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.


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).


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).


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).


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.

Moms and Daughters: Understanding Female Same-Sex Attraction

I am a mom of two children: a beautiful girl who will be two in September and a handsome little man who is almost three months old. Becoming a mom is by far one of the best, most fulfilling things I have ever done with my life. I had no idea how intense a mother’s love could be until I had children of my own.

Motherhood is also one of the hardest things I have ever done and I realize I am just beginning this journey; the hardest parts are most likely still ahead. So as I write this post I would like to offer thanksgiving for God’s grace; the grace I know he will give me for the ways I will fail, and the grace that will be responsible for any success I may have as a parent. I am thankful for the grace God offers that restores relationships—our relationship with God and then with others. In this truth I find much hope.

My prayer is that this post would help equip some to skillfully shine truth and pour grace into many broken relationships.

 The Two Extremes

Women with SSA often describe their relationships with their mother in extremes of either connectedness or separateness (p. 61).


In cases of extreme connectedness women with SSA “describe the mother-daughter bond as more of a mutual absorption than a healthy attachment. They were undifferentiated from and emotionally enmeshed with their moms, often feeling what their mothers felt” (p. 62).

One woman shares about becoming her mother’s confidant at the tender age of 10 after her parents split up.

[my mother] would creep into my bedroom at night, and pour out her heart to   me…” (Howard, 1991, p. 84).

 She recalls other similar incidents,

“My friends arrived at the house to take me roller skating. As I kissed my     mother ‘goodbye’ she leaned back on the sofa and moaned softly, ‘Don’t go, dear,’ she whispered. ‘Mummy needs you here.’ I glanced at my friends, who were impatiently waiting by the front door. ‘But, Mum,’ I began, trying to loosen her grip of my arm. It was no good. She looked at me with those mournful eyes and I knew there would be no roller skating that afternoon…the birthday party I had to excuse myself from; the disappointment at missing summer camp; the cocktail party I had to attend as a twelve-year-old; comforting Mum several times when I found her sobbing in the bathroom. My childhood disappeared with her divorce. I lost all my friends because of her. Where was she when I needed her? I wanted a mother, not a friend!”

(Howard, 1991, p. 84-85)

Other women report their excessively close relationships with their mothers, included excessive worry about mother’s sadness and difficulty differentiating between their own feelings and their mothers feelings often leading to a dismissal or denial of their own feelings. These women perceive their mothers as being “dependent, weak, needy or childlike” (p. 62).


In cases of actual or perceived maternal detachment women describe their relationships with their mothers in one or more of the following ways:

  • “Total absence of warm emotional connection” (McDougall, 1970)
  • They perceived their mothers as being “dutiful but detached”; there but never truly “present”
  • They questioned their mother’s engagement with their inner thoughts and feelings
  • They perceived their mother as “a shell of a woman” and emotionally unavailable
  • Many women reported that their mother’s depression made it emotionally difficult for her to connect with their daughters (p. 63).
  • Some women report feeling “that they were a burden” to their mothers (pp. 62-63)

The Possible Affects:

“Regardless of how or why a girl’s attachment with mom is threatened or malformed, her future development will be affected” (p. 63).

Developmental Affects:

“A mother…is a little girl’s primal enduring home. It is through this warm, secure, ongoing attachment with mother…that a girl will form her basic sense of self; mirror, model and identify with mother; understand herself as a female; differentiate and discover her unique and individual identity; and learn how to do relationship. A girl’s primal attachment with her mother will act as a model for all future emotional relationships (Chodorow, 1978)” (p. 64).

Due to the insecurity and anxiety women with SSA felt in their relationships with their mothers, many developed a sense of mistrust and disrespect for their mothers and essentially “did not internalize a sense of mother as the home base from which they could develop an autonomous self” (pp. 64-65).

One woman recounts the lack of nurture she felt from her mother and how it affected how she related to other woman.

