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My daughter is 11 and confused. She recently read a book which at the end the character found himself to be gay. She said that she now has thoughts of girls kissing and it makes her sick, she sometimes gets butterflies in her tummy when she sees girls. She is terrified to being lesbian. She asked me if she might be. I said that those feelings would not make her feel bad if she were. I believe that those feelings would make her feel good. We are tolerant to gay and lesbian community, but we don't know anyone who is. She said she has feelings like this with boys also. She is so anxious about being gay that she keeps asking for my reasurance several times a day. When I said to her that she may feel that these feelings are normal, she is terrified that she will change and like the thoughts about girls. I just want to help my daughter. Are these feelings normal? Or is this her bodies way of telling her she is gay?

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Protip: people often aren't fond of being merely "tolerated." If you actually feel no warmer toward the LGBT community than "tolerant," that might be why you think you don't know anyone in it. They aren't telling you. –  Tom Zych Aug 29 at 13:44
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you may want to explain to her that some people are attracted to both boys and girls. You might want to talk about sexuality and sexual attraction in general - I think her fear might come from not knowing about it. She may just be attracted to but afraid of having sexual feelings. You may want to talk to her about lesbian role models - like Ellen, or the former prime minister of Iceland –  Ida Aug 29 at 16:23
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Just a small notice: those who feel attracted to both males and females are called bisexual, not gay. –  Giulio Muscarello Aug 29 at 17:07
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You need to find out why she fears this first. –  DA01 Aug 29 at 17:28
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@TomZych It's possible the OP lives in a community or country where homosexuality is frowned upon, taboo or even illegal. The fear of social exclusion, shunning (or worse) is very real in such places and can add to a child's anxiety of being homosexual. A large proportion of the world's population lives in places where being openly gay is REALLY hard: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Jayraj Aug 30 at 6:23

10 Answers 10

Simple answer - these feelings are normal and not necessarily an indication of her sexuality, just a child's confusion and anxiety over physical intimacy. There is nothing to be concerned about, nothing special you or your daughter needs to do.

Just let time reveal her sexuality. When it happens, she'll know it and if she believes that there's nothing wrong with whatever choice she makes, she'll be better prepared to handle it.

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I'd add that if she keeps getting troubled by this feelings, it would be safe to ask for professional help/assistance. I don't mean a treatment or something - maybe just asking a professional how to help her not get troubled by this common confusion. Whether she is lesbian or not is something she'll find out - the point is avoiding this to be a trouble for her. –  mgarciaisaia Aug 29 at 16:02
    
It might also be helpful to talk with, and maybe visit, your local PFLAG. –  Tom Zych Aug 29 at 18:12
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I'd actually recommend a therapist or psychologist, rather than a specifically LGBT organization. They have more experience with people being distressed by thoughts of being gay, why LGBT people tend to have better experience helping people deal with being gay. People who don't know about stuff like HOCD may think her distress means she is gay (and try to help her deal with that) but it doesn't, and, if she's not, such help may make things worse, making her more scared of being gay. –  trlkly Aug 30 at 18:02

Ask her why she is afraid of turning out to be lesbian, and address that.

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Yes, this is the issue that needs addressing. –  DA01 Aug 29 at 18:13
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I find that this is indeed the only correct answer. There is nothing to worry about with this girl -- children and teenagers go through many phases of confusion, and almost everybody is confused about their own sexuality at one point in time. What really needs to be addressed in her anxiety towards being lesbian. I do not really want to call this innocent girl homophobic, but it's evident that she has some kind of repulsion towards the LGBT community. Once she gets over this repulsion (which the parents need to help with), her own confusion will also be much easier to deal with. –  Lee White Aug 31 at 7:57
    
@LeeWhite Of course she feels anxious of being lesbian since there's a widespread hate towards the LGBT community - other people making fun of her and being intolerant is the problem she is reasonably afraid of. You absolutely don't have to be homophobic in order to be anxious about belonging to the group of people being dealt with in such a way. –  mathh Sep 1 at 16:25

This is not a sexual orientation issue. It is an anxiety problem that happens to have sexual orientation as its focus. The issue here is that she is having intense anxiety about this idea, and it is interrupting her ability to cope with life.

