Protecting Your Daughter
About the Guest
Could your daughter be gay? Ellen Dykas of Harvest USA encourages mothers to really get to know their daughters and ask the tough questions. Dykas reminds parents of the power of prayer and the importance of reaching out to a daughter with affection, truth and love. Dykas shares some signs that might indicate that a daughter’s relationship with a girlfriend might be crossing a line into same-sex attraction.
Ellen Dykas encourages mothers to really get to know their daughters and ask the tough questions.
Protecting Your Daughter
Bob: Two teenage girlfriends meet each other in the hallway at school and give each other a big hug. Is there anything wrong with that? Author, Ellen Dycas, says, “Probably not, but you need to be careful.”
Ellen: Female same-sex attraction is a spectrum, I think—from romanticized, emotional dependency to a full-out sexualized relationship. I have had many—not only teenage girls, but many adult women—single, married, younger and older—who have found themselves in a sexual relationship with a female friend that started out as two women or two girls becoming very emotionally-close.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Author, Ellen Dycas, joins us today to talk about where the line is between healthy, same-sex friendships and unhealthy, romantic or sexual relationships. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we’ve been exploring, this week, the issue of sexual brokenness in our culture, among both men and women. The interesting thing to me is it seems like the number of ways that brokenness is expressed or is seen in our culture today seems to be expanding. It’s like you used to be able to point to a few ways in which people were broken sexually. Now, it seems like there’s a wider variety of how sexual sin is being manifested in our culture.
Dennis: Right. And we have a guest on FamilyLife Today, Ellen Dycas, who joins us again, who has a ministry with Harvest USA that is addressing the sexual brokenness of women. She joins us again on our broadcast. Welcome back.
Dennis: Let’s talk about what Bob just postulated, there, about how there seems to be an increase in sexual brokenness in many different forms that didn’t seem to be prevalent 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago. So, the question is, “Is it spreading?”
Ellen: You know, I like that our—the titles of our workbook, Sexual Sanity for Women and Men, is about sexual sanity. That would be one way for us to look at that—that things are becoming more and more insane, as people are reaching out in different ways to deal with what’s going on inside their hearts. So, yes, I do think that the sexual brokenness is manifesting itself in more and more creative ways.
Bob: Among women, the issue of same-sex attraction seems to be at a different place today than it was two decades ago. It seems like more and more women are either experimenting with this or have come to the conclusion that they are lesbians.
Ellen: That does seem to be what is happening. I think there are a lot of different factors for that. One of the reasons for that is that, not only is the culture accepting this, but it’s very much promoting homosexuality, gay relationships, and a variety of things as being very normal.
Dennis: We used to be a permissive society—we’re now, a promotional society. It used to be that we were promotional, just around opposite sex—having sex outside of marriage. Well, now, it’s being encouraged in all kinds of directions.
Ellen: Well, it is. I think we’re talking about sexual brokenness. What is it that is broken? What has become broken is the design of our Creator. When that design—which is what we might refer to as being sexually-whole—when that’s not being talked about or taught, then, what is broken is going to seem to be the normal experience for people. That’s what we see around us more and more. Unfortunately, more and more believers are beginning to accept a broken expression as something that is very normal.
Bob: One of the phrases, that popped up over the last couple of years, that I’d never seen before, in my growing up, was the phrase, “bi-curious”, where somebody would say that’s how they identify themselves: “I am attracted to men, and I’m attracted to women, and I’m curious. I guess, curious to see if I’m bi-sexual—curious to see which of those places I’ll land in.” If you were sitting down with a young woman, in her 20’s, and she said, “I’m bi-curious,” where would you take that conversation?
Ellen: Well, the first thing I would ask her would be, “Tell me what you mean by that,” because, as you mentioned a little bit ago, Bob, these categories, and names, and definitions are almost shifting on a weekly basis. So, I’d first want to hear from her, “What do you mean by that?”
If she would say kind of the standard definition: “Well, I want to keep myself open. You know, sometimes I feel attracted to girls. Sometimes, I feel attracted to guys. I just want to keep my options open.” Then, I would begin to explore: “How did those desires begin to develop? How did those thoughts begin to develop? What’s the backstory?” I mean—every person that comes to us—whether it’s a man or a woman—has a backstory that is influencing what they are saying to us, on that day, in the office. She didn’t just come out of nowhere and just come to this conclusion of, “I might be bi-curious.” So, finding out what she means by that is going to be key. From that place, I’ll then begin to delve into a little bit more of what’s going on in the deeper places of her heart, that are probably—there’s probably some confusion there.