            “Through tears, I continued. ‘I forgive you, Mum, for not being the mother I wanted you to be. I forgive you that alcohol consumed your life and you weren’t able to see much beyond that. I forgive you for…for never holding me in love.’

 I was startled at the words that had just come out of my mouth. I sat silently while the reality sank in. Then came more tears. That’s it, isn’t it Jesus? That’s why I’m grieving. My mother never held me.

 No, she’d never nurtured me—at least, that’s the way I’d seen it. Now it made sense! That’s why I eventually turned to lesbianism. I was always looking to other women to satisfy my need for my mother’s love.

 A new reality struck me. I had withdrawn from any affection Mum may actually have tried to show me because I feared subsequent rejection. She may have tried, but I wouldn’t receive because I was in rebellion. No wonder lesbianism was a frustratingly hopeless lifestyle, I thought. It was built on rejection and rebellion.” (Howard, 1991, p. 87)

Two Responses:

In order to deal with the feelings of insecurity and abandonment and to avoid the pain of disappointment when their desire for affection or nurturing went unmet, many women with SSA consciously or unconsciously withdrew emotionally and/or refused to “emotionally connect” with their same-sex parent. Often this decision also included the “refusal to ever reconnect (Moberly, 1983)” (p. 65). This response is called defensive detachment.

            “I remember when I was 5 or so my parents had gotten into a fight. My          mother got into the car and just drove off. I was crying, asking, “Where is she going?   What’s going on?” My dad seemed helpless. I think that was when I checked out   with mom. I was devastated and remembered the feeling was just unbearable. So I checked out….I had this deep feeling of pain, realizing I can’t control this. Mom would leave and I don’t matter. It doesn’t matter. She will leave me. So it was sort of my way of making a resolve, Yes, mother will leave—she’s gone, she didn’t want you—now get over it. I had to detach to stop that feeling of abandonment.” (pp. 65-66)

Similar to attachment, defensive detachment is not a single event but rather “it is a progressive, patterned response within a girl to her ongoing dissatisfaction in her relationship with her mom” (p. 66). Sustaining this defensive detachment often required these girls to actively “detach from their natural longing and need for connection to and intimacy from mother (and others)” (p. 66). Unfortunately this defensive detachment further hindered possible opportunity for “a loving or warm exchange” and often resulted in “profound deficits in their own relational capacities” (p. 66).

In addition to defensive detachment many women with SSA did not identify with their mothers, feeling very dissimilar from them and reported a lack of desire to be like them (more so than other girls did). This behavior is called disidentification. The following is a list of ways in which disidentification can manifest itself:

  • Rejecting “behaviors, physical appearance, or fashion styles” that are similar to their mothers (p. 67).
  • Making a vow against appearing weak or needy or dependent on a man.
  • Showing “disgust toward anything even closely resembling femininity or female roles” (p. 67).
  • Rejecting “their own personhood associated with femaleness, including their female body parts and their tender and sensitive attributes (McDougall, 1980) (p. 67).


Helping a woman speak about, understand, and biblically handle her relationship with her mother is going to be an important step towards repentance, healing, forgiveness, and if possible reconciliation. I pray that some of this information will come in handy as you walk with women through this important part of their lives.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at 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. (1991). Out of Egypt: One woman’s journey out of lesbianism. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books.

McDougall, J. (1970). Homosexuality in women. In Chasseguet-Smirgel (Ed.), Female sexuality: New psychoanalytic views (pp. 171-212). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

McDougall, J. (1980). Plea for a measure of abnormality. New York: International Universities Press.

Moberly, E. (1983). Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic. Greenwood, SC: Attic Press.

Homosexuality and the Parents

Family is important. The family environment and relationships play a huge part in shaping who a person becomes. For this reason I have found that looking into the real and/or perceived dynamics and relationships of ones family sheds light on what makes a person tick and can help a woman begin to understand the source of some of her feelings, desires, and behaviors.

