Reader Question: "My granddaughter recently told me she is gay. How should I talk to her about it?"
Gail says: You grew up in a time when a young woman could not, and therefore did not, come out of the closet. You were taught this was not an acceptable lifestyle and so your feelings of discomfort are understandable in that they come out of what you were taught.
But you have an opportunity to teach something quite different and hugely important here: Love yourself, whatever your orientation. Teenage years are vitally important in terms of evolving identity and feelings of self worth. She needs your approval and support and she needs your unconditional love. This is more about who she is than who she is attracted to.
Part of your discomfort comes from having any thoughts at all about your granddaughter, so newly not a cute little girl, being a sexual person. Applaud her bravery in being forthright in whom she is, it is not easy for a teenager to do.
Understand that homosexuality is not a choice, but loving and accepting your granddaughter for herself is. Disapproving or ignoring her coming out will not change her orientation, but it will make her feel unloved, hurt, angry, and confused.
You do not need to have long, involved conversations with her about her sexual orientation, if you feel uncomfortable. A simple statement that you love and accept her for exactly who she is will be just fine. This will also likely make you closer.
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Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, columnist, bestselling author, and television commentator Gail Saltz, M.D., has been called "a voice of wisdom and insight in a world of confusion and contradictions" by Tom Brokaw. Dr. Saltz is a regular health, sex, and relationship contributor to the Today show.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.