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How NOT to Deal with a 16 Year Old Gay Daughter

teenage rebellion
From Matt Wolf’s documentary film “Teenage”

Today, The Christian Post published an article with the headline, What to Do with Teen Caught Texting Same-sex Partner. The article, written by Evangelical family guru’s Marina and Gregory Slayton, purports to answer a question a reader asked about their rebellious 16-year-old daughter:

My wife just read to me an article you wrote providing advice to a parent of a 16 year old girl caught lying, with the discovery having been through reading her text messages. My wife and I are trying to work through a similar problem with our daughter. The issue is more complicated in that:

(A) our daughter was caught once before, about – months ago, conducting an inappropriate relationship by text message. Months earlier she had embarked on another inappropriate relationship by email.

(B) in both cases the inappropriate relationships were with other girls.

(C) the conversations were filled with fantastic lies about our home life. Everything in her descriptions were completely “over the top.”

So far we’ve ended outside communication for her and restricted her freedom outside the house. Her learner’s permit has been put on indefinite hold. Most importantly, my wife and I have had three significant, God-centered and scripture centered discussions with her. These have been wonderful opportunities to see her grow dramatically in faith.

We are working with a Christian counsellor and our Pastor to try to get through this. Our level of oversight and conversation have increased dramatically. And we are looking at issues like her appearance (between androgynous and masculine), and memberships in (name withheld).

By way of background, she was adopted from (info withheld) by me and my first wife. My daughter suffered emotional and physical abuse as a result of (info withheld). When my daughter was (info withheld) we separated and she and her brother lived with me full time. Over the course of the following four years, we divorced, my ex-wife was in and out of mental hospitals and ultimately committed suicide. I remarried – to a wonderful Christian woman (who helped bring me to the Lord!). My daughter and my wife get along very well, but there are still wounds that need healing. Your advice on our next steps would be greatly appreciated – but also our anonymity.

Thank you and bless you,

Parents of troubled daughter

Evidently, the parents took a look at their daughter’s smartphone and found inappropriate text messages; inappropriate being exaggerations and lies about them and sexually oriented texts and emails between two fellow students of the same sex. The parents confronted their daughter and did the following:

  1. Took away her phone and access to the outside world
  2. Restricted her freedom outside of the house, also known as being grounded
  3. Took her to a Christian counselor
  4. Had their pastor talk to her
  5. Took a look at their daughter’s  appearance specifically her androgynous and masculine appearance
  6. Took a look at what groups their daughter is a part of

Most important, the parents sat her down three times with Bible in hand and had “God-centered and scripture centered discussions” with her.

What is clear to me and I suspect is clear to you is that what we have here is a teenager who is either gay, bisexual, or questioning her sexuality and this is conflicting with the religious beliefs of the parents.  I think it is safe to assume that the parents are part of a heterosexual only Evangelical sect and that the thought of their daughter being gay is viewed as a horrible sin and an attack from Satan.

Marina Slayton, author of Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Practical Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation,  had this to say:

…We wholeheartedly support your efforts to seek outside counseling with your pastor and a professional Christian counselor. Hopefully both will bring wisdom, perspective and guidance. As it is written in the Scriptures, there is victory in the counsel of many.

Here are a few thoughts for you, humbly recognizing that in this limited venue I can only skim the surface:

Perhaps your daughter does not understand who she is or whose she is for a very good reason: rejection. Rejected by her birth parents, rejected from her country and then (effectively) rejected by the mother who adopted her. As a result she probably feels she is “different” and “unacceptable.” She is not alone. In a generation that worships tolerance many modern teens are actually intolerant of each other because they themselves do not feel they belong. They cannot show love in a healthy manner because they don’t feel loved. Teen suicide is at record levels in part because so many don’t have a sense of belonging and they don’t feel loved.

So remember: Love your daughter! Her spirit of rejection is most likely daring you to reject her. You and your wife have been chosen by God to be His minister of love to her. We realize this will not be easy given the circumstances. Years of feeling rejected and alone cannot be overcome in a few months. It will take years. And that is OK.

