Straight Talk Advice

Aug 13, 2013

Sisters want out of visitation with Dad and new beau

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 16 and have a 13-year-old sister. Our parents are divorced and we've always lived with our mom. We used to see Dad every other weekend, but he moved so now we just see him two weeks in the summer and one week over Christmas. We still talk a lot and have a good relationship. We're scheduled to visit soon.

Dad lives in a one-bedroom apartment and when we we're there, we stay in the bedroom and he sleeps on the couch. He just told us he is "coming out of the closet" and his partner, "George" is living with him and they plan on getting married now that it's legal. I asked what the sleeping arrangements will be and he said "we'll work it out." We're not that surprised to find out Dad is gay and we can accept that. However, we're uncomfortable staying in a one-bedroom apartment along with his partner when we don't even know what the sleeping arrangements will be. We would like to get out of the visit, but we don't want to hurt our dad. What can we do? —Sacramento, Calif.

Kira 21, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

Your dad isn't going to put you in an awkward situation. He just wants to see his kids, as a parent should. Because you're feeling uncomfortable, talk to him! Don't ruin your relationship just because you didn't have the courage to speak up. You could have a really fun time! Keep an open mind and go!

Breele 19, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

Ask yourself if you would still be trying to get out of your visit if “George” was a woman. This is your father! If your relationship is as decent as you say, don't give up visitations over a sleeping arrangement that can be easily solved through polite communication. Also let him know you also want some “daddy-daughter” time with just him.

Brie 22, San Francisco Ask me a question

It's simple: Sleep on an air mattress in the living room. You can change clothes in the bathroom or ask for a partition if you need more privacy. It's unreasonable to expect him to give up his bedroom now that he's in a relationship. Your relationship with your dad is really important and it sounds like he really cares about you. Just go. If you hate the situation, you can ask to go home sooner.

Katelyn 18, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

What about a hotel? Gay or straight, no teenager wants to be squished into a one-bedroom apartment with a total stranger who happens to be lovey-dovey with their parent. Actually, most teenagers are wary just meeting such a person.

Treyvon 19, Yorba Linda, Calif. Ask me a question

If Dad was with a woman would you feel the same way? Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of gay households and they solve that by labeling them as “sinful.” Fortunately, this is not western civilization's current path. Open-minded people are happier in the end.

Dear Sacramento: I hope the panel has convinced you to go — open-mindedly! Families have found personal privacy in small living spaces for centuries so I hope you don't insist upon a hotel. I guarantee Dad and George have put a lot of thought into being fantastic hosts. I'm betting you have a great time. (My suggestion matches Brie's: Create a private space in the living room and give the bedroom to the couple.)

You sound like kind, caring daughters. Please realize how much courage it took your father to “come out” and possibly be rejected by his own blood. I've known some rejected fathers and it hurts for life.

Editor's Note: After our very first column centering around gay bashing (FEB 20, 2008), the ringing and unanimous outpouring of support for gays from our mostly-straight panel made it clear to me that a "changing of the guard" was occurring in society and rights like gay marriage were just a few voting years away. Just five and a half years later, it's been like popcorn with 14 countries legalizing gay marriage (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Uruguay), along with several U.S. states. Many more states and countries on the verge. Even the Catholic church, always in staunch judgment of gays, softened when Pope Francis responded to a question this summer about gay priests with, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Since the popcorn started popping, we are getting more and more mail like today's letter and the one last month from the teens worried about being bullied over their mother's lesbian wedding (JUL 16, 2013).

I do hope kids will be as accepting of parents who come out as they expect parents to be of them if they were to come out. Rejection can come from either side of the parent/child divide and it destroys families and hurts terribly in both directions.

