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I recently came across a photo on my 14 year old daughter's iPod of a letter from a girl friend of hers that expressed her feelings for my daughter. Words like "I do melt in your eyes" and "I can't stop thinking about you" were in the letter and I was quite shocked.

I thought the time they were spending together were like most girls…just friends and someone they would hang out with and talk. But when I saw this, it obviously is a little concerning for me…on so many levels.

From a religious perspective, we taught our kids to be tolerant and that being gay shouldn't be looked at as a bad thing and that we should all respect each other. But something inside me is saying that this type of behavior at this age can be confusing and I not sure if I should encourage these two spending so much time with each other. I know I'm going to have to bring it up at some point and my reaction needs to be one of support, but I think I need to ensure she is aware of the complexity of such emotions and that making a commitment at this age is just too soon. It's not that I'm against that lifestyle, I just not sure that at this stage that I need to be encouraging it either.

Also, what of the other girls' parents? Should I bring it up to them? I know as soon as I say something to my daughter, she'll text the other girl and if it gets out, I'd hate for her parents to be blindsided or even worse, she may do something drastic. Not sure what I would say, but again, trying to minimize the interaction with each other might help them to step back and reflect of these emotions and not jump into anything without fully understanding the affect on them. Being a teenager is already stressful enough without adding the emotion weight this can carry.

Would appreciate any feedback.

J

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The note is from the other girl, who may be gay, but that does not necessarily mean that your daughter is as well. –  David Navarre Jan 16 '13 at 16:52
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NEVER go to the other parent about something like this. You have no way of knowing their views on LGBT topics; their daughter could be intentionally keeping it a secret. Even if you did know, outing someone when they're not ready/without their approval is among the worst offenses you can commit. –  Izkata Jan 16 '13 at 18:05
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@Izkata I wish I could upvote that comment a zillion times. –  Valkyrie Jan 16 '13 at 18:28
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You say you "came across a photo" -- for the sake of clarity, can you please state whether you have an agreement that gives you permission to look in her things? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '13 at 20:33
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Also know that kids like to say all sorts of things online and over the phone that have no real substance behind it. It can be a joke between two people, or even a third person using the second person's phone to send your daughter that message. It's a very common practice for teens to use someone else's phone or Facebook and start spouting nonsense. –  krikara Jan 17 '13 at 5:27
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16 Answers

First, ask yourself honestly: would you react the same way if it were a friend of the opposite gender? Or is part of your reaction based on gender and gender preference? If it is, step away from this and get hold of yourself first. She's 14 and learning about herself. She has a first crush; do you remember your first love? It seems all-encompassing at the time to the persons involved but it will not permanently change anything about the daughter you have raised and love.

And do not go to the other parents unless you fear something illegal (drugs, criminal behavior) is going on. A first crush between teenagers is perfectly normal and natural and not something to freak out over. Make this a huge deal and you will likely get the opposite response that you're looking for; the girls will stick together and get secretive, and you will have built a nice thick wall between you and your daughter that could take years to break down.

If you need some face-to-face perspective, try finding a local group of PFLAG for support (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). And I strongly recommend listening to Dan Savage's podcast; he's had several episodes of kids coming out to their parents and how it can affect everyone, and that can give you an idea of how to proceed.

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This is great. The only thing I'd add is that this is that your "I know I'm going to have to bring it up at some point" is not necessarily true. Let her bring it up to you when she feels safe doing so. Many of my GLBTQ friends' parents figured out their kids were not straight before the kids did, but they still let the kids come out to them. –  Charles Jan 16 '13 at 17:41
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+1 to both @Charles and Valkyrie; as someone who is gay, it took me about 5 or 6 years before I was confident enough to tell anyone in my family, even though I knew they'd all accept it. My mom later told me she had suspected for a while. –  Izkata Jan 16 '13 at 18:07
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I had to look that abbreviation up so I figure I won't be the only one. I added a hyperlink. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '13 at 20:22
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I like the whole answer a lot, but the first paragraph is simply perfect. Easy +1. –  Beska Jan 16 '13 at 20:40
    
Obligatory Reality Bites quote..."Hmmm....PFLAG...I'm beginning to like the sound of that!" –  Adam Robinson Jan 18 '13 at 13:44
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I worry a bit about this statement: "It's not that I'm against that lifestyle, I just not sure that at this stage that I need to be encouraging it either."

