by Dr. Dawn Byrd
Q: I have a seventeen-year-old daughter and because of some text messages I have seen on her phone I am beginning to wonder if my daughter is a lesbian or perhaps bisexual. What do I say and how do I start a conversation about it? Karen, Cave Creek
A: Before approaching your child, you must first explore your own feelings concerning the possibility that your child is lesbian or bisexual and imagine how your reaction will be if your child confirms your suspicions. You must understand that being lesbian or bisexual is an individual circumstance and has nothing to do with how you raised the child. If you determine that you are in any way negatively biased by the possibility that your child is lesbian or bisexual and you believe strongly that your child is lesbian or bisexual, you may want to seek therapy yourself before you can provide the love and support your daughter will need.
The next step would be to gather as much information and resources concerning the gay, lesbian or bisexual communities. These resources may be available on a community basis such as community support groups or affirmative private therapeutic services. Provide these materials to your daughter after your conversation, regardless of her response as she may not be ready to tell you about her identity.
Engage your daughter in a conversation that emphasizes that you love and support her unconditionally. This conversation should take place in a nonthreatening environment and at a time when it is convenient for both of you to have a meaningful conversation about her feelings and attitudes. It may turn out that she is not prepared to discuss her sexual orientation with you at this time. If that is the case, don’t push her. She now knows that you are there to provide support and be an ally in times of distress.
Alternatively, if your daughter proves willing to open up and confide with you, you may wish to help her find some of the community services and outreach that your previous research has uncovered. Emphasize that she is far from alone in her feelings and that you will always be available to talk with her and provide a loving and accepting home for her.
Do not allow this to be a one-time conversation. It is critical to keep the lines of communication open at all times and to frequently engage with your daughter. Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals can fall prey to depression and feelings of isolation, which can turn into more dysfunctional activities such as drugs or alcohol abuse. Suicide rates are also well above the national average for these groups.
Major reputable health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics note that homosexuality is not an illness or a disorder, but a sexual preference. People of all sexual identities can go on to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to provide an atmosphere of trust and affection so that your daughter knows that she always has someone who cares about her. Sometimes just knowing there is someone you can talk to makes all the difference in the world.
One n Ten is a community program for individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 that provides tools that will help improve self-esteem and acceptance. Learn more by calling 602-400-2601.
Dr. Dawn Byrd is a licensed psychologist and an LGBT/TGNC Affirmative Therapist. For more information, visit, PhoenixPsychologists.com.