Why won’t Mom accept I’m gay?

My mother is very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community — except when it comes to her own daughter.

In the absence of magic pixie dust, our elder tries to help a letter writer find a way to live with her mom’s reaction.

Dear EWC

Hello, I’ve known I was attracted to women since I was 12 years old. I was outed in high school, which was really distressing for me, to the point that I spent most of my adolescence and early adulthood convincing myself that I’d made it up. At the age of 28, I finally decided that I needed to deal with this and owed myself the best shot at a happy life that I could find. While I haven’t had a serious relationship with a woman yet, I’ve done some dating, and it’s been absolutely life-changing. Even just mentally sorting through all the shame I’ve had is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I tried talking to my mom about this several months ago. She’s always been vocally supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and spoken well of the gay people she knows. So I was completely blindsided by her reaction; in short, she told me that she was angry at me for putting this on her and that basically, she didn’t understand why I couldn’t have waited until she was dead to be gay. When I mentioned it again, she got angry again and said she didn’t understand why I was talking about it, because “we’d already talked about it”. I thought this was just initial shock and waited almost two months to bring it up again. When I did bring it up again, she reacted the same way and told me she was not OK with this, and that my life was going to blow up in my face.

I’m having so much trouble with how cold she has been about this. She seems willing to maintain a completely normal relationship as long as I don’t bring this up, but it’s been a huge change in my life, and I wish I could have my mother to talk to about it. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest when I think about how hurt I am by this. I’ve always been as good a daughter as I could be — I never got in trouble as a kid, I work hard and never ask for anything from her, I make time to travel with her because she loves it, I was completely supportive and accepting when she and my dad split up and she found a new partner because I want her to be happy. How can I talk to her about this? She won’t even tell me what about it is specifically upsetting to her. This is common for her — when she decides someone has “done something” to her, she gets vicious and won’t listen to anything. I’m so much happier than I’ve ever been in my life, and it’s so hard to have her disgusted/distressed by that part of me.

Lloyd replies

Hi there. I was moved and saddened by your letter. As an aside, you write and express yourself very well. I’m afraid I don’t have a magic potion that will give you the mother you would like to have and deserve around the issue of your sexual preference. Here are my thoughts.
I think it might help you if you could assign a reason for your mother’s behavior even if she is unwilling to provide one. The fact that she seems to be OK with other mothers’ children being gay but not her own is not really that uncommon. Think of all the people that are in favor of homeless shelters or halfway houses as long as they are not in their neighborhood. She may have harbored a vision for your whole life of seeing you walking down the church aisle with a tall handsome man at your side, not to mention giving her grandchildren in what she would consider the natural way. There may be family or friends in her life that she thinks would disapprove of your lifestyle and she doesn’t want to deal with that. Despite her general support, she might feel that her daughter being gay represents some sort of failure on her part as to how you were raised. Obviously, I’m just guessing, but I think if you could decide, even arbitrarily, on a possible source for her reaction it changes the picture from, your mother doesn’t approve/love you, to your mother has an issue that has nothing to do with you personally. Unfortunately, if it’s not about you personally, there’s no way for you to fix it. It’s her baggage and you can’t be her porter.

I have to admit, I smiled when I read your mother’s line you relayed: “Why couldn’t you wait till I was dead to be gay?” To me, that means whatever is the source of her behavior towards you, it’s deeply ingrained and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, I think the best you can do for yourself is to change your expectations and choose to meet her and enjoy her and love her on the common grounds that you have, live the life you want and just don’t share the part that she can’t handle. I get that this is not what you want, nor ideal, but it is the reality to a large extent in most families. At Thanksgiving dinner we don’t talk about brother Bob’s drinking problem or Uncle Hal’s affair, or why grandma voted for Trump or go down the born again path with Cousin Rachel, and on and on. Tip-toeing around the subjects that we can’t agree on and sticking with those that don’t cause turkey legs to be launched across the table is a reality of family life. I get that you won’t like that answer and you don’t have to, but I think the best I can do is help you to not be in pain about your relationship with your mother short of you turning straight or her turning dead.
Life is full of external forces/issues/conflicts that we can’t change. We can only change our response to them. I wish I had pro-gay daughter pixie dust I could send you to sprinkle on your mom. Fresh out. I’m rooting for you to find the tools to allow you to be who you are and still have a relationship that is satisfying with the imperfect person that is your mother.

Letter #: 444424
Category: Family

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