watching and have heard REALLY good things about the TV show Legend of Korra. It happens to have canonically bisexual, kickass heroines. But at any rate, the main thing is, don’t go to radio silence because you’re afraid to mess something up.)

      • Thank you so much for your response. You answered my question that I didn’t even ask (about talking to her about it). Thanks for the ideas on how to talk to her about it without being overpowering. I will continue to read and learn ways to make sure she is happy. Although, that is hard because all the resources I am finding are for parents on how to accept it rather than how to help your kid.

  50. We have a lesbian daughter and we suspected she was lesbian but didn’t know for sure. My wife wanted to ask her if she liked other girls,I told her not to ask if she is gay she will tell us. We as parents would be upset and confused. This would be normal but she is our only daughter and we have to support her. We have to remember it took a lot of courage to tell us. She did finally tell us she was gay, my wife broke down and cried, our daughter hugged her mom to help her settle down. I held my temper and asked if was OK to discuss this the next day. Every one went to there corner with there own thoughts.
    Next day over breakfast I complemented her on having courage to tell us. We asked I suppose a dumb question if she was sure she was gay. She said that she likes females and thinks males are sex hungry twits. She never really had a boy friend! We told her we still love her and will always be our daughter and we will go to the end of the world to protect her. What I told her that we would like to meet your girl friend and parents and to please help your mom and dad better understand your life. There were hug’s all around. We all agreed some ground rules had to be hashed out our daughter wasn’t 18 yet. (she was 17 3/4). In the end all things worked out, daughter found a class that brought gay children and parents together to help understand them. Kids were free speak how they felt and why, it was difficult for some parents to hear there children talk freely about how they felt. I know the class helped us and our daughter is at college and has a current girl friend. We still attend this class to help other parents.

    • Thanks for posting your comment. I’m a mom with this suspicion and attempting to navigate through it. It’s difficult but I want to be prepared. My daughter told me a few months ago that she was attempting to figure out her sexual preference and if she comes to a determination that it’s women I want to be loving & supporive but it’s hard not to have all the thoughts, concerns, & emotions the mom had from the origin of this article. I may seek a support group as well.

  51. That was a great article providing timely advice. Now with that said I once read where a ten year old girl caught her mother watching a lesbian video. She never went on to say how it effected her and whether or not she and her mother talked about it. Also if it had any bearing on how she perceives other girls? Or if it scared her. Did her mother try to guide her away from boys. just a few of my random thoughts, any help or answers you provide would be helpful. THANKS

  52. My daughter recently turned 13. This past summer, I noticed a change in her behavior (moodier, combative). I decided to leave it alone, because I thought it was the result of hormones. At the beginning of the school year, she got much worse. I really could not figure out what was wrong with her, so I asked the school counselor to speak to her. Truthfully, I don’t believe she took it seriously because my child is not a problematic child. She is exceptionally well behaved, with the highest grades in her grade level. To most people, she is the perfect child, therefore I must just be overreacting. A week ago, she confessed she had been cutting herself, which is a complete shock to everyone. Everyone has been trying, unsuccessfully , to figure out what is going on.
    Last night, my child had a friend (female) stay the night to work on a social studies project. I know this is a new friend she really likes, but I really did not think anything else about it. At some point, I began to notice that my daughter is usually affectionate toward the child. She constantly has her arm around her, laying on her or touching her in some manner. At one point, I even saw my daughter kiss her belly.
    I have spent the entire night suddenly wondering if my child is gay. It does not bother me that she might be gay. I a simply don’t know what to do right now. If she is, and this is the root of the other behavior, then I should talk to her, but how? The other child is still at my house, and I am unsure if she is ok with the overt affection. I simply do not know what to do in this situation. Any insight or advise would be greatly appreciated.

    • I am really glad you posted this comment. I am a 14 year old bisexual girl and yeah it sounds like your daughter is attracted to other women.

      I don’t know how your daughter is but for me the easiset thing would’ve been for my parents to just overtly ask me. But they didn’t so I took a while to come out to them and by then I’d become really suicidal. This is not how it is for everyone. For a lot of people asking them outright is one of the absoloute worst things you could do because it takes a bit of the freedom of coming out away from actually coming out.

      Maybe you could say casually something along the lines of “You know if you’re gay/attracted to women I don’t care” I think that’s a bit of both worlds. She can come out then if she wants or not if she doesn’t want to or doesn’t yet feel ready but it’s still pretty outright.

      I have a theory about her behavior that could easily be wrong but it’s just a thought. It’s possible that she’s come out to her classmates and the good grades and different behavior is because she doesn’t feel restricted at school the way she might be feeling at home. Again, I really don’t know if that’s what happened but if I were her I think that would be what’s going on.

      Anyways I hope this has helped,

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