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This past weekend I learned that my 15-year-old recently came out to two of her friends. I learned this in a couple of ways:

  1. The two of us just traveled alone for a weekend, and she let me use her iPad to video her in a sports competition. The iPad's photo stream syncs with her phone I saw numerous screen shots she had recently taken, including one picture she downloaded off the web that says, "Shit, I'm gay"; various photos of people with rainbows painted on them; etc. Because the iPad syncs with her phone, a couple of text messages came in and popped up on the screen about how these friends were so honored that she came out to them. (I should be clear that when the text messages came up I turned off the syncing function because I didn't want to knowingly invade her privacy.)
    She knows that I still have the iPad.

  2. I also needed to borrow her phone at one point and she told me the passcode: 426429 - which on a phone keyboard spells out "I am gay." She knows I'm very good at puzzles, word games, etc., and I immediately suspected what the numbers corresponded to.

I think she may have been trying to (not so subtly) hint around to my wife and I, because a couple months ago she bought a shirt that says "I can't even think straight." She played dumb about the meaning, but in retrospect it was probably a test. We didn't ace the test. I don't remember our exact reactions; I don't think they were overly negative, but I'm sure they were not as positive as she hoped. I know my wife made some kind of a comment about it being OK to wear around the house but not in public. I honestly have no recollection of any statement I made. My wife is more conservative than I am and is a practicing Catholic. The whole family goes to mass most weekends but I am not Catholic. I'm also more liberal than she is on social issues, although still on the conservative side of the spectrum.

Let me be clear that nothing is going to diminish how much I love my daughter. My concerns are (and always have been) only for her happiness and safety. We've always been very close and I have always given her a good morning kiss on the cheek when she gets up, tell her I love her with another kiss when she leaves for school, greet her the same way when she comes home and finish the day with a goodnight kiss, saying, "Sweet dreams, I love you." I've built my career to work from home since before her birth so I could be around more for both of our children (we have a younger son).

I'm trying to figure out if I should say anything to her and how I can best support her during a time that could very well be extremely difficult for her. I find myself crying at times, worried for her and the difficulties that she may encounter. I'm also trying to determine if I should tell my wife. I am certain that she has no idea. I hate the idea of keeping a secret from her.

Thanks for any guidance you can give.

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    First I thought you were prejudicious of homosexuals, but on the end I had the impression you would have had the same amount of worry if she was entering sexuality as an heterosexual. So maybe you want to focus on sexuality in general with her instead of going into details and distinctions between homo or hetero sexualism? You can ask her how she feels about love life in general. Try starting as a listener rather than a counselor. – user5193682 Sep 23 '16 at 7:09
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    Thanks for your input and I apologize if somehow I came off initially as prejudiced. I'm definitely not wanting to come off to her as a counselor. I just want her to know how much I love her and that she should be comfortable being herself because my love is unconditional. Thanks, again. – Concerned Dad Sep 24 '16 at 11:42
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    I didn't catch the prejudice at all - but I really just felt like commenting to tell you as someone who lost their dad recently, that you sound like an amazing freaking dad!! She is incredibly lucky to have you, gay or not. Kudos! – user24720 Oct 8 '16 at 3:34
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    "I just want her to know how much I love her and that she should be comfortable being herself because my love is unconditional." Saying that to her should do 90% of the work. <3 – user6589 May 31 '17 at 18:42
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    I'd love to hear how things went with your daughter, if you've had a conversation since you posted. Maybe consider adding an addendum to your post? – GentlePurpleRain Jul 13 '18 at 3:40
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I think Warren Dew offers a good answer there, but if I were in your position I'd want to let my kid immediately that I know about it, that I accept it and that it will never change my love for them (since I think this addresses her no.1 fear about sharing the information with you). Now, if you don't want to be overtly blunt, when you two are on your own you could say something like "Did you know that your passcode spells 'I am gay'? It made me think of that t-shirt you've bought recently... Were you trying to tell us something?". If you say it the right way, in a friendly, fatherly tone and with a big smile, I think she'll be thrilled and relieved to finally share it with you.

  • I totally agree that you should bring it up with her, when a kid is dropping this many hints, it has to be intentional (I'm sure she knows about the text syncing, the photo syncing, etc.). It could very well be that she wants to tell you that she's gay, but doesn't know how to bring it up, and is hoping you'll catch on. By bringing it up and making sure she knows that it doesn't change your feelings for her at all you could be doing her a huge favor. – Kevin Wells Jun 5 '17 at 16:53
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I find myself crying at times worried for her and the difficulties that she may encounter.

