A coming out story – how not to tell your parents

Wave the flag!

Wave the flag!

 

My daughter is many wonderful things: she’s beautiful, she has a razor sharp wit, she loves children, animals, art and music.  And oh yeah, she’s gay.  This is not a story about parenting a gay child or coming to terms with having a gay child or any of that jazz.  She’s gay, that’s cool, we’ll deal with what we need to deal with as she lives her life and support her however we can (that doesn’t result in her living at home till she’s 35, that is).  This is a story of the day our daughter decided she was ready to come out to those people most important in her world, and by that, I mean her close friends, some neighbors (who heard from their children, from the close friends group), her social media circle and then, oh yeah, her parents.  The order in which this information was spread was not necessarily her intention but it is how it worked out.  Hell, I think the cats knew before I did.

This happened a year or so ago – more or less.  I’m not entirely sure what filled our day that day but I do know it was a Saturday.  We all had our stuff to do and our places to go.  Our morning was likely filled with getting the kids up and out the door to their various private music lessons and back home again. Other stuff happened – it was a typical Saturday. At some point during the course of the late afternoon, I had to stop at a neighbor’s house – good friends of ours – and pick up my son who had spent part of his afternoon playing video games with their son.  As is usual when I run into these folks, the boy got an extra half hour of video time because the grownups got to chatting. In the course of my conversation with this lovely couple, one of them remarked at how proud I must be of my fearless daughter and how wonderful it was that she was so open and willing to talk about her identity.  The conversation went on along this thread for some time, with me smiling and nodding but having no real idea of what they were referring to.  I discovered later, of course, that my daughter had talked to her friend, who then mentioned it to her parents – the couple in question.  Frankly, their daughter should also be congratulated for being so open with her own parents about my girl’s revelation.

DAAfternoon wore into evening and we all went about our business.  My husband and I were getting ready for bed when I noticed a Facebook alert.  My daughter had posted a note on my and my husband’s walls:  “Mom, Dad, look at this:”  with a link.  The link, as it turned out, led to her Deviant Art profile page (DA is a social network for artsy types) where there was a simple message posted.  “I’m bisexual”.  Well okay, then.  Not what I was expecting to hear and certainly not HOW I’d expect to hear it.  Suddenly, things became clearer – this is the “brave, fearless move” she’d made earlier that her other friends already had seen and their parent’s discussed.  She’d posted this news on her DA page and word got round but as I didn’t look at her page that day, I didn’t see it when everyone else did.  She finally got sick of waiting and took the Facebook post route.

We called our daughter in to talk to us.  Nothing too deep – just that we were glad we knew and that we loved her and yes, she was very brave for being so honest.  Leave the bigger, deeper conversations for another day – the “how did you know?” and “how long have you known?” and “why the hell did you decide to use a social network used by almost a billion people to tell us?”.  Frankly, we treated it rather matter-of-factly; not to diminish the importance of her declaration but rather to make it not feel like a crisis or SOMETHING WE MUST DISCUSS.  Little by little, over the following days and weeks, more came out about her feelings and hopes.  She felt more comfortable talking about things like how it felt to be open and whether she felt accepted by her friends.  A month or two later, I noticed that her Facebook profile page listed her as “lesbian”, not “bi” any longer.  (See, I’m learning – I need to stay on top of these updates!)  I did ask her about that and she confessed that she never actually was bisexual – she just thought it might be easier for us if we did the transition from straight to gay gradually.  Uh, sure.

Here’s the important thing.  She’s my daughter.  I love her no matter what.  I am in awe of her bravery and ability to hold her head high and say to the world who she is.  Gay, straight, blue or purple, she’s my girl and my dearest hope is for her to be happy in her own skin and lead a fulfilled life.  My and my husband’s job is to support her while she grows, protect her when she needs it, comfort her when it’s hard and keep on pushing her to be her best her.  How we do that – who knows?  We’re learning as we go along, much as we are with our son.  And there’s a ton I don’t know – are her needs different?  I’d love to connect with folks who have been through this – both parents and those who have come out – to understand what I don’t know.  If you’re gay – what would you have liked to have had from those you loved when you were a teenager?  What did you get that helped – or hurt?

likeOne thing I do believe we’ve learned from the experience.  Major life announcements should not be made via certain social media networks. 🙂

 

CC Flag Image used courtesy of Datchler on Flickr

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9 thoughts on “A coming out story – how not to tell your parents

  1. my brother came out many years ago. He had just recovered from cancer and was 26. He told me first and did not want to let anyone else in the family know. I disagreed and we told my brothers and sisters but he could not tell my mom for ages. He attributes his cancer to hiding for so long as he did not even admit to himself he was gay and pursued many women. Now he and my mom are so close and she has a good relationship with his partner. However it’s not what she wanted for him and she still I think mourns the fact he is gay. Your daughter is lucky because no matter how many she tells the only opinion she’ll really care about will be her parents.

    • Thank you for your note. I’m sorry to hear it was such a struggle for your brother – both emotionally and physically. Your choice of words really intrigues me – I don’t think I necessarily “mourn” this life for my daughter. It isn’t what I would necessarily choose, had I had a choice – simply because it’s perhaps not as easy a life. There will always be people who don’t accept her simply for who she is. But it’s not a sadness as much as concern and mama-bear-ishness. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • I hasten to add the “mourning” is what I believe my mom feels. I have many gay friends for many years. My brother being gay was a non event personally for me, even though it was incredibly traumatic for him. The thing that really shook him and maybe your daughter found the same, is some people he completely misjudged thinking they would accept him fully when in fact they couldnt and vice verse.

  2. Great article Teri. I found out that my Mom was a lesbian after she died. I should’ve figured it out over the years, but I was in my own world. She lived a lie for years and years and it affected her in harmful ways, i.e. depression, alcoholism, etc… I’m so glad your daughter has such great parents and feels strong enough to realize who she is and be proud. Different times we live in, aren’t they? I feel sorry for my Mom now, it was so different for her back then.

    • Wow, Bets. I can’t imagine finding out something like that. So much pain. How sad that she couldn’t live openly during her lifetime but as you said, it was a different time.

  3. THIS is why I love this fanily! And Teri….let ne connent on one thing that you said…..”….perhaps not as easy a life.” Honey…..LiFe is hard, no natter who you are……it just is. And learning to navigate it now is just what your girl needs fron you and Nike. Just give her sone tools that she can hide away in her pocket and pull out as she needs then. Hell, I an 54 years old and STILL learning how to navigate ….and the course keeps changing and it is unsteady, and unconfortable and I feel like I an drowning in it. And then….tonorrow….tonorrow will be sunshine and warnth and inner peace and I will find ny happy place again.You see what I nean??? Just give her the tools that she needs and a hug fron ne, or you or Nike. That girl is one lucky daughter to have you been chosen to be her non.

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