This was the case with me. As a junior in college I began reading articles and books that significantly helped me take a look at my relationships and significant experiences throughout my childhood and young adult life that affected how I saw myself, my desire for connection with and affection from other women, and how I understood masculinity and femininity. As I began to pinpoint aspects of my relationships and experiences (and how I had perceived, processed, and internalized those things) through the help and power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to more specifically face and deal with both the hurt I felt and the sinful responses I had towards those things. I began to understand the dynamics of my SSA, why I felt and acted the way I did, and with this knowledge I was able to face it, fight it, and change it, instead of simply suppressing it or denying it.

While there certainly is a possibility that women will use the dysfunction and hurt of their past to excuse their sinful responses, I believe that is a risk worth taking in order to help those women who truly do want to change. Those looking for an excuse to remain in their sin are going to find one, one way or another.

These next influences and environments that will be discussed are not unique to women with SSA, however “they seem significant in that they consistently arise as these women tell their stories” (p. 56).

“I cannot emphasize enough that it is more important to consider how an individual woman (with a certain biological blueprint) perceives and processes the effects of her environment or relational experiences than the actual qualities of the environment or relationships themselves. This is not to dismiss the significant impact that abusive or traumatic experiences may have on a little girl’s development but rather to gain an understanding of a girl’s internalized subjective experience. It is this inner perspective that may offer clues as to why some girls struggle with SSA and some do not” (p. 56).

In general, these experiences combined with the particular way these girls processed their experiences often lead to four categories of development that are “extremely conflicted”

  • attachment
  • formation of self
  • gender identity
  • socialization

Each of these categories and how they are affected will be discussed in conjunction with the common environmental themes in the lives of women with SSA.

Attachment: What is it? How can it go wrong?

Hallman observes that women with SSA typically experience perceived or actual “interferences, stressors or failures in their most primal attachment” which, for a girl is ideally the mother (p. 57). “Attachment is defined as an “emotional relationship that develops gradually, after weeks and months of daily contact, conversation, care giving, and cuddling” (Brodzinskey, Schecter & Henig, 1992, p. 32). A secure attachment is developed, maintained, and repaired over the span of a girl’s development rather than a single event (p. 57).

Interferences in a girl’s primal attachment often arise at birth and continue throughout childhood and are usually rooted in the following (p. 57).

  • Prenatal, birth and postnatal difficulties or complications
  • Accidental or uncontrollable separations from the mother due to maternal death, adoption, major illness, divorce or other extenuating circumstances
  • Maternal deficits or weakness arising out of the mother’s own personal attachment history and developmental difficulties
  • Actual maternal abuse or abandonment
  • Defensive detachment on the daughter’s part due to the daughter’s perceptions, sensitivities or negative conclusions and beliefs about her mother and the nature of their relationship. (p. 58)

The Parents:

It is common that one or both parents of women with SSA have themselves experienced “insecure attachment, relational deprivation or actual abandonment” as children (p. 61), creating relational and attachment weaknesses in their own lives which in turn can deeply and unknowingly affect their own interactions with their children. Women with SSA often fixate on these weakness in their parents and “are often not able to see their parents’ underlying care and loving sentiments because of their felt sense of relational deprivation” (p. 61).


Before we move on to discuss the maternal and paternal relationships in greater detail (which I will, Lord willing, do in my next two posts), I would like to end this post by stressing the fact that most parents of women with SSA never meant any harm to their children and that the purpose of discussing these parental relationships is not to lay the blame for a woman’s SSA at their parent’s feet. Rather it is to help a woman deal with a variety of issues which may include identifying and biblically dealing with hurt, whether caused by real or perceived failures, extending and receiving forgiveness for wrongs done, and understanding how their relationship with their parents have affected how they go about relating to others.

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

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at

Brodzinsky, D. M., Schechter, M. D., & Henig, R. M. (1992). Being adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Anchor Books.

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