Straight Talk Advice

Jul 16, 2013

Teen fears Mom’s gay marriage will cause bullying

Dear Straight Talk: Now that gay marriage is legal again in California, our mom is marrying her "fiancé" in August. They are planning a formal church wedding announced in the newspaper and we are moving into her fiancé's house. Our friends don't know our mom is gay and we don't think we can handle the humiliation and embarrassment! Our mom says most people accept gay couples and we should feel lucky to move into a nicer house with our own bedrooms. We love our mom and her fiancé is good to us, but we would rather stay where we are than have everybody tease and humiliate us. There's a girl at school whose mom married her partner and kids tease the hell out of her. We'll be embarrassed to have friends over and sleepovers will be impossible. I'm heading to college in a year, but my sister is only 14 and has to live with this much longer. Please help! —Embarrassed daughter

Taylor 16, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

All I can say is family comes first. You need to be supportive and happy for your mom. If your friends see that you don't have a problem with it they probably won't either. LOTS of people support gay marriage. Be proud of your family. :D

Carlos 18, Farifax, Va. Ask me a question

The first thing you must do is accept that your mom is gay and getting married. It's clear from your letter that you don't — and your sister will mimic that. I understand wanting to keep her safe from teasing. I caused some “scandal in the halls” without considering the implications to my sister. So I sat her down and told her what to say to deal with it successfully. Stand together on this — and you be the stronger one. This will teach her how to have a thicker skin. Tell anyone who dares humiliate you that all their closed mindedness will do is hold them back in life.

Nicole 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

Criticism only affects me when I lack comfort in my beliefs and statements. When I speak my truth, nothing can hurt my feelings. Find a way in your heart to understand the reality of love between two same-sex people and negative comments won't bother you.

Brie 22, San Francisco Ask me a question

Give your friends a chance! If someone teases you, rise above it. I was teased in high school and now I'm doing better than most of those kids.

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

No sensible person would forego marriage over these concerns. She's getting married and you need to accept that. Get some perspective: Anybody who would abandon you does not deserve the title of friend — (or family, if you emotionally abandon your mother). Nonetheless, your social fears are understandable. Remember this: Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's feeling the fear and doing what's right anyway.

Molly 21, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

That's awful! If your friends would humiliate and mock you for having gay parents, you need new friends!

Dear Embarrassed: I agree that fully accepting your mother will shift everything. She's in love, she's increasing your family's wealth and security, her partner is good to you, and society has given her the green light. Putting her happiness first will automatically help you tune out negative remarks — which is a big factor in them fizzling out. Tell your close friends before the wedding and get their support (including a pact to protect little sis). Meet with the principal and tell him/her that you expect administrative support, too. If there is bullying, either online or IRL (in real life), report it to the three P's: parents, principal, and police.

Editor's Note: To "Embarrassed Sister" and others in this position: some teasing usually will occur, but it doesn't have to persist. It's very dependent on how you react to it and how you rally your closest friends.

"What do I say to my friends?" Everyone always wants to know this. Every person and situation is unique, but here's an example conversation to use with close friends: "You know, I really love my mom — I'm sure you can relate. And even though the whole thing is shocking to me, I'm accepting her. If I didn’t, I’d be as bad as a mother not accepting her gay kid!" Then, after a pause, “Yeah, I guess I was just scared to tell you she was gay — I should have had more faith in you, my bad." Then another small pause, "You're such a good friend. Will you support me on this? When school starts, I know kids are going to tease me and I'm scared."

Being vulnerable and admitting you are scared is the key to rallying your friends. People love to be needed. Don't despair if some friends drop out. They weren't true friends. Most will stand with you.

"What do I say to the bullies?" Again, always follow your gut as every situation is different. Here is an example comeback if you possess some degree of feistiness, popularity, status, size, or if you're standing with a group of friends. With an "aha" look on your face: "You sound like a homophobe! You know it's a scientific fact that a high percentage of homophobes are actually gay. Look it up! The facts speak!" Something like this will probably shut down any teasing, even so, report it immediately to the principal, giving names.

If you're a shyer person, don't say anything, just take out your phone and video tape it (or better, have a friend do it... audio-taping can be done from a pocket). Back away without interacting and head to the principal's office to report them. If you're alone and taping feels dangerous, don't do or say anything, just go report it. If you don't know the kid's name, try to get his/her photo on the sly.