The key is to judge by merit not sexuality. As panelist Kendal (then 21), stated so aptly in the FEB 20, 2008 column referenced above, "My dad and brothers have always been homophobic. The irony is we have two gay uncles in the family and they never speak ill of them and rarely mention their sexuality. Once you know someone, their sexuality doesn’t top the characteristic list." —Lauren

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  1. By Misty, age , from Anaheim, CA, USA on 08/13/2013

    You say that you can accept your dad being gay, so it sounds to me like this really has little or nothing to do with him and his partner being gay.  I think the gay issue is really a “red herring.” It sounds like it is a privacy issue which is understandable, as you will be sharing a one bedroom apartment with a male whom you don’t even know.  That is the real issue.  My sister and I have to share our room with our 8 year old stepbrother when he stays with us since we have no extra space.  Having him sleep on the couch wouldn’t work since he goes to bed before anyone else.  Even though he’s only 8, he’s still a boy so my sister and I wouldn’t be comfortable undressing in front of him.  We wouldn’t have a problem if he were a girl.  They got us a privacy partician which is very inexpensive that we pull out when it’s time to get dressed and undressed when he’s here.  We obviously don’t need it the rest of the time when it’s just me and my sister.  This solves the major issue.  We’d rather not have to share our room with a boy, but that’s just the way it is and it’s hard to complain when the privacy issue is taken care of.  I really think that something like this should work in your situation and you could create a private space for you and your sister.  Since you’re sisters, I assume that you don’t need privacy from each other and didn’t have a problem before when you stayed in the only bedroom. It’s still going to be tight quarters, but sometimes you just have to accept things as they are when the situation is not ideal.  It’s also tight quarters with 3 of us in our room when our stepbrother stays with us but we manage to deal with it as long as we don’t have to undress in front of him.

    Misty

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  2. By Janine, age None, from Petaluma, CA on 08/13/2013

    Does Straight Talk steal letters from Dear Abby or what?  I just read the same thing in Dear Abby a few days ago!

    My sister and I have a similar situation, although our dad started living with a woman (much younger than him and our mom), not a man in a 1 bedroom apartment after he and our mom separated, but I don’t really see what difference it makes that Sacramento’s dad is in a gay rather than a straight relationship.  My sister and I have to sleep on the sleeper couch out in the open with no privacy and change in the bathroom.  We’re very uncomfortable with the arrangement.  Our dad’s new girlfriend has no sense of modesty and doesn’t even put on a bathrobe when she goes to take a shower and walks around the apartment in just her bra and thong (and sometimes just her thong). Even though we’re girls, it still makes us uncomfortable and embarrassed since we don’t even know her that well.  When we tried to nicely tell her that it bothered us she said we were being “silly” since “we’re all girls and are all the same.”  We don’t even see our own mom this way.  The way their apartment is set up, I don’t see how a partition would work. 

    Even though we love our dad, we now hate having to visit him and would rather stay home where we have our own room and have privacy.

    Janine

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  3. By Robin, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 08/13/2013

    It shouldn’t be that difficult to work something like this out, and it’s no reason to cancel your visit with your dad who you only see a couple of times a year.

    My sister and I went on a weeklong trip withour our dad and our new stepmom this summer.  We all stayed in one hotel room with 2 Queen beds which is much closer quarters than a 1 bedroom apartment.  It was no problem and we had a fun time.  Our dad changed in the bedroom while my sister and I changed in the bedroom.  It didn’t bother us to change in front of our new stepmom since we’re all females, and she didn’t go out of her way to look at us when we were naked anyway.  Since we’re girls and our dad’s her husband, she could change whenever and where ever she wanted, so she had it the easiest even though she’s the new one in the family.  We all wore pajamas to bed and nobody felt uncomfortable. 

    I agree that it would have been different if our dad was gay and had married a man, but we could have handled it and worked things out and still had a good time.  The point is that there are ways to deal with these issues and it shouldn’t prevent kids and their parents being together after a divorce or separation.

    Robin

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  4. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 08/13/2013

    Janine—Of course, we don’t steal letters from Dear Abby—LOL! A couple of times, over the years, people have written both of us at the same time and both letters happened to hit the press around the same time.

    We just got this nice note from “Sacramento”: “Dear Lauren—Nothing personal against Straight Talk, but I wanted as much advice as possible so I also wrote to Dear Abby. I didn’t really expect her to print it as I’ve read that she receives millions of letters, but I guess issues like this are becoming very common now. Her advice is similar to yours, although yours was more thorough. [I had answered her privately.] It is timely as we’re leaving tomorrow and we’re still nervous so we’ll see what happens.”

