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Author Topic: Coming out and... Other stuff?
Emily9997
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Hi! It's me again. (I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a reputation for stupidly long posts. I'm so sorry)
So, I'm kind of struggling with how/if I should come out to my family.
To make things clear: my family is not homophobic. At all. (well, my brother might be a tiny bit, but my brother is a bit... Yeah) I haven't gone through any horrible experiences or faced any discrimination that was personally directed towards me, because I'm only out to 4 people, and again, my family is pretty chill about it. (The only sort of negative reaction I ever got was from my now ex-boyfriend, who accused me of being in love with my best friend all the time (despite the fact that I had zero romantic feelings for her, at least at the time) and was always talking about how I was going to abandon/leave him for a girl, that a girl would be a better partner for me, that statistically I would turn out to be gay, and justified it by saying he was only worried about all this because his other ex cheated on him with a girl--which never even happened).
I've come out to him (because he asked me and I felt sort of backed into a corner and had to answer, even though I said I didn't want to because I wasn't really comfortable with my sexuality yet), my best friend, this one girl who used to be my friend (K), and a close friend of mine (V). T (my ex) is straight (well, now that's sort of in question, but that's a whole different story), my best friend is demisexual biromantic, K is bisexual, and V is straight. My best friend was the first to know, followed by T, then K, then V.
I sort of figured out my sexuality by talking to my best friend, because I realized she was going through a lot of the same stuff (minus the demisexual part) and that helped a lot. So with her it wasn't "I'm coming out to you now" but rather it just sort of came up in conversation? Like we were talking about sexuality and she was like "I like boys, but also sometimes girls" and I was like holy shit me too?? So it just sort of happened. T outright asked me (a week after we started dating), with K it came up in conversation when I told her I had a crush on someone, and with V it came up in conversation and then she asked to clarify. So I've never really made the choice to "come out" to anyone in the traditional sense, it's all been either naturally coming up in conversation or I was just asked about it.

Right now I'm identifying as bisexual (at least when I tell other people). I'm not sure if I'm actually bi (I could be pan? I could say screw labels entirely? I mostly want to screw labels entirely) but I'm pretty sure I like both boys and girls and anything more complicated than "bisexual" is going to make my family and most people I know way too confused (none of my family members really understand gender outside of the gender binary, so they wouldn't get pansexual).
I'm also a little confused about my gender.... I mean, I identify as cis, because I'm pretty sure that's what I am? Because most/a lot of the time I feel like a girl, and I'm proud of being a girl! But other times I don't really feel like I have a gender at all, and don't really want one. I usually dress pretty femininely, but I've wanted to try wearing "boy" clothes... Not extremely stereotypically "masculine" I guess. Definitely not what most straight boys wear, because that is god awful. But more like what a really fashionable guy would wear, like the stereotypical well-dressed gay man (only less women's clothing and less pink scarves). But the point is: I want to look like a (fashionable) boy. Not all the time, because I really love girly clothes, but I also want to try this too. Maybe also stuff that looks more "androgynous." Kind of like gender fluid but only in dress? Because I don't sometimes feel like a boy, at least I don't think I do. I mostly feel like a girl and sometimes feel... Agender I guess? Maybe? I don't know, it's all so confusing.

