Coming Out For Your Child


Coming Out For Your Child

by Lana Halperin

I’m very lucky because my daughter’s friends and family are accepting of her sexuality. However, she seems very mad at me because I have come out for her to people I know well and some of our acquaintances.  I know she is really mad at me, so how do I be accepting without making her uncomfortable?
— Anonymous

It’s a weird world we live in, right? The vast majority of us are Presumed Straight until otherwise disclosed or demonstrated. Most of us who aren’t global celebrities don’t get to come out just the one time. It’s a lifetime of mini “comings out”. That can be a heavy thing to carry around.

I think that because you are probably very aware of this, you are taking on part of that burden for your daughter. It means she doesn’t have to take it upon herself to constantly be opening up to people. I imagine it is coming from a place of love, demonstrating your support for her by not hesitating to share this information with the people around you. You’re waving her flag and forging a path!

It’s really great to hear that her friends and family are accepting of her sexuality. It’s great that you have good intentions. But… I don’t blame her for feeling uncomfortable. 

Take a step back and imagine if your mother told everyone that you looove spaghetti. You love spaghetti so much, that no matter what else is on the menu, you will always order spaghetti. Whether or not the person she’s talking to also loves spaghetti or has a little bit of itironophobia (a fear of noodles) – guess what they’re going to associate you with? And that is how much control you have over their first and/or primary impression of you – none. And if you’re the type of person that gives no you-know-whats about what people think, that can be just fine. But not everyone is happy to let that control go, and that’s also okay. The messages that seep through telling us that it’s somehow not okay to selectively come out are kind of crappy; it’s never a one-size-fits-all deal because everyone has their own circumstances and levels of comfort.

My advice sounds simple on paper – sit down with your daughter and have an honest conversation about your intentions and ask for her perspective directly. Easier said than done, I know.

If the conversation is tricky or uncomfortable, begin by telling your daughter how much you love and support her. Say how you would never do anything on purpose to upset her, but that you realize you have dropped the ball and want to know what you can do to change. Be open and honest about why you come out for her so she can understand your perspective. In turn, let her be open and honest about what makes her angry about the situation. She will hopefully feel comfortable enough to tell you how coming out for her makes her feel and how she would like to see a change.

Be aware and acknowledge your daughter’s boundaries. Perhaps she’s okay with you “helping her” come out to some people but absolutely not for others. Maybe she’d be more comfortable if you asked her first every time. Maybe she wants a blanket “no coming out for me at all” rule. It depends on how she feels right now. These boundaries can always be redefined down the line, but have some in place in the meantime and respect them. The last thing you want to do is make your daughter uncomfortable if you are trying to support her.

Good luck!

Lana Halperin is a 25 year old law graduate from Perth in Western Australia, currently living and working in Canberra (Australia’s largely forgotten, under-appreciated capital city). She recently helped establish a social network for LGBTQ young professionals in Canberra and will gladly talk for hours about musical theatre, reality television, ladies of comedy and/or her fondness for bicycles and trampolines.

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