My daughter just recently came out to me. She is 16 years old and told me that she knew she was “different” since she was about 5 years old. I am totally accepting of this, but I worry that her father (my ex-husband) won’t be as accepting. He is a pastor of a large congregation and I am concerned that he will reject him. She doesn’t want me to “out” her to him until she is out of high school. I don’t feel right about this, though. I don’t like to keep secrets, but I don’t want to appear disloyal to my daughter. What should I do?
--Caught in the Middle
Dear Caught in the Middle,
First, let me applaud you for being a loving and understanding mother. You clearly want the best for your child and you clearly love her. And I can completely understand how you may feel uncomfortable keeping this secret from her father. But obviously you know why your daughter isn’t ready to come out to her father yet. At the end of the day, it is her decision as to who she tells her truth to. Your best bet is to stay out of it. She told you this in confidence, and to betray her trust would really injure your relationship with her.
You don’t owe your ex-husband anything in this situation. Your daughter probably wants to wait until she graduates school so that she can gain some confidence in herself. Some people come out sooner than others, and if she isn’t ready (she is only 16, after all!) then you shouldn’t push her. She is probably afraid that her father will reject her or lose love and respect for her. The best thing you can do is to be a loving and supportive mama bear like you have been doing. That way, when she does decide to come out to her dad, you can stand with her, and let her lean on you for support. If you show him a united front, it may make it more difficult for him to be upset with her.
However, if the time comes and she does feel rejected, there is no shame in family counseling. Sometimes, it helps to have an impartial voice to work through more challenging life transitions within the family.
Good luck and thanks for the question!