My Granddaughter told her Dr. and Father she is a lesbian, and asked to talk to a counselor. I'm wondering at this age, do they really know for sure or because they hang with girls who think they are, is it the thing to do at this age with girls because they really don't like boys yet? I realize if she is she is and we all love her the same but there is so much influence on the computer about gays and lesbians and bi-sexuals now. I guess the Counselor will be good to help her through whatever she is feeling now. Wondering if anyone else on this site has any insight to help with what I am feeling. My husband, who is a psychology major told me its not carved in stone that she is, so just let it take its course and whatever she is she will be. Kids experiment with all kinds of things at puberty.
Expanding from my comment:
I believe it is very unlikely that she is going to change unless she later determines that she is bisexual rather than a lesbian. It is incredibly hard for someone to "come out" and tell others that they are LGBT. I have only ever told two people that I am bisexual.
I have a nephew and a couple close friends who are gay men. At least three of them have definitively told me they knew she certain in elementary school (a recurring theme is "about the age that most boys start to notice girls, [they] started to notice other boys."
Closer to home, I identified as completely heterosexual until some point late in college. I had always been interested in girls and have never experimented. I am completely happy and satisfied with my wife. However, I know without question that I am bisexual and I can trace the related feelings at least age 14. I can also state with certainty that media had no impact on me in this regard.
Ultimately, you need to reach the point that it does not matter to you. The world is finally evolving to the point that she can have a happy and fulfilling life regardless of whether she is lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual. The only thing for you to worry about or so here is to love her completely for who she is. Any feelings that she needs to grow out of this will only serve to weaken that bond or leave her less happy with herself.
Edit (to address counselor and parenting thoughts): A counselor to help her explore her feelings and accept herself certainly seems like a reasonable idea as long as it is presented in a way that casts no doubt on acceptance of her (e.g. the counselor should not be viewed as a way to fix her; she needs to know that nothing is wrong with her). That seems doubly true given that she asked to that too a counselor.
As to parent (and grandparent) reactions, she is still the same person you have all loved all these years. If everyone accepts her, this could help you all grow closer as she is sharing a very personal part of herself. When my nephew came out, the main fears we dealt with as a family were that he would not have as fair and full a life, and that he wouldn't have kids. Things in the world are changing more and more to make the concern about a fair and equal life less of an issue. And the kids concern is much less of an issue than you'd think: not all heterosexual people have kids; similarly, whether through adoption, surrogacy, or other fertilization options, it is very possible for LGBT folks to have children.
I have learned a lot working on my new answer to this question. I collected some literature and took some notes from them to add here. I hope this will satisfy the question.
The average age of learning about ones owns the sexuality tendencies is 10, 14 for accepting the identity, talking about it with friends is 16 and 17 for talking to parents, well according to the cultural fabric of D'Augelli, Hersberg & Pilkington back in 1998 (D'Augelli, Hersberg & Pilkington, 1998).
Risk behavior based on the stigma of the hetero-normative sexist culture towards queer people (including lesbians) can lead to suicide, violence, homicide, drug use, alcohol use, bullying, depression. It takes toughness to face the music and search for a positive self image and when faces with violence then it can be even harder (Davis, Saltzburg og Locke, 2009; Morrow, 2006; Russel o.fl, 2011, Hegna og Wichstrøm, 2007; Pharr, 2000) failed suicide attempts are part of the history of 12% of non-queer young USA resident while for a queer young USA resident it is staggering 28% (Morrow, 2006; Marshal o.fl, 2011)
Positive and supportive social work has given good results in reducing risk behavior, approach that is not based on sex but the lived identity as a valued person. (Appelby og Anastas, 1998; Coleman og Remafedi, 1989) it is possible to let go of the phobic sexism and hetero-normative attitude and show acceptance support and love (Herek, 2004; Pharr, 2000; Røthing, 2008). Experimenting in save a environment with queer gender roles without normative expectations and positive emotional development can develop into a good self image over time. (Rosario, Schrimshaw og Hunter, 2008; Savin-Williams, 2001; Sigrún Sveinbjörnsdóttir o.fl.,2010; Van Den Bergh og Crisp, 2004; Dillon o.fl, 2004; Crisp 2006) It would also help to bring in some visible role models that have had fun with the emotional maturity while begin queer (Wichstrøm og Hegna, 2003)
My rule is to not stigmatize being queer of the emerging lived realities of gender, sex, or sexuality. If there is stigmatized in the society around me than I like to protect my family from it.
Reason: Any stigmatization that a parent will hold and make any suggestion towards will in many cases internalize in the child making the child hate it self which in tun will lead to many problems such as risk behavior or other self harm. Studies have been published that the gender / sexuality identities have already formed from the age of six or seven and self harm based on internalized stigmatization may start at ages around puberty (Dietmar Ebke, 2006, private presentation)
Also I like to be critical of any treatment that a queer young person might get in counseling. If the counseling is not based on support for experimentation in a save environment and reducing risk behavior by searching for age appropriate outlets for this experimentation with the aim to build good, confident and strong self identity that reduces risk behavior and challenges the stigma and sexist hate that is to be found in what should be our loving community.
