Dear Dr. Darcy:
My daughter is 20 years old and just sat me and my husband down to tell us she’s gay. We’re a very close religious family and this will never be accepted by either of my daughter’s grandparents or by our community. My husband and I don’t have anything against gay people. As a matter of fact one of my closest friends from college is gay, but I guess it’s different when it’s your own child that’s gay. What is your advice? Is there a type of therapy that can help her if this is just a phase? She’s always been such a good daughter. I don’t understand why she would do this to us.
I’m sorry that your husband and you are having a hard time with this. It’s not surprising that you’re not throwing your daughter a coming-out party, though I wish it were a more common response to the parent/child coming-out discussion. Nonetheless, based on what you said, it sounds like you’re anticipating mass rejection from your extended family and from your community, and the critical piece here is to be real: It’s not just your daughter who may face rejection—it’s your husband and you.
The idea of experiencing rejection or discrimination in conjunction with your child must be horrifying to ponder. Regardless, parents can’t control their children and your daughter really hasn’t changed except in her declaration of homosexuality, making any rejection that she might experience unfair and discriminatory. However, I want to point out that as outrageous as this may sound, your daughter’s choices, character, accomplishments and failures are not all traceable to her parents, meaning, she is not doing this to you. She is identifying as gay for her own reasons.
My experience with parents seeking conversion therapy for their children, aka, reorientation therapy, is that it has been ineffective, to put it mildly. I think your efforts would be better spent getting parental support rather than “curing” her homosexuality. The definition of a “phase” is a time-limited period of change or development. If that’s what this is, then let it happen. If you try to control its duration, it could turn into something far more complicated. Check out pflag.org to help you orient to her orientation.
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Dr. Darcy Smith received her Masters degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from New York University. She has been a practicing social worker for over 10 years and is in private practice in both New York City and New Jersey.
*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.