While reassurance often works as a first line treatment, it can also make things worse. If she's having to be reassured extremely often, that may be the wrong approach.

Counterintuitively, sometimes the correct approach is to stop reassuring, stop trying to make it better. Stop trying to prove to her that she isn't gay or reassure her that it's okay if she is. Don't act like "turning gay" would be something to be afraid of. Don't act like not knowing is something to be afraid of.

You have to realize the problem is not that she thinks she might be gay. The problem is that she is distressed about the idea of possibly being gay. By reassuring her, you are inadvertently telling her brain that her distress is legitimate. You don't need reassurance about something that isn't scary, after all.

And, of course, if you need it, get help from outside sources. This is just one of many things that a professional therapist or psychologist would suggest for these symptoms. The goal is not to make the thought go away (whether by proving it wrong or seeking reassurance or just ignoring it), but to stop being distressed by it.

Usually, the thought will also go away once it is no longer distressing, but, if it doesn't, it doesn't matter. It's no longer a distressing thought, so having it doesn't cause problems anymore.

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The OP did not try to "prove to her that she isn't gay". The OP did not "corroborate the idea that being gay is something to be afraid of". The OP pointed out to her daughter that gay feelings would feel good. This answer appears to project anti-gay bias on the OP that is not there. –  GreenAsJade Sep 2 at 6:37
    
@GreenAsJade What you just said means he was trying to prove to her that she isn't gay. Gay feelings would feel good, and she doesn't feel good. Therefore she isn't gay. He corroborated the idea that there was something to be afraid by offering her reassurance. That's why giving reassurance for an obsessive fear is something that psychologists will tell you not to do. None of this has anything to do with whether the OP is homophobic or not. I hope my edits make this more clear. –  trlkly Sep 2 at 21:39

Before anyone misinterprets what I say here, I have no desire to dismiss or diminish issues of sexual orientation. This is just a possibility. The validity of her orientation is not in question; her suffering is.

Your daughter is suffering, regardless of her true/ultimate sexual orientation. If she is having thoughts that cause her such dismay, there may be something else going on here: she may be having obsessive, intrusive thoughts, which may be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

With all the exposure to sexuality that people have in the media today (including social media), she may have been exposed to an idea that is both fascinating and frightening to her, and has latched on to it. (Obsessive thoughts are often illogical.)

Please read a bit about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Though it is only an overview, this sounds a bit like your daughter:

With OCD, you may or may not realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable, and you may try to ignore them or stop them. But that only increases your distress and anxiety.

I would not share this diagnostic possibility with her. I would try comforting her first, but if she continues for weeks to have deep fears or obsessive thoughts, I think an appointment with her Pediatrician is in order.

You might explain to her that she is young yet to be struggling with this issue and that her thoughts are showing curiosity, but not indicative of her true sexual preferences. As someone else mentioned, it's hard to force yourself not to think about things that frighten you. Reassure her that her thoughts can't control her. As I mentioned, if these thoughts continue to distress her, or you see other evidence of OCD, a visit with her primary care provider may be in order.

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Specifically, it's called HOCD, which is having intrusive negative thoughts about one's possible sexuality. You feel distressed that you might be a certain sexuality. As someone with OCD, I dealt with it. Unfortunately, reassurance often doesn't work with HOCD, and you have to go a different direction. –  trlkly Aug 30 at 17:27
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I also would absolutely not recommend a medical approach for this. Going to a physician is fine, to get a recommendation for a therapist, but don't let them prescribe medication. And while going to a psychiatrist may be helpful, again don't go for medication right away. There is a tendency to overmedicate mild forms of OCD. –  trlkly Aug 30 at 17:59
    