She's probably doing the same, worried about whether her parents will accept it or reject her. That is probably the biggest difficulty she may encounter in her whole life related to being gay (assuming you live in a Western country).

It sounds like you have a strong bond with your daughter and she's trying to reach out to you. You can help her with the biggest, scariest step in her life by being open, positive and letting her know you will love her unconditionally.

I'm also trying to determine if I should tell my wife. I am certain that she has no idea. I hate the idea of keeping a secret from her.

At this time, you are not keeping a secret from her, only an unconfirmed suspicion. By telling your wife, you risk a confrontation neither you nor your daughter want.

If your daughter comes out to you, it's probably a good idea to talk it over with her and follow her lead. She may not be ready yet to face an adverse reaction.

However, keep in mind that the situation of your wife being the only one to not know cannot last. If she finds out on her own, she may feel betrayed. So do nudge your daughter to get ready and not put it off too long.

  • Absolutely agreed. It is important for the OP to talk to their daughter first, and then work to include the mother in due time. It may be that once the OP has an affirming conversation with their daughter it will give her the confidence to come out to others (since she'll know her relationship with her father is a safe place) – Kevin Wells Jun 5 '17 at 16:55
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You could start by making it clear that you're fine with gays and recognize that it's not something that people can change, any more than they can change their eye color, even if you don't specifically mention your daughter's specific situation at first. The more she feels you will still value her and will not try to change her, the better.

If you think your wife can handle the same approach, you could probably mention it to her. If there's any chance your wife will go into denial or try to argue with or try to change your daughter about it, though, it might be better to connect with your daughter on it first.

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    I feel like this answer gets it. The daughter is obviously giving hints to the father. We should ask ourselves why. It probably is to test the waters, feel if there is acceptance, tell them carefully. Dad should probably tell his daughter he loves her very very much, and that that love does not depend on wether she goes to college, gets a job, marries, has kids, is gay, turns vegan or any other decision she makes... the love is unconditional. Second, because the daughter is contacting dad first, he might need to convince mom to take up the same attitude... – Konerak Sep 23 '16 at 9:51
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I think your daughter is essentially coming out to you already.

If she has this big of a secret, and didn't want you to know, she would not have loaned you her iPad, or at least would have made sure that any "incriminating" evidence was secured. She would not leave photos and text messages available for you to be able to see unless she wanted you to see them.

She probably feels too nervous or awkward just to sit you down and say, "I'm gay", so she's trying to find ways for you to figure it out on your own.

I think she's waiting for you to bring up the photos and text messages, so that you can initiate the conversation instead of her bringing it up. That probably feels easier to her.

If a straight-up discussion feels too difficult or confrontational, here are a couple of other ways I could see you broaching the subject with your daughter:

  • Have a father-daughter movie night with her, and watch a movie featuring a gay protagonist, especially one who is coming out to their family. Comment about how hard that must be, and assure her that if she were ever ("hypothetically") in that predicament, you would hope that she wouldn't be hesitant to come out to you.

  • Create a fictional scenario about a colleague, friend, cousin, or someone else (that she wouldn't know), who recently came out to you. Comment about how nervous they were to tell you, but that for you it was no big deal, and about how your acceptance of them has nothing to do with their orientation.

These scenarios provide a way to assure her of your love and acceptance for her and that you don't see sexual orientation as something that should divide any relationship.

You can then see if she decides to bring up the subject on her own, or start asking somewhat more pointed questions and mentioning the things you saw on her iPad.

I would suggest talking to her about it first, and then strongly encouraging her to discuss it with her mother as well. If you think her mother will react negatively, you can offer to be with her when she brings it up. I think it's important for it to come firsthand from her, though, rather than you telling your wife secondhand.


EDIT: Further thoughts regarding your own self-care

Also, it sounds like while you're prepared to love and accept your daughter, this is still somewhat of a shock to you and not what you expected. I would encourage you to find someone you trust to talk to and explore your own feelings around your daughter's coming out, be that a good friend, a religious leader, or a counsellor. Ideally, find someone who doesn't know your daughter, and who will be able just to listen and to help you process your own thoughts and feelings without offering opinions or suggestions.