First, sexual identity is not a "style", per se. Try reversing it to see how it fits: could you just decide that, from now on, you would prefer to have sex with the same gender, and have it happen because you decided it? No. Likewise, if she is gay, its not something she chose...it's just the way she is.

I am also a bit concerned about the statement that you're not sure that you "need to be encouraging it either". You seem to be indicating that just accepting the situation would be "encouraging" something undesirable.

Props to you for coming forward and trying to figure out what to do. It sounds (from my very non-professional opinion) that you are having a tough time and trying to do make sure you do the "right" thing.

So, the "right" thing (in my opinion): With her, you don't currently need to do anything. You found this, and you're upset about it. That's your issue, not hers. You can, of course, file this knowledge away for future talks with her, and use it to inform yourself if you see her struggling with something. But we haven't heard that she's having a problem...just that you are. So let her be. She doesn't need your confusion and doubt clouding her ideas about what is okay (she's a teenager...she's confused and clouded enough already!)

Let it go for a little while and I think you'll discover that this doesn't actually change her in any way. She's the same daughter you always had.

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I see a few issues here.

First, is snooping through her iPhone. Is she aware of this? Is there an agreed upon understanding that what's on that phone is for you to look at? If not, the first issue is one of trust. A teenager with a snoopy parent is likely going to open up a lot less once they find out. So you're going to have to broach the issue carefully.

Secondly, I think it's maybe just time for a talk, in general, about relationships and sex and being 14.

Finally, I think you need to really think about how you truly feel about homosexuality. You seem OK with it (which is great if she is, as having a parent that will support her is important) but I sense a few doubts there (well, as much as one can sense from a post on StackExchange...)

Good luck. Teenagers are a challenge no matter what!

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Just found out my daughter might be gay. Now what?

The fact that that there may be a same gender relationship as opposed to an opposite gender relationship is totally irrelevant here as far as you are concerned. To take it further there is nothing in your OP at all to indicate that there is any sexual relationship at all.

Don't confuse homosexuality with sex, one's sexuality does not indicate sexual activity.

So I have to ask how you would respond if the 'letter' had been from a boy?

If you are concerned about sexual activity then speak with your daughter about it. But make it perfectly clear that the gender of her partner isn't important; that you are concerned about her health, safety, and well-being. And by this I don't mean her orientation, I mean the very real possibility of an STD. Safe sex is important regardless of the gender of the partners.

That conversation, if you played it right, could be a wonderful way for you to broach the topic of a same sex relationship without accusing or directly confronting your daughter. For example having the typical mother daughter talk, although awkward, doesn't have to be adversarial; so a smooth segue into safe sex for a lesbian couple would accomplish a lot.

  1. It reinforces your teaching your children to be tolerant.
  2. It clearly shows your daughter that you practice what you teach.
  3. It offers her an opportunity to broach the subject with you.
  4. And perhaps most importantly it reassures her of your acceptance.

Aside from that, if there is any issue here at all it's yours and yours alone. What you choose to make of it is entirely up to you. But keep in mind that your actions now will have an immediate and long term impact on your daughter, your relationship with her, and your family as a whole.

That being said there are some important things to consider when dealing with a child that may be lesbian, gay, bi, transgender. For any teenager, dealing with sexuality is difficult and trying; dealing with a different sexual orientation even more so. Don't add to that angst.

You owe it to yourself, your family, and your daughter to do everything you can to understand what your daughter may be/is going through and what you can do to support her. As others have suggested PFLAG would be a great resource for you.

As for approaching the other girl's parents, you need to understand in no uncertain terms that by taking that step you could be putting that young girl's life in danger.

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Being a lesbian, bisexual woman, or other is a sexual orientation, not a lifestyle. I wouldn't conclude just on the basis of what you've posted that your daughter is definitely a lesbian. However, if she is, your best bet is to be supportive-- both from the perspective of supporting her as a loving parent who wants her to be free from psychological problems, and also if you have a hidden agenda of nudging her straight (which probably won't work, especially with the thrill of the taboo working against you).

