What do I do about sleepovers when my teen is gay?

It’s a rocky road to follow for any teen.
It’s a rocky road to follow for any teen. Photo: Shutterstock

When my 13-year-old daughter came out to me and the rest of our family about a year ago, everyone was supportive of her. We talk about it sometimes, but really, it's just so much a part of who she is that I don't think about it on a daily basis.

It doesn't change the way I feel about her, and so far it hasn't changed the way I parent. But recently one issue has come up that has me slightly baffled.

My daughter wants to have sleepovers, you see. And that raises some challenging questions for me as a parent.

Most of my daughter's friends are girls. They're lovely kids and I have no issue having them staying in my home. But I know – because my daughter has told me – that she has some confused feelings for her best friend.

She has said she likes her as more than a friend, but she worries about telling her because she doesn't want to damage the friendship. And she is unsure about how her friend feels about her.

I feel lucky because she trusts me enough to confide in me about her feelings, but on the other hand, I also feel bound to use that information responsibly.

If my daughter was straight and wanted to have a boy she liked stay over, my automatic reaction would be a resounding "no" that you'd be able to hear from the next suburb.

Should that answer be different just because they're two girls? And is that the correct response anyway?

I'm not naïve. I know she'll be curious and start to experiment – if she hasn't already. The question is whether I allow it to happen in my house.

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I can think of many worse places for teens to explore their newly awakened sexual feelings than in the comfort of their own bedroom – largely because I probably did it in all of them when I was growing up. That's not something I feel great about pushing my daughter towards.

Clinical psychologist at the University of Queensland, Sasha Lynn, says gender shouldn't play a part in how I deal with this issue.

"It's important to be open and understanding in your communication with your daughter," she said.

"And it's up to you to decide what you and your daughter feel comfortable with and the boundaries that would be in place for any kind of romantic relationship, irrespective of gender."

What I feel comfortable with, of course, is my daughter staying five years old forever, and wanting only to cuddle her teddy bear. But failing that it looks like I need to open the lines of communication and then make a judgement call.

Sasha suggests being open and honest, and trying to be empathetic.

"It's a rocky road to follow for any teen, negotiating romantic relationships" she said. "If there are questions you have, try to be sensitive about how you ask them and be honest that this is new territory for you too, as it would be regardless of sexual orientation."

So it looks like some conversations need to be had in my household, but for now, I'll battle the urge to shout "no" repeatedly while sticking my fingers in my ears. That's the horrifying and wonderful thing about little girls – they grow up, and it's our job to try to keep up.