(I have friends who have had a very similar experience with their daughter, and they were surprised to find out how many difficult and conflicting emotions it brought up in them, despite them being fully supportive of their daughter.)

When something changes that significantly for you, it's a lot to handle, regardless of your thoughts, feelings and opinions on the matter. I know that there are several organizations that specifically offer counselling and discussion groups for parents in your situation, when they need help processing their thoughts and feelings surrounding their children's coming out. (I don't know the names of any of them, but I can find out for you if you're interested.)

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    This is a terrific answer, but I particularly appreciate the latter section. While the child needs supportive parents in this situation, the parents also need support in order to best fulfill that role! Thank you :) – Acire Sep 27 '16 at 21:51
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You should definitely say something to your daughter and then your wife.it's not healthy to have to hide an essential aspect of who you are.I believe you love her deeply which means her sexual orientation has to be out in the open because while not condemning her you will have to treat her differently. An example: before you knew she was gay would you have allowed a boy to have a sleepover with her. I don't think so. In the current situation her having other girls in her room all night could lead to, well you get my drift. It changes the family dynamics but that doesn't mean you have a problem with her sexual orientation. The home life will most likely become much more stable and the atmosphere happier.

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The fact that your wife is a practicing catholic kind of says it all. That would certainly make me feel anxious about talking about anything potentially offensive.

You are curious and have the right to ask questions. How you do that is up to you.

All I know is genuine interest can be felt. So don't worry too much if you know that your intentions are good. Just explain how you arrived at your conclusion/question. I'd personally start with the T-shirt as it is the most easy to talk about. And then go from there.

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I'm sorry, but "I'm fine with gay, but I'm concerned about how horrible her life could be" clearly means that you have irrational fears about this and are NOT okay with it. You need to come to grips with the idea that it's just how she is, and while she may take some flak from close-minded jerks, it's not that big a deal, as long as you don't turn it into one.

If you lie awake, crying with worry because your daughter MIGHT be gay, then you are in denial about your own feelings about it. That might be why your daughter is only kind of hinting. She might be very tentative about this because she is aware that you don't think it's okay and relatively normal.

You have to realize that whatever idealized vision you have for how your kids' life is going to turn out, deviation from that is not a bad or tragic thing. They will be their own individual and unique selves.

You need to sit down and talk to her. Tell her that you feel like she's been hinting at this, and let her know that you fully want to support her, but she'll need to be patient with you as you try to break out of preconception and stereotypes you have acquired over a lifetime. Point out that how gays have been portrayed and their level of acceptance in society is a pretty new and rapidly changing thing, so if it seems like you're being held back by baggage, it's because most of your life you've been presented with misinformation on the topic.

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    Why is it a problem to be concerned about discrimination and harassment that a gay child will very likely face from society at large? – Acire Sep 22 '16 at 0:43
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    I wonder if it depends on where you live. I've certainly seen complaints from some gays about how their lives are made horrible by discrimination. – Warren Dew Sep 22 '16 at 1:17
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    In any case, my fear is that a "I'm completely fine with you being gay, but I'm worried that it will ruin your life" is going to alienate a daughter who is clearly tentative about coming out to her parents. Even if he doesn't say that, if that's the feeling, kids will pick up on it, and it sounds like she might have already. By asking the parent to really examine his feelings about this, I'm hoping to help him to avoid that landmine. Honest assessment and self-reflection isn't a bad thing before dealing with a delicate, potentially charged topic with a teenager. – PoloHoleSet Sep 22 '16 at 13:47
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    Andrew - while I appreciate the time you and everyone else has taken to answer my questions, I do not have a problem with whatever she is (L, B, T, whatever). I love her unconditionally. I believe however it is undeniable that there are people in this world who will make her life more difficult because of this. I also am not some uncontrollably crying mess but it does sadden me deeply that she has been wrestling with this and likely felt alone or at least conflicted. As a father I feel pain when one of my children is hurting. – Concerned Dad Sep 22 '16 at 20:10
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    Fair enough. I think you'll find that the lack of societal acceptance is much more an artifact of our generation, and that her generation, to a much greater extent, doesn't see it as that big a deal. Worrying about our kids is an unavoidable side effect of being a parent, that's for sure. – PoloHoleSet Sep 23 '16 at 13:19

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