Must he choose between his wife and their gay daughter?


Hi John; I’m reaching out for some help. Aside from a wonderful pastor/friend in our town, I’ve not been able to speak about this with anyone. Six weeks ago our daughter, now in college, told us she was gay. She explained that she had always known she was, but had tried to deny it. She is a great student and a wonderful person. To me, she’s a model daughter.

I got over the shock fairly quickly, and after a bit of mourning about my dreams (e.g. you always expect your children to have a nice, quiet, happy life around the Christmas tree with their spouse and children …), I realized that for me not much had changed. My daughter’s still deeply devoted to God. I still love her more than anything in the world; she’s still the same amazing kid she’s always been. So our relationship really hasn’t changed.

What I’m struggling with is my wife’s reaction. She seems unable to deal with it. No matter what evidence I put in front of her (about these cobbled-together arguments from various mistranslated and poorly interpreted passages in the Bible), she still considers homosexuality a sin. After the initial shock of my daughter’s revelation, the first thing I thought about was what a burden she has had to carry all this time. My wife’s primary concern, though, is what others will think of her (my wife, not my daughter), and that being gay is a sin.

My wife is on anti-depressants and is getting counseling. She’s also reading accounts of other mothers who have gone through this—and she’s done some blogging about it. She deals with things by talking about them, so she’s told about half the world (which I find ironic, as she’s so concerned about what people will think—and which I also find exasperating because I feel she really should be consulting with my daughter before sharing such personal information about her with mutual acquaintances). While much of the advice my wife is taking in about our daughter involves “just love her,” most of it also holds out the idea that being gay is a sin.

What I can’t handle is when my wife says things like she would rather our daughter be a drug addict, and that she doesn’t know how she’ll be able to handle things when our daughter comes home on breaks. Frankly, I’m getting angry about it. This is our daughter, and it’s not a sin; it’s the way she was made. My wife also expresses denial—thinking out loud that our daughter was influenced by lesbians at college, and that some girls go through this “phase.” But everything I’ve read says that when it gets to the point when your child comes out to you, it’s not a “phase.” And every time I ask my wife if there was any way, under any circumstances, that anyone could have ever “converted” her—my wife—to be gay, she has no response. Also, our daughter has always been her own person—she’s never been subject to peer pressure, and has always done and spoken as she pleases. She’s actually the last person I can think of who could be so “influenced”! In answer to that fact about our daughter my wife only has only more silence.

My bottom line question is: How do I deal with my wife? In our long marriage we’ve never had serious trouble, but I’m really concerned that this could grow into something pretty bad. Any advice would me much appreciated. PS—just ordered your book UNFAIR, and hoping I can get my wife to read it.

No, friend, I don’t get letters like this every day. You’re in a uniquely difficult situation. And I don’t think there’s much if anything I can say about it that you don’t already know. The painfully obvious and very singular truth is that your wife needs to radically alter her attitude about your daughter. If she fails to do that—if she persists in choosing of the two options before her the one that is certain to destroy her family, then … well, then she’ll get what she’s chosen: a destroyed family.

The problem, of course, is that it’s not clear that your wife can change. Just given what you’ve told me here it sounds as if, to whatever degree, she is mentally ill. If she is, that’s a game changer; there’s a world of difference between won’t change and can’t change. If your wife can change but won’t, then ultimately you can in good conscience leave her. But if she’s organically incapable of change because she’s essentially lost control of her mind and/or emotions, then that brings into play for you a whole new order of moral considerations.

So time will tell there.

I really dislike one parent in any way bonding with their child over the dysfunctionality of their other parent. But in your case I don’t see any way to avoid that. My advice (if you haven’t already done so) is to talk to your daughter, and say to her something like:

“Right now your mom’s certainly not being everything she could be. I don’t know if she’s going through the normal sort of paroxysms of denial and angst that parents typically do when they find out their kid is gay, or whether she’s really developed a condition that she may not be able to pull out of. For now, we just have to wait and see. If she’s only doing that freak-out thing parents do when their kids come out, then before too long your mother will realize that your being gay isn’t the end of the world—that you can, in fact, be both gay and perfectly happy, which is all she really wants to know, because she loves you and above all wants you to be safe. If, however, her reaction to your coming out proves to be more problematic than that—if it’s something that time doesn’t smooth away, and we find that she can’t get to the healthy place she needs to be, then—well, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I don’t think it will come to that. I think she just needs a little more time to adjust. It’s a big deal to find out your child is gay. Parents trip about that, hard. But then after a while they don’t.

“Meanwhile, it’s obvious enough that your mother is going through hell. I want to be really, really clear that it’s not your fault that she is. Anything could have set her off, and that’s the truth. As you know [assuming your daughter does; if not, now’s the time to tell her] for a while now your mother’s been getting therapy and taking antidepressants. So she’s already been struggling with her mental state. So far, obviously, the help she’s getting isn’t good enough. For all I know, it’s making things worse. But we’ll find out. Again, these things take time to work themselves out.

“For now, we just have to wait and hope. I know this isn’t easy for you; I can’t imagine how much this must hurt you. It’s just a tough time that we have to get through. For now all we can do for your mom is love her, pray for her, and be there for her if she needs us. Obviously sometimes you’re not going to want to be there for her, because of how much she’s not being there for you. And that’s fine; I understand that, and will never pressure you to do or say anything that’s too much against who you are. But insofar as you can, let’s just be patient with her, and trust that God is watching this situation and will tend to it as He knows best.

“I love you; I’m proud of you; and I’m certain we’ll all get through this together, and be a stronger family for it.”

Something like that.

Also, talk to your wife. Insofar as she’s able to hear it, tell her that she’s really pushing you toward having to decide between her and your child. Tell her how cruelly unfair of her that is, what a torture it is to both you and your daughter. Tell her that while her daughter being gay is not a choice, choosing to interpret the Bible as she is certainly is a choice, and that for the life of you cannot understand how she could continue making the awful choice that she is. Tell her to read my The Best Case for the Bible NOT Condemning Homosexuality.

Most of all, tell her that you want to sit down with her, hold her hand, and pray with her about this. I think doing that very thing is everything. God’s whole purpose is to decrease stress and increase love. Together, go with your wife to God, hand all this over to Him, and let Him do His thing. He will. I think that if you prayed with your wife about this every day for ten days in a row—where first you say aloud to God whatever you are moved to, and then she does the same, and then together, for ten full minutes, the two of you sit together in quiet prayer and meditation—this problem will resolve itself. I really believe that.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Linda Barringer

    I cannot think of any better advice than what you have offered. My prayers go out for this family and others in the same situation.

  • Curt Naeve

    Well said John as always.

    The only thing I might add is a recommendation for this dad to find a local chapter of PFLAG [Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays] and attend a couple of meetings. I’m sure he will find comfort in the support and folks there will have first hand experience dealing with divided parents and my have suggestions for managing the stress he and his wife are feeling right now.

    Blessings on all concerned.

  • Margie Gage

    Oh, John, you have provided this man, this father, with the best advice I can imagine. Where were you when I came out. . . . ? My prayers are with this struggling family.