@trlkly - I agree with much of what you said. HOCD is not a real diagnosis (it's unrecognized by the DSM 5/ICD 10.) It's a label in LGBT circles. As I said, if reassurance doesn't help, (it probably won't in OCD), seek help. Finally, most docs know they're not the ideal person to treat OCD, even if they are certified to treat mental illnesses and addictions. They're in a good position, however, to know who the good psychiatrists are in the community, and who are the pill-pushers, based on previous referrals and their outcomes. The medical model is intervention, not necessarily pills. –  anongoodnurse Aug 30 at 18:23
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@trlkly - I can speak to the medical side of it, and have. You can speak to your experience, and have. (I know probably hundreds of doctors. You?) OCD does not always involve rituals, often only intrusive thoughts. I have taken care of a good many patients with OCD. Just wanted o point out that your experience isn't the end all and be all. –  anongoodnurse Aug 30 at 18:55
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There's bad people in any profession. And some are medical professionals. And some may over prescribe treatments. But be wary of brushing aside the benefits of medication when it helps. –  DA01 Sep 4 at 2:53

Tell her, if she doesn't want to be, then she's not. This is the most validating thing you can tell her. Keep telling her that. And keep telling her.

"well what about how I feel thinking about girls kissing?"

"Don't worry about it. If you don't want that, that's not you"

doing anything else is pressuring her to diverge from what she personally wants. The anxiety is from the cognitive dissonance being shoved upon her. Apparently she cares way more about not being lesbian than about going with her desires. She won't be ready for the latter until she's comfortable making decisions herself and trusting them, such as "this isn't what I want".

This is one of the biggest reasons I'm against making little children read stories about these things or pushing them into sex ed-- I wasn't ready for that until I was 16-17. Thankful I lived 5 years of blissful, normal, sheltered, happy childhood. Children are so fragile, new to the world, questioning everything, doubting everything about themselves. Why can't we just let them have a normal, happy childhood? Why do we have to spoil it with solutions to problems that don't even exist? Her response makes it clear she wasn't ready for this.

"We have to condition them young to believe the way we want them to believe about sexuality"

This is one of a few reasons why private school attendance is growing.

Some people will never understand "why", or will but wish to assert their own beliefs, just like the bigots they shake their fist at with these legislations.

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I down voted this because it is both a little confusing, and 'not wanting to be gay' is not really enough to not be gay. that advice is utter nonsense. –  Ida Aug 29 at 16:15
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wanted to add to my previous comment: I feel in may be damaging to tell her she can choose not to be gay. If she is gay (or bisexual) (and based on 11 year old feelings she may or may not be) she may end up with mental gymnastics severe enough to land her in therapy for years! You cannot will a sexual orientation away –  Ida Aug 29 at 18:26
    
It may have been the frequent, unwarranted bullying but the idea that I was attracted to members of the same sex was not something I wanted at the time of realization and that made no difference all the same. A parent would be good to find out why she feels anxious about this and address that issue. –  Michael Theriot Aug 29 at 19:19
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The important thing is that she feel free to make the decision. Right now she feels predominantly one way and everyone is telling her she's wrong. she needs to feel free from pressure to choose one way or the other. When she doesn't feel pressure, she'll be able to make an informed, free decision. Making her confront this now does nothing but traumatize. If I had to guess, few of you have children. Those of you who do, have no heart. –  bennnnn Aug 30 at 2:00
    
@Ida, the mental gymnastics started the day she [wasn't ready] read the story, this is about calming her down until she's ready for the olympics. If you're confused you have two options: try to understand something you've not heard before, or vote down because you already know everything and it can't possibly have wisdom. Your misplaced concern about 'gay' vs. 'not gay' here, and subsequent upvotes, is what tells me both you and your audience are either not understanding the actual issue in the child here, or understand it but are more interested in your agenda. –  bennnnn Sep 2 at 15:17

My daughter is 11 and confused.

That sounds like a normal combination.

She will be a rather different person when she graduates high school. Just be supportive but clear that absolutely nothing she does at 11 will matter all that much later in life. Except failing math - that will be a problem.

FYI, my almost-daughter dated girls when she was 15. Wasn't shy about it either. Now she's married, has a one-year-old and is expecting a second child.

