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How to Talk with Your Adult Daughter about Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Same-Sex Attraction

Note: This article is intended to support and encourage parents of adult children only.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Is it just me or are you experiencing a bit of déjà vu right now? It seems like the sexual revolution of the 60s is back. In case you weren’t there, it was a time when themes of sex, sexuality, sexual liberation, and all that goes with it, hit American culture like a unexpected tsunami. Now, here we are, over 50 years later, and the nation is in a similar place.

If you’re a dad to a daughter, there’s a good chance you’re drowning in conversations around these topics lately. Yet most fathers have no idea where to start in navigating these issues, let alone speak into their daughter’s life about them. But we can’t avoid this topic anymore. This is the world your daughter lives in, and she needs you to help her process it.

It’s clear. If you’re not talking about these things with your daughter, you need to be. Even if you’re uncomfortable. If you don’t weigh in on these subjects with her, then every other voice will outrank, influence, and guide her except yours.

Understanding Cultural Pressure

To illustrate the current cultural magnitude of this topic, if you type into your search engine, “how to talk with your child about gender” you’ll see nearly 600,000 results.

You’ll see everything from gender fluidity to gendered pronouns to transgender to LGBTQ to nonbinary to gender nonconforming. The list goes on. Your daughter is growing up in a world that is very different than the one you grew up in.

I receive increasing numbers of emails from dads asking me how to navigate this tricky topic of sexuality and same-sex attraction with their girls.

Example of Talking about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

“My daughter is 25 and has been in a homosexual relationship for about 2.5 years. I feel it’s my fault for not connecting with her in her preteen years. I am a Christian and believe that God has something better for her than this lifestyle. How do I connect to her to help pull her out of this situation? Desperate.”

You can hear these father’s hearts and cries for help. They don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. But they also admit that they really don’t know the right thing to say.

My goal is to support you as a dad so that your interactions with your daughter have a better chance of being successful. Especially around the issues of same-sex attraction and sexuality. So, I want to share my response to this email above. Perhaps my words will provide some key talking points for you to use with your daughter.

My Response for Dads on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Dear Desperate Dad…

I’m glad you reached out and are open to hearing some of my thoughts and ideas. I acknowledge that you’ll be weighing my input with your own conscience as you choose your next steps with your daughter.

Connect with Your Daughter

First, I love that you want to connect with your daughter to talk about her same-sex relationship. Yet, truth be told, since she’s an adult, she’s making her own decisions and likely won’t listen to you because you hold a position different than hers.

Your primary goal must be to connect with her heart. This begins with being a great listener more than being a great talker. Ask questions that invite her to share what’s going on in her life rather than forcing her to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Strengthen Your Relationship

Second, when you do talk to her about this weighty subject, there needs to be a solid relational foundation under it first. So, let me ask: Are you regularly connecting with her to talk about lighter, broader topics? So, it can hold this heavier, more intense topic? If not, start there.

Understand Your Daughter

Next question: How close would you say the two of you are on a scale of zero to ten (with ten being the closest)? If your number is five or below, I would suggest waiting to talk with her about her relationship. Hold off until you’ve connected with her about other areas of her life that have less potential for misunderstanding, hurt, hostility, arguments, etc.

Biblical Guidance

Third, as much as we believe that the Bible is clear in stating:

  • That God has created us as His male and female image bearers (Genesis 1:26)
  • Where a man is directed to leave his father and mother to be united to his wife as one flesh (Genesis 2:24)
  • No longer two but one, with no one separating what God has joined together (Matthew 19:4-6)

The reality is that not everyone interprets the Bible the same way.

Of course, we can use the Bible to speak into the lives of those we love. But when all is said and done, each of us has a free will where we choose to respond to God’s Word individually. With your daughter being a grown adult, she must choose for herself which path she will take.

Loving Your Daughter

The more poignant question then becomes: How will you love her even when she makes choices other than what you would prefer or choose for her?

I remember listening to the 20/20 interview between Hugh Downs and Billy Graham back in 2003. It was (and still is) one of the most powerful and gracious perspectives on the topic of same-sex attraction I’ve ever heard.

