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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » LGBTQA Relationships » Walking Around Parents

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Author Topic: Walking Around Parents
Stephanie_1
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 36725

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One of the most difficult parts about coming out is deciding who to tell and who to avoid telling. Of course, one of the biggest questions is if, when, and how to talk to a parent or parents. So a little help in deciding on the parent paradox.

For those of you that have talked to your parents:
-Did you find that this helped you, or made your decision to come out more difficult?
-What helped you to know it was the right time for you?
-Do you wish anything about this experience would have been different?

For those of you that haven’t:
-What will tell you it’s the right time to talk to a parent?
-Is this something you think you might ever tell them?
-Where do you find the most support?

My story:
This weekend my girlfriend came to town to visit me. While she doesn’t live hours away, it was easier for her to just stay here rather than making the drive back home every night. When I talked with my parents about her staying, I told them it was a friend that I knew, and that we planned to spend the weekend hanging out.

My parents don’t know that I am bisexual nor do they know anything about the two of us outside of us being “friends.” Because of this, she slept in my room and my parents never thought anything of it. In the afternoon we were talking about some people we knew, and she mentioned a girl she had dated. My parents didn’t say much about it at first, but then my mom asked if her parents knew and what they thought. She, being herself, was very open and willing to be honest about her parents and how well they’ve accepted her in all aspects. After she left, my parents told me how nice she was; but that they’re glad they have good kids that never brought on that kind of news.

I think because of how my parents are, unless I was in a relationship where I was considering moving in with my partner, I really would not have a reason to tell them that I’m bisexual. I don’t like feeling like I’m lying to them but I also don’t want to create a fight. I've dealt with the comments that they've made, and I fight them more often than I'd like to remember. My friends are a huge support system, and have always accepted me for who I am. I know if there came a time that I wanted my family to know, I would have a lot of people willing to be by my side. But for now, as much as I don't like having to tiptoe around them I know it's probably the best option.

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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September
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Member # 25425

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I first came out to my mother 11 years ago. At the time, I had no plans to come out to her or anyone else, ever. I was simply not at a point yet where I knew what my sexuality was, and I was still very uncomfortable about the whole thing. However, my mother noticed how down I was and poked and prodded until I blurted out that I thought I might be bisexual. She listened to me calmly, comforted me, and then told me that it was just a phase and I would get over it and feel better again in no time.

At time, I was more embarrassed about having to discuss sexuality with my mother than I was upset at her reaction. I think to some extend I was glad that she dismissed it: it gave me the opportunity to 'take it back'. When she asked me a few weeks later how I was doing, I told her she'd been right and I was a-okay again.

I proceeded to spend the next 6 years firmly in the closet as far as my mother was concerned.

During that time, I talked to friends about my sexuality. I came out at school and co-founded the GSA, which led to most of my teachers knowing about my sexuality. Having a supportive community helped me feel comfortable. It also helped me to feel okay about not actually know exactly what my sexuality is.

The more confident I felt, the more out-spoken I became, and eventually I started talking to my mother about gay rights issues, about my friends' sexualities, etc. I was basically 'out' to her in every way except for having actually said the words. It turns out I didn't need to: A couple of weeks before I moved out for college, she told me that if I ever brought home a girl, she would be okay with that.

The biggest lesson I've taken from this really is the one concerning timing: Be sure of yourself before you come out. By that, I don't necessarily mean that you should know exactly what your sexuality is (I'm not sure we ever know that), but that you should be secure and confident about being questioning. If you present it as something that simply IS, and if you're cool and okay with it, parents are more likely to accept it (or at least accept the reality of it). Of course, that also all depends on individual personality, too.

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Johanna
Scarleteen Volunteer

"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Ecofem
Activist
Member # 13388

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I think our parents are very different, Stephanie. Mine would point out queer couples when we were growing up, make pleasant comments, etc. I think they'd actually find it easier accepting a girlfriend of mine easier than "accepting" my sexual orientation (which wasn't really an issue either) because they have the mindset of supporting me in whomever I should choose to date. But my mom's never met anyone I've ever dated and my dad's met like one boyfriend; he actually met two others and a female friend I was involved with but because those were more casual or I wasn't dating them yet, he didn't know until later (if then.) My family is pretty supportive but also very hands-off. I'll talk very openly about my friend's orientations and partners and they've never said anything bad about them. ("I met Susi through Samira because she's her ex-girlfriend.")

