Mental Health Advice: Dr. Darcy Sterling

Ask a mental health professional the difficult questions

Dear Dr. Darcy,

I have three daughters. The middle daughter (straight) is getting married, and the youngest daughter (gay) was asked to be in the bridal party. The two sisters are having a fight because the bride wants her sister to wear a dress. My gay daughter NEVER wears a dress, and, as a result, she is angry and doesn't want to be in the bridal party. The bride also is in a dilemma as to where to place her sister in the pictures. As the mom, I am so sad and upset that my daughters are fighting, and that my gay daughter’s sexuality/gender conformity is an issue at all. We've all searched a variety of websites for some answers, but none that will satisfy my daughters. Any suggestions?

–Mom of a Lesbian Bridesmaid


Dear Mom: I’m frustrated with both sisters, actually. Let’s start with the straight one, because she’s the easiest to correct: Whom does she want in her wedding party—her butch dyke sister or a femme version of her? The message that she’s sending to her sister is that the wedding photos are more important than her sister’s dignity. It’s not just a little power struggle here; it’s not one sister refusing to take her nose ring out—it’s her sister’s sexual and gender identity. There are ways to compromise. She’s not thinking outside the box or being creative.

What she could do is have her bridesmaids wear tailored, sexy, women’s tuxedos or pantsuits, so that her sister might fit in better and feel more like herself. By way of personal example, my wife (who identifies as a dyke) wore a gorgeous Armani Prive women’s pantsuit at our wedding. She looked like herself, but a black tie version thereof. Theory makes amazing suits for women. And unlike EVERY bridesmaid dress that I’ve ever been forced to buy and never wore again, the pantsuit would get worn beyond the wedding. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The straight daughter would look like a hero for choosing something that her sister can wear, and she’d get props for having a wedding party that looked unique and chic. That’s my advice for the straight daughter.

Now for the gay one: This shouldn’t even be a question in her mind. She needs to set a boundary and stick to it. There are times in our lives when we can’t expect our straight family members to understand everything that we as gay people go through, and in those moments, we need to advocate for ourselves. The straight daughter isn’t going to get this, and that’s not the gay daughter’s problem.

Now for you, Mom: Support your gay daughter by encouraging your straight one to compromise on her bridal party’s couture. Do this one time, and then stay the hell out of it. Same goes for your gay daughter. Let her know that you’ll support her if she chooses not to be in the bridal party. This is a one-time conversation. Best of luck as you navigate this terrain.

–Dr. Darcy

Dr. Darcy Sterling is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her practice, Alternatives Counseling, specializes in LGBT issues and is located in New York City. Dr. Darcy’s clinical style is very direct, goal-oriented and pragmatic. For years, the media has been drawn to her unique personality. She has provided expert commentary for networks including E! Entertainment and has worked with television producers throughout the nation. Her blog,, provides free advice to members of the LGBT community. Email questions to or call 212-604-0144.

*This column is not a consultation with a mental health professional and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own therapist or counselor.


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