Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Mom Blames My Girlfriend For Making Me a Lesbian”

Lesbian

I am a woman in my late twenties. I am from India, where the society structure is stubbornly conservative. However, I have been lucky to have been born into a family where my parents provided me with the best education and took care of my every need. Three years back, my father started showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and had an accident that injured his head further. As a result, he became bedridden and still is.

This incident changed my mother’s, my elder sister’s, and my own life forever. My elder sister was married, so she never was as much affected since she didn’t have to face my dad’s problems every day, but my mom and I had to go through a lot of trouble — emotional, as well as physical, mental, and financial.

One day, Dad suddenly suffered a stroke and had to be admitted to the hospital. His condition didn’t improve, so I brought him to a bigger hospital in my city as I lived in a bigger city than my hometown. I also invited my mother to live with me where I was living with my girlfriend. Since then, my sister has withdrawn herself from us gradually, and one day she moved abroad with her child and her husband. She never even came to see Dad in the hospital.

My girlfriend helped us a lot by cooking and calming down my mom and me, etc. My mom used to think we were good friends until the day she discovered a letter written by my girlfriend and realized that we’re lesbians. Her attitude changed towards us from that day onwards. One day, she confessed to me that she knows everything and she won’t allow such a thing in her presence. My girlfriend moved to her own place immediately since she didn’t want to live with us by then. Also, my girlfriend didn’t give me enough time so that I could convince mom about everything. My mom had other health issues such as high blood pressure, high sugar, and mental stress, and I didn’t want to add to her stress, so I decided I should set my relationship aside for a few days. Also, I cut down meeting my friends to give my dad and mom more time. I made all the sacrifices and performed all the duties I could, but I still had to hear my mom’s different theories about me:

1) She thinks that my girlfriend has made me a lesbian and that keeping her away will make me straight.

2) I hate men because I probably had a bad experience with them.

3) I have suppressed my “straight” sexual desires due to a fear of society and have chosen to sleep with women so that I relieve my sexual urges.

4) If I meet the “right guy,” I shall be straight again.

She makes me spend so many sleepless nights arguing so that I should agree to her terms, thus justifying her theories.

It breaks my heart, but at the same time I can’t even leave her since my father is in a bad state and I love him a lot and don’t want to leave him the way my sister did. My mom manipulates the issue by crying and saying she’s already going through a lot, and I have made her life more miserable by being gay.

How can I make her understand that being gay is not my choice but who I am? And also, I hate to listen to all the sick theories she has made up. — This is Who I Am

Unfortunately, I’m not sure you ever will be able to make your mother understand that being gay is not a choice. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to her dumb theories or put up with her bullshit or give up on ever having a loving, more functional relationship with her, for that matter. You can’t change your mother or her behavior and the way she treats you, but you CAN change the way you react to her, and it’s in your reaction where you can begin to set boundaries and begin to show her that you don’t have to defend yourself because you’re proud of who you are and you’re proud of whom you love and you’re proud of the life you’ve created for yourself.

Stop arguing with your mother. Stop engaging her in these battles about who and what you are. Stop being apologetic. Start living your life for YOU. Tell your mother that, if she can’t live in your presence exactly how you are — how you were created, she can find somewhere else to stay. Tell her you love her very much but that you love yourself too and you will no longer allow her to treat you as though actively loving whom you love is wrong and immoral. You have been a loving and courageous and generous daughter and I appreciate how much you want to support both your parents, but you can’t offer them your support at the risk of your own emotional well-being.

You can’t continue being an emotional punching bag for your mother. You need to take a stand for yourself. And you need to accept that your mother may never understand you, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. There’s a difference. And as nice as it would be to have parents who can understand and accept you for who are, the truth is that not everyone is so lucky. You can’t convince someone to accept you. But you can decide that you won’t allow their bigotry to define you or affect your happiness. You can decide that the acceptance and love and understanding you receive from your girlfriend and from the family you’ve created of friends and peers will lift you and guide you and support you through rough times. You can accept that the people we love can’t always be everything to us that we’d like them to be — that we are all flawed (some more than others) and all a product of our own upbringings and personal strengths and limitations. If your parents can’t give you the understanding you desire, find it elsewhere.

