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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Mother Has Been Overtaken With Religion and Can’t Accept That I’m a Lesbian”

I am a lesbian, and my live-in mom refuses to accept that I’m gay or accept my girlfriend, unless we’re “just friends,” due to her religious beliefs. She tells me that it’s an abomination and that I will go to hell for this. I also believe in God and obviously don’t want that fate, but I want to be with my girlfriend, “Amelia.” I feel obligated to take care of my mother. Amelia and I have known each other for almost three years, and my mom moved in with me a few months after we met. Amelia and I started as FWB only in May of this year, but in the past few months we have fallen for each other and want to have a relationship. Amelia knows my mom’s standpoint and refuses to come around/meet my mom. My being gay is not new news to my mom; I’ve been out since the late 90s and had two previous girlfriends. It seems that she had no problem then,but now she is overtaken with religion and I just want both of them not only in my life but to get along. Neither have met each other ever. I want to buy a house but cannot choose between them nor have I found a way to make them accept each other. What should I do? — Stuck in the Middle

Sometimes we don’t get everything we want in life, and we have to prioritize. You want your mom to accept your girlfriend – and by extension, you, for who you are, sexual identity and all – and for your mother and your girlfriend to get along. You want to buy a house. You don’t want to have to choose between two women you love. You may not get all of that, and I think you need to reframe some of what you want so that you are better able to prioritize in a way that best supports your personal happiness and well-being. For example, you aren’t really choosing between your girlfriend and your mother here. You’re choosing between living authentically and living inauthentically, and both your girlfriend and your mother are welcome to join you. They will have to choose, too, and in a way, this should be very liberating for you.

You love and care about Amelia, but your mother, who now has a problem with your being gay, thinks your relationship is an abomination and that you will go to hell because of it. Where does that leave you? What are you supposed to do with that information? End your relationship so your mom will continue loving you? Is her love dependent on your relationship status? Your sexual identity? Your likelihood of getting into heaven, based on a belief system that you may or may not prescribe to? If you were to end your relationship to appease your mother and “earn” her acceptance and love, who would she really be accepting? You’re still who you are. You’re still a lesbian, whether you’re in a relationship with a woman or not. If she isn’t able to love the authentic you, what is her love of an inauthentic or an unhappy you really worth?

On the other hand, you have Amelia, who knows your relationship with your mother is important – you live together, even! – but refuses to meet her. How dependent is your happiness with her and the success of your relationship dependent on her establishing a relationship with your mother (or at least putting in some effort to meet her)? To answer this, you probably need to think about how authentic you can be independent of your relationship with your mother, independent of your identity as your mother’s daughter.

Weighing how you are most authentically yourself and thinking about which relationship best supports your authenticity will bring you to what I think is a better reframing of your question: “Does either relationship bring me to my most authentic self? Does either relationship ask me to deny my authentic self?” From there, I would urge you to just… live your damn life on your terms and invite both these women to join you on your path if you want them to. If your mother cannot, then maybe it’s time for her to find her own home and not live with you anymore. If Amelia cannot humble herself to meet your mother because she is – understandably – so insulted by your mother’s rejection of her role in your life, you can decide that who you are with her isn’t worth the sacrifice of your mother’s acceptance. But understand that if your mother’s acceptance is based on your not being in a relationship with another woman, then the sacrifice you’ll have to make for her acceptance might not be worth the loss of your… self, your authenticity, your happiness. It wouldn’t be for me. I don’t think it would be for most people.

The choice really comes down to living your mother’s dream for you or living your own. Living by your mother’s belief system or living by your own. Being yourself – your wonderful gay self – or being an inauthentic version of who you are for as long as you can handle pretending so as to keep your mother in your life in a way that is most pleasing and comfortable for HER. The choice is kind of a no-brainer, no? And, really, it should be a no-brainer for your mother, too. She can continue loving you and enjoying the privilege of being part of your life. Or she can lose you to her homophobia. You can’t control what she does, but you can honor yourself by being true to who you are even when you risk losing someone so important to you.

