This is Why I Haven’t Come Out to my Parents    

this is why I haven't come out to my parents

This guest post was written by one of my former high school students.

I am a queer teenage girl, and I want to talk a little about what my experience has been coming out to people and why it is that I am out to almost everyone I know, except for my family. First, I want to acknowledge that I grew up in a very liberal, accepting community, and I am a privileged white cisgender queer girl, so my experience is not representative of the struggles most queer people face.

Coming out is not something that you can do just once. It’s not even something that you can do just 10 times. It’s something that you have to do over and over with every new person you meet. Most of the time, people you meet assume that you are straight (unless, like my best friend, you had a pin made that says “Too Gay to Function”), so you have to come out to correct them. For your entire life. So yes, I am “out,” but really, I’m still coming out.

I have been coming out to people for a couple of years now, so you would think that I would get used to it, but so far, it’s scary every time. Every time I do it, I’m holding out a vulnerable part of me, and I have to just hope that the other person wasn’t raised to believe that I’m disgusting. That I deserve to burn in hell forever. That me loving someone of the same sex or marrying someone of the same sex wouldn’t be authentic. Because there are still a lot of people who think these things in varying degrees, and it’s really hard to pick them out of a crowd. And even if they don’t believe that being queer is bad, a lot of people are still uncomfortable with it.  

This fear is a part of why I can’t tell my parents yet, because as much as I know that they will be okay with it, I’m still worried they will be uncomfortable and not know how to deal with it. They don’t have gay friends, so it would be new for them. And of course telling my parents means my extended family will have to know eventually, and I’m worried some of them might not be as supportive as I think my parents will be. It will all probably be okay, but if it isn’t, I’m not ready to handle it from people I love. Because every time I see a homophobic comment on the internet, I feel like I’m being punched in the stomach. And that’s from people I don’t even know.

I almost want to have my sexuality all figured out and squared away and be completely secure so that when I tell them I won’t get emotional, and if they react badly I will be able to handle it. Which, I’m aware, is kind of an irrational way to think about this. Because I know that I may never have everything figured out, and I know that my parents will be supportive. But I’m still scared.

There are some things I will need from my parents when I come out. Here are two things I wish all parents would do when their child comes out to them:

  1. Believe them, no matter what. Trust me, it isn’t a phase. If they are telling you, your child has probably known for a long time, thought about it a lot, and done research, so the worst thing you can do is tell them you think they are straight or that the gender you raised them with is their correct gender. Whatever they’re experiencing, it’s real. Even if you don’t understand, even if you have never felt that way, it’s real.
  1. Ask questions if you are confused about something, or you don’t understand the terms they are using. It’s okay. It’s new ground for you and maybe for them too, and it’s okay to figure it out together. Google can be good, but it’s better to just ask them directly because everyone feels differently about their own sexuality and gender.

Remember, if your child doesn’t fit under a specific umbrella term, or they don’t quite have their sexuality or gender figured out for themselves yet, that doesn’t make their coming out any less legitimate or their queerness any less real. This is a big concern for me because I’m almost-but-not-quite-a-lesbian-and-still-kind-of-a-bisexual, and a lot of people don’t really get it.

But there is another, brighter, reason why I’m not out to my parents. And it’s that I just don’t want it to be a big deal. It’s not that being gay isn’t a big part of my life, but it hasn’t been this huge, sad struggle for me. For the most part, it’s been pretty awesome. In my friend group, most people are queer, and we’re comfortable enough that we can joke around about it, and I can talk about cute girls, and no one is judging. I’ve even been able to find other queer girls to go on dates with, and that’s been pretty cool too.

But I’ve come out to a couple of friends who have said things like “you’re so brave,” which is nice but also makes me feel weird. Because in my mind, firefighters are brave. Police officers are brave. But me? I just . . . like boobs. I’m not brave. I haven’t struggled. I’ve had uncomfortable encounters with bigots, but I’ve never experienced serious discrimination. A lot of queer people still experience discrimination, and they are probably braver than me. But I’ve had a really easy life, and I just want people to treat me like all of their straight friends.

