Mother to tell daughter: “I’m not gay but my girlfriend is.”


I am a 39 year old single “straight” mother with a 12-year-old daughter. I have always had a lot of boyfriends and am a typical attractive feminine professional woman. For the past year and a half I have been in a relationship with an “openly” gay woman who is very attractive, feminine, and professional.

I do not consider myself “gay” or “bisexual” so I’m not quite sure how to explain my relationship with this woman to my daughter. I had never considered a serious relationship with a woman before, although I have “been” with a few in my past (with a lot of alcohol involved).

My girlfriend and I met through a business transaction and we fell in love immediately. Our relationship is great and getting better. We would like to move it to the next level. We are ready to share a home and start a life together but we are concerned about telling my daughter.

My daughter likes my girlfriend and enjoys it when she comes over and “hangs out” with us, has dinner, watches movies — we call it a “slumber party.” My girlfriend sleeps with me in the same bed when she’s here and my daughter thinks that’s okay because we’re “best friends.” We can’t just be “best friends” anymore.

Before we move in together, should I tell my daughter that my girlfriend is gay? How and when do I start the process of telling her? How do I help her get through it without ruining her life?


Have you ever seen a woman wearing a t-shirt that says, I’m not gay, but my girlfriend is? It’s meant to be funny.

Ask yourself why you still consider yourself straight and what it would mean to stop identifying as such. You express your fear and shame about coming out as lesbian/bi/queer by getting intimate with previous women only when you’re drunk, by presenting your good looks and femininity as evidence that you are a “typical” straight woman, and by suggesting that having a lesbian mother could “ruin” a child’s life.

Your daughter should absolutely know before you move in together. Having a mother who is lesbian will not “ruin” her life. Regardless of your resistance to labels, you need to suspend your identity politics when you come out to your daughter. You could say something like, “Since I’m in love with Jane, and Jane and I are both women, most people would say we are lesbian, or that we are in a gay relationship. If people ask if I’m lesbian, it’s OK if you say I am.” Even if you don’t refer to yourself gay/lesbian/bisexual, you owe it to your daughter to compromise a bit with labels so that she can talk about it in ways that other people understand.

I’m not one to force labels on anyone, but I don’t see any way that a woman who wants to “start a life together” with another woman is “straight.” It sounds like shame-based denial, and your shame will be projected onto your daughter. It will be difficult for her to feel proud about her family if the best way she can explain it is: “My mom’s not gay, but her girlfriend is.”

18 thoughts on “Mother to tell daughter: “I’m not gay but my girlfriend is.””

  1. I am a grown woman whose mother just recently came out of the closet. She and my father had been together for 30 years and all of a sudden this year, she tells him that she is gay. She has a lover and wants to start living with her. I have to say that I am extremely furious at my mother. In fact, I haven’t spoken to her or let my children around her since I found out.

    However, I am not angry that she is a lesbian. My best friend is a lesbian and I have many gay friends. I grew up around homosexuals. I am angry that she kept it a secret from my father, my sisters and I for so long. She brought her lovers around us and into our home, but presented them as “friends” since I was very young. I liked them, but saw them as my mother’s friends. Now I realize that all that time she was cheating on my dad with these women, bringing them into our home and presenting them as something they weren’t: just friends.

    I feel deceived and like my whole perception of my childhood was not reality. She should have been honest a long time ago. I would be a lot more accepting of her lifestyle choice. Also, my father could have moved on with his life and found someone who actually loves him and wants to be married to him. He believed that they would grow old together. I definitely think that you should tell your daughter that truth as soon as possible. Also, you are right to worry that your telling her will affect her negatively. It probably will, but it is better to tell her sooner so that she can deal with how she feels as soon as possible.

  2. I don’t think it matters if you are gay or not. When children are involved being open and honest with them is the most important thing. If you lie or hide from you daughter your sexuality, then she might not be comfortable talking to you about hers. Kids are smart. If she tells her friends at school about these sleepovers, they may respond by calling you gay. Wouldn’t you rather have your child here it from you, rather from some friend. Children are very accepting, and open. If you are not ashamed of your relationship, she will follow suit.