I’m a 24-year-old woman and I don’t think I’ve ever been nude or partially nude even for a moment or two around another woman. I’ve avoided gyms, dropped off a high school swim team, avoided fun activities and experiences, and ditched out on shopping sprees with friends. I’m not wanting to become Miss Naked Person, but I see roommates and friends who are comfortable with a quick change around friends, or at least don’t let it stop them from doing things they want to do, and I wonder how I can get over myself? I’ve considered trying to make myself shower at my gym, but I’m worried I’d completely freeze. I thought about changing when my roommate was around, but I always find an excuse to avoid it. Are there strategies I can do to get over this? I’m thin, athletic, reasonably confident with my body when I have clothes on, yet…I’m modest mouse in even the tamest and most natural of scenarios where one might be nude around other women. — The Naked Truth

 
I’m curious what your fear of being naked around other women is stopping you from doing that you think you would otherwise enjoy? I’m struggling to even think of more than two things – showering at a gym and going to one of those Korean spas that are popular here in NYC – where I’d have a natural opportunity to be naked in front of other women. But then, I’m more than 20 years older than you and maybe your lifestyle naturally lends itself to a wider array of naked opportunities. At any rate, my advice to you is the same as anyone who wants to do something she’s afraid of: just fuckin’ do it! Shower at the gym! If you freeze (either metaphorically or literally), you freeze! And then you… move past the freezing. You hurry through your shower and grab your towel and quickly get dressed. If it helps, go to a gym far from your home where you’re less likely to see anyone you know. Then do it again, maybe even at a different gym. Do it enough times that it no longer scares you because it’s something unfamiliar. It might still scare you because it’s uncomfortable, but even that kind of fear is different than the fear of the unknown.

Two personal anecdotes: I used to be like you and avoided women’s locker rooms and such because I, too, didn’t want to be naked in front of other women. Then I got pregnant with my first kid and, ooh boy, did that cure me of my modesty. You’re naked around other people so much when you’re pregnant that you kind of forget you don’t have clothes on. I lost count of how many people saw my vagina over the course of several months. And then I did it all again a few years later and even more people saw my vagina and boobs over and over and over. Now, I just don’t care anymore. Modesty cured! So, getting pregnant is one way to “get over yourself” though I don’t recommend doing that solely for the sake of facing your naked fear. (Showering at the gym is lower stakes.)

Another thing I’m afraid of: ice skating. I’m afraid of losing my balance and falling and it hurting both my body and my ego. But it looks like fun and my kids enjoy ice skating and I want to be able to enjoy it with them, so I am facing my fears and last week I bought some used ice skates on eBay, and later this afternoon, while my kids are at school and the rink near my home should be much less crowded than on a busy weekend, I’m going to go lace up and take a spin around the ice. I’m scared. I’m probably going to fall down and it’ll be embarrassing and I might hurt myself. I’m going to do it anyway. I have to at least try. A few times. I have to try a few times. If I can face my fears, I know you can, too. So, I’ll hit the ice and you hit the showers, and maybe in a few weeks we can compare notes?

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

11 comments… add one
  • ron December 16, 2021, 12:23 pm

    LW#1:
    You write: ” I also believe in God and obviously don’t want that fate but want to be with my girlfriend, “Amelia.” ”

    Does this mean that you share your mother’s religious beliefs, but want to keep Amelia as your gf anyway. That’s a real beat-yourself-up combo. You can certainly believe in God, and follow the beliefs of many religious denominations and still be a proud lesbian. You need to consider what your own religious beliefs actually are. If you want to be actively religious, you need to explore religions and denominations which willingly accept you just as you are.

    If your mother can’t accept you as you are, you may have to consider helping her to find alternate housing arrangements, telling her that you and your gf are going to live together in a new house and that she and current attitude aren’t welcome. You will still visit her as her loving daughter, but won’t tolerate her poison to your relationship under your roof.

    I take a kinder view of Amelia than Wendy does. Why expose yourself to someone who views you as an abomination? I suspect Amelia has heard enough from LW to know that LW’s mother will not greet her in civil fashion, but instead drop a load of poison on her.

    LW, unless you are willing to be celibate until your mother dies, this is an issue that is never going to go away, even if you ditch Amelia (a really unkind loser move) to please your mother. It will recur over and over again. You need to confront your mother over this and set very firm boundaries. Her religous beliefs are her own. You decide what you believe. And, most importantly, you live yourlife by your beliefs, not by hers.

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  • peggy December 16, 2021, 12:44 pm

    Good advice from Ron. Agree about why Amelia may not want to meet your mom, but wonder if your mom refuses to meet Amelia in the first place. Folow Ron’s advice and if your mom can’t accept you as you are and your relationship as it is, I think you need to stop or severely limit your relationship with your mom. She was the one who “changed the rules mid game”. This is on her.

