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How do I help my daughter understand that being lesbian or gay is normal and as acceptable as being straight?

I have a 14-year-old step-daughter who has come here 20 days back to visit us. We live in rural India where many people are not even aware of what homosexuality and preferences mean.

Today, while spending time with her, I discovered she is lonely, confused and frustrated.

Later, I discovered that she broke her friendship with her best friend over her friend's orientation.

Her best friend is a lesbian and when that poor girl confessed to my step-daughter, my step-daughter was confused and asked what it meant.

When she found out the meaning from the Internet, she immediately cut off with her friend and told her that "You are dirty and weird."

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    For the downvotes, some reason as to why would be useful. For a non-native English speaker, the question seems well stated to me. – Sylas Seabrook Nov 2 '14 at 4:38
  • Indeed, this question is both clearer and more precise than OP's earlier questions. It's a good one. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 3 '14 at 15:35
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    I would just make her think about how good she was with that friend before she knew she's a lesbian, while this friend was still the same anyway. Stressing how fine it was and how bad she feels now (as you seem to descibre) may lead her to think twice and it would I think open the door to a future discussion with this friend. But on the other hand she can also have her own opinions, there's nothing more frustrating as a teenager, when ovewhelmed by feelings, questions, hormones, to be told what the "correct way of thing is", cause there's actually a multitude of it... – Laurent S. Jul 6 '15 at 9:01
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    Don't force your own viewpoint no her. Let her sort through her feelings and come to her own conclusions. – moonstar Jun 6 '17 at 4:16
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    Encourage her to stand up for what she believes. Tolerance does not need to equate to approval. She sounds quite capable of choosing her associates, whether or not you agree with her reasoning. – pojo-guy Jul 2 '17 at 18:53
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I applaud your intention. Please note that my answer here does not take into account what may be appropriate in your culture as I am not familiar with its norms.

  1. First to consider is that she is your step daughter. My experience being a step child is that the step parent has no where near the same respect as the biological parent. Working with her father is fundamental to a solution and not creating a battle.
  2. Teaching a child (or anyone else for that matter) that "a particular thing is normal or acceptable" is not as helpful as teaching a more global viewpoint. First, that thing may not be normal nor acceptable (in some cultures this is quite true of homosexuality). Second, they don't learn to treat people based on the "content of their character" (quoting Martin Luther King Jr.)

Our initial reaction(s) to seeing something may not always be the reaction we will have in the future. And, as the saying goes, we fear what we do not know. To overcome this, we need to look at the issue in greater depth -- I research both the pro & con sides to all issues, chat with friends, and try to look at all the various facets of an issue before coming to a decision... one cannot simply read an article on any website and feel that they "know" the subject.

Hopefully those points of discussion will help. When it is all said and done, though, she will end up deciding her view for herself. Whether you agree or disagree, you will have done what you can to help guide her into a critical thinking role.

Just please remember that "force and mind are opposites" (quoting Ayn Rand) -- if you try to force her to think a way, her view will not change on the subject and will likely harden as a reaction to the attempted force.

  • Yeah you are right regarding force and mind being different. – Tiffany Nov 3 '14 at 7:55
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You two are going through a lot recently... stay strong!

On topic: I can see a bit where the "weird" comes from in your daughters mind (because to her, it certainly is weird, or at least strange), but where did she pick up the "dirty"?

You said she picked up the meaning on the internet: what kind of sites did she find? Her first landing may have heavily shocked her, especially if it was a site that pictures homosexuality as "evil". If that is the case, try finding more, at best neutral (for "just the facts") or positive, sources.

I am not sure if you can do much more right now, because she has to settle a lot of this in her own mind first.

  • I asked her which site and what she saw..to which she replied she typed " lesbian" in Google and saw its meaning in wikipedia and understood that it is rekation between two women. – Tiffany Oct 31 '14 at 14:52
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    @Tiffany When I google "lesbian", the second result is a list from cosmopolitan called: "28 Mind-Blowing Lesbian Sex Positions". Perhaps your daughter had similar results and was a little shocked/overwhelmed at what she found. – ThatOneGuy Oct 31 '14 at 19:00
  • Oh my god. Yes this could be a possibility. – Tiffany Nov 2 '14 at 6:17
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    @Tiffany an offshoot of that train of thought would be, "OMG she wants to do THAT with ME" -- which is quite possibly not at all the case. She needs to understand that lesbians don't automatically want to have sex with every other woman they meet any more so than she wants to have sex with every man she meets. Similarly, her lesbian friend may not be any more romantically interested in her than she'd be romantically interested in a male friend of hers. Sometimes homophobia stems from seeing homosexual people as only their sexuality, which is of course an absurd perspective. – Doktor J Jun 8 '17 at 18:45
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Your best approach may be to try to get her to imagine what this other girl is feeling. Ask her to think about when she first got interested in boys (I'm assuming she is). Make sure she recognizes that she didn't chose to start feeling those feelings, it just happened. Now, tell her that a lesbian feels the same way, but about girls instead of boys. How would she feel if she told someone that she's attracted to boys and they told her she was dirty and weird?