Bob: Okay, so let me take the conversation a little farther. You say, “Where did this all come from?” and she says: “Well, I was watching Glee; and there’s this character on Glee. She used to be with this guy; and then, she was with this girl. That’s how she called herself, ‘bi-curious’. I thought: ‘Well, I’ve been like her. I’ve been attracted to both. So, maybe, that’s what I am.’ I saw a role model; and then, I thought, ‘That sounds a little bit like me.’” Where do you take the conversation, at that point?
Ellen: First of all, I would just acknowledge the power of that role modeling. I mean, I’ve had role models in my life—that modeled things that were either very positive or very negative—things that led me toward Christ or away from Christ. I would just want to acknowledge that. But with her—and really with any other person—what I’m going to want to also begin to gently go to is: “What is her faith foundation?” and, “What is her biblical foundation?”
That doesn’t mean I’m going to start to throw a lot of verses at her; but if this is a professing believer—and I will say the majority of people that come to Harvest USA for ministry are people that would profess faith in Christ. I’m going to want to try to get a sense of, “What has been her biblical lens, or not, on her view of self, her view of gender, and her view of sexuality?” because, right there, she’s got a voice that is speaking very loudly to her. Oftentimes, there are so many voices that are drowning out the voice of Scripture.
I mean, that might be over the course of many conversations; but those are going to be places that I’m going to want to go and disciple her, in a biblical lens, on her self—herself as female, herself as a girl, herself as a woman—you know, a growing woman in this world. Along with that, would be: “How she is allowing certain influences to actually inform the definitions that she is absorbing for herself.”
Dennis: You know, it’s interesting—you use the illustration, Bob, of a woman in her 20’s. I think, when a lot of this is happening, is in the teen years—at least, that’s when the experimentation starts. I think the average mom or dad doesn’t know exactly how to handle this barrage of stuff that’s coming at his or her daughter. They need help. What would you say to the mom, who is raising a daughter today, who may be tempted for sexual experimentation——both with a guy and with another girl?
Ellen: Where I’d want to start with that mom would be where I would go with any parent, regardless of what they are calling in for. A lot of times, I find that parents just need encouragement and, maybe, challenge in parenting discipleship principles. So, the first place I want to encourage that mother in is: “How are you communicating with your daughter? How are you getting to know your daughter? Are you asking her questions, such as: ‘Honey, how did you begin to think this way? When did you begin to think this way?’”
So often, parents are just hearing these blanket statements and proclamations, coming from their children, that may seem like they’re coming out of nowhere; but again, those statements have a backstory. I’d want to encourage that mom to get to know their child, as much as they can, of how they come to those conclusions because that is going to help that mother begin to know how to specifically help the daughter.
In light of the specific temptations—again, depending on the age of that daughter—in age-appropriate ways, that mother is going to really need to help her daughter learn how to walk wisely in the midst of those temptations, whether they are with boys or girls. But along with that is going to be discipleship about what are appropriate, godly ways for relating to people of your same gender and people of the opposite gender.
Bob: So, let’s say a mom and her daughter are out one afternoon. The daughter says: “Mom, I want to tell you something, but I’m afraid you’re going to freak out. I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m attracted to girls.” There are a lot of moms who would have that conversation; and inside, they’d be freaking out! How should they respond to a question like that; do you think?
Ellen: I think by listening, asking questions, and engaging her daughter lovingly, gently; but again, needing to get to know that daughter and, “Why is it…?” Here would be some questions you could ask your daughter: “Honey, tell me some more about how you’ve come to think that about yourself. Have you had any friends at school that are saying the same thing? Tell me some more about what is it that you’ve been thinking and feeling. How long have you been feeling this way?”
Dennis: “Watching anything on TV? Viewing something on the internet?”
Ellen: Right. I mean, that child may not want to answer those questions specifically for fear of being clamped down on being able to watch YouTube®, or get on Facebook®, or whatever it is; but so often, when parents come to us—because of having a son or daughter who is coming out—one of the things we discover is that there is obviously so much about that son or daughter that the parent has never known.
That is one of the first response exhortations I give to a parent is, “You need to get to know your son or daughter because they have not felt the freedom to reveal something to you that—maybe, for five / maybe, for ten years—they have kept hidden.”