Appelby, G. A. & Anastas, J. W. (1998). Not just a passing phase: Social work with gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. New York: Columbia University Press.
Coleman, E. & Remafedi, G. (1989). Gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents: A critical challenge to counselors. Journal of counseling and development, 68(1), 36-40.
Crisp, C. (2006). The gay affirmative practice scale (GAP): A new measure for assessing cultural competence with gay and lesbian clients. Social Work, 51(2), 115-126.
D'Augelli, R.R., Hershberger, S.L. & Pilkington, N. W. (1998). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and their families: Disclosure of sexual orientation and its consequences. American Journal of Orthopsychitry, 69(3), 361-371.
Davis, T. S., Saltzburg, S. & Locke, C. R.(2009) Supporting the emotional and psychological well being of sexual minority youth: Youth ideas for action. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 1030-1041.
Dillon, F.R., Worthington, R.L., Savoy, H.B., Rooney, S.C., Becker-Shuttle, A. & Guerra, R.M. (2004). On becoming allies: A qualitative study of lesbian-, gay-, and bisexual-affirmative counselor training. Counselor Education and Supervision 43(3), 162-178.
Hegna, K. & Wichstrøm, L. (2007). Suicide attemts among Norweigan gay, lesbian and bisexual youths. Acta Socialogica, 50(1), 21-37.
Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond "homophobia": Thinking about sexual Predjudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 1(2), 6-24.
Marshal, M.P., Dietz, L. J., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., Smith, H. A., McGingley, J. and more. (2011). Suicidality and depression disparties between sexual minority and heterosexual youth: A meta analytic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49, 115123.
Morrow, D.F. (2006). Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adolescents. Í D. F. Morrow og L. Messinger (ed.), Sexual orientation and gender expression in social work practice: working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people (bls. 177-195). New York Chichester: Columbia University Press.
Pharr, S. (2000). Homophobia: A weapon of sexism. Í M. Plott og L. Umanski (ed.), Making sense of women’s lives: An introduction to women’s studies (bls. 424–438). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Rosario, M., Schrimshaw, E. W. & Hunter, J. (2008) Predicting different patterns of sexual identity development over time among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths: A cluster analytic approach. American Journal of Community Psychology, 42, 266-282.
Russel, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M. & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual og transgender adolescent school victimization: Implications for young adult health and adjustment. Journal of School Health, 81(5), 223-230.
Røthing, Å. (2008). Homotolerance and heteronormativity in Norwegian classrooms. Gender and Education 20(3), 253-266.
Savin-Williams, R. C. (2001). A critique of research on sexual-minority youths. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 5-13.
Sigrún Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Þóroddur Bjarnason, Ársæll M. Arnarson & Andrea Hjálmarsdóttir. (2010). Lífsánægja Samkynhneigðra unglinga í 10. bekk. Sálfræðiritið – Tímarit Sálfræðingafélags Íslands; 15, 23-36.
Van Den Bergh, N. & Crisp, C.(2004). Defining culturally competent practice with sexual minorities: Implications for social work education and practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 40(2), 221-238.
Wichstrøm, L. & Hegna, K. (2003). Sexual orientation and suicide attempt: A longitudinal study of the general Norwegian adolescent population. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112(1), 144-151.
I'm trying to think when any media ever influenced what it was that got me hot n bothered. The answer: never. Is it being depicted as acceptable these days? yes. At that age is the line between "personal attraction" and "sexual attraction" harder to figure out? I think yes. In puberty every feeling is magnified as the hormones hit. She might be lesbian. The issue may be a tangent to what she is willing to talk about, for example she may be in the throws of a huge friend that they feel may reject them, or who they fear is not oriented the same way
The only thing that is obvious from her conversation is that she has things heavy on her mind, her sexuality being a key one, and wants to talk about them. She may not be giving the full reasons she wants to talk in order to get the door to counseling opened, because she is saying "I need someone who isn't you at this moment", and that may mean she doesn't feel her parents are equiped to handle whats on her mind.
Short answer: Any time a pubescent asks for a counselor - get them one. Immediately!
As far as giving insight to help with what you am feeling, that begs the question: What are you feeling?
yes she is probably either a lesbian, or at minimum bisexual, though you can't know for certain yet. She isn't really old enough to have explored her sexuality too much, so there is a small chance she may not yet fully understand her own desires. Still, she is old enough that she probably has a good idea about this by now, so I would listen to her and presume she probably knows what she is talking about, unless she tells you she feels differently otherwise.