Recently I ordered a binder online without my parents' knowledge. Which was really stupid, I know, and also dishonest--I mean it wasn't expensive, but I'm still not allowed to buy things unless my parents have said I could. So I know it wasn't right. I was just so afraid to have that conversation that I hoped my mom wouldn't see that I ordered it, but she did.
It caused a huuuuge commotion (My ex also reacted pretty badly to the binder, but that's beside the point), she kept asking me why I wanted it, and at first I said for cosplay (which isn't a lie, persay, because I'd definitely use it for cosplay too) but she didn't believe me and I eventually admitted that it was because I wanted to dress/look like a boy. It was really really hard for me to say that, it wasn't something I really understood about myself yet (I still don't) and I wasn't comfortable talking about it yet (I told her that, but she didn't care). She then said she didn't believe me and insisted there was "some other reason" and would keep nagging at me to tell her even when I cried and promised there wasn't anything more to it than that. The binder eventually arrived and my parents have hid it somewhere in the house (I have no idea where) so I can't use it. My dad knows about it too. I've gotten into so many fights with my parents about this, especially since my mom keeps saying that if I use one I'll "permanently damage my breasts" and apparently make them very saggy. I haven't been able to find a reputable enough source for her that says that wearing it for short amounts of time (which I would be--I'd only dress as a boy every now and then, and there would be no reason for me to wear it the whole day) wouldn't hurt me. I thought it wouldn't, but maybe that isn't true? I have no idea. The only places I've been able to read about binding at all haven't been good enough for her, she needs a medical site and I haven't been able to find one. It doesn't help that the binder was called a "lesbian tomboy" something or rather, so then my dad came in saying stuff like "if you want to say 'dad, I'm coming out, I'm gay' it's okay... That's what this [the situation with the binder] is all about, right?"
Which like, yeah, I'm glad he would be supportive if I were a lesbian, but that's completely unrelated to me wanting to bind my chest. Again, my family has ZERO understanding of gender outside the binary, so I can't exactly be like "mom, dad, I'm gender confused!!!" and expect them to get it. My dad's heart is in the right place, but he's especially confused; he thinks gay and trans things are basically the same thing. He's come a long way because he used to be REALLY homophobic when he was younger, and I think he's finally accepted that bisexuality does in fact exist, but he doesn't really understand it all yet. And he's trying (so is most of my family) but it's hard for me to explain it to them when I don't feel like /I'm/ as educated as I should be (or educated enough to explain it properly).
My mom also HATES labels with a burning passion. So she really doesn't get gender--and I'm not the best person to explain it, especially since I'm so confused. Because what does it really mean to "feel" like a boy or girl? I think I know and I think I feel it, but if you have to get at what that actually means, doesn't it come to the roles people play in society? But then what if you want to challenge or reject gender roles? I mean gender (not biological sex) is a social construct for sure, but how you define it seems so... ahh, i don't know, it's so confusing for me. So I'm clearly not the right person to try to explain this to any of my family members.
Because my mom is so anti-labels, I'm also not sure how I'm supposed to just walk up to her and go "heeeeeeeyyy I'm bisexual." I'm also not sure how I feel about labeling myself... On the one hand, sexuality is so complicated and fluid that I don't feel I want to define mine with "I am X, I fit into this box." But at the same time, having a word to describe what I am is comforting. I ended up officially ("officially", I'm out to 4 people) going as bisexual, because my ex made me feel pretty crappy about not wanting to label myself. So I did.
My mom has said multiple times that the *worst* possible thing would be to have a gay kid. Not because she's homophobic, but because she knows it's more difficult for people who are queer because they have to deal with people being homophobic assholes all the time. But it still doesn't make me feel all that confident about coming out to her. I already put so much stress on her by being depressed, I don't want to add yet another thing to the List of Reasons I Make My Mom's Life Suck.
I've also grown up with the idea that yes, bisexuality exists, but "real" bisexuality is ~extremely rare~. I've listened to my mom and one of my sisters talk about how so-and-so called herself bisexual but she wasn't REALLY, because true bisexual people are SO rare, it's SO unlikely that anyone would be bisexual, etc etc. So when I started to really figure out my sexuality (which was around 6th grade, but I realized I was definitely into chicks in 8th grade, and came to terms with liking guys and girls and my general sexuality in 9th) I was totally freaked out. I was never homophobic, and I had grown up thinking samesex relationships weren't all that common, but definitely not weird or wrong. But for some reason when the gay one might be ME, I freaked the hell out. I was scared. It was totally fine for it to be someone else, but not me, it couldn't be me. I tried to deny it (I don't REALLY like girls, I'm just going through puberty so I'm attracted to everything) and it caused me a lot of anxiety. (I should mention my family is also strictly catholic--again, not anti-gay or anti-samesex marriage at all, but pretty much the MOST roman catholic in every other respect). This happened to come at a time where I was dealing with a lot of other sexual stuff/a situation which I could almost call sexual trauma, so it didn't help that I wasn't very sex positive at the time.
Most of the struggles I had were related to the fact that I couldn't identify myself as either gay or straight... Because I wasn't. But I had been told for so long that being bisexual was so rare that I believed I couldn't possibly be in that margin. And I knew gay people in real life and I saw gay people on TV, but not any bi people. So I figured I couldn't possibly be bisexual, and it really messed me up and had me feeling like a freak.

