Straight Talk Advice

Demand for “curing” gay teen riles family

Sep 01, 2015

Family acceptance vital to LGBT teens’ health and welfare

Dear Straight Talk: My daughter, 17, is openly gay. My husband and I and her siblings have no problem accepting this and our Christian church accepts everyone. The problem is with my mother-in-law. Her church believes homosexuality is a terrible sin and that gays are condemned to hell. She quotes scripture on this (which we disagree with) and says we must “cure” our daughter of her “affliction”. Her minister claims to have cured gay teens and she wants us to force her to have sessions with him. Furthermore, our daughters share a room and she insists we end this arrangement before something “terrible” happens (which is absurd). Her insistence that she is following the Word of God and our refusal to agree is creating huge family tension. How can we resolve this respectfully? —Mom, 42, Santa Rosa, California

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

It's so unfortunate when people use God's name against others. The verses commonly used against gays are actually reinterpretations. John’s original script was addressing adultery and promiscuity not heterosexuality. I’m glad your daughter has the support she does.

Molly 23, Oakland, California Ask me a question

Stand up for your daughter. Your mother-in-law isn’t the only person who will be hateful to her and your support will help her immensely. Whenever she starts in, shut her down civilly and politely with 100 percent consistency as if she were a small child: “We are supporting our daughter in her choices and will not discuss this matter again.” Excuse yourself if she continues. I doubt you’ll be able to enforce love and respect from your kids toward her, but you can require that they be polite and kind. Give them the freedom to leave the room or disengage if she broaches the subject.

Taylor 18, Santa Rosa, California Ask me a question

Please back up your daughter. Don't, under any circumstances, give in to Grandma. She doesn't deserve respect for this opinion. Conversion therapy is extremely damaging and emotionally abusive.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

The period your mother-in-law grew up in explains but doesn't excuse her behavior. My grandma, born in 1933 and raised God-fearing Catholic, strongly believes marriage is for one man and one woman, but she doesn’t judge others. With an understanding attitude, tell your mother-in-law privately that it is God’s job to judge, not hers, and that if she can't keep her opinions and accusations to herself, she will be excluded from her granddaughter’s life.

Christina 21, Marysville, California Ask me a question

There may not be a solution. Make sure your daughter knows her grandma loves her but her “blinders” don’t allow acceptance of homosexuality. Hopefully she is respectful to your daughter in her presence. Explain the situation to your daughter and assure her of your unconditional support.

Dear Mom: Hate the sin, love the sinner. If only your mother-in-law would follow this advice, too. Controversy over the nature and morality of homosexuality (and Christianity) aside, what is true is that family rejection of LGBT teens results in eight times more suicide, six times more depression, and triple the drug abuse and HIV exposure than those accepted by their families. Conversion therapies have been outlawed in several states, with more following suit, and are discredited by the American Psychiatric Association and every major psychological and pediatric organization.

Bravo for rejecting this. Your support is a lifesaver. Regarding incest probability, our readers indicate it is far-fetched in this situation, nonetheless, I recommend twin beds.

In addition to the panelists’ great advice, your husband taking the lead in speaking to his mother, using the parent-speaking-to-child model Molly suggests, is the surest way to resolve her meddling and alleviate concerns that you are the problem, too. Should this fail, restrict your kind visits with her to luncheons when your daughter isn’t present.

Editor’s Note: There is no scientific consensus as to a singular cause of homosexuality. Study and research as we might, the how’s and why’s are not definitive and it appears to be a blend of genetic, biological, in-utero, hormonal and sociological factors which varies from individual to individual.

Most LGBT individuals, however, do know from a young age that they are gender nonconforming. That is why I recommend anyone who is questioning or confused about their sexual orientation to take our Am I Gay or Straight? test that we ran on June 2, 2015. Everyone, both straight and gay today, seems to want and need confirmation and, according to our readers, this test helps a lot.

For families with a teen who feels sure enough that he or she is LGBT to come out to you, I hope you understand that acceptance and love is the best possible response. Indeed, it can be lifesaving. That doesn’t mean rules and boundaries stop, you are still a parent after all. A good free resource for families is A Practitioner's Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children.

