‘I have a gay daugh­ter and a ho­mo­pho­bic mother’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Tr­ish Mur­phy tellme­[email protected]­times.com

QI have a 20-year-old daugh­ter who is gay and who has had the same won­der­ful girl­friend for three years. My daugh­ter came out to my hus­band and I when she was 16 and we have been un­con­di­tion­ally ac­cept­ing. It took me a lit­tle while to read­just the life I had imag­ined for her, but that was all done in my head, not in front of her.

She and her girl­friend are so happy, I look at them and they are so re­laxed and com­fort­able with each other and you can just tell they are meant to be. They live with each other in their col­lege apart­ment with some other friends and so are very se­ri­ous, and I couldn’t be hap­pier about it. Our ex­tended fam­ily know in terms of broth­ers and sis­ters and their kids, and are, for the most part, okay with it.

My mother and my hus­band’s fa­ther do not know. My hus­band’s fa­ther loves her very much and though it would turn his world up­side down I think he might, even­tu­ally, come around, but it could get ugly first. How­ever, my mother would not come around. She is ex­tremely ho­mo­pho­bic and racist and an­gry and very set in her ways. She lived a hard life and was treated poorly as a work­ing woman in a time when that wasn’t the norm and seems to have lost the abil­ity to sym­pa­thise with mi­nori­ties be­cause of how she was treated. She has said that gay peo­ple will burn in hell to my chil­dren and that if any of them were gay she would never so much as look at them again.

My daugh­ter is kind and car­ing to ab­so­lutely ev­ery­one she meets. Even as a small child she never, ever, left any­one out. She goes above and be­yond to help peo­ple and does so much more than is rea­son­ably ex­pected of any­one. She is study­ing full time, but she is also an ex­tremely tal­ented artist. She does some of the best draw­ings I have ever seen. It’s in­cred­i­ble. She cooks, she sings, she never judges any­one. In short, she is one of the best peo­ple I know and I also know that de­spite all this, my mother would never for­give her.

I don’t know what to do. My mother is old and not in the best of health, but she could eas­ily live an­other 10 years at least. My daugh­ter plans to get mar­ried and have chil­dren and I don’t want her hav­ing to live a se­cret dou­ble life but at the same time, my kind, won­der­ful daugh­ter doesn’t want to tell my mother be­cause she’s wor­ried my mother will be­come iso­lated as she wouldn’t talk to any of us any­more and our fam­ily spends 10 times the time with her than my three sis­ters do put to­gether. I don’t want to tell her be­cause I don’t want my daugh­ter to have to ex­pe­ri­ence that sort of re­jec­tion. My mother has been a huge part of her life. She saw her al­most ev­ery day grow­ing up.

I feel like I have no op­tions.

AYour daugh­ter sounds like a won­der­ful, happy suc­cess­ful woman and she has a proud and car­ing mother. The per­son with the prob­lem is your mother and, while love is the driv­ing force be­hind keep­ing the truth from her, it is also al­low­ing prej­u­dice and big­otry to thrive.

All adults are re­spon­si­ble for their own feel­ings and ac­tions and while you and your daugh­ter may agree with this, you are not adopt­ing this stance with your mother. As many fam­i­lies in the mar­riage ref­er­en­dum dis­cov­ered, the power for change was largely per­sonal and it was based on love. There were many peo­ple who knew of some­one who was gay or LGBT+ and they went out of their way to en­sure that equal rights ap­plied to their fam­ily or friends or chil­dren of friends. This is some­what a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to the one you are in: in or­der for your daugh­ter’s life to be fully cel­e­brated, her grand­mother needs to be given the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port her.

Of course, your mother may well have the kind of re­ac­tion you fear, but she is fully re­spon­si­ble for this. She has had a hard life, but this of­ten has the ef­fect of cre­at­ing em­pa­thy for those who are in dif­fi­cult or iso­lat­ing sit­u­a­tions. Your mum may well have cre­ated an emo­tional wall that oth­ers could not get through to pro­tect her­self but in spite of this she has been loved and cher­ished by your fam­ily. She has this one op­por­tu­nity to reach be­yond her own pro­tec­tive walls and em­pathise with her grand-daugh­ter. It is prob­a­bly best if you take on this dis­cus­sion with your mother as you have the right to be strict as well as car­ing with her.

You have writ­ten clearly what you want to say: that your daugh­ter loves and cares for her grand­mother but she de­serves to be cel­e­brated and hon­oured for who she is and whom she chooses to live and have a fam­ily with. If your mother re­jects her then she must bear the cost of this, and that would be that she will not share the many fu­ture fam­ily events that will be full of cel­e­bra­tion and de­light. There is a say­ing that we must al­low peo­ple their pain as they may need this to face what­ever they need to over­come in their lives.

Your mother may need the pain of emo­tional dis­tance so that she can come to recog­nise her prej­u­dices and through this she might al­low her grand­daugh­ter the full right of her ex­is­tence.

She has said that gay peo­ple will burn in hell to my chil­dren and that if any of them were gay she would never look at them again

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK

In or­der for your daugh­ter’s life to be fully cel­e­brated, her grand­mother needs to be given the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port her.

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