  • Jill

    I couldn’t love that last paragraph more if it were furry, four-legged and looking to be adopted.

  • Kathy in KC

    While it’s still relatively recent (six weeks), and it’s not mentioned how long the wife has been taking antidepressants, certain medications take several weeks to begin to work so that therapy can be effective. If she does have a mental illness, other medication may be indicated as well. If her counseling is religious in nature it may be reinforcing her belief that her daughter is sinning, and only a counselor who is supportive of LGBT persons is going to help her understand differently (which could also be religious counseling, just of an accepting nature, the two are not mutually exclusive). Having said all that, spring break is coming up and her behavior toward her daughter at that time (if she comes home) may help define what happens next. Hopefully Mom will behave in a loving manner, avoid cruel language and refrain from trying to “convert” her daughter into her version of how to be in the world. If she doesn’t, I don’t see that Dad has any choice other than to defend his daughter, and probably give his wife an ultimatum, perhaps in the form of a deadline (three months, six months, whatever) to come to her senses or he will consider separating from her. This is not a healthy situation.

  • Anne

    My heart goes out to this family and I thank you for your beautiful response. I can’t imagine a child in this situation who would not want to hear exactly the words you proposed “or something like that” from their parent. Hopefully, mom will come around in time. Whether she does or not, at least this young woman has an amazing parent in her father.

  • mike moore

    Dear Letter Writer,

    First, you’re an awesome Dad. A great parent. I wish even one of my parents had been half as open and accepting as you.

    My parents both reacted poorly. Insert long coming-out story. After a couple of years, my Mom still wasn’t (at all) happy about it, but she realized if she wanted to keep me in her life, polite social acceptance, if nothing else, was her only option.

    With that said, I want to bold-face and underscore John’s advice about keeping communication open and active with your wife … John totally nails it.

    My Father, on the other hand, was a stone wall. Zero acceptance. I was not welcome in “his” home. My partner not welcome in “his” home. My father refused every plan … meet up at neutral-ground resorts, invited to our home, etc., … proposed by my Mom and me. In the immediate years after I came out, my partner and I tried for two Christmases to find a middle ground (“we’ll stay in a hotel, we can meet at restaurants and/or go Xmas shopping … whatever puts you two most at ease.”) and were still rebuffed. And after that 2nd Christmas, my Mom finally got angry.

    After three years of a splintered family, my Mom informed my Dad that he better knock it off, because she had already invited us to Christmas at HER home (she had become equally angry that he felt he could unilaterally dictate what went on in their home) for the upcoming year. She told him if that was unacceptable to him, it would not bother her for him to spend Christmas elsewhere … that, in fact, she thought it might actually be for the best if he went ahead and made his own plans for the next Christmas.

    Lastly, she informed my Father that if he EVER again placed her in the position forcing her to choose between her son and her husband, he’d be very sorry indeed. Divorce court sorry.

    (I got this info from a reliable, non-partisan, family member who witnessed this blow-up a few days after that Christmas … neither parent has ever mentioned this episode to me.)

    I don’t know the dynamic of your marriage, but my parents were solid. Very happy and still in-love and in a good marriage. From what I know, it shook my Father to his core … we all know my Mom does not bluff … to discover that his disregard of my Mom’s desires and his behaviour had brought his marriage to the brink of divorce.

    I know this all sounds very dramatic, but that is, unfortunately, how my family rolls. However, I’ll never forget the phone call telling me all this .. I cried to learn the extent to which my Mom was willing to go to protect me and to maintain our relationship.

    You, on the other hand, sound far more reasonable and kind than either of my parents. And so, what I can absolutely promise you: for whatever ups and downs may happen, your daughter will never forget your loyalty, your acceptance, and your love. Well Done!

  • Sonny Bellotte

    I came out at age 42. (In the ’70’s you didn’t “come out”, you just couldn’t be gay, in the Deep South, especially in the rural kinds of areas I came from). It was a year after I came out, after my own wife and daughters and I had had to face it, before I told my parents. (I lived +/-300 miles from them at that time.) Being of the Great Depression generation, and being southern conservative Christians, my parents handled it the best way they could: “We don’t approve, but you are our son, and we love and accept you.” I was proud, very proud, of how my mom handled it at first, when I learned that she had sought out and attended a couple of meetings of PFLAG and gotten some literature from them. I was not so happy, however, when she told me that she had taken it upon herself to tell basically our entire family on both sides. I told her, that she should have known that if it took me 40+ years to tell her and Daddy, that she should have let me decide how and when to come out to the family, and to which members. She told me that she needed help dealing with it. I realized I hurt her very badly by telling her how she hurt me. After I came out, we had my daddy around for another 3 years, and my mom lasted another 8 1/2 years after Daddy departed.

    I don’t know if my parents ever really understood. Or if they were ever happy about it. Or if they ever came to grips with the spiritual implications of it. Or if they ever thought about the pain and struggles I had had to deal with for 4 decades. But we got through it. We managed to have a good family relationship for the remainder of their lives, in spite of the uncertainty of their positions towards my truth.

    I will echo what others have said: get to a PFLAG meeting and make some friends. Get some literature. TRY to get your wife to attend one or more meetings with you. Encourage her to seek out all of the professional help she needs, in order to help her deal with it. I myself am a mental health patient, having lived with severe clinical depression from as early as college (70’s) probably junior high school or earlier (60’s). It is very possible that the reason for decades of living with depression stemmed from being gay and not being able to figure it out or talk to anyone safely about it — the “closet” is its own kind of severe mental health problem. Upon my coming out, having to deal with several severe issues that cropped up that overshadowed the circumstances of my coming out and made the first 3 years WAYYYYYY too difficult for me. I spent +/-10 years in rational emotive behavioral therapy, and that was the main thing that helped me survive at that time. It is important for a mental health patient to have “the right” professional to help him/her. If she trusts deeply the therapist she is currently using, it might be hard to get her to switch to a different one. But if the therapist himself/herself is not biased towards conservative theological thinking in regards to homosexuality, then it might work out. But if you suspect that the particular therapist she is using might be part of what’s keeping her from moving into acceptance, then maybe somehow figuring out a way to get her into the care of a different therapist might be advisable.

    Mentioning the idea of “acceptance” makes me think of coming out as causing a GRIEVING process for the ones to whom we come out, and it will take all of the normal stages of grief for your wife to get through this — just as literally as if she had had to deal with the death of your daughter. She needs to be allowed to grieve in her own way, and for as long as it takes — because there *IS* no pre-set or determined length of time for the grieving process to take, nor for the grief-stricken to “get over it.” In reality, you never “get over it.” You just learn acceptance and coping, because the sense of loss is always there.

    Above all, the best thing for her will be knowing that you and your daughter love her and understand that she is having a hard time, and that you accept her while she is getting through it.

    It may even be a good idea for you and maybe your daughter, too, to get some professional counseling regarding how to best help your wife cope. This is definitely a family process, and it goes best, IMO, if the whole family can close ranks and draw together tightly to help one another through it. You may even want some of the therapy to be a total family group format. One of the biggest and most important needs of mental health therapy is learning that the only person whose actions we can control, is our own. And then, learning that accepting the other person as he/she is allows both of us to be free to grow and heal in the best way possible.