Finally, if you’re able to, please consider finding a new living situation for your mother. She can’t continue living with you indefinitely. Not only is her presence having an affect on your emotional well-being, but it’s also taking a toll on your relationship with your girlfriend. Start talking about a more longer-term solution for her, especially in relation to your father’s declining health. Is he still in the hospital? Is it time for him to live in a nursing home or an assisted living facility? If he’s better and can go home, what kind of help can be enlisted so the responsibility of caring for him isn’t solely on your mother (and/or you). As your mother’s burden is lifted, there’s a good chance her mood will improve and she’ll stop taking out her frustration and sadness and anger on you. You can further help the situation by setting clear boundaries and disengaging in her bullying behavior. Good luck.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

19 comments… add one
  • Lyra

    Lyra June 10, 2014, 10:04 am

    Your mom sounds awful. I would get distance from her if at all possible.
    .
    I have a really cool story that relates to this. My dad’s side is a very large Irish Catholic farm family. My 52-year-old uncle has been with his partner for over 20 years. They own a business together and have really built a life together. It’s finally legal for them to get married in Minnesota so they’re getting married this summer. My dad’s family — 11 siblings total — covers the whole gamut in terms of political beliefs. We have extreme liberals in our family as well as extreme conservatives and everything in between. But yet, our family is very close knit and I guarantee despite personal feelings every sibling will be there to support my uncle and his partner. My uncle went to tell his dad, my grandpa (an 80-year-old fairly conservative guy) that he and his parter were finally getting married. My grandpa literally stood up and started clapping and cheering. He told my uncle that he was so happy for him and that he supported him 110%. They are getting married on the family farm in July.
    .
    Obviously that’s not going to happen in every family, but it has been so cool to experience that type of love and support.

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    • avatar

      rachel June 10, 2014, 1:32 pm

      I don’t think her mom is awful. I think she has some admittedly backwards ideas about homosexuality, but I think she is just confused and hurting. Her husband is going downhill, one daughter has pretty much abandoned the family, and a bomb just got dropped on her about her other daughter. It’s a lot to process. I think if the LW treats her mother with compassion, and finds the appropriate distance as Wendy suggests, then hopefully everyone can start to deal with everything in a more healthy way.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra June 10, 2014, 5:41 pm

        Good point, rachel.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark June 10, 2014, 6:03 pm

        Please. The other daughter in all likelihood abandoned her mother precisely BECAUSE she is an insufferable bitch. I have no pity for the mother here. Cunts like her have for generations shamed their gay sons and daughters to the point of suicide. Fuck her and her fucked up attitudes. Seriously, LW. Tell her to go fuck herself. Then kick her user woe-is-mw ass to the curb and tell her to go hang out with the lower castes… Yet another shitty thing about India. For a supposedly religiously enlightened place — it is frankly, more often than not, anything but…

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      • avatar

        rachel June 10, 2014, 6:33 pm

        Haha, I was waiting for your to argue that she is a cunt. I mean she might very well be, but it sounds like the LW loves her and wants to work things out, so starting from a place of anger isn’t really helpful.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark June 10, 2014, 6:37 pm

        To me it sounds like the LW has instead simply been beaten down by the horrifically oppressive culture that she had the misfortune to be born in… One that places an absurd amount of respect your elder b.s. on the next generations…

        Trust me, the mom is NOT going to come around. She won’t rest until her daughter is either “reformed” or else dead in the ground. The LW should kick her ass to the curb. Some people are simply so not worth it. End. Of. Story.

