What It Does To The Soul Of A Child When Parents Reject Who They Truly Are

Even with all of our progress, 46% of young LGBTQ+ people are estranged from at least one family member.

woman standing with arms crossed Joshua Rawson Harris / Unsplash 

Siri Lindley is a two-time world champion triathlete and popular motivational speaker who started the sport during another period of major transformation in her life. She was 21 years old when she discovered an essential truth about herself: She's gay. 

“At that time, it wasn’t like the world is today," Lindley told the hosts of the Open Relationships: Transforming Together podcast, In claiming that part of her identity, Lindley lost her relationship with her father. No child — whether they are an adolescent or an adult of any age — deserves to be rejected by a parent in this way.


“When my father found out he called me, and he was crying so hard,” she explained. “So, I’m thinking he’s dying and I’m panicking. And when he finds his words, he said exactly this: ‘Somebody told me you’re gay. And I could not possibly have a daughter that’s gay. Tell me, right now, Siri, that this isn’t true.’”

Siri couldn’t deny her truth. She told her father, “It’s true. I’m me, I’m the same me that I’ve always been. Please, just love me anyway. This doesn’t change anything.”

Her father hung up the phone. “It was two years before I got another call from him,” she said.


What happens when a parent rejects their child's truth 

Siri Lindley’s experience of estrangement is unique but not uncommon. It's the story of the damage caused when a parent cannot accept the reality of who their child is — even if it's just one aspect, like their orientation. 

Lindley described her father as her “best friend, my hero, my greatest source of love.” Yet as her father turned his back on her, Lindley had to reckon with the turmoil of self-doubt and disillusionment that arose within her.



RELATED: Experts Reveal The Most Common Reasons Why Adult Children And Parents Become Estranged


“That was painful,” she said. “It made me feel like everything that I’d become as a 23-year-old meant nothing now that I was gay ... he was saying that 'because you are who you are you will never be happy, you will never be loved, you will never be successful, and you don’t deserve any goodness in your life'.”

A 2023 research study conducted by Just Like Us, an English LGBTQ+ youth organization, discovered that 46% of young LGBTQ+ people surveyed were estranged from at least one family member. 31% reported not feeling confident that the caregivers in their lives would support them coming out.

 Photo : Zhivko Minkov / Unsplash  


Amy Ashedan, the CEO of Just Like Us, noted, “Many of us know the anguish that the breakdown of family relationships causes us when we’re not accepted for who we are.”

Lindley described the groundswell of emotions that accompanied her father’s rejection: Sadness, bitterness, and overwhelming anger. At the root of it all was the fear of not being enough, a fear, Lindley said, “We can all relate to.”

Eventually, her father re-established contact, but Lindley wasn’t able to simply accept it. 

“I was so angry, I just held onto that anger… and I ripped him to bits, every time he called, until he stopped calling altogether, for 22 years.”


Lindley’s pain point ultimately became the force that propelled her to compete in triathlons, a decision that changed the course of her life.

“It was definitely something to take my mind off of losing my father, losing the love of my father, because of who I was,” she explained. 

“I needed to find me,” she continued. “I needed to find love for myself or respect for myself or worthiness from within, and that was going to be the vehicle through which I did it.”

Parents who reject their children’s identity might hope their kids will change

Parents who reject their kids don't realize that, even if the kid tries to change, they can’t renounce their truths and live a fully embodied life.


To do so would mean that the rejected child has to cut off an essential part of who they are to appease their parents. It would mean denying their own reality so that their parents’ existence remains level.

Lindley spoke of the eventual forgiveness she found for her father, saying, “My dad came from a family where this is all he knew. He grew up thinking this was like, a horrible thing. I wanted to try and understand him better.”

RELATED: Experts Reveal The Most Common Reasons Why Adult Children And Parents Become Estranged

“With everything, when people make mistakes, no matter how big the mistake, we’re doing the best we can with what we know at the time.”




Yet before that forgiveness, there were years of estrangement, in which Lindley sought a path away from the pain.

She shifted her own narrative by “telling myself a different story… and that new story was, if I can show up in this world as all that I am, and live fearlessly authentic from that place, I can achieve anything that I dream of achieving.”

 Photo : Luke Ellis Craven / Unsplash 


Lindley touched on how people navigate hardship, saying that we shouldn’t minimize the painful parts, but rather, acknowledge them as hard, while “loving yourself through the pain, loving yourself through the hurt.”

“You don’t want to brush over it. You want to acknowledge it… But then it’s like, if  you really love yourself, don’t let yourself live this for the rest of your life.”

Lindley shared that accepting yourself entirely, even when your parents don’t, is a valuable tool for healing.

“All those things that we feel pain over, that we didn’t get from our parents when we were kids, you can give yourself all those things, every single day, and in that, you are healed,” she said. “Give yourself all those things you never got.”


Healing is a lifelong journey, one with unexpected turns, lined with both peaks and valleys. Lindley’s healing journey offers a view into the joy that arrives when we reject the rejection we’re faced with, and love ourselves wholly, for all that we are.  

RELATED: Woman Tells People With Adult Children Who Don't Speak To Them That They Are At Fault — 'You Had One Job & You Failed At It'

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture critique and all things to do with the entertainment industry.