    I wish you all the best. I truly hope your wife can come to peace with it in time, and that your family may be spared from separation over it. If you all get through it together, it will likely make your family, and each of you in his/her own right, much stronger in the long run.

    God’s grace be with you, and may the Light of His Love shine upon you.

  • Bob

    I say leave your wife alone; don’t even get in a discussion about it. You’ve made your viewpoint clear; now she’s going to have to work things out herself. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t tried to force you to choose between the two of them. When you get together with both of them, make it completely clear that you support your daughter’s choice. That’s really all you can do right now.

    As for your wife being “mentally ill”…if that’s the case then so is half of Texas.

  • Marlene Lund

    What a difficult position for this father! As the mother of a lesbian daughter, I can attest to the initial sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when your child first comes out to you, as you see the path you had imagined for her crumble before your eyes. But he also saw, as did we, that his daughter is still the same loving person who also loves God, and that is huge! One observation I have here is that the mother, especially if she is already dealing with depression, may at some level be feeling guilty, that somehow her daughter being lesbian is the mother’s “fault.” That sounds totally irrational to us, but it might seem completely rational to her. After all, we mothers are always told we are responsible for almost everything our children end up being and doing, and depression on top of that might make her feel there was something terrible she did that “made her daughter gay.” This might explain her strongly negative reaction and the fact that she’s telling everyone about it, almost as a way to be affirmed that this isn’t her fault. I pray that she will come around and see the amazing daughter she always had is still just as amazing. Our children take us on many journeys as we learn more of who they really are, and our job is to love them, pray for them, advise them if they ask, and understand them as best we can, because they are such gifts from God.

  • mike moore

    I don’t agree.

    Yes, give her some space to work things out for herself, but since Mom is willing to put her thoughts about her daughter and family out to the world-at-large, via her blog, she shouldn’t be surprised when she is challenged or asked to discuss the topic with those people about whom she is writing.

    As for half of Texas? Definitely mental.

  • Barbara Rice

    Your mom rocked it.

  • DR

    Oh my goodness, what a hard spot to be in. My first thought is that you will still enjoy your beautiful Christmas with your daugher and her spouse with grandchildren. The spouse will be a woman. 🙂 Think of your life and hers with that end in mind – gay men and women are like straight men and women. Most of us want to be in committed relationships for the rest of our lives – shift gears into that perspective, imagine what you will want your grandchildren to know about you and your wife and start with that end in mind. That will in probability, be the reality – and what a lovely thing that will be. Much love to you.

  • Gordon

    Yeah…I don’t agree either. Much more than half of Texas is mentally ill.

    I don’t mean to make too light of this. Kids coming out to their parents is hard for all of the characters in the drama. It sure was for me. But, my neither of my parents went public right away. We talked to each other, A LOT, for many months. And a lot of those conversations were hard and emotional. But we got through it. Together. But I have to remind myself that I was not privy to the private conversations that my parents had together. Anyway, I think this dear man’s wife is desperately seeking validation for her own fear and prejudice. I would bet her therapist is solidly in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp and it would be fascinating to read the blogs and comments.

    The people this mother should be talking to are her daughter and her husband, not people who are going just reinforce her position. Until she does that, you can give her all the time you want but she will just end up more entrenched and alienated from her husband and daughter.


  • boy jesse


  • Bob

    I didn’t see anything about her being unwilling to discuss it. The guy’s problem is that he expects her to “snap to it” right away, regardless of her long-held beliefs. As for his question “……. if there was any way, under any circumstances, that anyone could have ever “converted” her—my wife—to be gay”, I suspect she would answer yes, of course.

  • Bob

    The article clearly states that she was getting advice from a large variety of people. So what? Truth doesn’t fear competition.

  • mike moore

    I was responding to your comment, “don’t even get into a discussion about it.”

    Also, I don’t see the husband attempting to get his wife to “snap to.” Given what he said about his wife – which is all we’ve got to go on – and if his wife is stating to him that she’d prefer their daughter to be a drug addict, then he has a right to be angry and call his wife out … if only to protect his daughter.

  • mike moore

    If she is indeed getting truth. Which I doubt.

  • Steve Tuttle

    John, your response to this man was perfect. He needs to be free to love and support his daughter, without guilt feelings. I would also encourage him to fully realize that he is not choosing his child over his wife when he shows love to his daughter. He needs to recognize that, if his wife leaves him as a result, that is her choice and not his fault, especially in view of her apparent mental issues. He’s in a very tough place, but so is his wife. And their daughter, I’m sure, is facing challenges of her own. Most of all, I would urge him to be strong in his determination to provide a safe, loving place for his daughter. In fact, at least for awhile, his love and support are even more important because of the negative reaction of her mother. Thank God for dads like this guy and for you, John, for your consistent, diligent work toward authentic Christianity that offers love rather than judgment and rejection.

  • Daniel Gore

    Mom needs to get over herself. This is her flesh and blood, and if she can’t deal with it, that’s the Mom’s loss. Sorry, I have little tolerance for parents that don’t get it. That hide behind their misconstrued religion. Suck it up, Mom or lose your child and possibly your marriage.

  • Anne Kinney

    Your response to this man was awesome. If his wife isn’t able to come around; to accept and love her daughter as she is then I fear he will be left with no choice. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

  • Polly Van Fleet

    As a mother who buried her drug-addicted son, I would have given anything – anything – if he’d come to me and said “I’m gay” instead. John Shore, you make me believe Christianity is a real thing. Thank you, friend.

  • Keith Sliter

    Mom has a choice. Daughter doesn’t. Hoping Dad never lets go of his daughter…losing a parent’s active love in one’s life is a wound that never heals…believe me I know…

  • Kathleen Young Rybarczyk

    Amazing response, John. You really put one heck of an example of Christianity out there!

  • Catherine King

    Prayers for you all its a tough tough situation. If after some time for your wife to adjust, she doesn’t, choose your daughter. In time you will come to resent your wife for driving off your child and by then your relationship with your daughter may also be fractured and you will have lost them both.

  • Diane Metheny

    Love and support your daughter! John’s response was excellent.

  • Margaret

    While I am not gay, nor have gay children, I would like to point out a couple things as a *woman* and mom and grandma.

    The wife is probably the age where she might be experiencing menopause and that is a HUGE factor in her emotional and psychological condition right now.

    I would also suggest that what she is experiencing is GRIEF – the same as if her daughter had died – because her dreams for her daughter *have died.*

    Most mothers have expectations – aka dreams – for the daughters and what their lives will be like. The beautiful bride, the perfect wedding, the wonderful son-in-law … and the grandchildren! This perfect picture has been shattered.

    PLEASE give the wife more time! Also do some research regarding grieving. Everyone handles grief differently, but there are commonalities. Learn and maybe you can understand your wife better.