Ask our Heavenly Father to be working in her heart too. That is critical. He can help from the inside out: building vision and love and forgiveness in her heart…

Not one word about her sexuality. Not one word about what is likely the REAL issue driving their daughter’s parent described rebellious behavior. Remember, rebellion in Evangelical circles is a catch-all for every teenage behavior the parents don’t like or approve of. As some of the regular readers of this blog will testify, Evangelicals have sent their children off to Evangelical behavioral modification camps, AKA Christian group homes, for things as trivial as smoking, listening to rock music, or fooling around with their boyfriend.  What non-Evangelical parents would consider typical behavior from a 16-year-old is viewed as rebellion against not only parental authority and the church’s beliefs, but also rebellion against God, the very God who said, for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

At the end of the article, Gregory Slayton, a Harvard graduate and author of Be A Better Day Today , added:

  • Enlist close friends to join you in praying for her…
  • Fast for her as God leads. Jesus tells us that fasting is very powerful and He is right. I try to fast for my family once a week. A great Christian brother taught me a lot of fasting…and I’m still learning. But there is power there – God’s power.
  • Most importantly, please know that our Heavenly Father loves your daughter very, very much. He has entrusted her to you and your wife. So you can expect (and should ask for) God’s help in these challenges. The Holy Spirit is powerful. Super powerful. So ask God’s Spirit to be at work in your daughter’s heart for healing, repentance, and restoration…

Ah yes, pray, fast, know that God loves their daughter very, very, very much, and rely on the super-duper power of the Holy Spirit to change her life, which is Greek for deliver her the sin of homosexuality.

Like his wife, Gregory Slayton makes no mention of the rainbow-colored elephant in the room. And therein lies the biggest problem for this girl. The behaviors the parents are calling rebellion are likely a result of their daughter’s blossoming sexuality. She feels and thinks one way and her parents, church, and pastor think another way. Not skilled in the art of hiding one’s feelings, I suspect her honesty is being misinterpreted as rebellion. What the girl really needs is to see a counselor who is able to separate her sexuality from the guilt and anger generated by her parent’s beliefs about homosexuality. Put yourself in her shoes. She thinks she is gay, but her parents, church, pastor, and church friends are telling her that her same-sex desire is evil and a sin against God and nature. How would you respond?


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    I don’t know how I’d respond, but I hope it would be with love and acceptance no matter what my child decided about their sexuality. One thing I do know, most of those so-called Christian counselors are damaged and damaging people no one should go to.

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    Thirty years ago, this could have been me if one substituted folded notes passed at school for emails and texts. Fortunately, my parents didn’t get preachers in on my shaming. There’s no good answer at this point. I might have a couple recommendations for the teen. Don’t throw friends under the bus to save yourself. That shit’ll haunt you, too. I thought going along with what they wanted would be my best bet. There is no best bet. She probably doesn’t even have an adult friend to stay with who’s not whack. She can’t journal because she has no privacy. Just curl in a ball like an armadillo until you graduate and get a job working as many hours as possible to avoid being at home. This ensures you will get driving privileges and you can even buy a car at some point, if you’re lucky. When they refuse to let you go to college, you might have met someone at work by then who will let you move in with them. Have your necessary stuff ready and then you wait until they are both gone. This could take months, maybe years. Strike when you can and you just take your shit and leave. A note will keep them from thinking you were abducted and that you are safe. (Oh yeah. That didn’t work out that well either.) BUT, it gets you OUT and that’s the hardest part. The therapy later will help but you’ll be 50-ish y.o. and still crying over stuff that eats at your brain. HOWEVER, you can spend your days doing things that make the world better for others, because love is better than hate.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Jerri, I suspect you nailed it. I hope the young lady can find the resources to take a flying leap into a good life sooner rather than later. Now that same-sex marriage is legal, she can use the time-honored process of getting married to get out of the house… but as most women who do that find out, it often doesn’t end well. If her parents are hurt, that’s unfortunate but self-inflicted.

