A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter came out as bisexual.
She was 16 years old. It’s hard to describe the feelings this brought up in me. For one, I am a sex educator, and fully aware that sexual and erotic feelings happen in all sorts of situations.
So really, I shouldn’t have been that surprised.
Having said that though, there is nothing quite like having your child, whom you always thought of in a certain way, suddenly describe themselves in a different way. It is almost a betrayal, if only of your expectations.
I think it was this sudden statement, on her part, of her own autonomy around her sexuality that got to me.
She wasn’t ‘my little girl’ anymore, she was … well… she was a person.
She asked us to come together as an extended family so she could announce this aspect of herself to us all. My sister in law shed a few tears, everyone hugged, it was an emotional moment.
So, why is it such a big thing when someone ‘comes out’?
Perhaps it is this step into their autonomy, their rejection of the labels or expectations around who they are based on what they look like. My ‘little girl’ was growing up and becoming her own self. Of course, this is what every parent wants.
They want their children to grow up, be autonomous, share their gifts with the world. But what if those gifts aren’t what we thought they should be? What if those gifts are a part of who they are as a sexual being?
This is a challenge to most parents. The idea that our child has sexual interest, needs, desires. What?!?!? How did that happen?
For now, my daughter has a boyfriend, with whom she is in a monogamous relationship. I haven’t had to face seeing her with another woman. I don’t think I have any judgements or hang-ups around this scenario. I’ve experimented with women myself.
But, I have a sneaking suspicion that my cultural conditioning might rear its head when this happens.
Will I be ashamed of seeing her in public with a girl? Will it be different?
At this point, I don’t yet know. I’m allowing myself to sit with the fact that my daughter can have her own sexuality and it doesn’t have to fit my expectations. I’d love to say I have no preconceived notions or judgments, but I’d be losing an opportunity to really grow and stretch my own worldview.
I’ve know for decades that there is nothing wrong with someone of a different gender expression or sexuality and I celebrate the fact that I get to explore my own stories around that even more deeply.
In the end, our children have much to teach us, and I celebrate the person my daughter is becoming.