The last reason I'm concerned about coming out to my family is that I'm afraid they won't believe me. Like I said, they pretty much believe being bisexual is the rarest thing on the planet (same with being trans) so I hardly think they'll believe that I am. My mom has also said (several times) that teenagers don't REALLY know/understand their sexualities yet, that kids who come out in highschool/earlier and end up identifying the same way as an adult are just lucky because you never really know your sexuality as a teenager....
So I'm afraid I won't get any support. And the last thing I want, after years of self-doubt, is to be doubted by my own family. I'm not a very confident person, and I second guess myself a lot and overanalyze everything, so I'm also afraid they'll make me doubt myself. My sisters would probably accept it, but there's also a chance they might secretly not believe me; my dad might believe me just because he doesn't think he knows enough; my mom might be accepting but think i don't really know what I'm talking about; and my brother will think I'm just doing it for attention. (He thinks a lot of questionable things, including that the reason more people are coming out as queer/trans is because it's now a "fad")
But then part of me thinks I'm totally overreacting. I know this isn't a big deal at all--I'm blessed to have a family that isn't homophobic, that wouldn't throw me out, and in general is just a very loving and supportive family (though they can be a bit judgmental and rough at times, it's always because they care). So really, I know that I'm very lucky and I haven't and probably will never have a horrible experience with being queer, like being attacked or beat up or bullied or not being accepted or the like.

I just know I want to come out to my family, but don't feel 100% comfortable. But at the same time I don't like hiding this secret. I don't want to make a big todo about it, especially since I myself am not the biggest fan of labels/putting myself in a box, but I just don't know how to bring it up. How does one actually go about the process of coming out? I figured I'd just wait until it actually became necessary (ie I got myself a girlfriend) but I don't enjoy being in the closet all that much. I also want to be able to come out at school (that is a whoooole different set of problems, too) but I obviously can't come out to the whole school without my parents knowing.
There's also the whole situation with the binder, and me just being confused in general, and also that I'm pretty sure my parents wouldn't allow me to be alone with female friends anymore if I came out... Help?

[ 04-19-2014, 08:22 PM: Message edited by: Emily9997 ]

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Emily9997
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Also, my parents force me to go to church every Sunday. I'm not sure if I'm religious/how I feel about all that, but I DEFINITELY don't want to go to church. Not because I find it boring (well I usually do, but) but because the Church is obviously not all that gay-friendly at the moment. I don't have a problem with Catholicism as a whole, because Catholicism itself isn't homophobic, but the Church currently is. We also happen to be part of an extremely conservative dioceses (as in, the bishop of our dioceses said he would have to "reconsider their relationship" with the boy scouts after they allowed gay scouts to join. And basically went on about how disappointed the church was in the Boy Scouts, how they were such a good Christian group before, etc)
So I feel kind of shitty about going to church. There's plenty of other issues I have with it, but this one obviously affects me personally. But obviously I can't tell my parents that if I'm not out, so... Thoughts?

(As a side note, I love the Pope. He's awesome)

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Emily9997
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(I do say I don't feel comfortable going to church, and that I'm not catholic/Christian/religious, but they make me go anyway)
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Jacob at Scarleteen
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Hey Emily,

This sounds like a really tough experience! I can really relate to so much of what you're saying, especially remembering myself a few years ago. I feel so much better about all of this stuff now, so maybe there are some things I've learnt which can help you.

Firstly I think one of the problems can be that you sound like you are trapped in a situation where any label/description (or absence of one), communicates different things to different people and in a sense that part of the problem is impossible to solve, because those people have such different views.