    I am believing she will come around in time.

    p.s. For the record, NO – having your daughter be a drug addict is NOT better than finding out she is gay. That I do know about.

  • Jennifer Vance

    Dear Letter Writer,

    First of all, thank you for being a wonderful example of what a truly Christian man is called to be…..unconditionally loving. Thank you for seeing beyond yourself to see in your daughter the beauty and love of Christ that dwells within her. Your daughter is truly fortunate to have you as her father.

    My mother was much like your wife when I came out 20 years ago. She said some things and made threats that were basically knives plunged deeply into my heart. I’ve forgiven her, but I will never, ever really trust her again with anything of much importance in my life. I pray that your wife wakes up and realizes all that she stands to lose if she doesn’t get a grip on reality. Is it really worth reducing her relationship with her daughter down to a superficial level, just because she is afraid of what the neighbors / friends / church will think?

    Hang on to your daughter. Let her know that you love her every chance you get. But also let your wife know that you love her too. This is hard on all of you…..I know, I’ve been there and done that. Above all else, if it gets to the point where you feel that you have to leave the marriage, please, please make sure that your daughter understands that it is not HER fault. I pray that it doesn’t come to that…..but stay true to your own convictions. Your wife will have to live with hers.

    Good luck to all of you, and may God bless you for your faithfulness to Him and to your family as you face the struggles that you are facing.

    And one further thing……PFLAG!!!!!! Find a chapter, or two, and get involved. It will definitely help!!!!

  • Jen Henley

    Sonny, I pray the day comes when parents no longer have to “come to accept”, or grieve, or “get over it” when it comes to their gay children, because we will raise them knowing that they are full of possibilities and any of those possibilities are all right. That they are beloved children of their parents and of God, and we as parents all wish for our children the same things: that they may find someone to love and be loved by, happiness and success at work and play, personal and spiritual growth, and beautiful and intelligent offspring (well, of course!) – no matter if they are straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or really hairy, or run crooked, or have a funny way of pronouncing their As, or snort when they laugh, or– well, you get the idea. I pray that day comes soon.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Blessings to you.

  • LN

    I don’t have anything new and brilliant to add, but just want to reiterate the “love your daughter” and “give your wife lots more time” ideas. It’s way too soon to have to choose between them. I think it took us a couple years to rethink, grieve, adjust fully, but now, thanks to the patience of our family member who came out, we have made a safe journey and everyone’s lives have improved! Many of us can’t ditch 40+ years of thinking homosexuality is a sin just overnight, especially when we think it’s going to send a loved one to hell. Believe me, moms are very fearful on this subject, and if you grew up from a baby hearing fire & brimstone every week at church, it’s visceral. Some of us need a lot of time time to think, pray, cry, research, process, talk to others on both sides, read John Shore, etc., etc. Let’s all pray for this family, and may this dear mom be healed from all her wounds, and the family be whole again. But we can’t rush what God is going to do, and it will be so much better than we can ask or think.

  • Michael

    I don’t believe being gay or being in a same-sex relationship is sinful at all.

    But even if it was…would your wife react so harshly if your daughter was divorced?

    That is a “sin” also according to many, yet, somehow we seem to be just fine embracing divorced people.

    If your wife has friends or relatives who are divorced-and-remarried and still loves them, she needs to be consistent and love your daughter also, period.

    Meanwhile, look up the site,

  • Glo

    I think you can have both relationships; just stop trying to control your wife’s reactions in the same way that you are not trying to control your daughter’s actions. And, you can have a great relationship w/your daughter (and her partner) regardless of what your wife does or doesn’t do. I think in marriage we tend to forget that we are *not* joined at the hip, and we don’t always agree, nor should we. Your wife’s relationship w/your daughter is her own, not yours. Just take it one day at a time. I can also understand that your wife may need time. Sounds like she was blindsided, and I’m betting (based on her reaction) she’s faulting herself somehow. She just doesn’t get that it has nothing to do w/her or her parenting ability… At some point, she’ll either choose to unconditionally love your daughter or not. Meanwhile, you can choose to unconditionally love to them both. Easier said than done, I know, but it is the best way – especially for you. hth!

  • Hannah Grace

    Praying helps. Tell your wife that some parents have been so convinced that being gay was a sin, that they disowned their children. These children then killed themselves. The parents, torn by grief, sought God in prayer, and to their horror, found that the whole time, they were in the wrong and should have loved their child unconditionally. Tell your wife that you don’t want this tragedy to happen in your family.

    For The Bible Tells Me So is a great documentary about LGBT Christians which features a family like this. Your wife might benefit.

    For God’s sake, please let your daughter know you accept her completely – it means more than you can know. It’s so important to have even just one family member it’s ok to be yourself to, where you can bring up a girlfriend and not have it be incredibly tense. One sad aspect of being a lesbian is that if you have any relationship troubles, you can’t tell anyone, because instead of supporting you, they think the relationship is wrong and bad anyway, and are rooting for it to end and for you to choose men. Please allow a space for honesty without this kind of pressure – your daughter will thank you. And if it makes you feel better, you should know that my evangelical mother eventually came around after some years. The time passes quicker than you expect.

  • Allie

    Good and generous response. I’m afraid if my spouse acted like that, I’d spit on him. Literally. So don’t do what I would do.

  • Allie

    Yep, and the reason for the difference is that it’s not about sin or convictions, it’s about what the neighbors think, as this letter writer hints. The neighbors, being mostly straight, want the right to get divorced, so divorce is okay to them. Being mostly straight they don’t care about the right to love someone of the same sex, so being gay is not okay to them. That’s why I have so very little respect for people who act like this woman and the mother in the previous post. Jesus said to do what’s right regardless of what your friends think.

  • Well, John, you set the bar kind of high here.

    This is about as difficult a situation as I can imagine, and your response is better than anything I can think of.

    To the father and husband here:

    It’s clear that you love your wife and your daughter. Being forced to choose between those two loves is awful, and it’s unfair. In a weird way it’s coming close to children in a divorce who feel torn between two parents. That is never easy and never right. Neither is your situation.

    Keep loving them both. It is important that everyone understand that you have a relationship with your wife which is apart from your relationship with your daughter, and that you have a relationship with your daughter which is separate from your relationship with your wife.

    Taking a page from the child-of-divorce playbook, it might be appropriate to establish a boundary that certain conversation topics are just off-limits for now.

    I don’t know anything else to add, but I assure you that I’ll be praying for all of you and this situation.


  • Matt

    To the letter writer:

    “…(e.g. you always expect your children to have a nice, quiet, happy life around the Christmas tree with their spouse and children …).”

    Don’t let go of that dream. You may have to adjust the key players and expand your definitions, but that dream is never dead. That’s what we LGBT people and our allies fight for every day. A safe, quiet, peaceful place for all of us, our families, co-workers, communities. Our world, basically. Your daughter is already on the of the luckiest, to have a father like you in her corner.

    I don’t mean to get off-topic, but that line really stuck out at me, and I wanted to address it.

