Things That I (Don't) Understand

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. When my oldest daughter called me for dating advice, I never imagined it would be on these terms. If I was talking to a son who was taking a girl out for the first time, I would say many things: Be sensitive. Be kind. Be a gentleman. Be curious about her: listen, learn. Have fun - without the pressure of expectation. But what should I say when it's my daughter that is taking out the girl? Maybe that advice doesn't change...

Even though the signs were there from day one in the curious, indomitable tomboy who would never wear pink. While her friends were being princesses, she had an imaginary cowboy named Jarrup for a best friend. It was there when she challenged the dress standard norms for gender suitability in early middle school. When she watched the other girls with peculiar fascination, as though they were alien creatures. 

Gay wasn't a thing in my family. In fact, it was an abomination. While my own beliefs had bent and swayed as my understanding of God and The Whole World evolved, GAY was still something that I hadn't made eye contact with. Avoid the awkward conversation, and dealing with rigid, archaic religion that still surrounded me. It was a conversation that we didn't need to have, that I didn't need to have with myself.

Halle came home for Christmas from college and there we were, sitting in my messy bedroom. In an awkward talk full of medium smiles, stifled tears and uncomfortable silences, she was telling me that she didn't know about sex, or about love, but that she was pretty sure that men weren't in her future. She cried about a girl that she adored - one who had pushed her away, and used her, and hurt her. She had been devoutly committed to the girl. All of her words painted the picture of the loyal hound dog that would do ANYTHING for his friend and master. To keep the one she cared about free from pain and anxiety and stress were paramount motivators in Halle's life.

I knew this story. I had lived these feelings. The emotions she described and the dedication she expressed were a mirror image of thelove that I once felt for a man. As she cried, I flashed back to the physical pain I experienced when the one I loved was hurting - Halle was expressing total empathy. I UNDERSTOOD, but somehow, it was different. It made no sense to me, feeling the draw of intimacy, of discovery, to another woman. I had moved beyond the absolute belief system that would give me cause to reject my daughter for her lifestyle, but there was still some flimsy cardboard wall inside, keeping me from embracing the Whole Halle. I couldn't fathom her absolute desire to please another person who wasn't a man. I have very close girl friends, but what Halle described were feelings that I had only known for the love of my life, who was very much male.

I couldn't translate it. Or figure out how to take it away from that conversation and into the real world. How to say to Everyone Else: "yes. I understand her heart. and I support her love. for whomever she chooses." But that is truly as simple as it needed to be. Even so, I couldn't speak that language to her. I tried, in a clumsy and brutish way, to express my unconditional love for her, but the words that came out sounded more like tolerance and avoidance than support and compassion. I was doing it wrong, but I wasn't sure what right looked like.

It took me a few weeks and some less-than-gentle moments of introspection, but it finally occurred to me that the dating advice that I would give my daughter, as well as the things I would say to the Whole World were no different than they would be for a straight kid. Be sensitive, be kind. Whomever it is that you love, love unconditionally, the way that I have taught you.

More than being gay, she is my daughter. The fears that I have for her and the mistakes that she could make are universal. The risks are the same for all of us, gay or straight, every race and creed, down to the last imperfect person on the planet. Fear is born from ignorance, and while I might not understand her attraction, I understand my daughter, and I understand the love that she experiences. I know her, and as time goes on I will know her better. None of this can change my love for my girl - but my curiosity to know her has grown.

This wasn't the way I planned it, and yet here we are. Without knowing how, it's my job to include my daughter as she is, who she is, into the greater world of our extended family, the church, the judging masses. It's my job as her mother to speak love and acceptance to her, and bridge her way through self-discovery. Halle has an opportunity to live her life as an answer to how she was created by the same God that the rest of us will negotiate our own expressions of life with. It isn't necessary for me to understand, it is only necessary for me to love.

Always My Hallelujah. 


  1. "While I may not understand her attraction, I understand my daughter..." so so beautiful. I loved this just as much as I did hearing you read it out loud. <3

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