    Misty—I appreciate you sharing your experience with a privacy screen. It can’t be said enough how many situations they have saved! Thank you for the reminder!!

    Janine—I think you are correct that the girls might be uncomfortable with either a new man or new woman in a one-bedroom apartment. I have heard many stories like yours where girls are NOT comfortable with their stepmother’s casual nudity—and it sets their relationship back. When it doubt, WEAR A ROBE!!

    Robin—And then there is a case like yours! Thank you for posting such a great example of making it work out in close quarters so that you can see your dad! This warms my heart! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it.

    In today’s case, because “Sacramento’s” dad IS gay and JUST came out, it’s important to support him with a visit, otherwise, no matter how much the girls explained to him that it was a privacy issue, I think he very likely would assume they were rejecting the fact that he is gay. I also find that gay couples are extremely conscientious. I’m guessing they will go out of their way to make sure the girls have enough privacy and are comfortable.

    “Sacramento”: I’m hoping we hear from you in two weeks to find out how it went!—Lauren

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  5. By Karen, age , from Lodi, CA on 08/14/2013

    Our mom’s gay and my sister and I have accepted it.  Our friends know and don’t tease us about it.  However, she has a new girlfriend ““Molly” who frequently spends the night.  Even though Molly goes out of her way to be nice to us, it still makes for a very uncomfortable situation for us.  Our room is right next to our mom’s room and the walls are thin in our apartment.  Even though they try to be quiet, we still sometimes hear certain things when they’re having sex which makes us very uncomfortable.  Since Molly’s here almost every weekend, it means that we can no longer have friends over for sleepovers and have them hear gay sex going on right in the next room.  It also has created privacy issues.  When it was just us and our mom we never bothered to put on a robe to go take a shower since our room is right next to the bathroom. We could also be casual and walk around the apartment in our underwear.  Even though our mom’s gay, we don’t have a problem with her seeing us this way since she’s still our mom regardless of her sexual preference.  However, we don’t feel comfortable in this way with Molly, especially since she’s gay.

    I don’t see anything in the Panel’s advice that would help in our situation.  No matter what anybody says, gay relationships and gay marriages do create special problems when children are involved.

    Karen

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  6. By Ginny, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 08/14/2013

    As Misty points out this really is not a “gay” issue at all, even though many seem to assume that it is.  It’s really an issue of privacy and trying to accommodate a situation of too many people and too little space.  If Sacramento’s dad were straight and sharing an apartment with a straight male friend the privacy concerns would be no different, so his being gay is not the issue at all.  Janine’s comment points out that she and her sister face the same issues in a small apartment with her dad and his girlfriend who are straight.  With Karen, her mom’s being gay is not the issue either.  If her mom were straight and had a new boyfriend instead of a girlfriend who was spending the night and having sex with her, it would be no different.  There still would be sex going on in the next room, and they certainly could not go to the shower without a bathrobe or walk around in their underwear with a man in the apartment!

    I have a younger sister and brother and we live with our mom and dad in a small 3 bedroom, one bathroom apartment.  It’s a crowded situation, but it’s the best that our parents can afford at this time as they’ve had economic setbacks and unemployment that I don’t need to go into.  My sister and I are old enough to know that our parents have sex in their bedroom which is right next to our room.  That doesn’t stop us from having sleepovers.  With our dad and brother here, we obviously can’t go to the shower without wearing a robe even though the bathroom is right across from our room.  We also can’t walk around in our underwear and have to keep our door closed when we undress.  Bathroom time is obviously at a premium especially during the morning rush with 5 people and only one bathroom, so often there isn’t much choice but for my sister and me to share it even when we’re using the shower and even the “facility.”  If we had our choice we would prefer complete privacy in the bathroom, but as sisters it’s no big deal to us to share it this way when necessary.

    All of us are totally straight and we still face the same issues of space and privacy as the households written about where someone’s gay.  Therefore, someone gay in the house really has nothing to do with it.  You just need to deal with these things the best you can and they can almost always be worked out.

    Ginny

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