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My Daughter Is Gay

A mother’s journey to acceptance.

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Illustration showing old photo of author and her daughter and current photo of author and her daughter
Andrea D'Aquino
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In 1990 I was juggling a full-time job, a hyper six-year-old son, a tumultuous marriage, and the impending birth of my second child.  I was 30, had longed for a daughter, and was ecstatic when she made her grand entrance into my world.

She was wrinkled and swollen, but beautiful to her Mama. My life was now complete. Little did I realize that with her arrival, I would begin a parental journey I never expected or wanted to take.

She was an adorable toddler who on Saturday nights sat patiently while I wound her long, straight blonde hair onto pink foam rollers so that it would be gloriously curly for Sunday services.

At 10, she donned the rapper look, complete with boy shorts, ball cap, chains, and Reeboks. I thought the look was ridiculous, but my girlfriends assured me that it was only a tomboy phase.

By 16, she was a striking teenage girl, though not a typical one. There were no hours-long phone calls, giggly girlfriends over for slumber parties or hormonal boys picking her up for dates. Tapping into my mother’s intuition, I apprehensively suspected my baby girl was gay. I asked outright, but only received vague responses or an angry, “I don’t know!”

Well, her Mama knew. And I was scared and unprepared.

Having been raised as an ultra-conservative evangelical Christian, I didn’t know where to turn. I was navigating a new and lonely road. I was completely lost.  My faith had not paved a way for me to accept the fact that I might have a gay child.  Pity and silent condemnation emanated from those I considered close friends. I felt stigmatized and abandoned by the very people who preached love.

My sense of guilt was overwhelming. “This” had to be my fault. Was it the divorce or the maybe-too-soon-remarriage?  Had I been too strict or not strict enough?

In his book Understanding Sexual Identity, psychologist Mark A. Yarhouse details the difference between guilt and shame. "When people experience guilt, they understand, 'I should not have done that.' Shame, on the other hand, says to them, 'I should not be that.'”

Was I trying to shame my daughter into being straight? Was I so closed to what she was experiencing because of my religious upbringing and fear of alienation from others that she couldn’t trust me with her truth?

At 18, she chopped off the beautiful hair and masculine clothes became her wardrobe of choice. She went from beautiful to boyish overnight and the transformation became the hardest part of this new normal for me to accept.

She had come out, loud and proud.

Along with emotions that ran the gamut from embarrassment to frustration to rage, I felt a sense of grief. In my dream for my daughter, she wears a white dress, strolls down the aisle on her dad’s arm, and exchanges vows with her handsome groom. In my new reality, there was no aisle and there was no groom. The traditional dream I envisioned for her was just that – MY dream.  And it was gone.

Susan J. Leviton, a licensed family therapist, writes that parental rejection of an LGBTQ child “causes severe damage to self-esteemtrust, security, future relationships, and one’s view of the world.” Rejecting or shunning my child were unthinkable options, so I had to find a way to accept my daughter for who she was and not whoever I wanted her to be.

The faith I embraced from childhood served as the slap needed to awaken me from a nightmare of doubt and helplessness. God reminded me that I was chosen to be the mother of THIS child. She was entrusted to me to protect, nurture and guide; but most of all, to love unconditionally.

I may have given her life, but it was hers to live, not mine. She was a gift, given with no stipulations to love her “regardless” or “in spite of” or “because of” but to love her, period. And I do.

The road to acceptance was not a smooth one for me. I stumbled and made some horrendous blunders. The guard rails and boundaries I erected to keep her safe became barriers that prevented her from exploring who she was, which was an LGBTQ young adult.

The solid and supportive relationship I’ve been able to cultivate with my daughter has been worth the pain we experienced.  She is my joy. She never fails to amaze me with her kind heart, way of championing the marginalized and bullied, and hilarious sense of humor.

She has met a wonderful young woman and plans a move this summer to a far-from-Mama state to begin her own journey towards her own dream.

We as parents can’t force children to be anyone other than who they are, nor do we have the right to tell them who they can and cannot love. We raise them to be independent adults with the capabilities to map out their own paths and create their own tomorrows. As children mature, our role as a parent becomes more companion than guide.

I have regrets, too many to count because no parent is perfect. I had to listen to my child and hear her truth. I had to love my child more than my dream. I had to let go of guilt and blame. Most importantly, I had to forgive myself for my mistakes.

Recently, my 33-year-old daughter asked me to accompany her on a different kind of journey. Mama, when I decide to marry, do you think you could walk me down the aisle?  I gave her the answer I knew my daughter, friend and future bride needed to hear.

I do.

Can you relate to the author's journey? Let us know in the comments below.

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