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  • avatar

    peachy June 10, 2014, 10:21 am

    It’s quite possible that your mother is feeling powerless in the face of your father’s illness as well as worried about her own future well-being and is inappropriately focusing on your sexuality and trying to control you in order to mitigate her helplessness. I know more than one woman who has done this type of thing in times of severe stress and it certainly sounds like your family has been going through the wringer. It’s a shame that your supportive girlfriend has been left behind and that you and your mother are not able to support each other in a meaningful way. I completely agree with Wendy that these arguments have to stop, and you have to be the one to do it by setting boundaries. If you use the word “I” to frame your position, it isn’t an attack or disrespect towards your mother. “This is my personal business, Mom, and I won’t discuss it any more. Mom, I’ve already said I won’t this discuss my personal business. I ask you to respect my privacy.” etc. You’ll have to say it all a thousand times.. I know from experience, having a very tenacious mother of my own.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest June 10, 2014, 10:21 am

    The fact that your girlfriend was so good to your mom and your mom was, presumably, receptive of that compassion prior to knowing she was your girlfriend just hurts my heart. I really hope you take Wendy’s advice. I think some physical space between you and your mom could be a good thing. You can still visit and be supportive and love her while having your own life. Good luck.

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  • avatar

    bethany June 10, 2014, 10:25 am

    There’s too much going on here for me to really get into it, but LW, the first step is to get space from your mother. She needs to be in a place of her own, and you really need her to be in a place of her own. Living independently doesn’t mean that you’re deserting her in a time of need. You’re still there to support her and help with your dad, but you’ll both be getting the space you really, truly need.

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  • avatar

    Essie June 10, 2014, 10:51 am

    LW, the very first thing you need to do is to stop debating this with your mother. I understand that you want to make her see that your sexuality is not a choice, you want her to accept who you are. But arguing with her isn’t going to do it, and as long as you continue to allow these arguments, she’ll see it as an opportunity to change YOU. And she won’t give up. She’s already been successful in driving your girlfriend out of her own home, why not keep going?

    The next time she starts in on you about your sexuality, you just say “mom, I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore.” It’s not open to negotiation, so stop negotiating with her. That’s not being disrespectful. It’s being an adult.

    You said you “have to listen to all her sick theories.” No, you don’t. Not for one minute. If she continues spouting off after you tell her that you’re not going to discuss it with her, then you walk away. If you going to another room doesn’t stop her, then you say “mom, I’m going to the grocery store.” And you go out for awhile.

    The goal here is to train her that you’re not going to engage. Ultimately, you say “mom, your continued harping on this subject is going to damage our relationship, and I know you don’t want that. So let’s agree that we won’t talk about it anymore.”

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  • avatar

    Boosker June 10, 2014, 11:09 am

    Man, you’re in a rough position. Sometimes you have to set boundaries like Wendy said and agree to keep some topics off limits. This is not at all the same, but I had a situation with my mom where I had to cut her off. She was constantly making dickish comments about my weight (when I was already struggling with an eating disorder). I finally told her that she wasn’t allowed to discuss my weight, my eating habits or how my clothes fit with me ever again. I created a penalty system where if she did, she owed me an outfit (I was a teenager at the time, so this made more sense). It worked. She slipped up a few times, but she eventually learned that that particular topic was no longer open for commenting. You could do something similar. Say she’s no longer allowed to make shitty comments about your sexual orientation and create a penalty if she does. Maybe that’s ending the conversation immediately and leaving the room. Maybe that’s not allowing her to stay with you anymore. I think trying to argue your way into her understanding where you’re coming from is a lost cause. Behavior modification is probably your best option.

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny June 10, 2014, 11:35 am

      While I agree with the overall aim of your comment, if I had tried to set that kind of penalty with my mother as a teenager she would probably have choked to death on laughter.