If teasing continues, continue documenting and reporting it. Get support from the Gay-Straight Alliance, if your school has one. If the principal does nothing, make sure to report it to your parents and the police as well. Bullying is a hot topic right now and most schools and police stations will respond. If it becomes unbearable, I totally support switching schools. —Lauren

We've done past columns on dealing with gay parents. To read them, click here and here

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  1. By Cindy, age , from Sausalito, CA on 07/16/2013

    My best friend’s mom is gay and lives with her partner whom she’s planning to marry now that it’s legal, although they haven’t set a date.  I wouldn’t think of teasing her about it.  She’s been openly gay for a long time and it’s well known at school.  She gets some tesing about it, but not that much and she just shrugs it off.  Fortunately, our city relatively “gay friendly” and such relationships are common and no big deal.  I’ve even gone on trips with my friend, her mom, and her partner and we shared a room with 2 double beds and I didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable about the arrangement.  Tthat includes the “undressing” issue that has been discussed extensively in Straight Talk.  We’re still all females, so there was nothing to worry about as far as I was concerned. 

    Few kids go through life without ever being teased about something, and I really think that “Embarrassed” is worrying too much.  If she can get over the initial teasing that may come, which probably will not be nearly as bad as she’s imagining, I think that in a short time it will not be a major deal.

    Cindy

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  2. By Marci, age , from Westminster, CA, U.S.A. on 07/16/2013

    I really feel for Embarrassed daughter.  Our dad left our mom for another man and word traveled fast.  The humiliation was unbelievable.  I really don’t think any of the Panel’s advice will work.  It wouldn’t have worked for my brother and me.  We had to change schools to escape the teasing and harassment.  It was hard starting over a new school where we didn’t know anybody, but it was worth it.  Our dad and his “partner” recently got a 2 bedroom apartment so that my brother and I can come for weekend visitations, but we say NO WAY and our mom supports us, so he’s taking her to court to force us to visit! I understand the idea of equal rights for gays, but many do not realize that there can be children involved and we are the ones who suffer.

    Marci

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  3. By Jillian Gilbert, age , from Carmichael, CA on 07/17/2013

    My older sister is gay and getting married and I am proud and honored to be her maid of honor!  I am not the least bit embarrassed about it.  All of my friends know my sister is gay and I have never been teased about it.  If anybody did tease me, I would consider it their problem not mine.  We are very close and I could not have hoped for a better big sister who has always been there for me, and I know she always will be.  We are much closer than many of my friends are with their “straight” sisters who they fight and argue with all the time.  Even though my friends don’t tease me, I do get questions about the stupid “undressing” issue since we share a room, which really bugs me. For once and for all, it’s no problem and no different than straight sisters undressing in front of each other which nobody would even think to question.  I’m not shy about undressing in front of my straight friends either, but I’m more comfortable with my sister seeing me nude than I am with anyone else and have a hard time understanding why so many people are so curious about something like this.

    My advice to “Embarrassed” is to accept your mom as she is and also accept her fiance (who you say is good to you).  I’m willing to bet that any teasing will not be nearly as bad as you are imagining, but if you do get teased, realize that it’s their problem!

    Jillian Gilbert
    (Proud to sign my full name)

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  4. By Emily, age , from Toledo, Ohio on 07/17/2013

    I have 2 moms and could not be happier.  I was conceived by one of my mom’s by artificial insemination, so she’s the only one who is my natural and my legal mom.  However, I consider both of them to be my mom and love them both as much, and they both love me just as much.  They have been together almost 20 years and are just as much a loving couple as any husband and wife I know.  In fact, almost half of the kids I know from so called “straight” homes have parents who are divorced.

    Unfortunately, we live in Ohio where same sex marriage is not yet legal, and I think that this is a travesty.  I hope and pray for the day that my moms can get legally married, but in the meantime we are a very happy family.  I have no problem with my moms seeing me nude and the fact that they’re gay doesn’t matter in this regard and is no different than any mothers and daughters.  Since it’s all females in our home we’re all casual about nudity around the house, but there’s nothing sexual about it.

    My friends are cool about it and have never teased me, although a few have parents who are prejudiced against us and won’t let them come for sleepovers.  A few jerks have teased me about it, but I just ignore them and they don’t continue when they see I’m not letting it get to me.  I also have a friend who happens to be gay.  I have no problem undressing in front of her and even sharing my double bed with her when we have sleepovers.  It’s no different than with my straight friends.  There are some stupid girls who give her a hard time in the locker room and even the girls’ bathroom because they think she’s always looking for sex.  However, most girls accept her.

    I really think Embarrassed Daughter should be grateful that her mom is entering into what sounds like a healthy, stable marriage which is more than many teenagers can say these days.  I wish like anything that my moms could get married and I would not be the least bit ashamed or embarrassed.

    Love My 2 Moms!!!

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  5. By Roger, age , from Santa Rosa, CA, U.S.A. on 07/18/2013

    My older brother is openly gay.  I’m straight, but he’s always been a good big brother to me and I have always looked up to him.  My friends and I tease each other back and forth about all kinds of things, including this, and its no big deal.  I just laugh it off and tease them back about something else.  I think that’s the best way to handle it.  Teasing each other is part of being teenagers. 

