Queer Advice: Dad’s uneasy after I came out
Q: I came out about a year ago to my mother and waited until about March this year to tell my dad (they are divorced.) Mom took it great and doesn’t care, she’s quiet about it but not uncomfortable, she’s open to learning. My dad on the other hand, while not mean or unhappy, is rather reserved and obviously uncomfortable about my being gay. It might be good to say here that I’m an only child but my dad has two step children. He always talks to me about their relationships but never asks how my relationship is going or seems interested in the fact. Do you have any suggestions on to handle to this our should I just let it go?
A: You don’t say what your relationship with your father was like before coming out to him, and this might somewhat impact the best way to handle this situation. If your relationship was comfortable and close and now is uncomfortable and distant, that might be a good place to start. Tell your dad that his love and support are important to you and that you value your relationship with him. Then, you might ask an open-ended question, such as the following. “I’ve noticed that our relationship seems to have changed recently. It seems a little awkward and uncomfortable. Have you noticed that?” If you approach him with genuine curiosity, he is less likely to be defensive than if you’re on the attack. If he does not bring up your sexual orientation, you may need to gently do so and ask him if this information has been difficult for him.
Depending on how receptive he seems, you may even share that you would like to be able to talk with him about your romantic relationship, just as his stepchildren are able to do. Again, the more you can emphasize that this is because you love and care about him rather than because you’re jealous or angry (even if you are!), the greater the likelihood of success.
If your relationship has always been distant, this may be an opportunity to work on getting closer. Distance in relationships is often caused by fear of digging deep and challenging the status quo. Doing so may create initial conflict, but may result in a deeper, more authentic (and satisfying) relationship.
If your best efforts fail, you may have to accept the fact that, at least for now, he is not going to be a big part of your support system. He may come around in the future, but in the meantime, surround yourself with people (family or not) who do love you and care about your relationship and your wellbeing. Everyone deserves that.
Lisa Griffin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina. With nearly 30 years of clinical experience, Dr. Griffin specializes in gender identity and sexual orientation issues, working primarily with gender-variant, transgender, and queer people (children, adolescents, and adults) and their families.
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