To family members and friends of a LGBT individual, or if you are a LGBT individual yourself, I wish you blessings on your journey to love and acceptance. —Lauren


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  1. By Margie, age 17, from Sacramento, CA on 09/01/2015

    This literally makes me scream, as I am in a very similar situation!  I am gay and have known it since even long before puberty.  I know that this is the way that I was born and that I did not choose it, just as straight people do not “choose” to be straight and they also cannot be “cured” and made gay any more than someone gay can be “cured ” and made straight.  I am very lucky in that my parents and sister totally accept me with my sexual orientation.  However, some “well meaning” relatives keep urging my parents to get me psychiatric help for my condition.  In their case it is not even for religious reasons, they just think that being gay is a mental disorder that can be cured.

    I know it has been written about many times in Straight Talk, but since it has been raised again in this week’s column, I also want to comment on the gay/straight undressing and room sharing issue.  My straight sister and I have always shared a room, and it is no problem whatsoever.  Yes, we undress in front of each other and see each other nude like any sisters who share a room.  No, it does NOT give me a sexual turn on and make me want to have sex with my sister!  That is absurd!  My sister has no problem in this regard.  We have twin beds in our room, but it is because that is what we both prefer, not because it would raise sexual issues if we shared a bed.  In fact, we have shared a bed many times when staying in the guest room at our grandparents’ house and on family trips where we stayed with our parents in hotel rooms with 2 queen beds, and it did not raise any sexual issues whatsoever.

    Margie

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  2. By Dina, age 16, from Tacoma, Washington on 09/02/2015

    This also really burns me up.  The reason that we gays cannot be cured is that THERE IS NOTHING TO CURE!  It’s just the way we are, just as straight people are the way they are.  The suggestion that a girl who happens to be gay shouldn’t share a room with her own sister because “something terrible” might happen also really angers me, as the implication is that a girl who is gay is a sexual predator who would prey upon her own sister which is totally stupid.  Sharing a room, including undressing and nudity, is a total non-issue as many who have written to Straight Talk have said, as I can say with confidence as someone who is gay who has always shared a room with my sister who is also totally comfortable with the arrangement.  It is also a non-issue with my straight friends when we have sleepovers and slumber parties and everybody undresses in front of everybody.  My straight friends have no problem with me in this regard.  It is only girls who don’t really even know me who have problem and make cruel comments to me in the locker room and even the girls’ bathroom, as if I’m in the bathroom looking for sex when I’m just there to go to the bathroom like everybody else!

    Dina

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  3. By S.H., age 17, from Anaheim, CA, USA on 09/04/2015

    I have a close friend ever since elementary school who recently came out as being gay.  This did not surprise me as I had long suspected it.  It makes no difference to me as far as our friendship goes.  She has a girlfriend and has no sexual interest in me, but we still can remain close friends.  The problem is my sister who I have to share a room with.  She has a major problem with my friend continuing to have sleepovers in our room since she can no longer feel comfortable undressing in front of her and sleeping in the same room.  I find this totally stupid as I reminded my sister that my friend has been having sleepovers in our room and my sister had undressed in front of her and my friend had seen her nude many, many, times without incident.  However, my sister says she can no longer feel comfortable. I said OK, if your not comfortable then go change in the bathroom.  She said it would be a hassle and she shouldn’t have to leave her own room to change.  So I said OK, I’ll have my friend leave the room when your changing since she’s not interested in looking at you anyway.  Even that wasn’t good enough for her as she said that she still wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in the same room with my friend, as if my friend would try to sexually assault her in her sleep???!  Give me a break! But our mom says that my sister shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable in her own room, so if I want to have sleepovers with her, I have to do it at her house, but she’s still welcome to come to our house otherwise.  I think this is totally unfair since it’s my room too, and my sister is still allowed to have her friends over for sleepovers, and I undress in front of them and couldn’t care less when they see me nude.

    S.H.

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    1. By Melinda, age 16, from Lodi, California on 09/04/2015

      My situation is the exact opposite of S.H.‘s.  I am completely comfortable with my gay sister.  We are very close and actually like sharing a room and being together and being there for each other. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have her shoulder to cry on when I’m upset.  The rest of our family also accepts her the way she is.  As with many sisters, I am much more comfortable with undressing and nudity with her that with anyone else, and am even comfortable sharing the bathroom with her “on the facility.”

      However, my best friend comes from a family that belongs to a very anti-gay church.  She quotes the Bible and makes anti-gay comments to me all the time which I find offensive and have told her so.  She also refuses to come for sleepovers any more now that she knows that my sister is gay, even though as in S.H.‘s situation she had slept in our room and had undressed and been nude in front of my sister many times before she knew that my sister was gay and there was never any problem.

