My Angry Lesbian
I often use the term “delicate flower” when describing a young girl who is sensitive, ultra feminine, frilly, bubbly, and/or emotionally fragile. My daughter, Claire, is none of these things. Growing up she wasn’t interested in Barbie’s or Dolls or dressing up like a princess. She liked playing with boys, dinosaurs, legos, mud, building things, drawing, and creating things using clay, duct tape, paperclips, or any other office supply she could get her hands on.
She was a rough and tumble kinda girl. She was tough, rarely cried, and when she fell and hit her head, she typically laughed. She was even-keeled emotionally and often shocked me with her mature observations and outlook.
Growing up, Claire was happy, and silly, and creative, and very easy-going. I loved being a stay-at-home-mom and raising her. She was such a joy and I often said, “If I could have 10 more like her…”
Could My Baby Be Gay?
I remember observing her throughout her childhood and I don’t know what made me feel this way but a few times I thought my daughter could be gay. I even said it to a friend as I watched the kids interacting when they were about 7 years old. As she entered middle school I noticed she was becoming more masculine in the way she walked, stood, and carried herself. She refused to wear dresses when she was about 5 years old so I knew she wasn’t going to be a beauty queen.
I didn’t impose any expectations on her because I wanted her to be happy being herself. Basically, I followed her lead and supported her creative ideas without steering her in one direction or another based on my own perspectives on gender. My love for her taught me to have an open mind instead of being concerned about labels and how she would fit into this world. I simply embraced and accepted her qualities and encouraged her to be herself.
My Daughter is a Lesbian
Claire and I have always had a good mom/daughter relationship built on love, admiration, and respect. I have become a better person since I gave birth to her back in 2000. She has taught me the meaning of true love.
During a time when Claire was struggling with puberty, her parent's divorce, and conflict with her father, she was also trying to understand what sexuality meant and how it applied to her. She discovered her feelings toward women meant she was gay.
One day back in September of 2014, we were having dinner at her favorite place ‘Panda Express’ and we were talking about her recent struggles with her father. She was confused about why her father was always getting on her about her clothing choices. This had been a point of contention between the two of them in recent years. I explained to her that he has certain ideas about the way people should look on the outside. “He is entitled to his opinion but that is his deal, not yours” I said. I explained to her that as long as she wasn’t showing her private parts or intentionally offending anyone with explicit words on her clothes, she can wear whatever made her feel comfortable.
I told Claire “I am your biggest fan and will always advocate for you, support you, care for you, and love you, no matter what.” She got a little teary eyed, which is rare for Claire, but I think hearing that after feeling the opposite from her father, triggered her emotion.
She started talking about the boys in school and how immature they are and I asked her if there were any boys she was attracted to. She replied “EWWW no way, boys are so gross and immature and disrespectful to girls.” So then I asked “Are there any girls you are attracted to?” And she looked at me and said “Well mom, actually yes because I’m gay.” I said, “Okay well, I kinda thought you were and I’m glad you told me; I love you no matter what.” Claire seemed to immediately relax, like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She said, “Darn mom I was planning on telling you soon but I was going to decorate the inside of my closet with rainbows and surprise you by opening the doors and announcing “I’m gay.” We both started laughing and I told her she could still do that if she wanted to.
Not knowing anything about being gay, I asked Claire a few questions about how she came to this conclusion, and when, etc. She said she always felt different. Her friends would talk about the boys they were attracted to but she never felt the same way. She felt an attraction towards girls but not in a sexual way, more like a “She seems cool, I’d like to get to know her better” way. She struggled to find the words to describe what she was going through. Claire told me she had suppressed these feelings and kept them a secret because she thought they were wrong. She started to accept that she was gay around the end of seventh grade. A few of her friends admitted they were gay, bisexual or pan. When she finally “came out”, she said she felt liberated.
It felt as though I were having an out-of-body experience as I listened to my 13 year-old daughter describe her revelation to me.
In the months that followed, it was definitely a process that both of us had to work through and understand. We both had to understand each other’s struggle. I’m not gonna lie, it was a struggle for me to first understand what she was going through and how it differed from my experience when I was her age, and second realize her future would be different than I had imagined it would be. We all envision our children’s future and unconsciously move them in that direction. Although I was open to support whatever she wanted to do or whoever she was supposed to be, I had to switch directions…I suppose. It’s hard to put into words what I was feeling.
Eighth and ninth grade were probably the most difficult time for her. In eighth grade she was very negative about everything and school was last on her list of priorities. She was under immense pressure trying to understand where she fit in this world. Her performance in school was not even on her radar.
She struggled to make sense of all the “haters” who condemned her simply because of her sexuality…which when you distill it down, means who she loves. I never looked at it this closely because I never had to. Now that my child was facing these issues, every day was a new, eye-opening revelation of her struggle.
I’m sad to admit I had a hard time relating to all she was going through and part of me was in denial. I knew many people were not accepting of gay people, but I didn’t realize just how many. She continually sought after information to prove to me all of the hate towards homosexuals so I could understand just exactly what she was up against.
Claire was becoming more vocal and feeling free to express herself in obvious ways. She wore T-shirts that made statements like “Wish You Were Queer” and “Equality.” She bought everything rainbow; flags, t-shirts, socks, shorts, hats, bracelets, etc. Admittedly I was a little conflicted with how vocal she was becoming and told her she didn’t need to shout her gayness from the rooftops. So I did resist a little when it came to her self-expression in terms of how bold she was becoming. I realize now that this is normal behavior for someone who is newly “out.”