Dennis: I want to tell you something. I taught a sixth-grade Sunday school class a number of years ago. It was like almost 20 years ago; alright? I was constantly astounded at what these 11- and 12-year-olds were hearing from their peers. That was back then. I can only imagine, now, what a 14, 15, 16—all the way through high school—what they are exposed to. I mean—the normalization of what we’re talking about here—about experimentation with the opposite sex / with same-sex. I mean, it’s all homogenized into one big temptation party that kind of puts an approval—a stamp of approval on it.
What parents have got to do is—they’ve got to be courageous. They’ve got to step into these, as you just said, and engage their daughters and say: “Let’s talk. I mean, really, let’s talk. You can’t go through this alone. You need me to be in there with you, and let’s chat about what you’ve seen, what you’re hearing—not just past tense, five years ago, but what you are hearing this week at school—what you talk about.”
I think, too, what we need to take an assessment of is: “What are we allowing in our home, in terms of watching TV?” Prime-time TV is no longer safe.
Dennis: It is no longer safe for families, for teenagers. We didn’t let our kids watch cable TV. We didn’t have it when we were raising teenagers. Today, it’s really dangerous, in terms of normalizing what we’re talking about here.
Ellen: Well, I would add to that—that not only do parents need to be courageous, but they also need to be willing to be inconvenienced. I talked with a father, probably a couple of months ago, who had a 17-year-old daughter, who he, himself, was referring to her as a sex addict. At age 13, they had discovered that she was struggling with pornography. They thought they had dealt with that and were helping her. They did a clamp down on technology. Now, she was 17. They had just discovered that she had been sending, basically, sexual texts and videos of herself, through her cell phone, all over the place.
One of the things I began to ask that father was, “Well, how are you clamping down on technology?” That father—I could hear him sigh on the other side of that phone. He said: “You know what, Ellen? We had done that four years ago; but to be honest, we’ve gotten iPads® since then. We had gotten a new computer, and I just laxed. I laxed in getting the filter set up. I laxed in doing these other things that I know I need to do.”
The reality is we live in a world that is very technological. We’ve got to be willing to do the hard work and to be inconvenienced, like I said. When we put filters on our computers, it may slow your computer down. It may take a lot of work to get these things set up, but this father had learned the hard way that this was something he could just step back from. He had to be constantly guarding his family—protecting his family—by putting up the means to thwart temptation.
Bob: About half of the women you work with—in the groups that you lead and the work that you do for Harvest USA—about half of them battle with same-sex attraction. I’m wondering if there is a hurt and an anger toward men, that’s back there somewhere, that has led them in this direction.
Ellen: I would say many of them have struggles in the way that they viewed men or masculinity. Many of the women that come to us for ministry—whether it’s same-sex struggle or something else—have had some form of sexual misuse or abuse in their background. Most of the time, that has been because of men; sometimes, it’s been because of women, actually, being the perpetrators of that abuse.
The way that impacts a woman’s heart can be a variety of expressions. But for women that struggle in a same-sex way, some of those are a repulsion for the male gender; but also, feeling very distanced from their own gender and, thus, wanting to seek oneness and emotional nurture through other women.
Dennis: You know, just listening to you talk about this—we shouldn’t be surprised at this same-sex revolution that’s occurring. I mean, let’s take a step back, for a moment, at what’s happened over the last three decades. We’ve had a culture that has redefined what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a man, and how a man and a woman are to relate to each other. We’re now seeing this being played out on the public stage by women burning in their desire for other women—
Dennis: —and the same for men. I just think, as parents—as we think about raising our children and our grandchildren—we’ve got to take a step back from the culture and ask ourselves the question, “Are we replicating the message of the culture, or are we being counter-cultural and teaching what the Bible says?”
I mean, go back to the book of Genesis, Chapter 1. It says in Genesis 1:28: “In the beginning, God created them male and female. In the image of God, He created them.” Maleness and femaleness reflect the image of God. The culture—and I believe a spiritual, demonic force called the Devil—wants to destroy the image of God in maleness, in femaleness, and in how men and women relate to each other, outside of marriage and inside the marriage relationship.
Bob: Ellen, the women you are dealing with are all dealing with their sexual brokenness at a pretty significant level.
Dennis: Yes; and you mentioned that abuse, more than likely, is in their background that has led to this brokenness; is that correct?