  • Susan

    Hello. My mother took 9 years. It was complete banishment. A little longer, and more severe than most “vacations”. To be fair, I was 36 years old and it took me 30 years to wrap my head around it and embrace myself, so I gave her the time and space and we ended with hospice at my house. I was never completely embraced but the banishment to control stopped. This site has marvelous reading made for the supreme court case that lays out the story, great for reading and discussions for you and daughter, maybe even great for your wife. One extra point of reference, my former husband was anti-gay and my son was raised 50/50 with myself and my wife. He absolutely loves his dad and he loves us. It can be done. This started when he was 3 years old and he is 25 years old now. The divorce playbook of never denigrating the other was not yet out to include gay issues 22 years ago, so we did the best we could to be adults. My heart goes out to you. Getting to regular gay positive support like PFLAG, or a gay inclusive church is imperative. Knowing the highest and best for all concerned. Sincerely .Susan PPS It seems being out and proud and having a successful loving marriage and life has won most of the SBaptist extended family and our method is not so much discussion but just attraction in the sharing of our lives.

  • Christy

    Dear dad,

    If after awhile things don’t improve and John’s lovely advice does not provide either peace or resolution…perhaps considering couple’s therapy would be in order. It sounds like really feeling heard may come into play – for both of you. Being able to communicate difficult feelings is so often terribly tricky…and, if I may, your wife – as much as she might be lovely – seems a bit self-focussed. Learning to feel compassion for your daughter, as you expressed you did, may likely relieve some of the priority of “how this will affect me” that is now such a big part of her reaction. After all, learning to accept reality is so much a part of the work of therapy. “Knowing that,” as our minister says, “we have an up to us privilege of choosing not what happens to us in our lives but how we react to it.” This is often the truth that sets us free. Until then we tend to struggle against reality in vain.

    Al the best to you and your dear ones.

  • Patricia Boese

    As someone who has seen my brother and sister go through drug addiction for years and watched what it did to my family and to their children, I can’t even imagine wishing that upon a child when comparing that to the joys of my life with my gay son.

    I hope that this is simply initial fear that your wife is going through right now and that time will prove her love to be stronger than this reaction. But should it not be, I do hope that in the end your love for your child be the side you end up on if you have to choose only one. Our children need to know that love wins in the end and it is hard for them to believe that ours is a loving God if not even their parents will love them and choose them if they are gay. I think it matters this much. Blessings to you all.

  • Tam Raul

    Dear Dad,

    Please tell your wife that if she believes in God, then she’s got to believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. He made your daughter perfect just the way she is, and she is perfectly lovable just the way she is.

  • Lymis

    This was the point I was going to emphasize.

    The fact that the focus seems to be so much on what the neighbors and other Internet Christians might think makes it seem to me that she is afraid that she did something wrong, or didn’t do something right, that turned her daughter lesbian.

    Especially knowing that she is in treatment, it may be that she is interpreting this as proof that she is a bad person and a bad mother, and that what’s needed for the mother is as much reassurance that she’s fine just as she is and that she has done nothing wrong as the daughter needs (or even more.)

    PFLAG might be a wonderful resource.

  • Lymis

    Truth doesn’t fear competition, but on this issue, more than most, it isn’t truth that people find when they go out looking for reinforcement that being gay is wrong. There are a lot of hateful, self-serving lies out there, and it’s easy to get sucked into them. The husband doesn’t have reason to fear the truth, but he has every reason to fear the anti-gay hate machine.

  • Jill

    It’s funny, you and I read the same line the same way. My inner response was, there’s nothing preventing that dream. A few more unjust laws to move off the books, and then there’s actually nothing preventing that dream.

  • Susan

    I just read my story and realized it may appear I am supporting divorce. For me it was life saving. After years in Family Pride (now Family Equality Council) I have seen oodles of families make it over the gay, anti-gay divide intact. Education and support are imperative, I found it helpful to have the relationship I wanted to have with the person as if they had made it. I just carried on assuming acceptance and gave no power or attention to the “noise” of ignorance, misunderstanding and fear. Knowing the highest and best for all concerned.

  • Susan In particular this brief of the scientific consensus I still find so helpful I had to share it, it case it could help you as it helps me. TABLE OF AUTHORITIES ……………………………… iii

    INTEREST OF AMICI CURIAE ……………………….. 1


    ARGUMENT …………………………………………………… 5

    I. The Scientific Evidence Presented

    in This Brief. ………………………………………….. 5

    II. Homosexuality Is a Normal

    Expression of Human Sexuality,

    Is Generally Not Chosen, and Is

    Highly Resistant to Change …………………….. 7

    III. Sexual Orientation and

    Relationships ……………………………………….. 11

    A. Gay Men and Lesbian

    Women Form Stable,

    Committed Relationships

    That Are Equivalent to

    Heterosexual Relationships

    in Essential Respects. ………………….. 11

    B. The Institution of Marriage

    Offers Social, Psychological,

    and Health Benefits That

    Are Denied to Same-Sex

    Couples. ……………………………………… 14

    IV. The Children of Same-Sex Couples ………… 18

    A. Many Same-Sex Couples

    Are Raising Children. ………………….. 18

    B. The Factors That Affect the

    Adjustment of Children Are

    Not Dependent on Parental ii

    Gender or Sexual

    Orientation …………………………………. 18

    C. There Is No Scientific Basis

    for Concluding That Gay

    and Lesbian Parents Are

    Any Less Fit or Capable

    Than Heterosexual Parents,

    or That Their Children Are

    Any Less Psychologically

    Healthy and Well Adjusted. …………. 22

    V. Challenges to the Evidence on

    Same-Sex Parents by Other Amici

    Are Unfounded ……………………………………… 31

    A. The Methodological

    Criticisms Fail to Recognize

    the Cumulative Nature of

    Scientific Research ………………………. 31

    B. The Regnerus Study Does

    Not Provide Evidence That

    Parental Sexual Orientation

    Affects Child Development

    Outcomes ……………………………………. 33

    VI. Denying the Status of Marriage to

    Same-Sex Couples Stigmatizes

    Them. ………………………………………………….. 34

    CONCLUSION …………………………………………..

  • Susan

    My link does not seem to work. If need be use the first link in first paragraph and scroll down to the professional organizations brief that the description is “Scientific knowledge concerning sexual orientation and family.”

  • Susan

    Please forgive my over zealousness. The one on history is fabulous to consider the stew of history we all are steeped in and how well we are all doing considering. Equal Protection: History of discrimination. Lesbians and gay men have been subjected to widespread and significant discrimination in the United States, commencing as soon as they emerged as a group into the American public consciousness and continuing today.

  • Mike

    Dear Dad –

    One of the most inspiring sermons I every heard was entitled “Relationships Trump Rules” meaning despite what you may think the Bible tells you, a relationship with a family member means more, and that the love you share between a family member somehow, some way will (or should) supercede what you may believe are “the rules.”


  • Dear dad. As someone who is LGBT and identifies as Goth, my parent’s love was something that has gotten me through all these years. Everyday I’d be hurt by Christians for who I was, and it wore be down for years. One day I attempted suicide because the disapproval and hatred became so overwhelming. I’m still seeing counseling years later, but looking back I probably would have attempted it again, and don’t know if I would be around if it weren’t for my parents unconditional love. The hatred of my peers hurt, but the disapproval of family whom you thought loved you, hurts more than anything.