That doesn't mean eternal misery (thankfully!), but it does mean that sometimes the language isn't going to be there and what we really need to ask for is for parents and friends to respect that difference, to respect how much of each-other we perhaps can't understand, and getting compassion there, rather than 100% agreement on 'what emily is'.

For all the amazing achievements of gay rights in the past 50 years, we do end up with a very narrow idea of what is to be in the closet, out of the closet and the idea that claiming rights necessarily comes with claiming an identity. "I should have the right to have sex with someone of the same gender, without punishment because I'm gay" rather than just "I should have the right to have sex with someone of the same gender".

Your parents seem to be giving you the same ultimatum... like your dad suggesting that you need to id as lesbian to be allowed your binder.

You say your parents aren't homophobic, but even though it's good that they're for marriage equality, and don't seem to wish harm on queer people... I do think much of what you've described here still represents other forms of homophobia. Your mother saying she'd never want a gay child because of the suffering they'd certainly endure, is not sound. The biggest problem the vast majority of queer kids face is lack of support from their parents... not recognising herself as a factor in her imaginary gay kid's happiness or even giving them a chance to not be a victim, for me, means that they just wouldn't get the respect they deserve from her, especially if she's already decided how they feel. I think a lot of that really is landing on you now.

In addition to this they are also saying that as a young person, your feelings about your own sexuality don't count anyway. All of this is stuff that is really going to make it hard to have a level ground with them.

So. What might help, from what I gather, is, if you can, to try and go with what works, case by case. It could help to focus on what you need in your relationship with your parents, and the respect that you need from them, especially as there may be no label you can agree on anyway. You could consider how you relate to your own sexuality as again a different thing - there's no need to take on an obligation to apply labels that don't fit you in private even if they communicate effectively to others.

I guess that's a length of reply to match your length of question!

One more thing I might add and that helped me thinking about your situation, is to sketch out venn diagrams. It can be a real help, just to see things in front of you... there can be a circle for 'emily', a circle for 'parents', a circle for 'society' and where you draw overlaps can be a good place to list labels or descriptions that each 'circle' agrees on. When it's obvious that there simply isn't an overlap, that's a place where agreement isn't possible and what we need there is respect for the boundary that presents.

Here's one I made earlier... but definitely make your own, with your own interpretations, this is just an example:

http://s28.postimg.org/kn6td7h5p/examplevenn.png

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Emily9997
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.

Jacob, thank you so so much! Your response was really helpful and I just feel much better overall. Thank you for taking the time to read my original post and respond, too [Smile]

And yeah, that bit about the label communicating different things to different people--that's exactly it.
I guess the problem I'm having, other than how to describe myself/my sexuality to my parents, is what to do if they do say all those things I'm afraid of. I feel like I should be honest with them, because it feels like I'm keeping this big secret, but if they don't really accept it it's not like I can take it all back.
I want to come out but I'm not really sure if I should?

Thank you so much for that Venn diagram!! I really can't thank you enough. It's really helpful and I'll try making one of my own as well. I think it'll be really useful to help and think of it like that.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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No worries Emily!

I'm glad you liked the diagram.

I understand feeling really uncomfortable, especially given how unwelcoming your parents have been to the prospect of you sharing your thoughts with them, but I don't think that'd mean you were in the wrong or dishonest. It actually could be a pretty wise discomfort, if you're not really sure what to say yet.

The other thing I'm thinking is that the inside of your head, your fantasies, your attractions, and your sexuality, are 100% your space. I don't at all feel that anyone, including your parents have a right to know what's going on there (assuming they were open to hearing!)... I see your sharing that information, or some parts of it, as a choice, where you let people in for your own benefit, rather than theirs and not as an obligation.

So really, no need to feel dishonest! There could be plenty of good reasons to come out to your parents but only when you feel like it.

I'm really seeing that they are the ones that are really making things hard for you, rather than the other way round...

Do you think there are ways you could get your parents to be a bit more supportive? Or are there situations where they are a bit better?

Those activities could be a really good start.