There is a chance she may grow to be more bisexual then lesbian. It's not uncommon, even for adults, to think that attraction to the same sex means you must be gay/lesbian and that there is no middle ground like bisexual. With children as young as 11 the idea of more complex attractions then a Boolean male/female are allowed can be confusing. Thus as she grows older she may develop a more complex and nuanced understanding of her sexuality that allows for some middle ground.
For instance I have a lesbian friend who is now married to a man. When she met him he was female, but the got married well after his transition. She still identifies as lesbian, but she is attracted to her husband anyways.
As to your reaction, well treat her like you always did. Her sexuality doesn't really effect anything about who she is, other then perhaps the need to be more careful with how dating rules are defined (most parents set rules that presume boys=dates and girls=friends. With girls being both potential friends and potential dates you need to better clarify what is allowed with a girl-as-friend and what changes for girl-as-potential-date. For instance slumber parties with your female friends may be allowed, but if one of those friends is someone she is dating the rules may become more strict).
one thing I would stress DO NOT act as if you don't believe her or she will 'grow out of' being a lesbian. Sure there is a (small!) chance she will change her mind later, but odds are she knows herself well enough to know her own desires. Acting as if she will grow out of it implies that lesbianism is somehow something 'wrong' your waiting for her to realize. You need to support her in whatever she tells you to avoid stigmatizing her desires and making her feel that there is something wrong about her. Besides, even ignoring the risk of accidentally stigmatizing her, telling her she may 'grow out of it' implies you don't trust her to know her own interests yet; it comes across as your not listening to her.
Frankly, I wouldn't pester her about her sexuality too much either way. You don't want to imply she will grow out of it, but at the same time trying to write her into a 'just a lesbian' role isn't perfect either. People actual sexuality is too complex to be painted into direct roles. I would simply tell her she can date whoever she wants (well, sex wise, you can still ban drug addicts and anyone over 20). If one day she expresses an interest in dating a girl in her class then give her advice on how to ask the girl out like you would with a boy. If another day she seems to be attracted to a boy then give her the same advice; don't act as if being attracted to the boy is better, but also don't tease her about being attracted to someone other then another girl. Even in the LGBT community many people who are predisposed to be bisexual will declare themselves as gay or lesbian because they feel stigmatized and forced to 'pick' one sex over the other, which you don't want to do. Just support her in whoever she finds herself attracted to, don't make her assign labels to that attraction or shoe-horn herself to any group of people as potential dates.
The one thing I find odd is that she wanted to speak to a consular. Of course let her do that and encourage it, but it makes me wonder why she feels the need. In an ideal her telling you she was a lesbian should be a simple declaration of preference, no different then her saying she prefers to date someone with blond hair or who is of a certain height etc. I know we are not in that ideal world yet, but my point is that her saying she needs to speak to a counselor may suggest she has reservations or fears about coming out. She may need some extra encouragement and support if she is having concerns like this. I would suggest sitting down with her yourself to figure out what she is feeling, why she wanted a counselor, and seeing if there are any fears she has about coming out. That way your be able to reassure her, and help her to cope with any concerns she may have.
You have gotten a lot of great information from the other responders. I wonder if I can help you with this.
Wondering if anyone else on this site has any insight to help with what I am feeling.
We have our own sometimes very strongly held beliefs and value systems, and we want to pass these on to our children. The majority of parents actually try to do this (as did I). And then something happens that causes us to realize our child no longer holds the same beliefs as we do.
It doesn't really matter what the belief is. The truth is that we feel a sense of profound loss, among other things. Loss of shared values, loss of a certain imagined future with the child, loss of self-esteem wondering if we did something wrong, whatever. We do feel lost.
The whole religious thing aside, this is no different than any other departure from your value/belief system, so try to see it that way. Your daughter is still the same person you loved before you found this out.
Part of your fear may come from a misconception, e.g. she'll never have the wedding I always imagined for her/she wont have children/she'll be an outcast/it will be harder for her to find a partner, etc. The way to fight this battle is to look around at what's happening in the world today; it's hard to miss. You just have more reason to pay attention to it. Your worries may be groundless.
The other part of dealing with your feelings is that some of them may well involve worry about what is not happening now, again: now.
We plan for the future, we remember the past, but all we really have is now. You may die in a week. She may die in a week. We all may die in a week. She may marry the most incredible woman you ever met. She may have four children. Would you consider your worries a waste of time if any of those were the case? If so, then stop worrying and start choosing to live in the now. This time is all you're guaranteed.
Some people need a good therapist to work out the myriad feelings you may be facing. If you think you can't do this on your own, find one.
I hope this helps.
In 1785, the great Scot poet Robert Burns wrote about the blessing it is to live in the now. A gentleman farmer, he accidentally turned up a mouse's den while plowing in autumn. His poem is all about the serious problems she faces now because of his actions, yet the last stanza, the best, states a problem with the human condition: "Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!/ The present only toucheth thee:/ But Och! I backward cast my e'e,/ On prospects drear!/ An' forward, tho' I canna see,/ I guess an' fear!"