[Two Pronged] My adopted child doesn't know I have a lesbian partner
Starting this week, Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he enrolled in, and subsequently gave, workshops in work-life balance and gender sensitivity training. He has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years, as co-lecturer and occasionally as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives. Dr Holmes needs no further introduction.
Ako po si Susan, and my partner is Pat, who has been my partner for 13 years. We have an adopted daughter who is 13 years old. We got her when she was 3 months old. The kid was raised by my mother since Pat and I are OFWs. We see her once a year when we go home to Manila or when my mother takes her here to see us. She’s an okay kid raised by her grandma so she is a bit of a brat. I wouldn’t say she’s a problem child, it’s just that when she was 9, we noticed that she started to relate to Pat differently. She used to be very sweet and loving towards Pat, but lately she no longer behaves this way. When Pat talks to her, it’s as if she doesn’t hear her.
She has not changed when relating to me. I asked her why she changed towards her daddy, because that is what she calls Pat. No answer. She doesn’t know that Pat is a lesbian. This is the first time we’ve worried about her because she is a teenager now and we’re wondering if she knows something and is just not telling us. Our problem is we don’t know if we should tell her now that Pat is not her “dad.” When is the best time to tell her since she thinks she is our biological, and not an adopted, child? How do we start telling her? Susan
Thank you for your letter, which is poignant and yet strangely and worryingly incomplete.
First, you at no moment mention the name of your daughter but only refer to her as “daughter,” “child,” “kid,” and “bit of a brat.” This seems very impersonal for someone who claims to have a good relationship with her daughter. Second, you relate that she started to change towards Pat at the age of 9 but do not tell us what happened. It is clear that something significant must have occurred, yet 4 years have since elapsed, and you and we still do not have any further information. You say you asked her but it seems you did not persevere. This seems bizarre.
There are some basic rules that apply to all adoptions, one of which is that you should have a plan for revealing the truth at some clearly defined stage. Not only that, but your child has to learn a further truth – namely, that daddy is, in fact, a woman. I get the distinct impression your plan was to have no plan and let your child work it out for herself. I suspect this is what has happened, with potentially disastrous consequences.
The change in your daughter's attitude toward Pat may well be because she finally realized what was going on. The more obvious problems you now face are 1) explaining why you did not discuss the adoption with her earlier 2) why you pretended Pat was a man in the first place 3) why you then never revealed the truth about Pat but just let your daughter find out on her own, and 4) your role in your daughter’s life.
I suggest the future contain some long and frank discussions among the 3 of you to sort out the lamentable situation you have created. I will leave it to Dr Holmes to provide some guidance in this respect. All the best. Jeremy Baer
Thank you very much for your letter. Jeremy could have been a little more gentle with you, given that problems with our children are somehow more gut-wrenching and yes, frightening, than problems with our partners.
Even if they are not literally and biologically our flesh and blood, we feel as if they are and, under all but the most extreme circumstances, we feel we will always be linked and practically intertwined for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, no matter how much we feel we love our partners, and no matter how we feel “this is it,” we have seen enough other couples who have felt the same yet ended up separate.
As far as your daughter is concerned, opening up to her is the only solution I see for your impasse. I wish you luck because it isn’t easy facing a raging adolescent, and raging she probably is, for all you’ve done to her. I am talking about how she feels, and not what is actually true and what your good intentions may have been when you did what you did. Or much more accurately in your case – didn’t do what you could’ve done earlier.
Family members have no right to expect you to be what you intrinsically are, but they do have a right to expect honesty from you. After all, if we can't trust our parents, who else can we trust? I have a feeling that is what your daughter feels towards you, Pat, and that is why silence is her only response. I feel it is because she fears that once she starts telling you how she really feels, she won’t be able to stop.
What if, in answer to your question, “Why did you change towards daddy?” she screams at you, “Daddy?! She can’t be my daddy because she’s a girl, just like you and me. Why didn’t you tell me this from the beginning instead of making a fool of me all these years?!”
And she would have every right to say these things to you, even if you may have had the best of reasons to behave as you did. I am telling you this so that you can stay the course once you start opening up to her. You have no other choice but to do so, although I am hoping you had always planned that you would at “some later, better date.”
Because you are both OFWs and spend limited, physical time with her, try to learn how to Skype (presuming you already don’t) in addition to e-mail and texts. After you open up to her, she will want to communicate – no matter if she tells you initially that she can never trust and thus, never want to have anything to do with either of you again.
Stay the course, listen, listen, listen (no matter how tempting it is to explain). She has listened to what she perceives as your lies all these years, so it’s your turn to listen to her truth.
Can you hang in there through all the abuse, accusations, tears and rage? Can you listen and only after she seems ready to, then explain – both your love for her and your apologies for the (unwise) decisions you made – bit by bit, allowing her to interrupt and rage some more if she needs to. I have a strong feeling she will forgive you soon enough. After all, in the same way that fathers, mothers, sons and daughters sometimes hurt one another, they also forgive and learn to love each other once more. This, after all, is what makes family family. Good luck! Margie Holmes - Rappler.com