As a parent whose daughter came out at 17, while I was in the midst of divorcing her father (after 21 years) I can offer some practical tips that helped me–and I hope that they help you.
- Immediately begin the process of trying to let go of your dreams for her, most of which our Cinderella society has given you.
She may never walk down the aisle in the fluffy white dress. And if she does, it will NOT be to meet Prince Charming at the altar. Learn to accept that this was your dream and not hers. Once you come to terms with it(and hurry) then use it to open the communications door with her. “OK, I’ve gotten over myself about the Cinderella wedding thing, Tell me what YOUR dreams for your future are…”
- Let her know that you recognize that she is still the little girl you’ve always loved, but ask for her patience as you work through her newly revealed life script.
And don’t be afraid to let her know what you are having trouble with–she may be able to help you since she has clearly thought about this for a much longer period of time than you. Understand that there may be places where you will need to agree to disagree–which happens anyway. Just be careful that those places do not amount to denial of who she really is.
- As you are sorting through your own thoughts on the situation, play a small mind game with yourself: would you be raising this or that issue if it she were hetero?
This is especially important as you are presented with her partner choices. Not all of them will be good for her and as her mother you have a right to have these opinions. And when/if you choose to express them to her, preface the conversation with “I would be saying this to you if Roberta were Robert….”. She may not believe you at first, but I bet she will eventually.
- Read Ellen Degeneres’s mother’s first book, Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey.
- Try PFLAG if one is near you
However, know that many of the participants may be having a really hard time with their issue–and may end up dominating the meetings while you get zero out of them. Don’t be afraid to walk away. You are in this for you and your daughter, period. Whatever helps, do it. If it doesn’t help, dump it.
- Meet her friends.
Go to a Pride event (they are usually in June). What you will almost certainly find is that the vast majority of the gay/lesbian community is the same as everyone else except for this one issue. They want to be self-supporting, homeowning, caring members of the community in which they live. If they have chosen to have children, they want to be the best parents possible.
- Be prepared to see some friendships fade away because others may be unable and/or unwilling to accept gayness as the same reality as red hair.
They may insist that it is a moral issue, with the obvious implication that you have somehow failed that part of your parenting responsibility. See #5 above and move on with your life. Your real friends will be there for you both.