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  • FYI December 16, 2021, 8:11 pm

    If I were Amelia, I wouldn’t be jumping at the chance to meet a homophobe. Why should she? Maybe Amelia has some self-respect.

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  • LisforLeslie December 17, 2021, 8:29 am

    LW#1 – I’d like to suggest finding a church or religious group that embraces the LGBTQ community? Find people who can show you how to reconcile religion and identity. Your mom will probably not join in, because whatever religion she has thrown herself into is one that likes to separate “us” from “them”.
    Ultimately you need to separate from your mom so you can be yourself.
    And yeah, I don’t fault your girlfriend from avoiding a homophobe.

    LW#2 – Can’t say I’m running around getting naked, ever, in life. But if your issue is that you don’t feel you can change in front of your friends because they’ll judge you… well, either they are assholes or you’re not giving them enough credit and putting your issues on them.
    I’ll also second Wendy’s comment that after a major medical event (in my case surgery) you get over the naked factor in certain circumstances. I don’t recommend getting pregnant or having major surgery to specifically help with this issue – but I suppose what I’m saying is that you’re young, and outside of your friend group – no one really gives a shit. Gyms, saunas, spas, medical – no one really gives a flying fuck about anyone but themselves in that moment. Use that to your advantage.

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    Bittergaymark December 17, 2021, 11:52 am

    Yeah, there is nothing to be gained by Amelia meeting somebody who will only blame her for sending her daughter to hell.

    PS — If Mommy’s new church is so fucking wondrful — and so fillled with Christ’s love — let them support and care for Mommy Dearest instead. Kick her out. Seriously. Let there finallly be real consequences to being a bigot.

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  • Peggy December 17, 2021, 12:01 pm

    i agree with BGm on having the church look after their own. Was thinking that would be a good course of action.

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  • MPS December 17, 2021, 2:14 pm

    What Ron and BGM said! I feel really bad for Amelia here and I’m proud of her for setting boundaries for her own self-preservation.

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    Prognosti-gator December 17, 2021, 4:31 pm

    LW1: You’re going to lose Amelia. Eventually, one or the other of you will want this relationship to progress beyond the casual, and there’s no way to do that if you have to “pretend” to be friends in your own house.

    Most Christian denominations believe ANYONE who doesn’t both believe in the divinity of Jesus and have asked for his forgiveness for their sins is going to hell. So, would your mother treat a hypothetical Jewish boyfriend the same way? I’m guessing not. For some reason, evangelicals have a particular bug up their butt about homosexuality, even though a lot of other things are also “sins” and all sins are equally good at separating you from grace.

    Wendy is right, in that you need to live authentically. Do you want to hide being a lesbian for the rest of your/your mom’s life? Maybe that’s a way for YOU to live, but I’m guessing Amelia (and any future relationships) won’t be so keen on doing that.

    LW2: From my locker room experience, as age increases, so does the “DGAF” attitude about being naked. I kind of wish it wasn’t quite like that, as there’s nothing like reaching for your shoes and turning to be face to (not face) with another patron’s wrinkly ass … but it is what it is.

    https://theoatmeal.com/pl/minor_differences2/locker_room

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  • Alejandra December 18, 2021, 11:25 am

    I’ll go ahead and out myself as “The Naked Truth.” I appreciate all of the (very good) advice. What prompted this was realizing that I often wait hours (or more) to change when my roommate is home (we have a NYC studio, shared grad student space) and I realize just how extreme that is. My friends all shower at the gym (not private showers), go shopping and try on clothes together, etc. I’m sure everyone has different levels of comfort and modesty, even among my friends. But the reality is I don’t even know what those are because I’m so ridiculously modest even my own roommate hasn’t seen me nude. I’m going to try to take Wendy’s challenge and hit the showers. It’s a more extreme option (because it is fully nude!) but if I can do that…..suddenly I can do any of the other things I feel so weird being uptight about. I’m scared to death though so wish me luck

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    • Hazel December 18, 2021, 5:33 pm

      While it might seem idiosyncratic, your fear of being nude isn’t so odd–both I and my housemate posed as life models but she was in a total panic if I ever came in on her changing in our flat. She really needed it to be a normal prescriptive part of the proceedings. Showers are a great way to do that! Wishing you luck.

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  • Peggy December 18, 2021, 1:38 pm

    Sounds like a good and brave plan. Am pretty sure that once you do it , you will wonder why you were so worried about it!

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