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Author Topic: Is it fair on my Dad to only come out to him?
Djuna
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This is a letter I just wrote to Dan Savage (not that I agree with him on everything, but I met him and all and he seemed okay). I was going to rewrite my question for here, but it actually seemed to work pretty well in its current form, haha. It's not like he's going to reply, anyway. So Heather, team, and Scarleteen users, could you give me some advice?

Dear Dan,

I'm from the UK, but I heard about your column while I was at Pacific University, where I saw your talk last year. I've been reading since then, but I can't find a letter similar to my problem.

I'm a 20 year old bi/pan male, and I'm not out to my parents. I came out to myself around three years ago, the summer between school finished and university started, so I never really had to come out to people much - I arrived at university identifying as whatever.

I figured I would come out if I found myself in some kind of long-term relationship with a guy, but while I've been with a few men, none of them have developed into relationships. So I've been putting it off.

It's occurred to me that I'd probably feel comfortable with my dad knowing I'm bi/pan/etc, but not my mother or sister. My dad, I guess, raised me pretty heteronormatively, which I resented him for a little for a while after I stopped identifying as straight, but now I kind of get that he's from a different time than me, and is a pretty accepting guy. I think he'd rally round. My mother is a big Catholic, although a moderate one with gay friends. While she's told me a lot of times that she's fine with homosexuality - she even asked me straight up if I was gay a couple years ago - she's told me a few times she has a definite problem with bisexuality, to the point of getting pissed off when bisexual characters appear on TV (apparently they "have to choose" and are "exposing people to diseases").

Meanwhile, my sister has access to my Facebook profile, and recently saw a status update where I mentioned some random douchey guy I'd met. Since then she seems to be trying to get me to come out to her - she's asked me to "explain" the status a couple times. Both her and my mother often make off-colour jokes about gay people, though, and while I don't think I'm looking at them disowning me, I really don't want to put up with their humour on the subject.

So I'm pretty sure it's just my father I want to tell, but he's told me (or I remember at least once him telling his brother-in-law while I was drinking with them) that he wasn't comfortable with people telling him something and saying he wasn't allowed to talk to my mother about it. For sure, I can see that in telling my father, I might be putting him in an uncomfortable position - but I'm in an uncomfortable position already, having to watch what I say around them and so on. There have been times when I've been subject to anti-gay bullying (for example in the workplace) and I could have used some parental support. I think that, for now, baby steps, being able to talk to my father about this would be a massive step forward.

The other thing is that slash in "bi/pan". I probably prefer "pan", but I'm not in the habit of using it, and if I say "Dad, I'm pansexual," I doubt he'll know what I mean. I don't want to use an obscure, therefore possibly scary word and then have to explain it to him, but I also think saying "bisexual" and then backtracking from it isn't great either. What is a good way to come out - also, should I do it at home, or find an excuse to go out for a drink with him or something? I don't want it to sound like I'm saying "Dad, I have cancer. Here's a picture of my tumour. It's been growing for three years now."

So, yeah, pretty much my questions are
1) is it unfair to tell my father and put him in a position I know he would find uncomfortable?
2) how do I go about making that news easy to receive? I really feel he might react well, and I want to give him the best possible chance to react well, if that makes sense.

Love,
Catholic Family's Nervous Male

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

Posts: 1269 | From: London, UK | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
coralee
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I don't think there is anything truly, objectively unfair about coming out to your dad and expecting him to keep it to himself. In fact, I think a person in his situation should be honored to be trusted with this information. However, you know your dad while I don't, so if you think he is likely to tell other people without your consent, you may be right in being cautious in coming out to him.

I also don't think you should feel that coming out as bisexual and then saying you're pansexual is backtracking. In fact, if you are coming out to someone who may be transphobic even if they are not homophobic, it may be safer to say you're bi (if, of course, you are comfortable labeling yourself so).

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Djuna
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I don't think he's likely to tell people without my consent, no - but I feel like he might be a little upset if I put him in a situation where he can't talk to my mother.

However, one issue I'm working on with my counsellor is that I am often too other-centred and don't get my own needs met, so I'm trying to weigh my need/desire for honesty with my father against my father's expressed desire for honesty between him and my mother. I don't know if this kind of overrides - if I should expect my father to meet my need anyway because he's the parent.

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

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feefiefofemme
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I think the best way to handle your concerns about being "unfair" to your dad might be to, when you come out to him, put him in contact with some resources for family/friends of queer folks. That way, he can have a third party to talk to about whatever feelings he's dealing with without outing you to the rest of your family.

As far the exact way to come out is concerned, that's really up to you. Wherever/however you'll feel the most safe and comfortable, that's probably the best way to go.

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Djuna
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Giving him resources if he wants them - that's a great idea, thanks! I was talking about this scenario with my counsellor today, I'm thinking I'm going to come out to my dad sooner rather than later, perhaps in the next month or so.

What's more, I think one way of making this less potentially unfair on my father is to phrase it as "I haven't told Mum or [my sister] yet, so I'd appreciate if you let me take my time to be ready for that", as opposed to making it seem like he's keeping a secret. That way around, it emphasises what's fair to me.

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

Posts: 1269 | From: London, UK | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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