Reflections on Coming Out to a Parent
Originally Published: June 1, 2016
Revised: June 6, 2016
Coming out to parents is probably one of the scariest things a person may ever do. I say that from experience; I came out to my mom three years ago. It didn’t go too well.
I guess it was kind of because of the way I did it: a text, at 7:30 a.m., the day my mom started a new job. To be fair, I was backed into a wall. There were special circumstances involving a friend’s homophobic parents who banned her from seeing me and my mom caught me crying about it and wanted to know why. Of course, I knew why but was way too scared to come out right then, so I played it off and said I would find out Monday at school. Monday came—I typed out the text, sent it and sealed my fate.
My mom’s text back wasn’t great. She told me that I was “too young to know” what I was talking about. I was a freshman in high school, but I’d known that I really liked girls for a while (Princess Jasmine and Olivia Wilde kind of helped me out there). I didn’t expect something like this from my mom. She’s someone who is supportive of LGBT people, so when I came out, I didn’t expect it to go any way but well.
If your parents still seem not to fully accept your sexual orientation or gender identity, give them time, they will hopefully get there.
A Strain on the Relationship
My mom’s words stuck with me and kind of pushed me into this whole sexuality crisis that I thought I’d already had. My sexual orientation had seemed so obvious to me: “Yeah, I like boys. And girls. And just about anyone to be honest.” But now here I was, overthinking it. It took me a while to become comfortable with myself again. Besides, I had a girlfriend who I was pretty sure I liked.
Not only did my mom’s response throw me back into questioning myself, but from that point on, I felt like I couldn’t trust her and tell her as much. I got scared that anything I said would be met with the same invalidation as my coming out.
My mom and I do fine now despite all of that, but I feel as though there has been a strain on our relationship at times.
Hold On to Hope
There is another side to all of this, however. I believe that things will be OK if you truly feel comfortable with who you are. If that’s not you right now, don’t worry, you have time, and you will get there. If your parents still seem not to fully accept your sexual orientation or gender identity, give them time, they will hopefully get there.
My mom has her good days where she’ll acknowledge my sexual orientation, and while that’s not a constant, I hold on to hope for the day when it will be. I saw a little hope a year ago when we were showing extended family around New York City. My brother and I weren’t watching where we were going, and my mom turned to us and said, “Hey, stop looking at girls and pay attention.” It was a small thing, but it made me feel as though she would come around and accept my sexual orientation. A year later she laughed at my “World’s Okayest Pansexual” t-shirt and even asked exactly what pansexuality is, trying to get clarification about how I identify. It was wonderful because identifying as pansexual is something that completely fits me. It was nice to see her trying to understand it.
So, it’s safe to say that I’m an advocate for the age-old idea of “it takes time” because over time, my own mother has gotten better about accepting my sexual orientation. When I was younger it never occurred to me that acceptance could be a gray area with hundreds of shades that your own parent might move through very slowly. Not every parent will immediately react in the extremes—complete rejection or complete acceptance —but they might need time, just how a lot of us needed time coming to terms with our sexual orientations.
I know that in the future my mom will be there when I walk down the aisle to meet my wife, or my husband, or my whatever-word-my-spouse-prefers, but for now, we just have to take it each day until she gets there.
Visit the Sexetc.org Communication Tool and learn more way to start important conversations with people in your life.
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