Woe Is Me! “I Came Out as a Lesbian, and My Mom Says It’s ‘Just a Phase.’ What Now?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I am 17 years old. I came out to my mother as a lesbian — I told her that I like girls and currently have a crush on a girl. She told me: ‘Don’t worry beta, It’s just a phase.’ How do I make her believe it’s not just a phase and make her accept me as I am?”
— Mother Isn’t Always Right
DR: Well, to bust that myth, you could introduce her to informative content on the Internet — be it in the form of YouTube videos, Instagram reels, books, or short infographics on social media. But my question to you is, will she take it well, and will you be safe when she finds out this isn’t “just a phase”? Given that you chose to come out to her — of your own accord, I’m guessing — perhaps, you did feel safe to do that. I don’t want to question your judgment there, but I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people being forced to attend conversion camps, and so I felt like I needed to just add that caveat there. If you’re not too sure, perhaps, you can wait till you’re an adult to expose her to such information — just so that you have a better chance of getting away, if it starts to feel unsafe.
On the other hand, if you feel safe, do go ahead and educate her. Also, perhaps, you could ask her why she thinks it’s a phase? Did she ever feel attracted to girls and ended up dismissing her own feelings because she thought it was “abnormal,” “unnatural,” or “will pass”? Perhaps, it’s time to open her eyes to the idea that it’s neither of those — and give her a chance to reflect upon it and understand herself better.
RN: Given the lukewarm response, one takeaway is that she wasn’t entirely shocked? This means that perhaps, slowly, you can start normalizing what living your life authentically looks like to her. But be careful while you do this too — if there’s a family member on your side, it could help to enlist their support too. I wonder what it would be like to ask her what she means by a “phase.” Did she have a “phase” too? Is it a conversation worth having, to perhaps explore this together? She could be aware, accepting, but in denial overall. But if you have the kind of relationship with your mother where you can talk to her to probe further, maybe show her some queer literature and film too, it could pave the way towards something that works better for you.
SK: I’m sure this must be a terribly confusing time to navigate. For starters, I hope you feel a sense of pride in acknowledging your truth and finding the courage to share it with the people you love. Of course, your mother’s response must sound dismissive of your identity, almost as if she’s “trying to talk you out of it.” Would it help to access an affordable queer-friendly therapist who may guide you through this time — trying to come to terms with your sexuality while also dealing with your parents? Additionally, if that is not an option easily available, do you feel comfortable talking to her about this more, confiding your feelings with the help of another relative, and even sharing some educational material with her? But please remember to prioritize your emotional and physical safety at all times. If, at any point, you feel you are being coerced into changing yourself, or she’s taking you to therapists who may question your identity, take a step back.
I know you want to convince her, but this may be a slow process. Tell her this is not a phase, this is how you’ve felt for a while (correct me if I’m wrong); that “changing” you is not the answer, but loving you is. I’m sorry the burden of convincing her falls on you; that must be draining. Please take care of yourself, and I hope your mother becomes an anchor.
AS: I have never faced the situation you find yourself in, and can only imagine how frustrating it must be. I am not sure to tell you what to do, but here is an attempt: You have taken a brave step, and that’s a wonderful thing. I obviously don’t know much about your relationship with your mom, but considering that you took the effort to come out to her, maybe we can assume that you are relatively close, and so what she feels or believes matters to you. However, it seems like you’ve already done your part of this, by sharing your truth with her. The ball is now in her court. And so, I think you should just go on doing whatever you want, liking and dating whoever you want. Share as much with your mom as you normally would, and let her figure out how to come to terms with this. I really can’t say if there’s any way to prove that it’s not a “phase” — she might just see you live your life, and understand for herself.
If anyone you know needs help, please refer to this list of queer-friendly health and legal services curated by Varta.