Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the lesbian teen daughter.
Nicole: Aww, I’m thrilled they have lovely kids who feel secure and loved enough to talk about their sexuality.
Also you need to cool it with the label phobia
I know I’m preaching to the choir on “if she said she was straight I doubt you’d be like HOLD THE PHONE, don’t tell anyone that until you’ve had relationships with men!”
Also, ask her what kind of support she needs around her grandparents. She may have no intention of talking to them about this, but if she does, please ask how you can be of assistance and support!
But I guess I just also have zero interest in the Label Discussion
Same! There can sometimes be a (well-meaning) push for an End To Labels
that in effect ends up just being an End To Labels that position an individual as “not straight” or “not cis”
Danny: also, lesbianism? pretty cool
pretty rich history of activism and love and solidarity and social change there!
Nicole: One of our better isms
maybe ask if there’s a book you can read together
showing that you want to do the work is so important
Danny: literally the worst case scenario here is your daughter calls herself a lesbian for a while and then later decides she isn’t a lesbian
all she’ll have to do is say “i’m not a lesbian”
Nicole: PRETTY EASY
Danny: it’s not like she’ll have signed away her future to Gay Sea Org
Nicole: okay I love that joke and am so jealous of it
Also sea org is abusive and should be stopped
but yes, basically, I think you are encountering the limits of your own open-mindedness right now
Nicole: Happens to most of us
Danny: and that will be hard, because it’s probably very easy to feel open-minded in your super-small town
Danny: but even very open-minded people can get whiffly about queer sexuality
like my read here is that your son’s coming-out felt smooth to you for a couple of reasons
Nicole: esp with their Own Kids
Danny: 1. he’s older and there’s always some residual What About The Children residing in all of us when it comes to young gay/bi/trans/etc people
2. Bisexual, and the attendant assumptions people draw about bisexuality
Danny: many people tend to think of gayness as ‘adult’ even if they’re vocally pro-gay
Nicole: 3. “What if none of my kids is Normal”
Danny: and 4. you saw it coming
which meant you got to still feel in control/in charge
Danny: and this time your daughter’s leading the conversation
and it’s a sexuality that does not include the possibility of heterosexual couplings
Nicole: A very unexpected and casual one!
getting caught off guard can really make people hunker down oddly
Nicole: but yeah, in terms of moving forward, ask her about what this means to her and what she needs
Danny: to be clear, i don’t think the LW is secretly a huge homophobe
and they have responded quite well so far
Nicole: is there stuff you can do together/learn
Danny: but yeah, basically ask her how you can support her
Nicole: queer bookstores! whatever!
Danny: and do some research about what LGBT community might exist in your neighboring not-so-small towns
Danny: basically, ask yourself: how can I help support and foster a happy, healthy lesbian teenager-hood in a town that is not set up for one?
Nicole: also even though your kid is “sheltered,” she knows that it’s not “fine” with everyone, that info is out there
i promise you she has picked that up
so you don’t have to like, warn her
Nicole: so help her when stuff comes up, and don’t assume she’s a teeny orchid
Danny: again, it can be that well-meaning but ultimately harmful impulse: “the world is really hard on lesbians, better not be one unless you have to be, are you still sure?”
Nicole: Also her older brother is bi! The convo has started!!
hopefully her brother is also a source of support and love
Nicole: And just like, unofficial resources
frankly a “mom and dad are a little weird about it but they’re doing okay” is valuable to hear
Danny: also! TALK TO HER GRANDPARENTS, not about her gayness, but about their (apparent) homophobia!
Nicole: They already have one queer grandkid that they (I ASSUME) know of
Danny: right! run interference there so your kids don’t have to bear the brunt of whatever homophobic stuff your parents (or in-laws?) do or say
again, without outing any of your kids who may not be out to them yet
Nicole: This is a nice letter to talk about, and I also think it’s very very very very common as people are confronted w the realities of the hypotheticals they always assumed they would handle like champs
so I am glad that it’s in the column
Danny: yes, me too!
Nicole: My mom is so sweet and good and and did not handle it fantastic when I told her I was attracted to girls back in high school! Like it was FINE, but mostly the “I just think it’s a harder life and I don’t want that for you” line
Danny: Mostly I want to stress to this parent that this is totally natural. You are not secretly a homophobic, unsupportive parent; you are bumping up against something you’ve understandably absorbed from living in a pretty homophobic culture your whole life
Nicole: doin’ better, let’s keep goin’, parents
Danny: and you haven’t done anything wrong
I judge thee not!!!
also the girl is 13 and honestly just the idea of dating at that age can give parents apoplexy
Danny: the real problem is having a thirteen year old!
Nicole: ESPECIALLY girls
bc of SOCIETY
Danny: I hope your bisexual son and your lesbian daughter and all of your other children continue to feel supported and seen by you (they clearly do so far) and that you can find all the resources and help you need in a not-super-progressive community
Danny: and again, if any of your kids later adds or takes away from or modifies whatever labels they use, that’s great – but don’t try to live your lives now based on the possibility that something might change in the future