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What is an "almost-daughter"? –  JohnP Aug 29 at 17:52
    
Significant others daughter most likely. –  Wayne Aug 29 at 21:12

Two important messages:

1) She's thinking about it because she's thinking about it. It's like trying not to think of an elephant. If she just stops worrying about it her mind will move to something else.

2) But I agree that if it really "makes her sick", the thing to do is to help her deal with her feelings, not with the thoughts. If it just isn't something she wants to do, that's fine -- she isn't required to kiss anyone she doesn't want to, of any gender (except maybe Great-Aunt Murgatroyd). If she can't deal with the idea that other people kiss (at that age, "it's yucchy!" covers a lot of adult behavior), just tell her that's OK for now but she may feel differently when she's older. If her problem is specifically two girls kissing, that's a combination of these two points: if it isn't right for her, that's OK, but others can feel differently and that's OK too, and people change as they grow up.

If the problem is that YOU can't deal with the concept and are afraid of her discovering that she's homosexual -- or sexual at all -- you need to take the same advice. Making a big deal out of it is harmful. "Yeah, some people feel that way, some don't, for some it depends on the specific individual and situation... there's nothing to worry about; you will do what makes sense for you, and you should let others do what makes sense for them, as long as nobody's being hurt."

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She is obviously confused.

You could ask her why feelings of revulsion for boys and girls, makes her afraid of being gay, but not afraid of being straight?

It sounds like she thinks feelings of revulsion are what she might feel if she finds out she is a lesbian. But of course it doesn't work like that.

Also one can develop sexual feelings and still dislike kissing. But it isn't a good idea to mention that. Otherwise she'll start having thoughts of sex, and the feelings associated with that.

Really if it repulses her then she should learn not to think about it. And when she is older she is likely to develop sexual feelings, then she may feel elation.

It's quite normal for a thought of something sexual towards somebody you are not sexually attracted to, causes you to feel repulsed. So one wouldn't think about it(unless they were worried about something and her worry makes no sense and is based on confusion). If she changes and becomes attracted, then she won't feel repulsed. I think her confusion might be not realising that.

So she doesn't have to worry that she'll "find out" she's a lesbian (or straight) and do something that repulses her. You could ask her why she isn't afraid of finding out she is straight and kissing boys - when she feels repulsed.

It's not intolerant to feel repulsed by these things. Toleration is how you treat people.

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In a nutshell, she appears revulsed at not being revulsed.

This is not really as much about her sexual identity (at 11, her hormonal balance is not established to a degree that would make attaching labels anything but ridiculous) as about defining her personal acceptance levels in a way compatible with that of others and with social expectations.

Many people are capable of developing in a number of directions. Having one direction prescribed by social pressure may simplify matters for them greatly and lead them into a fulfilled life where they are convinced of having done the right thing.

Fixating on a sexual orientation in order to blend in well is like choosing a pimp in order to reduce the number of people likely to beat you up.

Your daughter may not be at such a time in her life where figuring out whether she may end up in a lesbian lifestyle makes a lot of sense. But she is at an age where she can figure out whether she wants to be a bigot, and that's what you should focus about.

She can choose friends that would not drop her like a hot potato if she turned out to be either lesbian or hetero. You can teach her that that is a shallow way to look at people, and that it is not the way you look at people and want her to look at people. And I hope it isn't.

Not being homosexual will keep more doors open in life for you than otherwise. It is a matter of self-respect not to use them. While being a particular person results in a lot of variation in your opportunities and that's something you have only limited influence on, there are clearly labelled doors based on social branding. And it is a matter of self-respect as a civilized person not to make use of them.

It's not like the world is in short supply of bigotry. No need to contribute here.

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If she's 11 then its unlikely she's gone through puberty yet and if she has then she'll be ahead of most of her peers (with whom she probably discusses such matters). What 11 year old boy or girl doesn't go through such a phase of uncertainty and come through it OK as puberty passes and hormones eventually settle? Its perfectly normal IMHO.

http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/sexual_orientation.html http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/201-lessons

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