25 November 2008

I am 18 and my 16 years old girlfriend came out to her family; her mother told me to stay away from her

I saw a question similar to this but want to ask for advice in my situation. So, I’ve been going out with Erika, my girlfriend, for almost 8 months. It’s not my first long-term relationship but it is for her–it’s her first lesbian relationship. She wanted to come out to her family and I told her I’d support her. Once her family found out though, well, her mom hasn’t stopped crying. And I know she blamed me because I “converted” her in her eyes, and I could see why she would feel disrespected, considering I’ve slept over etc. I texted her mom and told her I was sorry. She told me that I had given a horrible pain to her family and to stay away from her family because Erika was confused and that since she is 16 and I’m 18, an adult, I should just stay away. My gf says her mom would never sue me but I’m scared, our moms work at the same school. The last thing I want to do is stay away from Erika, though. So what do I do?

Dee Gamme

Hi Mary, and thanks for your question.

I can understand your frustration, and though I don’t think Erika’s mom is right, I can understand her feelings too.

Of course, you are not to blame for ‘turning her daughter into a lesbian’: Erika has a mind of her own, and I’m sure she knows how to use it. However, many parents who don’t realize what it’s like for a teenager to feel ‘different’ tend to look for someone to blame…themselves, their child, the person who was a so-called bad influence. Really it’s no one’s fault when someone decides or realizes they don’t fit in the cookie-cutter straight world, except for years of society repeating the same patterns and not being open-minded enough to accept everyone for who they are!

Blaming you for ruining her family is wrong, but I think she doesn’t have enough information about queer issues to truly accept that her daughter might be gay. She is from a different generation than you and Erika, and so I see how the situation could really hurt her and give her the illusion that her family has been tarnished. Perhaps after the shock subsides, she might even apologize for her actions. However, some people learn to accept, others don’t, so it’s hard to say at this point.

Though it might be awful to be away from your girlfriend, maybe a little bit of time apart might help smooth things out. Giving it space to breathe might be beneficial in the long run. I think you have done everything you can do to make things right. It was a very mature move on your part to text Erika’s mom to get in touch. If she were thinking more clearly, she might have been able to fully appreciate what you did.

Does your mom know about the whole situation? If you came out to your mom already, maybe you can seek her advice, since she knows Erika’s mom from work. Erica’s mother could choose to sue you, but it is unlikely that she wins or even that a lawyer would accept to represent her if the laws in your State (see below) do not condemn a relation between a consenting, 16 yo and an 18 yo individual.

In a court of law, you cannot be charged unless you have slept with your girlfriend. If you haven’t yet, this is good. You are safe. If you have already had sex with Erika, this makes things a bit more tricky.

The United States is a federal republic where the age of consent laws are made at the state level. I am not sure which state you are from, but here is the link where you can look for the answer, depending on which State you’re from.

There is a common misconception among many Americans that there is a federal limit at 18 for sexual consent, but that is false, as the age limit in most states is in fact below 18.

It still may be worthwhile for now to keep your distance for some time, just to be on the safe side. There is no law against talking on the phone or chatting on the Internet. You can still be close with your girlfriend without ruffling too many feathers, until things cool down somewhat.

Your girlfriend also has to take some decisions on her own. She can try to talk to her mom on your behalf; she can also move out (if possible) while things cool down. Depending on how bad the situation with her family is, she could even asks for emancipation, which is when a minor becomes independent from her parents. However, if she does not have the means to support herself, this may not be the best option.

There are no easy solutions, but with persistence, and if you do really love her, it is possible to solve things one way or the other. Please consider also meeting with your school counsellor or psychologist, who can help you manage such complicated situations.

Good luck, and please write back if you have any other questions,

Dee, for AlterHeros