Think of it this way: if at the time of your first semi-serious attraction to someone of the opposite sex you were told by your parent that it was wrong (and, even worse, against God's plan or whatever), you'd probably wind up with some serious problems: self-doubt, fear that your parents wouldn't love you for yourself, fear that you'd be going to Hell, etc. If your parents found out about your attraction and you'd been religiously indoctrinated against it by them prior, then your parents started minimizing your time spent with the other person, you'd be able to figure out what was happening.

Your daughter is smart enough to figure out what you're doing no matter how you play it; so play, and be, the loving, supporting parent you should be. You don't want to wind up with a depressed, repressed or dead daughter because of your prejudices. I mean that word in the kindest possible way, if there is one-- but you do have a fair amount of obvious anti-gay prejudice.

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It seems to me that your beliefs on tolerance toward those that are gay were contingent upon the idea that "other people" are gay and "we" ("we" being you and your children) are straight. That contingency, and therefore the true mettle of your belief, has now been called into question. If you truly believe what you say you believe, it shouldn't matter whether she's gay.

What should you do?

For starters, it seems you need to look inside yourself and figure out what you truly believe. Regardless of what you say you believe, and even what you verbally teach your children, your actions will have a far greater impact than your words ever will, especially on a matter such as this (and especially since, if you start acting against what you've taught her, she will see you as hypocritical).

You should also make sure you understand the difference between "being supportive" of someone and "encouraging" something. Her sexual orientation is hers, regardless of your approval, or how much you "encourage" (or discourage, for that matter) anything. What's more, if she is gay (and especially if she comes out, or is outed, while in school), then she will need people that will support her, because suicide rates among gay teens is significantly higher (some reports I've seen show as much as 5 times higher, and even higher in conservative areas) than among straight teens, due to things like bullying, institutionalized and internalized homophobia, and in general being pressured (by peers and family) to be something that they're not (straight).

What should you do with her? Nothing you wouldn't normally do.

Talk to her about sex and sexuality, just as you would if you hadn't found the information.

If you found the information through means that didn't involve a breach of trust (ie - it's expected that you'd go through her iPhone), then ask her about the message itself, without implying anything about her. Something like, "hey, I happened to see this message and it confused me, can you clarify it for me?" should work (I see three outcomes offhand - she comes out and says she likes the other girl; she laughs it off because she's not confident enough to come out, or isn't sure of her own orientation; or she dismisses because she's straight and the messages were unwelcome). As others have stated, bear in mind that what you saw was the other girl's action and, by itself, does not have any bearing on your daughter's sexual orientation.

Even if you did figure out, without a doubt, that she's gay do not out her. That is one of the most offensive things you can do. You have no idea whether she's ready to talk to you (or anyone) about it, and if she's not ready, it could put a pretty large rift in your relationship. Let her come to you and bring up the topic, first.

That said, it's also normal to experiment and explore. She might not even know whether or not she's gay. Conversely, she may be straight as an arrow (and sure of this), but still enjoy flirting with her female friends (and maybe even do things like kissing them), just to get a reaction from the guys, or because it's fun and doesn't mean anything more than that.

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First of all, try not to jump to conclusions. People make assumptions about each others' sexuality all the time based on the flimsiest of evidence - the text you found could be a joke, or could have been sent to the wrong person, for example.

I wouldn't think that confronting her about this is a good idea. If she is gay or bi, she might be feeling very insecure about her sexuality (even if she hasn't heard any homophobia from you, she will almost certainly have heard people saying extremely insulting things about people like her at school or on TV), and might get very defensive, especially since you have apparently been looking at pictures on her phone that she presumably didn't want you to see - maybe you saw the picture by accident, but she might not be convinced by that. I would guess that a general talk about relationships, and telling her that she can always come and talk to you about anything, would be a good idea.

Try not to treat this any differently than you would if the other kid was a boy. If she is gay or bi, and gets the idea that you think that same-gender relationships aren't quite as good as opposite-gender ones, that's the kind of thing that can cause lasting resentment. In particular, avoid calling homosexuality or bisexuality a "lifestyle" - not because it is inaccurate or insulting in itself, but because anti-LGBT activists invariably use this word to describe a person's sexuality and supportive people very rarely do.

