Daddies and Daughters: Understanding Female Same-Sex Attraction

“Susan’s eyes filled with tears as she related to me an incident that occurred many years ago. It was the night of her first school dance and she was excited. She even felt good in the dress she was wearing. It wasn’t as comfortable as the usual jeans and tee-shirt, but, for once, that didn’t matter. Susan looked like a woman, and, more importantly, she felt like one.

Not owning any make-up herself, Susan borrowed her mother’s for the night. Application was difficult. How on earth do women manage to do this every day? She wondered as she fought courageously with the eyeliner pencil. However, her persistence paid off, and she felt transformed into a ‘real’ woman. Checking that no one was watching, Susan twirled like a regular beauty queen in front of the full-length mirror.

Timidly, Susan proceeded down the stairs. ‘Dad,’ she petitioned, ‘how do I look?’

Her father glanced up from the evening newspaper, briefly scanned her, then smirked, ‘Who hit you in the eyes?’

Her dad may have been teasing, but his words sent her reeling—her budding femininity left in tatters.

Susan remembers running to the bathroom, tears streaming down her cheeks. Once inside, she locked the door and scrubbed her face until it was raw. ‘I’ll never do that again,’ she vowed, knowing that her days of trying to be a woman were over.

Fifteen years later, Susan had still not worn any make-up.” (Howard, 2001, p. 107)

The father daughter relationship plays an important role in the life of a young girl and her development. Ideally a girl’s, “father is to move into her world (and the world of the mother), protecting their special mother-daughter relationship by supporting his wife and affirming and calling forth his daughter’s unique self and feminine identity” (Hallman, 2008, p. 67).

Jeanette Howard (2001), in her book, Out of Egypt, writes

“Beside fostering a sense of security, one of the father’s main roles is to affirm his daughter in her femininity. As a representative of the opposite sex, his opinion of his daughter provides affirmation or disapproval in a way that a mother cannot. As the first man a little girl falls in love with, he has the opportunity to nurture her into someone who enjoys her own sexuality. He can allow her to flirt in a safe environment without fear of being rebuffed or taken advantage of” (p. 106).

Two Extremes

Similar to their relationships with mom, the same description of extreme closeness and distance in the father-daughter relationship is reported.

Closeness:

Many women report their dad’s being “warm, kind and fun” and often described themselves as dad’s “special pal.” However, this closeness was only brought about as the girls moved into the world of their father’s “engaging in his interests and activities.” Even when the girls may have genuinely enjoyed these activities, the interactions were “often more about dad than daughter” (p. 68). “Rarely did one of these women experience dad’s devoted attunement to her inner thoughts and feelings or her special interests that fell outside his world. In extreme cases, many of these women knowingly shifted aspects of their identity or became like their dad in order to maintain a sense of closeness” (p. 68).

In some cases daughters felt that their dads were trying to mold them towards self-sufficiency, toughness or scholastic ability, etc. Whatever the goals they felt their fathers had for them, they perceived pressure to please in order to maintain the relationship to the point of giving up their own goals, dreams, opinions and sense of self etc. (p. 68).

Absence:

While many women report that their fathers were a “lifeline and closest ally,” most also reported “an equally strong sense that their fathers were emotionally absent or unpredictably angry.” Many of these fathers were not necessarily more angry than others fathers, but rather these “relational traits, as perceived by their daughters left an indelible impact” (p. 68). Two seemingly opposite reactions often occur. First, a deep fear is cultivated leading to the belief that “men are not safe.” Second, many align themselves with dad, attempting to “identify and associate with his apparent power and strength” (p. 69).

One woman reports:

Once my dad became really angry with my youngest sister. His face was bright red. I know at that moment I made a vow that I was never going to be like my sister. I was going to be strong like him. And I would never do anything that would make him that mad at me” (p. 69).

 Affects:

The actual or perceived emotional absence of these fathers left their daughters in a place where they were never able to experience a healthy “emotional connecting or interacting with a man.” Rather, men were viewed as undesirable or unknown. Other related perceptions of men that were often developed by these daughters due to their fathers emotional absence were that men were “weak, irrelevant and useless: and consequently ignored.” Many of these women also “developed the belief that they, as females in relationship to a man, didn’t matter” (p. 69).

A dysfunctional relationship with dad has the potential for inhibiting their daughters from relating to a man in an effective way. It can also affect how that woman views and relates to God as her Heavenly Father. “If we have not received from out earthly Dad a sense of specialness and acceptance for who we are, we can find numerous problems in opening ourselves up to our Heavenly Daddy” (Howard, 2001, p. 108).

Conclusion:

As these last two posts have illustrated, each parent plays an extremely important role in the development of their daughters. For some, the breakdown of either of these relationships (or the perception of breakdown) can have deep lasting effects in a girl’s perception of herself, her sexuality, and how she relates to each gender. My prayer is that these last several posts will be helpful not just to counselors but to parents like myself who are truly striving to show love and care.

For parents my hope is that these posts do not lead to anxiety that one insensitive comment will doom your daughter to a life of lesbianism. My husband, after reading the opening story, commented on how extreme Susan’s reaction was to her father’s one insensitive comment. If you had the same reaction it would be helpful to keep in mind that these stories are most likely not the whole story. In other words, there are always going to be other factors playing their part in a girl’s life than just one isolated incident or comment.

As parents I hope this post will remind and encourage you to work to be aware of what makes each of your children tick and to seek to know how your children are internally responding to the interactions you have with them and how they perceive their relationship with you. Does your child get your sarcastic sense of humor or are they taking what you say to heart? Do you know how your child best receives and feels love? Is your discipline style working well for one kid while it’s crushing another? How does your child view themselves? Do you know their insecurities? Their fears? Their desires for their life? Work to know these sorts of things and adjust your parenting appropriately.

Finally, when you as a parent do blurt out insensitive comments or become harsh with your children, as every parent on the planet is bound to do at some point no matter how amazing you may be, have the humility to apologize to your kids and reassure them of your love for them and their value to you and God. Doing this kind of damage control will go a long way to keeping your relationship with your kids in good repair.

(Unless otherwise indicated, all of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Howard, Jeanette. (2001). Out of Egypt: One woman’s journey out of lesbianism. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s