    You’re a father first, and a husband second! Your child needs you and she could be hurting even if they put on a happy face for the world to see. And considering all the suicides and tragedies that have befallen LGBT youth, do you really want to take the risk of not supporting her?

    Love your child as much as you can, you never know when they won’t be around anymore.

    -Sincerely Ashley Prichard

  • Annie

    Dear Dad,

    I think that time is important here. I think your wife is dealing with the loss of her dream for her daughter, just as you have, but in a different way.

    You arent going to change her heart about what is and isnt sin. The attitude can be changed, but likely it wont be you to do it. There are many reasons to believe that homosexuality is not sin, and she isnt ready to hear them. You can certainly listen to your wife, and be validating about her emotions..” I understand that you feel that homosexuality is sinful. It must hurt terribly ( be very hard) for you right now, with our daughters announcement”

    In other words, dont try to change your wife..simply acknowledge/listen the pain she is in. You validate her emotions, not her views.

    If she is reaching out, she is dealing with her stuff right now. Likely, she is doing what she needs to do. At some point, she may get counseling or therapy around her feelings. This is her process and it has its own timeframe.

    Likely, the two of you will become closer in viewpoint as she does her thing, her searching, her blogging, etc. You both love your child and its likely that will not change. She is simply dealing with angst in her own way.

    When she is ready, she might consider attending PFLAG as a place to reconcile her feelings and get support.

    As far as your daughter, just keep loving her. She knows her mom. You dont want to make mom the bad guy. I think shes ( mom ) trying, in her own way. I suspect your daughter will understand this, too, and while I am sure she was hoping for acceptance right away, she probably knew mom would be different. She also, likely, has struggled with some of the issues her mom is struggling with.

    Congratulations on raising a beautiful, loving, intelligent child. Odds are, once things settle down, the new normal will be looking bright. If not, hopefully Mom will reach out to a therapist or pastor.

    <3 to all


  • James

    Dear letter writer,

    A lot of what you’ve described about your wife’s reaction seems, to me, perfectly normal for someone who was brought up in a conservative religious mindset. I can only measure by my own experience coming out to my family. My mom looked for ways to blame herself, as if somehow she had “broken” me or done something wrong in my upbringing that made me want to be “womanly” instead of “manly”. It has taken years for us to come to a point where Mom is starting to understand I’m still a man and want to be a man, but I am attracted to men and the great love of my life is another man who is also, in my eyes, “manly”.

    Your wife is trying to cope with a situation that challenges her understanding of gender roles and how the two of you raised your daughter. It’s natural for her to attempt to deconstruct the whole birth to launch process and wonder where it “went wrong”, how your daughter somehow didn’t turn out “feminine” enough. Was she too assertive as a mother and “masculine” to be a good female role model? Was your father/daughter relationship so close that she latched on to you as her role model instead of her mother? She may even wonder if your daughter was abused by a boyfriend and turned to women as a result. There are a lot of myths out there, all of which make your daughter’s sexuality “not real” and able to be dismissed rather than processed and accepted. It’s also natural for your wife to wonder what her social circle and family will think and how this will affect her status in the community.

    All I can really tell you is that this will take time and love. There is no quick path to acceptance for your wife and your daughter may never be able to realize the kind of full, honest relationship she desires with her mother. You may find that you have to go visit your daughter alone on holidays for a while or have your daughter come visit without her partner. Be committed to both your wife and your daughter through this. Never let them doubt that you love them both and that your love for them is unconditional. Make it clear that you will not choose between them but will take baby steps with them all the way until they find a way forward in their mother/daughter relationship.

    That’s what my mom is doing with my dad, taking baby steps with him so he can get gradually closer to accepting that his oldest son is gay, will never marry a woman, will never father children to carry on the family name. We’re not there yet and it’s still awkward. But, there are encouraging signs and through this process I have no doubts that both my parents love me and are working hard to find a way to resolve their feelings and attitudes.

  • Monica

    I would like to add to the other posts urging some compassion for the mother in this family. Is your daughter your only child? When did she leave for college, is the mom dealing with a radical shift in her own life, the “empty nest”? What was her relationship with her own mother like? (This might be a biggie.)

    I am so sorry for the pain you are all feeling. I pray for some self-restraint for the mom; even more patience for the dad; love and peace to the young woman starting out on her own life.

  • Jamie Roe

    Thanks, John, for another great post.

    For Dad:

    I happen to be the sibling who’s been sitting by watching a nearly identical story unfold with my brother (thirty years old) and parents. It’s a terrible situation for everyone involved. My dad initially was “forced” by my mother to reject my brother on same the grounds expressed by your wife. He soon realized the mistake he was making and decided that the fight with my mother was worth picking. He’s not choosing between my mom and brother; he’s choosing to defend my brother against the most harmful bully in his life right now. I’ve never seen a more rocky time between my parents, but I’m so proud of my dad for staying in my brother’s corner. I know that my father knows he’s doing the right thing.

    Keep making decisions based on love, and above all, hope. Time will help, too, I know it has for us.


  • mike moore

    I love where your heart is … but I think there are places where Mom needs to be told her feelings are not the only feelings that matter.

    If Mom feels she’d rather her daughter be a drug addict, then someone needs to tell her to keep those feelings between herself, her husband, and her therapist. It is not acceptable to make such a cruel and ignorant statement to her daughter or to others about her daughter.

  • mike moore

    seems like Dad is being patient, given his wife’s reaction.

  • Monica

    I agree; but he’s going to need more patience, obviously. She’s not going to “get better” overnight.

  • Charles

    James, I think this is excellent advice! I also think John went too far in suggesting that the mom may be mentally ill. I think her reaction is in the normal range for someone raised in a Christian fundamentalist tradition. I like John’s advice to have the couple pray together daily. Lots of patience and acceptance is needed here. It should NOT be an issue of Choosing one over the other.

    I wonder if the mother’s counselor is a Christian fundamentalist. The counselor should be normalizing the daughters gay orientation. If not, it might be good to get statement positions from the American Psychological Association, Counseling Association, psychiatric association, etc off the web re sexual orientation. If the counselor is treating gayness as a “lifestyle” choice, the mom needs to know her counselor is swimming upstream against the entire medical community.

  • Shannon

    For the dad:

    A) take John’s advice-it sounds concrete to me.

    B) make time to plan special father-daughter time with your daughter, without mom so that you and she can maintain a close loving relationship and enjoy time that ISN’T filled with the emotional strain and drama of dealing with mom’s denial etc.

    C) Tell your wife to re-read (repeatedly) the sections of the Bible where Jesus is speaking and NOTHING ELSE. The ideology of Christianity is that we are followers of Christ, of Jesus. He DID make changes and specify different attitudes in his words. The primary one was to love EVERYONE. Loving someone as a verb-an action word, doesn’t allow for simultaneously condemning them in your mind. She could also read 1st Corinthians Chapter 13 repeatedly until the concepts begin to overwhelmingly sink in.

