Are Your Parents Ready for You to Come Out?
Originally Published: March 27, 2009
Revised: September 9, 2014
“I’m gay, and I just came out a few months ago. I have not told my parents, and I’m pretty scared to. I think being gay is normal, but I’m not sure if my parents think so, too. I’m not sure what to do. Should I tell them?”
—Hilary, 15, Canada
When I was coming out, I tried my best to avoid making the whole thing a big deal. When rumors started flying around school and town, I was desperate to make sure that I would be the one to tell my family. I finally came out to my parents, so I know how scary it can be no matter how accepting you think your parents or guardians are.
There’s no way to predict exactly how they will react, but here’s what I’ve learned about parents and guardians and whether they’re ready to get to know this important part of who you are:
Where Do Your Parents Stand on LGBT Issues?
If your parents or guardians support gay marriage or adoption by gay and lesbian people, chances are they may be supportive of you. Of course, having a son or daughter come out of the closet is completely different from supporting the rights of strangers. But knowing your parents’ or guardians’ opinions can help you determine whether they might be accepting of you.
If you’re not sure where they stand on these issues, ask them. You can also tell them your views on things like gay marriage or gay people serving in the military. While you might feel vulnerable sharing your stance on these issues, it could open up your parents’ or guardians’ eyes to viewpoints that they might not have considered before.
Keep in mind that if your parents or guardians are shocked at first, this may change as they get used to the idea that you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Do Your Parents Have LGBT Friends?
I wish I had remembered that my mom has several gay friends before I got all stressed out about telling her. Although I realize that having a gay son is different from having a gay friend or coworker, I knew (after the fact) that my mom accepted gay people on a personal level. She reminded me of this when I explained that I didn’t come out earlier because I was afraid she wouldn’t accept me. Not only did she accept me, but she even offered to introduce me to some of her friends in case I had any questions or needed support.
How Do Your Parents Respond to Your Friends Who Are Out?
I have a friend who was anxious to come out as bisexual to his family. After he introduced his mother to one of his friends who is openly gay, his mother told him that she did not want him spending any time with that friend. His mother said the friend’s sexual orientation wasn’t consistent with her religious values. Her response showed that she was not accepting of LGB people and most likely would not accept her son being bisexual. In the end, my friend did not come out to his mother.
It is important to remember that everybody’s parents or guardians have different values. Depending on their reactions to your friends, you might decide that it’s totally safe to come out. Or, if you’re like my friend, you’ll realize that coming out to your parents or guardians isn’t going to be comfortable or safe. If it doesn’t feel safe to come out, talk to a close friend, relative or other trusted adult who is more accepting of who you are. If you pay attention to your parents’ or guardians’ reactions, you will be able to choose to do what’s right for you now.
Keep in mind that if your parents or guardians are shocked at first, this may change as they get used to the idea that you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual. While both my mom and my dad seemed to be in disbelief when I told them that I was attracted to men, they eventually accepted me. They ultimately embraced the fact that I am gay by encouraging me to start a gay-straight alliance at my school. I am happy that I decided to come out instead of trying to keep my feelings bottled up inside.
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