Smothers

Hi Dr. Darcy. I am writing to you as a young adult who is still struggling with needing my mother’s acceptance. I came out when I was 15 and while my parents never threatened to disown me over being gay, I sensed early on that I should keep my personal life separate from my family life. That being said, I recently addressed with my mother what I believe is her discomfort with my lifestyle. It was then that my mother referenced a conversation that she had with me when I was 15. During my ‘coming out’ discussion with my parents my mother asked if I had ever been with a boy + when I said, “no,” she wanted to know how I could be certain that I was gay. In that conversation, my mother privately suggested that I have sex with a boy to confirm that I was gay. I never took her up on her suggestion and in our recent conversation my mother told me that she will always question my sexual orientation until I am with a man. I still have not had sex with a man after all these years, and I can’t believe that she still thinks this way. What’s even worse is that now I am beginning to doubt myself all over again! I feel ridiculous asking this, but do you feel as though I need to be with a man to confirm that I am a lesbian and will that throw my mother into acceptance with no more invalidation and judgment? Last but most important, when will I get over needing my mother’s approval?!

ANSWER

I wish I could ask your mother the following questions: 1. Is she straight? 2. Has she ever been with a woman? If the answers are 'yes' followed by 'no,' my final question to her is:

How can she be sure she's straight if she's never been with a woman? I'd like her to hook up with a woman and, afterwards, if she still thinks she's straight, I'll feel more comfortable with her identifying as hetero. Honestly!

If we polled the human race, we would find that most heterosexuals do not first experiment with homosexuality before declaring their sexuality. Your mother's well-intentioned double standard is not the way to solve a question that, based on what you're saying, has never even existed.

Kudos to you for not having followed your mother’s suggestion at the age of 15. It’s amazing how children, particularly female children, yearn for their mother’s approval, regardless of age. I’m not surprised that you’re still seeking it, but at a certain point we need to weigh our need for Mom’s approval against the need for our own personal integrity. As adolescents we seem to instinctively understand this, which is epitomized by the adolescent rebellion. In young adulthood, we are sometimes more attuned to the needs of others (society calls this maturity); often to the exclusion of our own needs. In my experience, people tend to come around when we get to a point in our lives that we need their acceptance the least. I don’t think jumping through hoops will change your mother’s feelings, so you might as well live your own life and start working on the one thing you have control over – yourself.

As far as the Almighty question regarding at what point in our lives do we no longer need our mother’s approval, all I can say is I’ll let you know when I get there….