  3. You should not be living with your girlfriend until you come to terms with the fact that you are a lesbian or bisexual and are ready to come out yourself! To do so would be cruel to your daughter and could very possibly “ruin” her life because she will internalize your own homophobia. This issue resonates with me because after a fifteen year marriage, I came out as a lesbian, even though I did not fit the stereotypical model. I have long hair, wear makeup and look a lot more feminine than many straight women I know. But lesbians are just as diverse as other people. The defining factor is the love you have with your girlfriend. Your child will respect you more if you are willing to look it in the face and call it what it is. Also, I implore you to use the terms gay and lesbian frequently so that we can defeat the presumption that these names “imply negativity.”

    Carole, 44, Virginia

  4. When I first read this question I almost laughed, although it was through my teeth. Then when I thought a bout it for a few minutes, I got angry. I don’t know how else you can describe your relationship with this woman, other than as a lesbian one. You do seem to be carrying a lot of denial and shame about the fact that you are attracted and fall in love with people of the same gender. You need to get over this. Well you have in the terms of your actions, even if you haven’t in your head.

    If you feel any shame about your orientation, then this will be transferred to your daughter. you being gay won’t ruin her life, but you being dishonest or ashamed of this fact may well.

    In my opinion you must explain the status of your relationship with your daughter. Explain to her that you love this woman and want to live together as married couples do. If you don’t and carry on as you are, then I’m sure problems will arise in the future.

    For your daughter to fully accept your relationship with this woman, you must fully accept it yourself.

    Being a lesbian doesn’t mean that you have to have short hair, shop at gap and grow your body hair. It just means that you are a woman who is attracted and falls in love with other woman. your own internalised homophobia will harm you, your child, your relationship and will probably lead to other people not taking you seriously.


    Danny (son of a gay father who suffered from severe internalised homophobia)

  5. There’s so much to say about this question…but my basic thoughts for this woman are:

    As an adult child of a lesbian mom, I know the challenges your daughter is going to go through. You will be doing her a great disservice by not preparing her for these challenges. People will ask questions and she needs to know how to deal with them. She will face alot of awkward situations trying to tell people her mom isn’t gay, she just shares her life, love (and bed) with a woman. She will certainly not be “ruined” be knowing that her Mom is in a loving relationship and by having the support she’ll need from you to explain this to people.

  6. At the age of 32, after 13 years in a heterosexual marriage, I came to the realization of my attraction to women. I met someone much younger and completely wrong for me. But it was a life-changing experience. At that time my boys were 10 and 3. I worked through all of my confusion with the situation, got a divorce, and most importantly came out to my kids and family.

    I believe in honesty with kids. They were there through my transformation, for the break-up, for the new relationships, they needed to know. I talked to each child individually on their own level. Gay or lesbian are not words that come up in our household. We focus more on the commitment, responsibility and love that is shared. The boys are now 18 and almost 11. My partner and I have been together 4 years in April of this year. Our primary focus is the kids. Children are ours for such a short time. The boys have grown up being very accepting of all people. I have always asked their opinion in situations. Like when the oldest son was playing baseball, I had just started seeing Beth, I asked him if it was okay for her to come to his game. He was 14 and his response was “Dad brings his girlfriend, there’s no reason you can’t bring yours.”

    Kids are tough and can handle more than we think. By not telling her you may think you are protecting her, but in my opinion you’re not allowing your daughter to really know you, to share in your happiness.

    I admit I read a couple of books on coming out to your children prior to talking with them. Focus on love, commitment, and family. Stay away from stereotypical names that denote negativity.

  7. I think it was far more detrimental to your daughters emotional well-being to have seen ‘a lot of boyfriends’ parading through your home over her life. I don’t know how you presented them to her but my guess is that you introduced at least a few of them as ‘boyfriend’, then tossed(or were tossed) aside, teaching her that relationships, commitment, long term dedication is not necessary.

    If you have been with this woman for a long time (a year and a half) and plan to commit to her for a long term then it would probably be Better for you daughter, because then she would see a dedicated relationship and HOPEFULLY try to mimic that.

    Decide what kind of relationships you want your daughter to have in her life, do you want her to have many lovers? one long term? explore safely? What every you Show her she will do. If you want her to find love as you have then show her how and what that love is.

    Thanx and good luck.