    D) Remind your wife, that loving her does not prohibit you loving your daughter and loving your daughter AS JESUS SAYS TO LOVE; does not allow for you to participate in judgment or hatred-whether physically manifested or simply in the confines of your own mind and heart.

    E) set yourself boundaries that include YOU not having to listen to or be affronted by judgment, condemnation or hatred from ANYONE ELSE towards your daughter. When people, including your wife choose to speak or act in ways that are unloving (feel free to use Corinthians as a solid definition of loving words/actions) step away while gently letting them know that you don’t participate in such hate-filled conversations, behaviors or thinking.

  • Margaret

    I might have missed it, but I don’t recall seeing anyone address the issue of “sin” as this mother views it. Perhaps hubby – or better yet, clergy – needs to point out to her that there are a myriad of other “sins” besides being gay; some she might notice if she looks at her own heart. i.e., anger, lack of love, self-pity, haughty spirit, lying, hatred, idolatry, sowing discord, cheating … and so on. “Let [she] who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  • ann

    Dear Dad,

    The parents I’ve spoken to who’ve condemned their children for their orientation have been, every one of them, either a fundamentalist Christian or devout Roman Catholic. In dealing with them, I have found scripture to be my best resource.

    If your wife believes in scripture, refer her to Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.) and tell her to let God be God in this.

    Remind her that your beloved daughter is walking her difficult road with God at her side (Romans 8:38-39), so she is safe.

    Jesus gave us only two commandments, telling us that they fulfilled the law. Therefore, take Jesus at His word. Love her. Commit her to God, love her and relax.

    Blessings your way.

    If wife has been pushing scripture to justify her response, then she has to give equal weight to the scriptures that offer reasurance (Paul). And if she believes that Jesus Christ is the only Son of the Ever-Living God, then nothing in scripture can trump the words of Christ.

    And if she allows the writings of Paul or Leviticus to trump the words of Jesus, then her life is a testament the hypocrisy of Christians who profess Christ but choose to follow the teachings of flawed human beings.

    If our wife rejects the teachings of Jesus by clinging to the laws and condemnation of Leviticus and Paul, she chooses to stand with the Pharisees who chose the law over love – and earned the condemnation of Jesus.

  • ann

    Sorry for posting both pre-and-post edit responses!

  • Mary

    It seems that mom is in the crucible of life and faith. Like it or not, an implied covenant of Christian mothering is that if you pray, take your kids to church, send them to Christian camps and Christian high schools, God will reward your devotion with perfect children who get into Harvard, or Stanford or Wheaton or Westmount, get married to handsome employed spouses who love Jesus also, etc. etc. It’s a bummer when God doesn’t deliver and it’s more of a bummer when the devoted Christian mother realizes that she made and expected this covenant. Regardless of the sin issue, Mom may be dealing with painful loss of her dream of a handsome son-in-law, beautiful grandchildren and accolades from her family and friends about what a lovely daughter she raised. The son-in-law is a real loss. The beautiful children and accolades are not, and may include a lovely daughter-in-law who likes many of the same things that she does. It is a new normal, but my hope and my prayer is that Mom will come to understand that her daughter is who God made her wonderfully to be and that nothing “turned” her daughter, including how her daughter was parented. If Mom can see that no one is to blame, it may be easier for her to accept that homosexuality as a sin is a human construct, not one endorsed by a consistent loving God. And if, after a few months, Mom refuses to let it go, look her in the eye and ask, “Do you want to be right or do you want the relationship?”

  • Ellen

    I’m clinically depressed, in treatment (complete with therapy and medications) and I have to say that I don’t believe that this is an “out” for the mother to use so she doesn’t have to cope. I’m not exactly sure how to say this, but while ideas and concepts can get stuck in people’s heads, refusing to love and accept your child is neither a cause nor an effect of depression. This is absolutely something to talk over with your therapist, and absolutely something that you need to learn to “get over yourself” about (as a clinically depressed mom, to be clear who I am talking about, here).

  • Gordon

    So you’re assuming all or most of the advice she’s getting is truthful? Based on the way her husband describes his wife, her behavior and her attitude, I find that extremely unlikely.

    My original point is that this wife/mother does not need advice from a large variety of people. She needs to be talking to her daughter and her husband, preferrably at the same time. They should probably all be seeing a licensed family therapist together as well.

  • Gordon

    I’ll see your Ditto and raise you a Bravo!

  • Kelly Reeves

    Do what a father should do – Love you daughter and protect her from bullies including your wife/her mother

  • Jan Darlene Hastings

    It’s really hard to be kind and loving when someone else isn’t. I wish you success in maintaining your god-centered kindness.

  • George Joseph Hill

    For better or for worse. We all cope with loss differently and mom is exhibiting classic symptoms of grief. She needs space, and a husband who support her in the way he supports his daughter.

  • Ryan Fox

    Honestly, I’ll take a page out of Hinduism for this one: his daughter is his blood. She must come first. Not only that, but she is his child. Her parents are her entire world and will remain a significant part of what makes her the person she is. Having her mother reject her is bad enough, but having her father choose hatred and personal happiness over his responsibility to the life he chose to create and raise would be shattering.

  • Megan Steele

    As a daughter rejected by her mother (because somehow my mother getting knocked up was *my* fault), I have to agree with Ryan. I am 40 years old, finally getting my emotional crap together, after realizing all the damage being rejected by my mother caused. Lest anyone think I’m blaming my mother for nothing, both of my sisters and several relatives have mentioned her different treatment of me, and even my mother admitted to blaming me for her life not turning out how she wanted. To this father, I say, let your daughter continue to see your unfailing, unconditional love. If your wife is not mentally ill (or not too mentally ill to be in touch with reality), I would also suggest reading Timothy Kurek’s “The Cross in the Closet”, which would pair well with John’s “Unfair”, as both give a stunning insight into the religious treatment of gays. For a more intellectual/Biblical “reinterpretation”, I would also suggest Matthew Vines’s message (you should be able to find it on his FB page or by Googling it) and Jay Michaelson’s book, “God vs Gay”. The latter two men spent years studying Biblical history and the way those times change the modern interpretation of the Bible.

  • Charlotte Scott Burke

    God commands us to love one another as we love ourselves, not to judge, to love.

  • Hannah Grace

    Well said. I also thought that the very odd conflation of depression with a break from reality was a bit shocking and offensive – as if the mentally ill don’t already face enough stigma.

  • Hannah Grace

    To use ‘mental’ as in insult which implies that those who suffer from mental illnesses are somehow less able to contribute to society contributes to a stigma which can lead to people killing themselves, as surely as homophobia leads to people killing themselves. This goes against everything I was taught in my courses on theology & mental illness.

    There are some cool books out there by mental health nurse & theologian John Swinton. They’re pretty liberatory

  • Allie

    If her partner were a different race and mom was a racist, would you suggest that she should come visit without her partner? If you were married to someone of a different race, would you make that compromise just to avoid making mom uncomfortable?

