Ask Dr. Jayby Dr. Jay Nagdimon
Dear Dr. Jay,
I am a 17-year-old lesbian, and I have recently come out to my parents. I have been coming out to my friends at my new school. My problem is that both of my parents said cool and that it was okay, but my father says that a person's sexuality matures as they get older and that I can't be old enough to really know that I am a lesbian. My step-mom says that just because I say I am doesn't actually make me homosexual. I have yet to tell my real mother and my step-dad. I remember my mother saying that she is doesn't mind homosexuals, she is just glad that all her kids are straight.
Signed, Upset and Confused
Dear Upset and Confused,
It sounds like your father and step-mom are saying two different things at once: we accept you and we don't believe you. What parents often fail to realize is how meaningful the act of coming out is to a gay son or daughter. I'm sure you were hoping that they would reassure you of their love and acceptance and it must be very disappointing not to receive it without them second guessing you.
Let's first start with your feelings. I find that it is always helpful to understand yourself before you go ahead and try to figure out other people. If we boil down your father's and stepmother's responses, it would sound something like "you are too young to really know your sexual orientation." This is probably why you are upset. In a sense it is a put-down. Their reaction devalues all of the time you have spent coming to terms with your same-sex feelings. If they had gone through the coming out process themselves, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss what you have said. Since they haven't gone through the coming out process, we have to accept the fact that they are starting with some limitations. They are limited by their heterosexuality. They are limited by their knowledge of sexual orientation and they may be limited by their own prejudices and stereotypes.
Let's cut to the chase. You father and step-mother appear to hope that you aren't really a lesbian. If you want to really convince them, you need three things.
Of course you know reality. The trick is to help them accept reality. As for your mom and step-father, if you decide to come out to them, do so when you are getting along well with them. Give them a book to read after you have told them and always remember that parents have their own coming out process too.
You can e-mail Dr. Jay at DrJay@oasismag.com. He will try his best to respond to everyone, depending upon the volume of mail received.