    My brother and I have always shared a room and I actually like sharing a room with him.  I never had a problem with him seeing me naked, even since I’ve known that he’s gay.  However, lately I’ve sometimes seen him with a boner when he sees me naked and that makes me a little nervous since it indicates that he gets sexual feelings from seeing me.  I’m not that worried as I’m sure that he wouldn’t actually try to do anything sexual with me, and I wouldn’t allow it even if he did.  I wouldn’t want a room divider, and it really doesn’t make sense for 2 brothers sharing a room.  I also don’t have a problem when his boyfriend sleeps over in our room as long as they don’t have sex when I’m there, and they never have.  I really don’t care what they do the rest of the time.

    I really think that Embarrassed should accept her mom and her partner like I have accepted my brother and others who have written have accepted gay family members.  If she deals with any teasing like any other typical teenage teasing, I think she’ll find out that it’s no big deal.

    Roger

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  6. By N.L., age , from Rancho Cordova, CA on 07/18/2013

    My sister and I would gladly trade places with Embarrassed daughter.  We would much rather have our mom married to another woman who was good to us than our abusive alcoholic stepfather.  We’re like prisoners in our room every night when he’s drunk since he’s so terrible to be around, but even that doesn’t stop us from having to hear him and our mom screaming and yelling at each other.

    Embarrassed should look at the positives and be grateful for what she’s getting.

    N.L.

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  7. By Vivanne, age , from Petaluma, CA, USA on 07/23/2013

    Dear Lauren—I have to give some insight into this. Did the mother of these girls have them before she came out as gay? If so, her first priority is to her daughters.

    She should sit down with them and find out how they feel about how she is getting married. Could the mother have a quiet wedding and not announce it in the paper?

    It is hard enough for teenagers to change schools. Do the girls have a relationship with their father? If so, could they go live with him?

    I had a mother who did just what she wanted to do. She never talked to my sister and I about anything. Subsequently I have spent thousands of dollars and a great many hours working to get my life in balance.

    Is there any way you could help these girls? I sincerely hope so. Thank you.

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  8. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 07/23/2013

    Vivanne—You bring up a great point. I do wish more parents held family meetings to get input from the kids on topics like these. It would solve a lot of grief (and it sounds like you know this many times over—I am so sorry). I had such a meeting with my 16-year-old daughter (the last of four kids… the other three were already out of the nest) regarding me getting into a serious relationship. I’d been divorced for several years with no man around and was ready to date again. I was very clear with her that I was willing to wait until she was out of the nest if she preferred. The conversation opened this huge space for generosity to occur and she gave me her blessing. To this day, she is grateful that I approached her first. (Like you say, Vivanne, the kids were there first, the new partner second; they deserve that.)

    Do I wish ALL potential partners would consult with their kids well before considering changes in living arrangements? Give them a spot at the table in expressing their doubts, fears, and expectations? Absolutely. It’s very much the best thing and pays off in dividends down the road! That said, I’m having compassion for those gays and lesbians who are diving into weddings right now, only because it’s been withheld from them for so long. They are like children themselves in their excitement and you can hardly blame them. Except that they ARE the adults. To the degree that we are asking kids to put family first, we need to ask parents to do the same. Your comment is right-on. Thanks for writing—Lauren

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  9. By Joan J., age , from Healdsburg, Ca, USA on 07/26/2013

    Dear Straight Talk, I usually think your advice is right on but not this time. Another strategy to this problem would be more of a win/win strategy for the gay couple and their daughters.

    Combining a new family is all about honoring the feelings and needs of ALL the family members, not just the newlyweds. I think the two girls should ask for a family meeting to share something like the following: “We won’t stand in your way to getting married and we want you to be happy, but we have to get through the difficult high school years the best we can. Could you perhaps have a sweet quiet wedding; then, we can all move happily into the bigger home together and focus on growing close AS A FAMILY?”

    When the high school years are over, in about 3 years, that would be the best time to have the big, loud celebration that the 2 girls could also be genuinely a part of. It could be a big 3-year anniversary celebration.
    Believe me, honoring the girls’ feelings and needs will make the home atmosphere much more loving and harmonious and will contribute to the success of the marriage and the bonding of the new mother and her children.

    P.S.: This is a situation, in my opinion, where the adults have an opportunity to be mature and sensitive family leaders. They may remember how painful it was to be a teen at times. Teens are in the process of finding out who they are. Those years should not have to be about defending their parents’ choices. It should be added that a quieter wedding would not diminish the day one iota for the women being married. It would be a win/win situation.

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