  • spinning2heads

    Another thing to tell your wife, the mother of your daughter:

    This isn’t about her. It just isn’t. It is about her daughter, and her daughter’s life. It isn’t about her parenting. It isn’t about her religion. It isn’t about her wishes, dreams, any of it. It’s about her daughter’s life. And yes, that life will have some impact on her, but it isn’t her life to live.

    I think that’s the hardest piece for some parents to understand. because when a child is 2, it really is to a large extent about the parent, and the parent’s life. But as they grow older and more into themselves, it is less and less true. And you have to let them go.

  • spinning2heads

    I understand this intellectually, but I have a really hard time with the comparisons to grief. I didn’t die! You didn’t lose me, I’m standing right here. And just as my parents most likely expected me to be right-handed but learned when I started holding pens that I was left-handed, this is a new thing about me, that they learned about as I learned about it.

  • Matt

    It makes me uncomfortable as well, but think I have managed to wrap my head around it.

    First, grief comes into play with any loss, when reality conflicts with our idea of how it should be. Breaking up with a long-time partner, losing a job, and other “lesser” losses all need time to process and move on from. This is important to keep in mind–grief at the actual death of a loved one is just an extreme form of grief, not the only one.

    Second, the vast majority of LGBT people are born to straight, cisgender parents. These parents may love us dearly, but they are still human, and can only understand their experience. Furthermore, they have been conditioned to expect certain things of their children (marriage, children, etc.). They have also been conditioned to expect certain things based on the child’s sex assigned at birth (male or female). Thus, there are two ideas that parents have in their minds: The child themselves, and the gender and societal expectations of that same child.

    The conflict comes when parents collapse the two. The child and those expectations become inseparable as white on rice. Alternative paths are never even considered. The parent even believes that those expectations ARE their child. Remember, these parents do love their children. This is normal and human, and most of these expectations work for the vast majority of straight, cis people; it’s why they persist.

    Then you come out. I can imagine several things happening at once to the parent in question (extremely streamlined version):

    1. Their child’s expressed sexuality/gender identity are in direct conflict with their expectations.

    2. These expectations have been collapsed with the child–it’s not possible, in the parent’s mind, for them to be different.

    3. Yet, somehow, they are.

    4. Since they can’t be separated (in the parent’s mind), it then follows that the entire child will be lost.

    5. Thus, extreme grief, even with a healthy child standing right in front of them.

    Even if a parent can learn to pry their expectations off of their child, it will take time and they deserve the space to mourn the loss of those expectations, and the experiences that they will not have. This can be extremely frustrating; I know it well, but empathy is very important if they are ever to get past it.

  • Tracy

    Yes. As that mom, it took me about a day to let go of those expectations and realize I just wanted that relationship with my wonderful daughter and to continue to be involved in her life. My family is still a little annoyed that I needed that day, and I am too … with myself. But I’m also human and conditioned by a lifetime. Thank you for understanding that implied covenant that I hadn’t even known I’d bought into.

  • Kate

    Yes. It sounds like perhaps the mother may be one who has a difficult time understanding this concept, but she truly needs to understand and accept it in order to move forward. I hope she can, for the sake of the daughter and the letter-writer.

    And dad… many here have encouraged you to be patient with your wife during this time, and I agree. However, if after a while she refuses to change her perspective to the degree that you feel forced to make a choice…. choose your daughter. It’s the only way you’ll be able to be at peace with yourself.


    ~a straight mom with a gay son~

  • Kate

    Thankfully when my son came out, both my husband and myself were immediately accepting and supportive. But if I had been in the situation your dad is in, I would also choose to defend my child. And if the bully was someone who has claimed to love him always…. that would make me want to defend him even more.

    Kudos to your dad, and best wishes for you and your family.

  • spinning2heads

    Thank you for this explanation. It actually makes some more sense, now that I have the collapsing of the expectations with the child as a concept.

  • spinning2heads

    “About a day” is much much quicker than average. Good work! Most advise people to give their parents a year. Mine took longer. If you took only one day, that’s terrific!

  • Karen

    As one who was rejected by my mother, yet loved unconditionally by my father, I can honestly say, regardless of my parent’s relationship, I felt loved, and that’s what meant the world to me and helped me succeed in life. (My mother was also very concerned about what others would think. One would think I was an awful person the way she behaved.) To the Dad who wrote the letter, your daughter will thrive in your love. She’s very lucky to have your love and support. As far as your relationship with your wife. I think seeking couples counseling might be a good option. From my own marriage, I know how much this must hurt. My husband and I do not have children together, so my situation isn’t quite the same and may not have worked out the way it did had one of my sons said he was gay early in our relationship. (We’ve been married 8 years)

    There are some core beliefs that my husband and I fiercely disagree on. His beliefs seem to be based out of fear and I’d like to think my opposite point of view is based out of love (or as my husband says, some crazy, liberal, free spirit stuff.) Some of these opposing beliefs almost drove us apart, but somehow we’ve managed to get through them. He also believes being gay is a sin, which hurts my heart deeply. (One of my brothers is gay as well as some very dear friends…. all of whom are more loving than most Christians I know.) I know his stance, and he knows mine. I think what softened my view was, he is truly afraid of what might happen if he goes against the beliefs from his upbringing. When I’ve babbled on about how Jesus loves everybody, regardless, I’ve seen him look up like he’ll be struck by lightening if he accepts gayness, or any other point of view that is not in the fundamental Christian conservative likeness. These fear beliefs are who he is, and words alone are not going to change this. With that realization, we laid down a couple of ground rules I won’t bring up my beliefs around his family and he won’t be awful around my family or friends. We sometimes now talk about our views, especially when we find an interesting article or post about a touchy subject that may have some insight that we may both be able to relate. The eight years we’ve been together, he’s become more accepting of differences, though I still see him look up for that lightening bolt from time to time. 🙂

  • Jill

    Karen, yes to all of this. I truly believe that fear is that end-all dividing line. I don’t judge the people still locked in fear– I couldn’t, or I’d be judging myself as well. Fear is what kept me in lock-step faith for too long. I still have fears, don’t think it ever vanishes, but I have more determination than fear now.

    I do judge the fear itself, where it originates, and how easily it is disseminated as God’s word. I judge the ones using fear to harm others, to oppress, who replace fear doctrine above true connection with our Creator.

    Releasing fear takes time for all of us. May the love between you and your husband continue opening up room for releasing the fears that bind.

  • Jill

    Matt, you are so brilliant and compassionate. Wow. Not everyone has the patient generosity of spirit that you do, me included. 🙂

  • That group has grown so fast that the

  • NDaniels

    [Insane fundy tripe deleted}

  • NDaniels

    [More fundy tripe deleted]

  • NDaniels

    It is not insane to recognize that there is an order to Love, which is why a man does not Love his wife, in the same manner he loves his daughter, or a son, or his mother, or his father, or a friend; it is hypocritical to suggest because a mother Loves her daughter, and desires that she develop healthy relationships and friendships that are respectful of herself and others, in private, as well as in public, that some how a mother is not worthy of this same unconditional Love.