If she won't engage with the conversation, or doesn't agree, you can't force her to change her mind. She has the right to chose her friends, even if you don't approve of the basis for her choice. All you can do is try to convince her to see things another way.

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I'd tell your daughter the following:

The ex-friend is exactly the same person she was before. If you drop a friend as easily as that, then you should think very hard about what being a "friend" means.

There is a lot of nonsense posted on the Internet. Just because some idiot on the internet says "lesbians are dirty and weird" doesn't mean it is so. Fact is that about 50% of the population think that having sex with a woman is just fine for them, and about 50% think that having sex with a man is just fine for them. So you and your ex-friend are in different categories. Most likely you will marry a man one day who is also in a different category from you.

Whether a girl / woman is lesbian or not is not her decision. It's how you are. Nothing to be proud or ashamed of. Nothing that makes you better or worse. It could have been you. So what would you think and how would you feel if your friend gets rid of you and calls you "weird and dirty"?

Calling your ex-friend "dirty and weird" is evil. No matter what your feelings were, that is totally uncalled for. You owe that girl an apology, and you better mean it.

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From Cambridge dictionary:

normal

ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected

I don't think "normal" is the appropriate word in this context.

Here is what I would say:

Sexual preferences are not relevant outside the context of sex. Sexual orientation does not impact activities such as going out, talking, playing, etc. (whatever friends do).

We judge people by their actions and her friend has done nothing wrong. Sexual orientation is not something you can choose. Finding a given sexual orientation as repulsive is a bias that has to be overcome. A sign of groing up is judging people only by their actions towards others.

The interaction between the two hasn't changed. Her behavior shouldn't be affected by the new information. Being a friend is about accepting the other person the way they are. Is she going to ruin a friendship for no reason?

Her friend opened to her about something that is perceived negatively by lots of people. Your daughter is punishing her friend for trusting your daughter.

Calling her friend dirty doesn't make sense - is a man also dirty for wanting to have sex with women?

PS Unless her friend has engaged in some kind of inappropriate behavior with your daughter, there is nothing wrong with her friend.

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Strictly speaking numbers, homosexuality is, in fact, abnormal. Calling her dirty is a matter of moral opinion, so I won't get into that. The thing I believe you should be worried about is her ditching her friend. If this was not a close friend, it's not necessarily a problem, but if this was in any way anyone more than an acquaitance, then purposefully avoiding, badmouthing, or being malicious to someone for their lifestyle choices is not very mature or civil behavior.

You might explain to her that her friend is in a very confusing time right now and can use a friend. She doesn't have to agree with her friend, but can at least BE a friend. Who agrees 100% with all of their friends?

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    Re. your 1st sentence: Using "abnormal" is not "strictly speaking in numbers" Numbers are things like_3.8%_ (the fraction of U.S. residents who self-identify as gay). gallup.com/poll/183383/… At 6'5", I am 99.6th percentile for males in the U.S. Strictly speaking numbers, there are many more homosexual men (~1/26) than there are men my height (1/227). But I have never had anyone say that people like me are "abnormal." Your intro may feel like a neutral, objective thing to say, but it isn't. – Adam Jun 12 '17 at 19:15
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    @Adam If you have to describe your height without numbers, would you say you have normal height? It would be more accurate to say "tall" or even "very tall". People may not use the word abnormal in such circumstances, but they surely don't perceive it as normal. Also, you can see a dictionary definition of the word normal. – martinkunev Jun 13 '17 at 9:21
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    "if this was in any way anyone more than an acquaitance, then purposefully avoiding, badmouthing, or being malicious to someone for their lifestyle choices is not very mature or civil behavior" -> "It's okay to be malicious to someone for their lifestyle choices if they are not a friend of yours." No, it's most definitely not. – The Raven Queen Jun 13 '17 at 13:31
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    @Adam If something is not normal, then it is abnormal, like your height or the style of my beard. You're adding your own value judgement into my words where there is none and then claiming I'm disingenuous for making a value judgement. Please separate your assumptions from my actual words. – Physics-Compute Jun 13 '17 at 17:16
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    @Physics-compute I understand the point you are making in your comment. As far as the dictionary definition of abnormal goes, I agree with you. I am not assuming you are intending to make a value judgement. I am asserting that in common usage, abnormal often carries a negative connotation that should be taken into consideration in the hypothetical conversation in question. Apparently we disagree about that. – Adam Jun 13 '17 at 17:38

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