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A Mother Asks: Why does my lesbian daughter wear men's clothes

Mother wants advice about lesbian daughter

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Dear Kathy:

My 19 yr old daughter is a beautiful, sensitive and confused lesbian. Okay, she says she is not confused about her sexuality, but I think she is confused about how she "should" present herself, dress wise. I am 52yr old, divorced woman.....yes, I am very straight, but over my lifetime I have had friends, and many co-workers that have been gay/lesbian, so while that doesn't make me an authority, it's not like I am a dyed in the wool homophobe either.

My question is this, Kathy: My daughter gets very defensive when I try to help her with thoughts of how she should dress to go to job interviews, or even to put in applications. She is does not like really feminine dress, and it seems like she wants to actually portray herself as a male....now that is where it gets iffy with me.

Her sexual preference aside, we are dealing with employment, credible, life sustaining employment, and with that comes professional appearance, do you agree?

I am fed up with the defense tactic she throws at me when I am just being truthful with her.....these practices apply to all, but she is a female, not a male, and I am sorry, I just don't understand where there is any room for argument on this situation.

Yes, I am frustrated, Kathy, and I am trying to put my feelings about her sexuality completely on the side burner in talking about this issue....if she was straight I would still be having this problem if she chose to dress like a gang banger want to be, or should I say, MALE hip hop dress....you tell me, is that job search clothing and appearance to you?

I hope you can shed some light on this for me....am going to my PFLAG meetings, but I'm sorry, none of these parents have this problem now or in the past, and they get a little exasperated with me anyway......I try, I really do, and I hope you can please help me. Thank you so much for your time, Kathy*

Here's what I had to say:

Thanks for writing to me for advice. I am not a mother, but having worked with teenagers for 15 years, I can understand your frustration.

Your daughter is young and still trying to figure out who she is. I don't know how long she has been out, but given her age, I am assuming it's not that long. When people come out, they often tend to go overboard in expressing their sexuality. My guess is she is young and radical and wants everyone to accept her as she is or "F@@K them". Am I right? A lot of teenagers feel that way, regardless of their sexual orientation. I can relate, because I was once there and have seen many youngsters go through the same thing.

While I can understand your frustration and wanting your daughter to change to be more acceptable to society and to get a job, chances are she is not going to hear it from you. It's normal for her at this age to rebel against everything her mother says. You're right, she probably will have a hard time getting a job, but she may have to learn that on her own. It will probably take her not getting a job she really wants to realize that she needs to dress up. There are plenty of ways to dress up without looking girly.

I applaud you for trying to be accepting and understand your daughter's sexuality. For some women, a part of being a lesbian is expressing their gender in a more "butch" or boyish manner. It doesn't mean they want to be a man. This may be the most difficult part of her lifestyle for you to accept.

And she is 19, which is an adult. It can be hard to watch people we love live their lives when we want to make it easier for them. I can only hope your daughter is applying for jobs that are appropriate to her look. Certainly many "alternative" looking people live and work at full time jobs. Sure, they're probably record store clerks or tattoo artists and not lawyers and accountants, but they are making their livings in ways that are enjoyable to them.

You may see what she is doing as limiting, but for her it may be a necessary part of expressing who she is. I personally cannot imagine having to work a job where I would be required to wear a dress. If that were a job requirement, I would not even apply.

In a nutshell, what she is doing is typical teen. I think you need to let her go and let her figure this out. It may mean failing. Or maybe she'll get an awesome job as a Bellhop, at Jiffy Lube or a driver for UPS.

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