Ellen: Yes, it is. I mean, in almost six years of ministry, I could probably count on two hands the women who have come who do not have sexual abuse as a part of their background.
Dennis: So, again, I’m thinking of my granddaughters and raising them to adulthood today. Coach a mom. How do you protect your daughter from evil being perpetrated by an abuser on them, whether it is a guy or whether it’s another girl?
Ellen: Crying out to Jesus has got to be the key thing—I mean, prayer—I mean, obviously. I mean, ultimately, we do have to entrust our children to the hands of the Lord; but God gives us wisdom to be able to think through these things. There are things like, again, educating your children on what are appropriate relationships with the same and opposite gender, what are appropriate expressions of affection with the same and opposite gender.
I think knowing who your children are involved with, relationally, and also knowing: “Who are their mentors? Who are their teachers?” What we don’t want to do is create this fear, and a terror, or suspicion;—
Ellen: —but, at the same time, the reality is we have to be very sober and very aware of who our children are being influenced by.
Dennis: You’re really hinting at something that I don’t know I’ve ever heard anyone talk about; and that is, “At what point, when a young lady—a girl—maybe, a teenager, who is growing up—at what point, does a friendship with the same sex—with a girlfriend—cross the line and become homosexual?”
Ellen: Yes. That is great question! I’ve had—actually, had a few conversations, recently, with parents wondering about that because they are noticing their teenage daughters being very physically affectionate with their female friends in public—at the youth group or at the worship service.
I think I would be very—I’d be hesitant to just give some black-and-white statements on that, but I think there are some warning signs. A lot of the women I work with—I try to disciple them in this way—that: “You don’t want to just look for red flags. You want to look for yellow flags—the things leading into something that might lead into something more.” So, with girls, is their physical affection taking on the nature of something that feels romantic or looks romantic? Is their physical affection becoming something that they are lingering in, or craving, or drawing a sense of security from?
I’ve had many—not only teenage girls but many adult women—single, married, younger and older—who have found themselves in a sexual relationship with a female friend, that started out as two women or two girls, becoming very emotionally-close, that began to become expressed through affectionate ways, physically. Those expressions of physical affection began to take on somewhat of a sensual nature. It begins to progress until it grows into a sexualized relationship. Female same-sex attraction is a spectrum, I think—from romanticized, emotional dependency to a full-out sexual relationship. That’s why I am hesitant to say any black-and-white determiners because it’s a spectrum that kind of grows into a sexualized relationship.
Dennis: I would coach that parent to just ask God—as you said, pray—and begin to observe and, maybe, ask the question, “If this is starting to look like a boy-girl relationship”—
Dennis: —if it’s starting to take on some of the flavor of where you would feel uncomfortable with your daughter having that kind of physical relationship with a guy, then, I think, in this day and age, you better err on the side of your intuition.
Ellen: I absolutely agree with that.
Dennis: Begin to ask God for a way to engage in conversation with your daughter—to not accuse and not come down hard—but to invite a conversation and engagement around what’s happening here. And you know, this is where God delights in helping parents—the helpless parent—know how to have a conversation to really get to the core issue.
Bob: I think, for all of us—whether it’s as parents or as husbands and wives—the starting place, in this whole discussion, is to recalibrate our thinking—to be coming from a biblical worldview rather than to be coming from a cultural view—because, increasingly, the cultural view of sexuality is going to take you off into the ditch. And the only thing that can get us where we need to go is to realign our thinking along biblical terms.
Dennis: And Bob, I think you are exactly right. If you are going to have a spiritual wheel alignment of your thinking about human sexuality, seldom is that just going to come to you by yourself.
Dennis: It needs to happen in community—with either a mentor, who is coaching you—an older person who could guide you in that—a small group of likeminded peers, who are trying to get at the same thing—and sharpen one another in relationship to be able to find some hope and healing in the midst of their own sexual brokenness.
Bob: Well, and it’s going to take a courageous group of women to get together and say, “You know, let’s go through a book called Sexual Sanity for Women;” but honestly, in this culture, there needs to be a little more courage, and a little more candor, and openness, and honesty on this subject. I think Ellen has given us a resource that is going to help a lot of women. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the book, Sexual Sanity for Women. There’s a companion book, Sexual Sanity for Men, written by David White, who joined us earlier this week. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about these resources. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
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And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for joining us. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.
Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church; and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about how to save money—how to tighten your financial belt. That comes up Monday. I hope to see you, then, for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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