Hi to all (or no one, I am still not sure),
The question above is one I have asked myself many times over the years. I made the leap from the dark and dreary, self-contempt-filled closet, to the bright, sunshiny world that is sometimes filled with outside hatred. For 22 years, I was firmly locked inside my nice little wardrobe, hiding amongst my rainbow shirts and watching South of Nowhere in a private window, erasing my search history every time I took another Are you gay? quiz. I was even somewhat content in my little bubble because in there, no one could hurt me, judge me, or reject me for who I am. In my closet, I was safe from having to face the repercussions that came with telling the world that I am, in fact, a lesbian.
I don’t know if I speak for everyone in this instance, so please proceed with caution. Coming out wasn’t all sunshine and roses for me. My parents accepted me; I mean, I wasn’t suddenly homeless on the street and disinvited from family Christmas. But were they upset? I wouldn’t say yes exactly, but if you were to ask if they were happy, I couldn’t say yes to that either. My mother claims she had known since I was around 12 years old and wouldn’t shut up about the pretty popular girls in my school. However, my dad was oblivious and even continued to pretend to be after my coming out. Citing that it was because boys hadn’t shown interest in me. Or, he would just simply ignore the situation altogether, almost as if he had never heard the news in the first place. If you want to know all of the gory details, then check out my next blog, I am a Big Fat Lesbian: My Coming Out Story.
While I was obviously relieved to still have a home, that is not the only part of coming out. Yes, you have the obvious horrible reactions, such as being thrown out or disowned by your family. My advice would be to gauge your families’ reactions to same-sex relationships before ever approaching them with your own sexuality. Testing it by watching television shows featuring gay characters, or bringing up a new policy regarding homosexual rights, and then asking their opinion will be far more telling than actually ever just coming out.
The reason I say to test their feelings or thoughts is this: Parents can sometimes have a volatile reaction at first, or react differently than you had planned in your head. You may have grown up with “flaming liberals,”—as my father would refer to them—people who fight for homosexual rights and never miss a Pride parade. However, supporting the cause and actually having your own child be a member is a completely different scenario, and it may take some time for them to get used to it. Granted, you could also have raging bigots for parents; and in that case, my advice would be only doing what makes you feel safe, if you feel as if you will be harmed emotionally or physically by coming out. Don’t do it without someone there who is on your side, or even wait until you are no longer under their roof and are an official adult. It may also seem weird to you that I said to gauge everyone’s reactions, even if you know your parents to be amazing people who love you unconditionally. That may be the exact reason they don’t display their true feelings on the matter. Most parents have this innate ability to love their children whether they are gay or ax murders, not to compare the two. There are those I have met though that you would think were one and the same. Sadly, there are even some who would say they could more easily contend with having a serial killer in their family than a son or daughter who identified as gay. It is an awful thing to imagine, but is a very real possibility. Coming out of the closet can sometimes seem like an impossible decision to make when you consider the potential outcomes.
Like I said: I was one of the lucky ones. My parents weren’t exactly buying me rainbow-themed merchandise from Target, or marching with me at Pride; however, they did still love me and that was enough. Although, even with their love and tenuous support, I still felt just as lost and alone. I thought coming out would mean that I would feel a part of a community. I would be accepted, and somehow it would be like this dark closet I had been living in would be illuminated with rainbow lights and a fun disco ball. Unfortunately, it was more like I’d gained a small nightlight, illuminating the still very dark and empty space. I also learned that just because you have come out to friends and family, does not mean you are done “coming out.” Now, every time I met a new person, I would have to get a read on them and choose whether or not I would divulge this information about myself. I was constantly having to tell people who I was.
It still bothers me that people just assume I am straight. The first question after What is your name? is, Do you have a boyfriend? Sometimes, not wanting to deal with answering that, I will just politely decline and say no I don’t, but undoubtedly the follow-up is Oh, but there has to be some hot guy you’re interested in. No one has ever asked simply if I was in a relationship or if I had a partner. It’s always just assumed that I’m attracted to the opposite sex and I am dating or interested in someone them being a male. I don’t want to rant here, but I think all of you women and men out there who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or anything else, understand that it can be so frustrating to have to explain your preference to people who just grow up believing that straight is the default.
I am not saying it is their fault; the system is built that way. From the time we are little children, we ask boys questions, like Do any girls have crushes on you? or Do you have a girlfriend? My nephew, at three years old, wears shirts with “Chicks Dig Me'' sprawled across the chest. So really, what hope do we have of children not believing that straight is the default? It is a sad reality, especially as someone who is about to be a mom, that “coming out” still even has to be a thing, why are we still assuming everyone is straight? I don’t know if this will ever change, but I hope that the world becomes a bit more inclusive and accepting, until there comes a point where I no longer have to explain my sexuality, nor fear someone’s reaction to it.
If this did little to comfort you, I apologize! But in all truthfulness, it is better to be prepared than to be ignorant to the situation and think that after you have come out of the proverbial closet life will be wonderful. It is naive to expect you will never experience ignorance or hate from random strangers or people you have grown to love. Keep your head up, you got this! Leave a comment whether you had a good or bad coming out, I want to hear your stories. Feel free to contact me if you want a bit of advice or someone to talk to.
Signing off until next time,
The Mental Millennial Mom (who is also hella gay and proud of it)