  8. I met my partner six years ago. I made it clear to her that I was very interested in her and wanted to see her more.
    She made it clear that she had been married to the same man for 20 years and had three daughters. One was 20 one was 15 and one was 13.
    While her marriage was long over, her commitment to her children was the most important thing in her life and they will always come first.
    After a lot of persistence and gentle time spent, and a lot of resistance to fall for me, she did and she let me into her life.
    I spent some time with the girls, but not a lot. We wanted them to get to know me a bit before letting them know we were going to try this relationship.
    The girls father (in a fit of rage) decided to blurt out to them that I was their mothers lover and if they wanted to know what was going on they should ask her. Needless to say things got ugly.
    The transition was more than difficult. They hated me and hated what I represented. They were confused and scared. They were just babies and now they would have to confront this new person not with what we had hoped would be a summer of getting to know you but an instant adversarial relationship.

    We faced them and we were open and honest with them. We kept the focus on them by trying not to point fingers at their dad. She loved them and tried to help them to wrap their minds around what was happening while trying to wrap her own mind around what was happening.
    I was trying to wrap my mind around what was happening. Was I at all ready to be a significant part of the lives of teenage girls. Would our love survive all that was to come. Could I endure all the heartache.

    Well the answer is yes to all of those questions. We survived, we all grew and we all changed forever.
    We dont have the most perfect family and we all have our own personal struggles but what we do have is love and respect for each other even if it is not always what we want.
    I Love my family – my partner, her(our children) and all that surrounds it.
    I am not sure this has anything to do with the post but I am glad I wrote it.
    Thanks for reading

  9. i think that lesbians that marry just to hide their homosexual agenda-then destroy all the lives around them should not have kids-be allowed to have kids-nor even be allowed to be accepted in society-my wife left me for another woman in 1985,and is still with her-having my own daughter to grow up being a “queer”-as she was raised in a “HOMO” household-i will never accept gays,lesbians,etc in mainstream america-and i hope the agony of your being queer haunts you for the rest of your miserable life-!


  11. Isn’t it possible for a woman to be in a romantic relationship with another woman and not be a “lesbian”? As a woman I know that we have the capacity to love with out boundaries and fall in love with WHO and not WHAT. The majority of the GLB community are born with an inate attraction to the same sex. However, I think it is safe to say that there are many people (predominately w/ in the lesbian community) that have had negative experiences in hetero relationships or just found themselves falling for someone of the sames sex. Those scenerios are their introduction to the GLB community and not a “born with” identity.

    If she is not a born lesbian then she should not label herself as such, it will only be more confusing for her daughter when/if the “lesbian” relationships ends.
    Example: Anne Heche, Lindsay Lohan

  12. Anyone who declares themselves to be “bi” are simply people who are selfish, irresponsible CHEATERS.

    I don’t know how ANYONE could ever trust a self-proclaimed “bisexual” if they cannot commit to one “side” or the another, to one permanent relationship.

  13. I am searching for an answer to how and when i should tell our combined family the truth. my girlfriend and i have never left eachothers sides in the past 13 years, but we have never sat down with our kids and had the conversation about “our” relationship. Everything was always too fragile…but here i am thinking, knowing, that we should have told them all along!

    my partner and i fell in love upon meeting…never wanted it…never imagined. I am blessed and lucky.
    13 years later…still in love but need help.

  14. Actually . . . the post came in 2004, at this time, that’s six years ago and it would be interesting to see what happened to the relationship and how that all finally came to an–I hope–amicable conclusion.

    There is something, though, that I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of in these conversations: a different relationship category forming.

    By this, I mean that there is a intimacy. The woman above does not see herself as a Lesbian because, in the general life she probably lived, she is not–and that’s not a sham or a denial, but could well be the truth. This gets to the point of the emergence of a different relationship category: intimacy-focused, not gender-focused, relationship.

  15. It can sometimes be so confusing about whether you are gay or bisexual. If you are confused about whether you are straight or bisexual it’s a lot easier. You just say you are “straight” and hold off until you are sure in the future and if you’re sure then you start saying “I just realized I’m bisexual”. But if you aren’t sure if you’re gay or bisexual then it’s tough. What to identify as when you’re not 100% sure? “Questioning” elicits “how do you not know at your age?” type of questions. Even “coming out” again realizing you wrong can be awkward.

    In the LGBTIAAQQ I believe the “Q” meaning “questioning” gets the most stigmatized at least after the teenage years. Some of us are just a little too sheltered or we’re too focused on career or study matters and don’t really have our sexually adequately explored later into our adult years. I’m 25 and I think I’m realizing I’m just gay, I used to think I was bisexual yet I’m not sure. I’m going to do what I do regardless, it’s just a pain that “questioning” is not an accepted identity at my age. I’m not sure which to identify with “gay” or “bisexual”.

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