      This is causing a real strain in our friendship, and I am starting to think it may bring it to an end which makes me sad.  However, if it is a choice between my friend and my sister, it is a no brainer for me.  I will take my sister!

      Melinda

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      1. By Shelly, age 16, from Sylvania, Ohio on 09/05/2015

        I want to commend you for supporting and standing up for your sister!  I don’t know if I could have survived coming out without the love and support of my sister.  I was able to confide in her that I was gay long before I could tell anyone else.  As everyone else has said, sharing a room, undressing, and nudity were no different than before and no different than with any sisters, gay or straight.  She really helped me in having “the talk” with our conservative religious parents.  While they were not thrilled that I am gay and I don’t think they ever will be, they have come to accept my sexual orientation.  A “helpful” person from their church tried to tell them about a counselor who supposedly can “cure” gays by prayer and meditation and asking Jesus for “forgiveness” but they declined to make me go through this, and I know that I could not be “cured” because this is just the way I am, and there is nothing to cure.

        Similar to what Dina says, my real friends accept me as I am and have no concerns about the “undressing” issue that has been written about so much in Straight Talk.  It is those who don’t really even know me who worry about this and are uncomfortable with me in this regard.  For once and for all, those of us who are gay have no sexual interest in girls who are straight and do not get a sexual turn on and want to have sex when we see straight girls undressed or naked.

        Shelly

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  4. By D.T., age 36, from Santa Rosa, CA on 09/06/2015

    This week’s column and the comments help to ease my mind.  My 12 year old daughter frequently spends the night with her best friend who shares a room with her 17 year old sister who happens to be gay.  My daughter told me that her friend’s sister was gay and had a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend matter of factly, and did not seem to be the least bit concerned about it.  I do not believe that most gays are sexual predators just as most straight people are not predators either.  Even so, in the back of my mind I could not help but have some concerns about my daughter sleeping in the same room with and presumably undressing in front of and being seen nude by someone who is gay.  When she was very young, I had “the talk” with my daughter about not allowing anyone to touch her in her private areas or doing anything else inappropriate and to tell me immediately if anything ever happened.  I casually remind her of this from time to time.  I thought about talking to her about this specifically with regard to her friend’s sister.  However, I don’t want to raise concerns for my daughter or prejudice her about her friend’s sister when I have no indication that she has done anything wrong or is likely to.  From what everyone has written in this week’s column and in previous columns where this issue has been addressed, I now believe that there is really no reason for serious concern unless my daughter tells me of a problem and I am confident that she would.  I therefore think it is best to just leave the situation alone rather than try to find a problem where none appears to exist.  I think this would be a good approach for the others who have been written about who appear to have unwarranted concerns.

    D.T.

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    1. By Nancy, age 40, from Sabastopol, California on 09/06/2015

      I agree that you made the correct decision, as I was in a similar situation.  My daughters are 16 and 10 and share a room.  My older daughter has a long time close friend who came out as gay.  She had been having frequent sleepovers in the girls’ room which gave me concern when she came out as gay.  I wasn’t concerned about my older daughter as I know she can handle herself, but was concerned about my younger daughter.  When I told my older daughter that I was concerned she asked me, “what exactly are you worried about?”  After giving it some thought, I did not have a good answer. I realized that this was just a gut reaction as while I try not to be prejudiced, due to my upbringing I am just not totally comfortable with the idea of homosexuality.  However, I realized that I really had no valid reason to be concerned.  I have know this girl for years and she is a very nice girl and am very confident that she is not a sexual predator who would prey upon a younger girl.  Additionally, her sister would always be there and certainly would not permit anything to happen in the highly unlikely event that anything was attempted.  The three of them had been undressing together and seeing each other nude for a long time without a problem, and I realized that there was no harm in this since they were still all girls.  Therefore, I realized that I was seeing a problem where none existed and changed my view on this.

      Nancy

      P.S.  They have continued to have sleepovers and there has not been any problem

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  5. By Carolyn, age 56, from Redding, ca usa on 09/06/2015

    Loren, I cringed when I read your repeat of the old cliche, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” I have never heard this phrase used for anything except judging people and feeling ok about it. If indeed, as I believe, gays are who they are, not something separate from their identity, it would be like grandma saying, “I hate the color of your eyes, they nauseate me. But remember, I love you!”
    She may never accept that facet of her granddaughter, but she can be prevented from causing pain and unpleasantness.
    But I urge you to really think about all the meaning that tired bumper sticker saying really has.

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 09/06/2015

      Point taken. Thank you.

      Reply to this comment

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