So when I do tell my parents, I want them to take what I’m saying seriously but also not treat me like a brave soldier who’s just come out of battle. I just want us to go on with our lives, and have no one be surprised when I bring home a girlfriend for dinner or talk about how much I’d like to date Cosima from Orphan Black.

7 responses to “This is Why I Haven’t Come Out to my Parents    ”

  1. sabina Edwards

    You know what? You don’t have to come out to me…. I meet quite a lot of people in my life time and I could care less what sex you are attracted to. It has no impact on my life what your sexual preference is, and I suspect, most of the people you will meet are the same (so quit stressing over it and thinking thats the first thing that needs to come out of your mouth or that you need to wear a “pin” to announce it to all. Myself, I’m prob more concerned if you are recycling to help our planet out. Maybe its because of my age (50’s) but I also suspect that the young generation also does not need to be told your preferences as well (I’m sure tons of people accept you for who you are) So relax, and quit stressing that you need to tell the world every single personal detail of your life!

    1. I don’t care about the sexuality of every person I meet, but I would want my child to be comfortable coming out to me, which is what this post is mostly about.

  2. Lindsay, thanks for giving your student an avenue to get this out there! And Queer Teenage Girl, thank you so much for sharing your story and what you need from your parents. I hope I can be what my child needs when a conversation like this happens.

  3. thanks qtg for your candidness. as parents we try and word our phrases carefully. we use partner or spouse instead of man/husband and say flat out that around 10% of the population is ‘different’ in some way. we try and answer all questions with the same concern as we would about the weather. no big deal.

    i hope that eventually you feel comfortable enough to be out.

  4. What a lovely young woman. Life is hard, no matter who you are, and though she may not feel brave, being able to talk about her life and experiences is valuable to other people who haven’t come out yet.

  5. I love the fact that you gave your student a way to express what & how she feels without having to come out directly. She’ll know when the time is right to bring her sexual preference up to her parents. Being a bi-sexual man, I know the feelings that she talks of and I’m very thankful that my friends and family were accepting of my sexuality. I’ve never dealt with bigots or discrimination personally but it hurts to see those that have & do deal with it on a daily basis. I wish I could jump through the screen to their defense and let them know that they have allies everywhere. I do my best to spread awareness and everyone that knows me knows that I will stand up despite the haters.

    I like how she said that you constantly come out because it’s true. We’re constantly having to bring it to people’s attention because they assume that we’re straight or in my case, because I’m tired of feeling the way that I do. You either accept me or we part ways. It may be heartbreaking but that’s where I sit in my sexuality. Life will always have haters no matter your sex, race, religion or what have you. It’s up to our generation (Millennials, apparently) to make this right. I don’t care what my child grows up to be as long as he’s a good citizen!

    I’m most certain that this girls parents are already aware of her sexuality but keep it to themselves. I say this from experience as I was scared as hell to tell my family and friends that I’m attracted to both sexes. I eventually couldn’t take the self hatred anymore and every single person in my life told me that they knew before I even knew myself. It’s easier for me to say I’m bi now that I came out and people are/were more accepting of me. I’ve yet to lose a friend, family member or partner because of my sexual preference and I hope the same for your student.

    She wrote a magnificent post by the way.

  6. This is a great post and I am super impressed also that you have such a great relationship with your former student and that she trusts you enough to post this here. As a parent of a teenager I value what you said here about what you need from your parents. I think most parents worry about their children regardless of their age or sexual orientation and Most love them unconditionally. I would hope that my daughters would feel comfortable telling me. I hope you share this with your parents soon. I hope and believe they will be happy if you are happy. I think it it really revealing here how you said you have to come out over and over again and that never gets easier. I appreciate the insight and honesty. I know so many parents who believe their teenagers are gay. I know a friend whose young teen (15) recently came out to her. I have seen a lot of close personal friends simply waiting quietly and supportively as their teens figure out how or if they will share this with them. I think we are far more supportive than we ever were even ten years ago. I wish you the best and I hope you keep writing and sharing here too.

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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