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    This post probably contains everything that is wrong with evangelical thinking, especially its underlying cruelty. All defended in terms of what’s best for the daughter, god loves you, your friends care for you; all in the spirit of a group that can’t come to terms with the fact that others have behavioural needs which they find repulsive.

    A friend of mine recently asked me about his 30 year old son, a big, strapping lad, very keen sportsman and seemingly attractive to women. Apparently the lad recently announced that he was gay and wanted to bring his boyfriend to meet the parents (so clearly going on for some time). I am going to admit to being a bit shocked; even though I see myself as intensely liberal in this way, there’s a difference between hearing and reading about it, and it actually confronting you, in the flesh so to speak. Even so I managed, without hesitation, to keep a dead-pan face and say ‘so what did you want to ask me about?’ The look of relief on his face was quite telling. He wasn’t, and still isn’t completely, comfortable with the arrangement but he had been expecting me to say something either disparaging or, at least comforting to his natural hostility to the situation.

    The whole relationship, including that with parents, has now settled entirely to one of normality. No letters to magazines, no stupid kneeling and talking to yourself, and no religion within a mile. Just commonsense decency.

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    And I wasn’t even gay! In my all clique of 3 friends (another girl and a boy), he confided that HE was gay, so somehow this made me and the other girl lesbians. (To be honest, I now believe sexual orientation is a spectrum and I wouldn’t put myself on the totally hetero place on the line, something I didn’t share with them but that made me even more stressed at the time as I thought then that they had a window into my brain.) Anyhoo, fear and shame… the most common feelings of my childhood. Fortunately for me, it was mostly my mom and dad was just along for the ride. Although he didn’t have the balls to stand up to her because he (like the dad in the story) relied on his wife to handle the religion. Looking back, my dad had a stutter so he didn’t pray out loud and social anxiety (still) so he skipped a lot of church or he’d have been harder on me than he was.

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    Carolyn Patrick

    Slightly off-topic, the discussion about Christian counselors reminded me – did you see that the Duggers are courting the idea of a a show where they counsel sex abuse victims! ACK!!!!!!! This is wrong on so many levels!!!!

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    I would respond with nothing but understanding and acceptance. Of course, I would have tried to be the kind of parent all along that my kid KNEW s/he could come to me with anything and I would not freak out.

    I wasn’t even gay, but I surely wasn’t supposed to date or marry anyone they didn’t choose for me (some nice, boring christian boy who I probably wouldn’t hook up with if we were the last two people on the planet). Fuck that noise, and that’s exactly what I did. And you know what? Eventually they got the hell over it, and we just celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary.

    So, if you don’t have the kind of parents who can accept you, then get out any way you can. It won’t be easy, but you don’t want to be beholden to these people in any way. Just say, okay, fine, I’ll do this on my own and/or with people I CAN trust. Others have had excellent suggestions about how to step-by-step disengage and gain control of your own life. All too often, that’s what a lot of young people have to do regardless of the sexuality situation. And it reflects very poorly on the parents and their so-called ‘values.’

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    Melinda Rose

    I’ve got a separate concern. This isn’t an average teenage background. She has been abandoned twice- first by the loss of her biological parents, second by the loss of her adoptive mother. Add in KNOWN abuse and neglect and you have one severely injured young woman.

    This teen needs professional, non-Biblical counseling ASAP. I’ve seen these types of behaviors in my students and some family members. She’s in a world of hurt right now.

    She may be a lesbian. She may be terrified of male sexual attention due to abuse and a lesbian or bisexual or heterosexual.

    I just want this teen to have a fighting chance at happiness- and I’m sad to say that her budding sexuality is probably the least of her problems right now…

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    Kate Bartlett

    So why doesn’t God just help this girl who has already had a terrible life? Why do the parents need to pray and fast? Why did he cause her all these problems in the first place? It’s all just crazy and people believe this. The poor girl, my heart goes out to her stuck with these dickheads for parents.

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Bruce Gerencser