Unless you find out something a lot more serious than this, absolutely do not go to the other kid's parents. It isn't your place to tell them about their daughter's sexuality, and many parents react horribly when they find out that their child is gay, bi, or trans (verbal or physical abuse, kicking them out and disowning them, or sending them off to an organization that claims it can "cure" them).

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"Now what?" There is nothing special about now. Your daughter was gay yesterday, three weeks ago, and years ago. All those moments took their turn being "now".

Or so you assume.

What you read was another girl's message, which is evidence that the other girl is gay. Concluding that your daughter is also gay is not a valid inference.

Bring it up with the other girl's parents? How will that go down? "Hi, Joneses! I pry into my daughter's e-mails without her knowledge, and I learned something about your daughter!"

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You say "I think I need to ensure she is aware of the complexity of such emotions and that making a commitment at this age is just too soon."

As far as your daughter's emotions, they're just as complex whether they're about the same sex or the opposite sex. That's a reasonable thing for you to worry about, but it's also inevitable. At 14, she's going to have feelings for people, they're going to be challenging, she's going to make mistakes, she's going to get hurt, she's going to grow. None of that is specific to her orientation. 14 is young enough that she may not be ready to get into physical, sexual relationships, but the hazards of teen sexuality apply much, much more to opposite-sex than same-sex interactions!

What is specific to same-sex attraction is how society feels about it. As others have pointed out here, you don't know how the other girl's parents feel about it, and I feel very strongly that you do not have the standing to out the girl to anyone, especially her parents. As for your daughter, she needs to keep in mind that being perceived as "different" is dangerous, and coming out publically is a risk that she may want to put off taking, particularly if she's not sure of her orientation.

I think the best thing you could do is to tell your daughter you saw the letter (and you may need to accept some consequences yourself if you were violating her trust expectations when you saw it, by the way), and discuss both the personal-physical and the societal risks with her, in such a way as to make it clear that the problem is not her orientation, but rather her age and her environment.

Many young people get same-sex crushes around this age. Some turn out to be gay, some don't. Either way, it's nice to have a home environment that feels safe.

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I would say just don't bring it up. She is not ready to tell you anything yet and there is nothing conclusive about her sexual orientation. She is a 14-year old girl and this means she has the right to now have a little private life; this is one part of it.

Since you say you don't disapprove of anyone being gay or lesbian (or any colour of rainbow) but you don't want to be encouraging either, it means you would be affected if she was gay. And that would affect your conversation wiht your daughter, whenever you have it.

Actions speak louder than words. So, any negative reaction or comment (even a single one) would create doubts in the minds of your daughter. Being gay is already stressful enough and secretive. So, what you can do for your daughter right now:

  1. Wait for her to talk, if everything else goes normal.
  2. If further clues crop up, like more photogs etc (without snooping!) then do talk to her. It would include lots of "I (We) love you" and "We would never leave you". Yes, all this needs to be told all over again to an uncetain kid. Unwavering support of family is what separates suicidal kids from the healthy, grown-up ones.
  3. In either case, stop all the gay jokes, if you make them. If others do it, ask them to stop casually without attracting attention towards your daughter. This is a moral duty too.
  4. And remember being gay is just one part of one's personality. That you may have realized by looking at your daughter. So, treat your daughter as you always do. (Exception: If you are harsh, then be gentle. That is the only way to roll.)
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I would agree that the friend's note does not mean that your daughter is gay. I also agree with your concern. There's a book by Leonard Sax (Doctor and Psychologist) called "Girls on the Edge" where he discusses youth being influenced into one or another gender/sexual identity at too young of an age. I highly recommend this book.

I would suggest you talk with your daughter about it. Make sure she knows that you love her, and that you are there for her, particularly as she is growing into womanhood. Whether or not she is gay, I think parents should be more involved in the often very confusing and scary process of maturing and understanding the new feelings and desires that they have. Again, not in a forceful, mean way, but more, "Hey, I've been through some of these kinds of things too, and here's some advice"

As far as telling the other parents, I'm not sure. I think that would depend on what you know of the friend as well as your relationship with the parents. If you are good friends with them, then it might be appropriate to mention it.

