Being Gay When Your Parent Is Homophobic
Originally Published: May 14, 2019
Revised: June 13, 2019
I was 13 when I hinted to my dad that I was gay. We were in his car, and he was driving me home from my usual weekend visit with him. (My parents are divorced.) I asked him, “What would you do if I liked girls?” I clearly remember how he responded: “Well, I’d still love you of course…but I’d be very disappointed.”
After that, the last five minutes of our car ride were silent, and I felt sick to my stomach. At least I had my mom to go home to. I’m more comfortable with her. She doesn’t make me feel awful about myself.
I began to suppress all thoughts of my developing sexual feelings toward girls when I was 11, mainly because of the negative impression of gay people my dad gave me.
The Game of Life
Let me rewind a bit. I’ve had the same therapist since I was about eight, when my parents got divorced. Often therapists will play games with kids instead of expecting them to talk for an hour. For instance, you can learn a lot about a kid and their family life based on how they play the board game, The Game of Life (also known simply as Life). You start off as a peg in a car; the peg can only be pink (“girl”) or blue (“boy”). One day my therapist “got married” (in the game), and she put another pink peg next to her own. I said, “You can’t put a girl there, you have to have a husband!” She simply replied, “Girls can marry other girls too.” My young brain was shook by this idea!
My dad had the game at his apartment, too. While I was playing it with him one day, about a month after that therapy session, I got brave and put a pink peg next to mine when it was my turn to get married. Even though it was a small gesture, I was so nervous about how he would react. He gave me a judgmental look and asked why I put a pink peg next to mine in my car. I lied, said I didn’t realize and quickly switched it for a blue one.
Polar Opposite Parents
My parents never got along; the fact that they come from such different backgrounds didn’t help. My mom’s family is more open-minded, while my dad’s has more closed-minded ideas about race, religion, sexual orientation, marriage, gender roles, etc.
I began to suppress all thoughts of my developing sexual feelings toward girls when I was 11, mainly because of the negative impression of gay people my dad gave me. He would make fun of gay men especially, mocking them with high voices, which made me feel like it was wrong for them (or me) to be anything but heterosexual. I remember when I first found out mi tío (my uncle, and mom’s brother) is gay. I was shocked, because according to my father, gay men were strange and bad. Mi tío isn’t either of those things.
Mom taught me to respect people who are different. But she wasn’t perfect about it either. She never acknowledged or explained gay people to me unless I asked. That’s how she was raised, though. Her family will avoid “controversial” topics as much as possible. When I was 12, I told my mom I may be bisexual, because that’s what I thought I was at the time. She told me, “You’re too young to know that.” But she never said she’d be disappointed in me if I were gay. When I was 14, I came out officially as gay to my mom, and I felt like she truly respected who I was and my sexual orientation. For her, I couldn’t be more thankful.
If you’re facing a similar situation where a parent does not accept your sexual orientation, know that you’re not alone. While things are definitely getting better for LGBTQ people, homophobia in families is still an obstacle. If your parents or family don’t accept your sexual orientation, other people will.
Need help? Call the LGBT National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743). Check Glnh.org for hours and more information.
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