Bow Down to Her “Gayness”
Claire began consuming article after article on the civil rights gay people were not entitled to. She watched documentaries about the evolution of the gay rights movement and all its hardships. Her anger increased the more LGBTQ information she gathered from the internet, from books, and social media. The oppression “her people” suffered politically and religiously infuriated her. Claire made it her mission to enlighten me, and those around her, to the atrocities of the gay community – and other minorities as well.
A seemingly normal conversation would become a lesson in how much I didn’t understand. I didn’t even realize I was being rude by calling Claire’s androgynous classmate “she”. “They don’t use personal pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’, they are referred to as ‘they or them’ mom…” Claire said. I found this extremely confusing and a bit annoying actually; thinking I now have to re-learn everything I was taught about the English language and “labels.” So I did what most parents would do and rolled my eyes and told her “Your generation is so totally f*$@ed up.” Which was even more offensive to Claire than anything I had said prior to that moment. I apologized and explained to her that every generation feels the same way about each generation that comes after theirs…since the beginning of time…it’s just the way it is.
Every TV show, every commercial, every comment anyone made about almost anything, she would find fault and somehow relate it back to how offensive said TV show or commercial or comment is to minorities. She was passionate and driven, and dedicated to making it known she was angry about people’s ignorance. She continually reminded me how much I didn’t understand.
This opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at people and life because, admittedly, I was living in my own little (small Midwestern-town-mentality) bubble. After many discussions where Claire educated me on her findings, I too, wanted things to change. Once I realized the gravity of her reality, I decided it would be important for me to remain open and eager to learn. I told Claire that I wanted to support her but I don’t know what I don’t know so please teach me. She tried, but because she was so angry, she was impatient and got frustrated easily which caused tension and, therefore, arguments.
Claire was also frustrated that she didn’t see any role models around her or in the media. “Ellen’s a great role model!” I often said. But Claire wasn’t satisfied that she only has one person in mainstream media that represents gay America. The majority of books, TV shows and movies lacked gay/lesbian characters and if they did finally have a character that “represents”, the role was insignificant, the character was hyper-sexualized and/or was killed off. She felt alone, rejected by society, and misunderstood. She continued to fight.
I tried to find gay/lesbian groups in our area but was unsuccessful so I started a Meetup group for parents of gay/lesbian teens. We made a few new friends and it helped her find people that she could relate to but ultimately it didn’t satisfy her need to “fit in.”
Spring of 2015, Claire was well aware of the impending Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage and talked about it often. This was one of her main frustrations. “If two people love each other, regardless of their gender, why isn’t it legal for them to marry and enjoy the same benefits as hetero couples?” she asked.
As we planned for our first annual Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015 that it is now legal for same sex couples to marry. Claire was ecstatic and the pride parade was amazing that year. The outpouring of love and the feeling of inclusion was contagious. It was critical for Claire to be there, in that moment, feeling those feelings of community and camaraderie that one significant battle had been won for “her people.”
Frustrated With Her Education
As Claire entered freshman year of high school (Fall 2016) she continued to struggle with the school curriculum. She was disappointed with her health class and specifically the lack of attention to mental health in teens (especially LGBT youth), sexual assault, and sex education. She felt the material on these topics was insufficient, one-sided, and apathetic. "These are real issues that people my age are dealing with so why aren’t these topics being discussed in school?" she asked. Statistics she found for a letter she wrote to the board of education expressing her concerns:
More than 40% of LGB students have seriously considered suicide, and 29% reported having attempted suicide during the past 12 months. – Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2016
When you call (National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255) you will be connected to a skilled, trained, counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
Nearly 80% of female victims of rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25. (CDC, 2010) More than a quarter of male victims of rape (27.8%) experienced their first rape before the age of 10. (CDC, 2010)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network Website or call 800-656-4673
According to DoSomething.org youth between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 50% of all new STD’s even though they only make up 25% of the sexually active population.
The Board of Education responded but not in the way she had hoped. I encouraged her not to give up and email the principal of the school. He responded positively and met with Claire to discuss her concerns and possible options.
April 2016 Claire told me that sometimes, when she’s at school, she wonders what it would feel like to jump over the railing from the third floor. Or when she’s walking home from the bus, would the pain stop if she stepped in front of a moving vehicle?
Claire had been struggling with depression for a year but I thought I could help her by teaching her how to deal with her sadness and anger. While seeing a counselor and psychiatrist, I also encouraged her to journal, exercise, eat healthy, find things that made her happy, etc. I also tried homeopathic remedies. Apparently, her feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and frustration, were becoming overwhelming.
I called the psychiatrist immediately and set up an appointment for an evaluation. Claire assured me she wasn’t going to do anything irrational but she just didn’t want to feel “this sadness” anymore.
Long story short – Claire started on anti-depressants and about three weeks later she said to me “So this is what it feels like to be happy.” I was relieved that the medication was working and noticed a significant change in her overall mood. She was less angry, more tolerant, more talkative, she laughed more, and wanted to do more. As much as I didn’t want to put her on medication, I was out of other solutions. It was the right decision for her – for now.
Claire is stable and is enjoying her life, for the most part. She still has hormonal days, she struggles with everyday life as a lesbian teen, and the normal stresses of school, but she can cope with these things more effectively with her depression under control.
Let me know if you have questions or comments. I will help in any way I can.
Feel free to share this post if you feel it can help raise awareness and help someone else. Thanks!
See my post “How Divorce Effected My Child”
See my post “She's Contemplating Suicide”