Child Caring

How does mom show support to a daughter, 8, who may be gay?

Hi Barbara,

I am a 33 year old parent with 3 kiddos, My main concern is my daughter, Mia (8yrs.) who is the middle child.

It started when she was in kindergarten, that she liked to wear boy clothes over girl clothes, and at the time I didn't mind because they were track suits, with her long curly hair, the outfit actually looked cute. Then as time went on Mia sort of pushed with wanting to cut her hair off. I entertained the idea because I was afraid of her cutting her hair herself. So that I could be part of the hair cutting extravaganza; we went to the children's hair cut place and it started out with an a-line cut to a complete boy hair cut. I was so sad about her hair being so short and that she was comfortable with this, but wanted to be supportive of what she liked and figured it would eventually grow back. To this day she still prefers boy clothes but now has her long hair back.

What threw me for a loop was that she told my husband (her dad) that she had a crush on a girl, and she had pretty blonde hair. My heart fell because this is not what we traditionally want for our daughter but, if anything at all, I feel like in the bigger picture of life, this is a rather small something to be worried about, but we have no idea on how to go about this or if we should be supportive of what she prefers, that what is "normal" for girls. It is soo hard because society displays the norms for girls and boys and Mia sees that and questions that and sometimes I don't have the answer because more than half the time Mia is right. Matthew and I just want what is best for Mia and what makes her happy.

I guess that when they are babies, we as parents have this fantasy life about our kids but as they grow and express what they like, it sort of takes us (parents) down a different road. Any tips, comments?

Thank you

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Dear Amy,

I think you already have a good handle on this, Amy. Support your daughter, whatever that translates to, from the a so-called "boy" haircut to having a crush on a classmate who's a girl. Whether this turns out to be her life pattern or a stage, doesn't matter. Let her know you love her unconditionally (for who she is, not what she does) and be a role model for openness and tolerance. Since you have two other children, your family has built-in diversity of ways to exist in this world. What's more, it sounds as if Mia has the ability, even now, to be self-reflective. By all means, validate her judgment when it's appropriate and let her know that, yes, our culture has ideas about what it means to be male or female, but those ideas aren't always right and they certainly aren't for everyone.

I would also urge you to gather information about this possible path that Mia may travel. Here are two good resources: The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educational Network works to create safe schools; PFLAG, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

In the (many!) years I've been writing about parenting, questions like yours have come up now and again. By far, my favorite response is what I wrote here two years ago. There were lots of folks who commented back then; I hope we hear from some of them again to see how they feel two years later and to offer you support.