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  • SixtyFour

    SixtyFour June 10, 2014, 12:20 pm

    I am so sorry you are going through this, LW! You are doing an amazing job taking care of your mother and father, and I am sorry they are not showing you the love and support you deserve. If you’d like any resources to help you through this, I highly recommend you check out PFLAG. It is an amazing organization that can help families who are struggling to love and accept their children after they come out. You can go to a meeting by yourself to get support, or you can drag your mom to one to help open her eyes. My mom used to be president of our local chapter, and I’ve seen firsthand the great work that it has done in the lives of LGBT people and their families.

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  • avatar

    _s_ June 10, 2014, 2:49 pm

    I read this letter, and immediately thought of this Onion story I literally just read today:

    FWIW.

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  • avatar

    TECH June 10, 2014, 5:23 pm

    I don’t like how it seems the LW is dealing with her parents’ limitations, while the older sister doesn’t have to deal with it. If the LW is feeling overwhelmed, she should really consider enlisting her older sister’s help. I can’t accept the fact that because the older sister is married, she doesn’t have to deal with it. Even if she lives far away, she should try to help her sister in some fashion.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh June 10, 2014, 6:10 pm

      It might suck, but all she can really do is ask for her sister’s help. I highly doubt it’s because she’s married that she’s not dealing with it. She could have moved abroad when single and still not be around to help. She could have a crappy relationship with her parents and not want to come home. It’s on the sister who has her Mother living with her to learn to create boundaries.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie June 10, 2014, 5:10 pm

    You are NOT responsible for your mothers happiness and then there’s nothing to debate about your relationship with your girlfriend. If mom can’t accept it, that’s her problem. Put your energy into yourself first, the rest of the family gets what’s left IF they deserve it, if not too bad for them. I had to move far enough away from my family and be emotionally detached to live by my own standards. It took time and lots of energy without a ton of results, but it was better then pandering for their approval.

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  • avatar

    Anon June 10, 2014, 7:32 pm

    LW, I have an Indian mother too, and she drives me nuts. Nothing is ever up to par, and my entire life it’s been a soundtrack of get a degree, husband and babies. I’m sorry with what you’re going through, you sounds like you have been a wonderful daughter, and support to your parents. Get to a counselor to hash through what’s going on, and help you figure out how to deal with your mom. I know my friends always told me to stand up to mine, but much easier said than done.

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  • avatar

    misslisa June 11, 2014, 2:55 am

    Have you sought out other gay Indians, either IRL or online, for advice support? The advice given here seems great to me, as an American, but you might find it exceedingly harsh or even impossible given the cultural divide. There may be a better way to achieve the same goal (getting Mom off your ass and your girlfriend back) with less vitriol. In my American view, your girlfriend is your primary family now, and your mom & dad are secondary, but I can see how that might seem like blasphemy to you.

    Somewhat on-topic: At work, in my dept of 55 ppl, 35 are Indian (the remainder are of other nationalities, besides us few Americans). I see a huge generation gap in the views of gays, the role of women, etc. depending on their ages. One day in a meeting, a young Polish engineer showed a Youtube onscreen that made a lot of gay jokes about software development terms (e.g., “penetration test”, “Cucumber”, etc.) When the narrator of the vid defined a term, it would show two guys doing something seemingly gay (like one dude sitting on another dude’s lap, or putting their groin to a guy’s ass). As I looked around the room at the reactions, the non-Indians AND the one Indian in his 20s all laughed, the Indians between age 35-40 looked uncomfortable, put their hands over their eyes, etc., and the one Indian guy my age (late 40’s) started gagging and left the room! Not sure if he actually spewed or was just being dramatic, but that guy also gags and acts visibly shaken when he sees me eating a steak or burger at my desk.

    So, with the deeply ingrained traditions in place, asking an older Indian to accept a child’s gay relationship may be like asking them to eat a steak? OK, I’m being a bit facetious, and rightfully so – who the fuck doesn’t want to eat beef, or have sex with whomever we find sexy and wants sex with us? I love to do both!! Somebody that horrified by it, it’s almost like a handicap or disorder. So glad I’m not them 🙁

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