Stella Duffy has written twelve novels. Theodora, published by Virago (UK) in 2010 and by Viking Penguin (US) in 2011, is her first historical novel. The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness were both longlisted for the Orange Prize, and she has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year. She has written over forty short stories, including several for BBC Radio 4, and won the 2002 CWA Short Story Dagger for Martha Grace. She is currently working on the sequel to Theodora, The Purple Shroud, as well as several film and theatre projects. Stella is also a theatre director and performer, and has written eight plays. She was born in London, grew up in New Zealand, has lived back in London for since 1986 and is married to the writer Shelley Silas, her partner of 21 years.
I woke this morning to an email from Stella Duffy with this piece attached. She hoped it could have some more exposure. I don’t think it could have enough exposure. I hope you’ll share it as well.
I noticed last week that someone had found my blog by googling “My daughter is struggling with her sexuality and I can’t accept it”. I was delighted they’d found my blog and hoped it was of use, but then I realised they might not look through the pieces about writing or theatre to find the LGBT stuff, and I really didn’t want them to go away without the help or support they needed. So I wrote this. I really hope they came back and found it.
Firstly, thank you, on your daughter’s behalf, for being honest. There’s loads of things we find hard to accept from our parents and children, different sexualities – different to that we’d expected for and from them – is just one of them.
Secondly, you’re not alone. Many people find it hard to come to terms with their children’s adult lives, be it about what they do for work (or don’t do for work!), or who they love, or where they live, or how they live.
Thirdly, you probably can accept it you know. You’ve probably accepted loads of things in your life that your own twelve or fourteen-year-old self never expected to accept. You can accept this too.
It’s sad she’s struggling, there are probably many things you can do to help. There are loads of organisations in the UK where I live, and wherever you live, there are bound to be some too. Google parents of gays, or parents of lesbians and gays, or parents of LGBT – I bet you’ll find loads of helpful organisations, blogs, sites.
It’s true, that in some parts of the world being gay is still a crime. It’s true that in some parts of the world that crime is still punishable by death. But it’s also true that things ARE getting better. That in very many places, LGBT people lead utterly free and fine lives. And where that isn’t yet possible, I can assure you, many many of us are working to make it better. Perhaps, if you are scared about your child’s future in a world that isn’t yet free from all homophobia, you might become one of those wonderful activist parents, who campaign on behalf of all of us, and how lucky we are to have them. How lucky I was to have parents who were fine with me – and to have in-laws (who took a long while to come round) and are now great!
Perhaps you’re concerned to do with your faith. You certainly wouldn’t be the first who worries that their child is breaking God’s commandments, but if you’re of the first book then you’ll know there are only Ten Commandments and none of them mention homosexuality, and if you’re of the second book you’ll know Jesus said “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. If you’re Muslim I can assure you, contrary to current Islamaphobic propaganda, I know LGBT gay people who find their faith very liveable alongside their sexuality. And while googling LGBT + faith might bring up some depressing sites, I suspect you’ll also find some great organisations who believe that acknowledging the truth of one’s sexuality is an act of great faith and belief, of honesty to the maker they believe in.
Why else might you find it hard to accept … because the media likes to portray us (lesbians) as boring and man-hating and childless?! I promise you, none of those things are true either. Or they might be true, just as any woman might be boring, or man-hating (I think I know way more man-hating straight women than man-hating gay women though!), and certainly infertility doesn’t only affect lesbians.
Or perhaps you’re worried because your child is struggling. Then you can help her, there will definitely be groups you can find online, perhaps you could even go together. (She may be struggling with thinking she’s gay when she’s actually bisexual, that’s always possible too. Or vice versa. Unlike straight people, gay people are often OK about being a bit more fluid with their sexuality decisions until they get a bit older, though it can be confusing. I wish, for their sake, that straight people were also encouraged to sometimes think it’s ‘just a phase’ and they’d grow out of it, didn’t make their own choices about heterosexuality so early – we might have fewer broken relationships when one or other of a straight couple finally comes out!)
It’s different to you, sure. Any parent might worry when their child ends up different to them. But isn’t that what you wanted from raising a child? A strong, smart, bright person, able to make their own choices? To live their own life successfully?
So … be concerned, struggle if you must, worry, hope – that’s what all parents do, all the time. And keep on listening and loving and helping, stay open and engaged, and don’t ever, ever close your door.
It WILL be fine, if you allow it to be.
Good luck to both of you.
ps – if on the very small off-chance you happen to be a gay parent struggling with your daughter’s heterosexuality … sheesh. didn’t coming out teach you anything about being kind and open??!!