When Your 13-Year-Old Daughter Comes Out

When your 13-year-old daughter comes out, you do not ask her if she's sure. You don't treat it like a weird phase she'll grow out of. You don't belittle or demean or diminish her feelings, just as you wouldn't for a heterosexual child who expresses an interest in the opposite sex. This isn't an anomaly. This isn't something that went wrong. This is a biological feeling every bit as integral to who she is as your particular preferences are to you. Only, after years of society's ignorance and cruelty, you're privileged enough to be considered "normal" while she will always in some way be treated as "deviant." Don't reinforce those horrible stereotypes and dogmas.

When your 13-year-old daughter comes out, you don't turn all weird and make it sexual. If she's gone through puberty, she should have a pretty good idea where her antenna is pointed, and it's okay for her to express that out loud. Again, don't diminish. I'm pretty sure you all knew by that age if you liked boys or girls "that way."

When your 13-year-old daughter comes out, is it okay to say, "I'm not surprised?" I honestly don't know. I don't pretend to know all the right things to say. But even so, I wasn't surprised. I could see the writing on the wall for a good while, but it's good to give someone space in these matters, to let the egg hatch on its own while you provide enough warmth to further things along. It's not like anyone was holding their breath around here. This isn't TMZ. "Is she or isn't she? The world must know!!" It wasn't like anything would change between us, except for maybe an addendum to the whole safe sex talk.

When your 13-year-old daughter comes out, you may feel like you did something right raising her well enough to feel safe in herself and her home, for not feeling the need to hide for half her life pretending to be something she's not, possibly marrying a man in order mask her true feelings out of a sense of shame, or a fear that she could lose us if we knew. By the way, if either of my kids felt for a second that being open about who they choose to love would result in me or their father denying or shunning them, I would be the biggest fucking failure as a parent.

Even so, when your 13-year-old daughter comes out, you may feel a flutter of panic. You have done your best to create a safe haven for her at home, but you will always worry about the people who fall outside that safety zone, who do think she should be ashamed, who might ridicule and reject her, who might shoot barbs at her, who might actually physically harm her for simply being who she is. You fleetingly think of the movie Boys Don't Cry and become sick to your stomach, because there are still people like that in this world. You might feel a desire to tell her to keep it under wraps so she can stay safe from the wolves out there, because the thought of something happening to your child makes your soul bleed.

But you must never ever do that. If you've given her the tools to live authentically, you can't take them away, anymore than you can prevent her from driving because she might have a wreck, or do her homework for her so she won't get an F. She is your daughter and she may share half of your DNA, but she is not an extension of you.

She is a person.

Finally, when your 13-year-old daughter comes out, you say she's awesome. You tell her you're proud of her for living fearlessly and out loud in this crazy world of ours that seeks to silence anyone who steps out of bounds.

And then you tell her to go unload the dishwasher, because she's only 13, and you still have a few years left to extract free household labor.

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