Here is the actual transcript of their conversation:

Hugh: I’d like to get your opinion also about homosexuality. What do you feel about that?

Billy: Yes, well I think that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin…but, the Bible also teaches that pride is a sin, jealousy is a sin, and…hate is a sin, evil thoughts are a sin. And so, I don’t think that homosexuality should be chosen as the overwhelming sin that we are doing today.

Hugh: If one of your children had been gay, would you have ceased to love that child?

Billy: No. I would not. I would love him even more maybe!

Be Honest with Your Daughter

That said, I would advise you to come humbly to this conversation with your daughter.

  • Be fully aware that you are neither her judge nor jury.
  • Ask her questions about how she experienced her pre-teen years when you weren’t there for her.
  • Make amends and ask forgiveness while being aware that you too are a sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy.
  • Remind yourself that her choices are no worse than those you’ve made.
  • You can share your fears or concerns at some point, but make sure they are first covered with prayer, grace, love, gentleness, and “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).

If she feels your judgment, she will distance herself from you rather than experiencing the love of a father who champions his daughter.

I pray your daughter will always know that you unconditionally love her as she rests in knowing that the door to your home and your heart is always open to her.

What the Bible Says about Your Response

I understand your stance. Yet I believe that the best position you can take as a dad with a daughter who is choosing a lifestyle other than the one you would choose for her is captured in Luke 15.

“But while he [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

This is the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus uses it to share about His Father whose children often choose to walk away from Him despite His consistent love and support. There are five proactive things this father does here:

  1. He sees his child (who is in a compromised state, wayward, in process, messy).
  2. The father is filled with compassion (open-hearted, available, no judgment).
  3. He runs toward his child (takes the first step, eagerly moves forward in pursuit).
  4. The father embraces his child (physically expresses love, warmth, and joy).
  5. He kisses his child (focuses on demonstrating love rather than lecturing or pointing out obvious poor choices and errant ways).

This is a powerful roadmap to guide you as a father in knowing how to pursue your daughter’s heart. Even amid questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, consider the significant role you have in building a bridge to God as her Father by ensuring that she knows the door to your home and your heart are always open.

Strategies to Talk with Your Daughter about Same-Sex Attraction

As you prepare to engage your daughter in topics of same-sex attraction or sexual orientation and gender identity, here are my recommendations:

  1. Begin by asking questions. (Goal: be curious, not critical)
  2. Don’t talk at her; talk with her. (Goal: listen, don’t lecture)
  3. Model mutual respect. (Goal: dialogue, don’t dominate)
  4. Remember this is a two-way interaction. (Goal: talk and listen)
  5. If appropriate, end by sharing your thoughts/beliefs/convictions with her. (Goal: honesty with humility)

Questions to Ask Your Daughter about Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Same-Sex Attraction

If you’re ready to start conversing, here are questions you can ask your daughter:

  1. Have you known someone who has been teased or criticized about their sexuality or sexual orientation?
  2. What are your thoughts/beliefs/convictions/opinions about someone being straight, gay, trans-gender, bi-sexual, nonbinary, or non-gender (one who experiences gender as both male and female)?
  3. How would you describe the culture around you when someone says that he or she is straight? Is it accepted? Or is exploration around sexuality encouraged and celebrated, even questioned, and how does that impact you?
  4. How do you view your own sexuality? Would you describe yourself by using any of these terms listed above (#2) or would you describe yourself another way?
  5. I want you to know that I love you and I always will. Have I ever made you feel unlovable, unaccepted, or unworthy because of your sexuality? Or for any other reason?
  6. How can I better support you now that we’ve talked honestly, and this is all out in the open?
  7. Would you be open to hearing my thoughts/beliefs/convictions/opinions around sexuality? My goal isn’t to preach at you, dominate you, or belittle you, but I would appreciate being able to share my heart with you for a few minutes. Would that be okay?

Dad, now is the time to build your competence and confidence as you invest in your daughter’s life by talking with her about these topics, leading with bold intention and courageous pursuit with a foundation of honor, love, and respect.

YouTube video
Discovering the Truth about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Editor’s note: This article was edited for clarity 6/13/2024

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