[ 04-20-2014, 02:48 PM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]

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Emily9997
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Well, I think if they were more educated on stuff like this it would help a lot. The problem is, my family fights every step of the way with every single argument. It's not that they're too stubborn to change their beliefs, but they're not just going to accept something easily. They're always arguing and playing devils advocate and looking for flaws or holes in any new argument or idea. It's not that they're not open minded, they just take everything apart--which includes their own ideas. It's the way my family works, I guess. And it's good in that you end up with a better understanding of lots of different arguments and ideas, but it's hard to be the only person fighting for my side. I'm basically the "super liberal angry feminist" stereotype character in my family, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I can't adequately express my beliefs in a way that makes sense/I'm not educated enough on the issues to be able to explain them to anyone else.
So if my family understood the concept of multiple genders (they accept MtF and FtM trans people to an extent, because they don't really get it when a trans person doesn't want to get surgery to "switch" to the other gender) it would be way easier for me to come out as pan or for them to understand why I might want a binder.
And if my family understood that being attracted to more than one gender isn't as rare as they think it is, it would be way easier for me to come out as queer.
But I'm not really sure how to convince my parents of any of this, especially because there aren't very many "well educated" articles about this sort of thing (which in their minds just means that it comes from a well-known "smart people" source, like from a really good college or really good newspaper or something. They're a little bit elitist when it comes to that sort of thing)
That's also my problem with convincing my mom that a binder would be safe for me to use--I have no idea how to do that when I can't find a reliable source that's "good enough."

My mom has outright asked me where I fall on the spectrum, but every time I refuse to answer (she pushes it and refuses to take "no" for an answer even when I tell her I'm uncomfortable with the topic). I always just stay quiet until the topic is dropped.
It's not that they're never understanding about anything, it's just... I don't know. I think they also have a very narrow understanding of a lot of things--like homophobia/racism/sexism is THIS, but all the smaller stuff isn't really important at all, so you shouldn't focus on it because there are more important things. And who cares about gender or defining your sexual orientation or if those orientations/genders/expression of gender are accepted by society, because there are more important things than if you can dress the way you want in public.
I'm just not really sure how to get through to them (I also feel like I'm painting a horrible picture of my family, I swear they aren't nearly as bad as they look)

But right now staying in the closet is causing me a lot of anxiety. The whole deal with the binder and wanting to dress in men's clothes used to cause me anxiety too, but since it hasn't been brought up and I haven't allowed myself to think about it much it hasn't really been an issue recently.

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Heather
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Have you looked at some of the materials for families at PFLAG, Emily? If not, there are some good ones there that might fit some if your bill here.

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Heather
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Also, on the established newspaper ticket, this nice primer at the New York Times may be helpful: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/answers-about-transgender-issues/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Emily9997
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Thank you so much for those resources! I'll definitely check them out!
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Emily9997
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Okay, so the GSA is having an assembly in a few weeks. Everyone has to contribute to the assembly by telling a personal story about discrimination against LGBTQ kids (or something of the like), including me, because I'm part of it. The story doesn't HAVE to be about you, it can be about family members/friends/or just generally why the cause is important to you. But the only thing I can think to say are my OWN personal experiences, which would involve outing myself. Which I don't feel safe enough to do, plus my family doesn't know yet and they'd have to if I came out at school. I'm not really sure what to do?
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Molias
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For inspiration, maybe you could look at sites where people talk about discrimination they've faced? Something like the sexuality tag on the microaggressions tumblr might be a good place to start.
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Emily9997
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Well, that's all very good, but I don't think I can use it for the assembly. It has to be something that's personal to ME--so about me or a close friend or family member. The whole point of the assembly is really to try and make it personal to connect with the students. That's where my problem lies...
(I'll make sure to show that website to my teacher, though, I think he'll love it. Thanks so much!)

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OhImpecuniousOne
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I would think that an organisation like the GSA would be understanding of you not wanting to come out just yet, and that the teachers would be willing to help you think of something or let you not take part in the assembley. If not, I'd be very disappointed in them.

Another thing to think about, though, is that lots of other GSA members probably have a bunch of stories they could tell, and only one story they will tell. If you're friendly with anyone else in the GSA, you could chat to them and see if they have a story you could present as "This happened to my friend x...".

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