“We were hoping,” said Farousha Menabb, “That she could be...reoriented to something more conventional.”
“Essentially, that’s it,” added Taall Graidson, “Something more in line with social norms.”
“For the sake of family harmony, if nothing else,” added Reger Graidson.
Lilibet Menabb added, “Amen,” with feeling.
“We do not,” the psychotherapist looked at the four parents before him severely over the top of his glasses, “Attempt adjustment of sexual orientation in the absence of criminality or disease pathology. Your daughter displays neither.”
The subject of the conversation sat in the chair facing the middle of the therapist’s desk, eyes downcast and hunched up. She looked like she didn’t want to be there. The psychotherapist couldn’t blame her.
“The only person who hasn’t given me a view on what should happen to her is Astrith herself.” The psychotherapist looked at her for a moment, “Astrith, what do you think?”
The dark haired girl looked up at him, her face both miserable and hunted. “I want to be left alone to sort things out myself. I don’t want to suddenly turn around while I’m out to find my sisters standing over me, telling me what I’m doing wrong, then walking in and making off with the guy I’ve been getting to know all evening.” She looked first one way and then the other to include both sets of parents. “I particularly dislike having to sit through them rehashing my evening next day at the dinner table, making something I’d been enjoying until they turned up sound like a disaster from whoa to go.”
“But they worry about you,” said Farousha, “We all do. It’s not just that you’re only interested in men, it’s that you go off on your own to find one and then, you want to be alone with him somewhere. That’s just not safe, particularly with someone you’ve never met before.”
“Well, I don’t get to know anyone because they keep butting in and interfering,” Astrith rounded on her mother.
“You could bring someone home, then,” suggested Reger, “Everyone would know where you were and it would be safer.”
“You could share with your sisters,” Lilibet proffered, “It would help you bond with them, particularly if he had a friend.”
“I do not need,” Astrith said a little too calmly, “One of my sisters pointing out that I could lose a few pounds, or that I haven’t shaved something she would, just as I’m getting intimate with a man for the first time.”
The psychotherapist caught the implication that her allied co-parents seemed to miss. “Astrith, have you ever completed a sex act that involved another person present in the same room?”
She didn’t blush, she was too well socialised for that, but she did mutter her answer, “No.”
The next question was even more delicate with the patient’s parents in the room, “Why?”
“My sisters keep running interference.”
“Astri, honey,” her co-father Reger again, “We all know their people skills are better than yours. They’re just trying to help you-“
“They cut me off every time and take over the closing deal,” Astrith protested. “They don’t act like they’re trying to help; they act like they don’t want me to do this. I just want them to back off, leave me alone and give me space!”
“Don’t talk about your sisters like that,” snapped Taall, “At least they’re normal.”
Into the deadly silence that fell after that, the psychotherapist said, “I think it might be best if we treat this issue as one of observed performance anxiety for now. Allow Astrith time and space to be adventurous without critical comment on her behaviour, performance or partner choices. I suggest six months.” He paused for a moment then added, “If her sisters can’t abide by that regime then I would be happy to examine them for disease pathology.”
After the Menabb-Graidson co-parental unit and their perceived-aberrant child left, the psychotherapist went to the practice break room to get a cup of coffee. Parents who wanted a magic button to press that would fix a perceived problem often made him feel the need for permitted stimulants. The sad near-children in their early twenties who came in on their own, convinced that they were broken, were actually easier to help than the Astriths, over the age of sexual permission but still under parental control, dragged in to be fixed because ‘they’re not like us.’
“Tough case?” The practice nurse smiled warmly and poured him a mug of coffee from the freshly made beaker, his neat hands making light work of the task.
“If the family will back off and leave her alone to sort herself out? Probably not.” He sighed and in response to the nurse’s raised eyebrow he added, “Polyamorous family back at least four generations through all the co-parents and this kid is a single-partner heterosexual, probably monogamous as well. The parents wanted her orientation ‘corrected’.”
“Oh. Still a virgin?” The nurse stirred in his own sugar thoughtfully.
“The ones that only have older sisters usually are,” the psychotherapist sipped from his mug. “If they have older brothers, a friend of theirs has usually ‘helped’ her out of her virginity. I’ve told the parents to give her six months to be adventurous, make the sisters back off, see what happens.”
“But she’s strictly heterosexual?” The nurse drank from his mug, mirroring the psychotherapist. “A pity she’s cut off from half the world’s possibilities.”
“You could say the same thing about anyone who identifies as homosexual,” pointed out the psychotherapist. “And no-one sees a problem with that. She does seem to be well socialised though, I can see her being very happy with a bi man or even a bi male couple.”
“Just as long,” pointed out the nurse carefully, “As they weren’t just using her as a brood mare.” He rubbed his bare ring finger absent-mindedly and the psychotherapist mentally cursed himself for being maladroit. “No-one deserves that.”
“You're right,” he agreed over the top of his coffee mug. “No-one does.”