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Gender/sexual identity is not something that is influenced. It is a genetic characteristic, just like hair and eye color. –  Valkyrie Jan 16 '13 at 16:45
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@Valkyrie, so the folks who pretend they are straight when they're actually gay aren't exhibiting activity that is influenced by others? Remember, influencing can work both directions, with the person displaying behavior based on those influences. –  David Navarre Jan 16 '13 at 16:57
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@DavidNavarre, pretending to be straight when one is gay has nothing to do with gender identity and everything to do with perceived social norms and outside pressure from figures such as parents. You're confusing gender preference with closeting. –  Valkyrie Jan 16 '13 at 17:07
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@defaultlocale the typical response is "so, tell me when you made the big life decision to be straight?" –  DA01 Jan 17 '13 at 6:54
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Folks, please take the discussion to the Parenting Chat. This is just a friendly warning :) Comments are for improving the post, not for discussing it or derived topics. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 17 '13 at 8:44
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Another thing to consider is that this may be a game your daughter is playing with you. She may suspect that you are snooping into her iPod and had her friend send that message to flush you out. If so, don't take the bait.

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Teenager have often mixed feelings about sexual behavior. It is a transient period which often goes away. I do NOT think there is reason to panic. I think talking about it might help, provided you can talk about is calmly and understandingly. This does NOT mean you approve, it just means you listen calmly and are ready to talk simply about it. Panic rarely helps!!
Ask advice from psychologists...

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Be very, very careful with bringing this up. The daughter didn't agree to show the letter to the father, nor is the aware that he has seen it. That is very thin ice to walk on, and is not the most trustful foundation for a teenager/parent talk. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '13 at 20:15
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  1. That photo means nothing. It could be a joke or some game
  2. Don't say anything to other parents
  3. Spend more time and do more talking with your daughter, at some point, when you feel she is in a good mood and relaxed, gently touch topic about gays(don't mention her or her friend, just example from your friend of friend of friend situation or celebrity), ask her opinion, see her reaction. If she gets nervous, jump to another topic.
  4. Invite her friend over or offer a ride to the mall/somewhere else to both of them. Usually kids think that if they are on the back-seat nobody hears them :)
  5. You'd better don't tell her you saw it on her iPod, unless she knows you look into it.
  6. Or you can ask her to try her iPod (let's say you are thinking to give it as a present to your friend's son and want to try it), then start opening different apps, an then "accidentally" open the photo. Say in a joyful tone " wow you've got an admirer." or smth like this. Listen what she says and just try to remember her reaction(you can analyze it later).

By doing all or some of the above you'll have an idea of your daughter's attitude to gays. Depending on how much she will be willing to open to you, you can figure out if this photo means anything or not. And if this is just an experiment or smth more deep.

If she opens to you, stay supportive. The only thing that is left between parents and teenagers is talking.. no judgement, no pressure.. just talking as friends. If she trusts you, she will listen to your opinion.

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What CAN you do? If it's true accept it and support her. If it's not, it's not. You won't be able to get her to "treatment". Being gay is not having cancer. there is no "treatment" and no doctors are required. You cannot remove it and there is no protocol to reverse it. It's not a condition, not a disease. It's a natural human state no different than green eyes or red hair. A percentage of the population (roughly 10%) develops gay (to certain degrees) during puberty. That's how humanity is engineered. If there's a god-- that was his intention.

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I agree with Nikko, the kids are so young it should be expected that they will experiment. She may be curious, just love your daughter unconditionally and support her decision if she does eventually pick that side.

Might even work out for you, I would definitely prefer my daughter get chased by emotional girls then horny boys in her teens...

Edit: I just want to add this, She is 14, this does not mean she will be "gay" her whole life. After she is done experimenting and she reaches her 20's she may realize that she is no longer interested in females this way. I know several people I grew up with that experimented when they were in their teens but later figured out that is not what they are really into.

Girls, I feel are especially prone to this due to peer pressure. It is common knowledge that "lesbians" are smiled upon and she may feel the pressure to conform to this so she feels "cool" when that pressure is no longer there she may no longer feel the need to experiment.

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