However, I agree that it sounds like holding off before telling them anything is the right decision for you right now. I remember a talk by gay rights activist Mel White saying how, while he certainly wanted people to come out if and when they wanted to, he would also strongly recommend waiting to come out until AFTER college if your parents are footing the bill and then would pull the rug out from under you. I have some friends with very conservative parents, including ones who have said things like, "If you're gay, you're never welcome back here again." Her girlfriend tagged along to all the family outings (ha!) at graduation and I can't she how they'd NOT figure it out but as another friend said, many people like her parents are very good at not seeing what they don't want to see. (She and I were like best friends who spent most of the day together but even I didn't tag along like that.) She's currently with a guy but HIS parents won't meet her/she's not invited their home because they're living together without being married. (Geez, people! Apparently you just can't win...) Your mom basically backed you into a corner with the, "I'm glad my kids are good." It sounds like she's either in denial or truly clueless about your relationship with her.

I say absolutely come out if and when you want to but I also say don't feel like you *have* to or should if it doesn't feel right. As I saw in another friend, I think his parents would have a very difficult time maybe even wrapping their heads around the concept so he shouldn't feel like he's lying to them or himself for not coming out. It's certainly not ideal but people are complicated, families can be fickle, and it's certainly not black and white. As you said, you wish you could just come out and have it ok but you'd rather not deal with the fights and judgment; you're already fending it off in a more ally-role-- there's nothing wrong with that [Smile] and it sounds like that's the best option for you right now.

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eryn_smiles
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Member # 35643

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Hey Stephanie,

I think that the first time talking to my parents about this was one of the most difficult conversations I have had. Even now, each time someone brings it up, we all end up hurt. So, I think we try not to talk about it, while being aware that it's still an issue. To an extent, I'm still walking around my parents and they're walking around me.

I think Joey's suggestion about being confident and secure first is quite wise. I didn't feel like this. Mostly I came out because I felt very pressured and kind of trapped to meet men. It may have been better to wait until I was stronger.

I dealt with their reaction by talking with people (although not really with my friends). In a way, it helped me to cope knowing that other people had gone through worse after coming out to parents (like being thrown out of home, needing to leave their home country, feeling suicidal) but still survived, and sometimes thrived.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I'll go on a bit about this. Let me kind of set things up by mentioning a few things:

• My parents were not together for very long at all, and my mother's pregnancy with me was the only reason they even tried to be together at all. But they were fully split by the time I was six.
• I knew, even though I didn't have the language for it until a bit later., that I was not straight as early as when I was 10.
• Suffice it to say, I came of age in a different time than most of you, and that involved some very negative differences, but also some positive ones. But it was different, especially in the respect that there still was really NO cultural conversation around GLBT people. That didn't happen very long after my childhood, but it very much wasn't something I grew up with, even though our community, even people in our immediate circle of family friends, included GLBT people.

That all said, and understanding that me being me, I'm going to engage in some level of tact around what I say publicly, my mother grew up with a family full of all manner of extreme biases, including a xenophobic bias around my father -- of a different nationality than them, and one that their group felt was effectively filthy and less human -- and myself, by virtue of being a product both of my father and not of wedlock (again, different times). My sense in hindsight is that my mother's homophobia (at the time) got triggered by seeing how intense I was about a couple of my closest female friends, so it happened more than once that when it became clear HOW strongly I felt about them -- often without it being sexual, mostly due to my age -- I was separated from said friends. I left my mother's home at 15, at which time i DID have the language for my orientation, but I did not talk to her about it, at all, or any girlfiends I got involved with because it didn't feel safe to do so, on a number of levels.

After I left home, we didn't talk for many years, and by the time we did have contact again, I didn't have any big coming out, I just talked about any girlfriends I had the same way I talked about boyfriends. (I did that with a lot of my life and who I was: we'd had so many awful things happen around nonacceptance of me that I was ony going to have any contact if I could be completely myself, and was not willing to budge on that.) It was often not well-received at first, but with silences rather than words, and eventually, that just wore away. My mother and I had enough larger things to work through and get past to have a relationship, and she has treated any female partners I have as well and as warmly as any male ones, that it was just one of those things I never felt like we needed to have it out about.

As well, my mother has lived on and off with another woman over the last 15 years, so.

With my Dad, on the other hand, I think I just always sensed it would be fine, so I never felt like I needed to do any big coming out. Mind, this was before the cultural notion OF that, but still. When I was 16, and living with him, he once asked me very casually and comfortably if a girl I had stay the night one night was my girlfriend, and she wasn't. The girl I had staying over the night BEFORE, however was, so that was my answer: no, she's not, but Crystal is. And that got a "Oh, okay," that was very mellow and nothing to write home about and that really was that.

The way things went with my Dad, I think, was pretty much ideal. My feeling and sense is my father never assumed jack about my orientation, nor had any judgments around it, he just wanted to know who the people I was involved with were.

For reasons that are probably obvious, I wish things had gone differently with my mother, though that has less to do with my orientation and more to do with the fact that I feel I had what could have been/were very important, formative relationships with women -- even on a friendship level -- hijacked by homophobia, and feel like that set me up to have to do a lot of work when it came to being able to get close to women in my life.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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