Sunday, June 3, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are...

I have known all week what this post would be about. I also knew that it might be my most difficult post thus far. As a lesbian (one who has a lot of Lesbian followers) I have decided to cover a very disturbing issue. It is something that most of us go through at some point or another. When I did it, it proved to be the most difficult time of my entire life: Coming Out. Specifically I want to cover coming out to family members. I know that I have skimmed over this issue in previous posts, but now I would like to go in depth, because recently a friend of mine has been going through the same thing and I am trying my best to help her through it.

We will call her Macy. Macy went to a concert with her father this past weekend. She is fairly close with her parents, so occasionally they will come into town for special events or activities. Usually, at some point her girlfriend tags along even though until this point they had been told that she was her “best friend”. Macy has been with said girlfriend for a little over a year now. They are undeniably the most stable relationship, gay or straight, I have ever seen. Their compatibility is incredible, communication skills admirable, and their overall outlook on life and love is astonishingly ideal. For this event however, the girlfriend stayed home. Macy went to the concert. Her ex boyfriend (this is her first “lesbian” relationship) was there. He called her several times, her father as well, and after a while her dad told her that he was really glad she was no longer with that guy. The next morning the two of them went to breakfast and he asked her that awfully dreaded question. “Are you dating a girl?” (Specifically her girlfriend.) Being the incredibly honest and exceptional person she is, she told the truth. “Yes.” Dad was silent for a moment, and then replied with the most well-put response I’ve ever heard. “I accept you. I don’t want you to think that means that I accept the wrong thing you’re doing because it isn’t wrong. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m glad that you are happy.” She was relieved.

 When she arrived home she told her girlfriend about her father’s response. The two of them embraced for what seemed like forever. I congratulated her on coming out. I have been there and I know how much courage it takes to even contemplate telling people, much less your parents. The source of your comfort and love. The ultimate expectations which people spend most of their lives trying to live up to. I was astonished. The next day I went over to check on the two of them. When I walked in, I immediately knew something was wrong. Her girlfriend sat at the kitchen table with a perplexed look on her face. Macy was outside on the sidewalk crying on the phone. Her girlfriend put her head in her hands. “It’s all my fault.” I could not imagine at this time what might be her fault. Did they wreck a vehicle? Spill something on the carpet, and wouldn’t get their housing deposit back? Maybe she deleted Macy’s undergraduate thesis by accident. “What is wrong?” She then told me that when the father got home, he shared his new found information with Macy’s mother who (nothing short of) went off the deep end.

 She couldn’t accept this type of “behavior” from her daughter. It must be in the water where we live. Better yet, it’s because they let Macy go to college. The type of liberal education she received OBVIOUSLY brainwashed her. That’s it. It’s a mental disorder. They would get her help. All of a sudden dad began to “see the light”. Mom was right. Their daughter was sick and they needed to help.

Take a minute to breathe. Not every case in coming out is this back and forth or extreme. Some are better, some unfortunately are worse. If you are reading this post, the last thing I want you to do is think that you can’t come out now for fear of rejection. I simply want to educate you on the possibilities and hopefully help you cope with the reactions that you might experience. Much like I am trying to do with Macy right now. She is a mess. She hates that she has disappointed her parents, and hates even more that they think she is sick.

 Her mother “outed” her to her 17 year old sister as well as her grandmother, both of whom are taking it surprisingly better than the parents. While Macy is angry about this, I warn you that sometimes this is to be expected. When people have fear of something, they often counteract that fear by triggering what you fear most. You made them uncomfortable, so now they’ll do the same to you. By telling her family members, I believe her mother was trying to make Macy so uncomfortable that she would “take it back” or “change her mind” about what she was doing so no one else would find out.

When I came out at age 15, my mother and I were in a very similar situation. We had been driving to a tanning salon when I got that same dreaded question. (Yes I tan. Yes I know it causes skin cancer. Yes I know many people believe that allowing your underage child to tan should result in losing custody, however if that is something you want to discuss further, leave a comment and we will debate it at another time.) I, much like Macy, couldn’t stand the thought of lying to my mother. She was my closest friend. I knew without a doubt that she loved me and believed that our relationship could endure anything. “Yes. I have a girlfriend.” I even took it one step further. “I’m a lesbian.” She sat stunned for a moment, and unlike Macy’s father, burst into tears. Now immediately I went into hyper-panic mode. For a brief second I wanted to take it all back, however releasing those words from my lips was much like deflating a balloon. All of that built up pressure came bursting out of my heart and for a second I felt like I could breathe.

 I quickly snapped back into reality. “You’re not allowed to see her. Do you hear me?” Those were the first words to come from her mouth. Wait a minute. This isn’t right. I was honest. I told the truth. I trusted her. Isn’t that type of behavior supposed to strengthen a parent-child relationship? Isn’t there some unspoken parental guidance law that states if you have a good kid, you should treat them well in return? She cried for the next three days. I had trouble looking at her. I didn’t mean to hurt her, but I had hurt for so long hiding who I was. I just wanted help understanding what I was going through, and all I received instead was hate and a lack of acceptance.  I didn’t even attempt at the time to tell my step-father. She told me that I wasn’t “allowed” to be a lesbian. I quietly stepped back into “the closest” and kept my pain and frustration to myself.

A few months later my friend Allison and I made a grave mistake. We had been keeping a journal that we exchanged back and forth between classes. She was older than me so we only saw each other in the halls, and while she was straight, she was also very open-minded. I had come out to most of my close friends, but for fear of the same rejection I experienced that day with my mother, chose not to tell everyone. After all, the last thing I wanted was for one of my cousins to find out, or for someone to tell my dad. Allison and I were on our way back from a field trip, and sat in separate seats. However half way during our trip, we put both of our bags in one seat and moved to the other so we could talk during our bus ride. High School is often a mean and unforgiving place for some people, so when  bags are left unattended, there seems to be no respect for one’s privacy.  A young man, (who ironically came out to me later) pulled my notebook from our belongings and hunkered down in the seat to read it aloud to his friends. That’s all it took. A few journal entries later, and I had been outed. They knew who, where, and for how long. The emotional roller coaster I had been shoved onto was teetering on the edge of disaster.

When I walked down the hallway that day I heard whispering from nearly everyone I passed. The stares and the giggles followed. Finally one kid yelled out “Hey Dyke. That’s what you are isn’t it? A big fucking Dyke?” I wanted to puke. The anxiety clumped in my chest like a lodged apple core. I was choking on fear and humiliation. This was it. This was the end of my life as I knew it. What I didn’t know at the time was it was also the beginning. Unfortunately in BFE Tennessee we didn’t have a queer straight alliance, there was no “It gets better” campaign for me to research. I had no one to turn to, and nowhere to go… except home.

When I walked in that day, I saw the look of recognition on my mother’s face. She knew I was hurting, and she had guessed why. Although she didn’t understand, the last thing she wanted was for me to hurt. I told her what happened and she sat there in tears again. I told her that it was time I told my father. She protested at first, but decided it was better he hear it from me than someone else. When he got home I asked him to sit down. When I told him I was gay he got a confused look on his face. He had joked that I was a lesbian since I was 9 years old and I yelled out gleefully from the back seat of the car “Chase ‘em down Dad!” about a car full of girls my brother had been gawking at. I hated how they had teased me, and even began to see being gay as a huge negative. I was raised to believe it was wrong.

When he spoke, I expected a similar reaction to my mothers. What I got was much worse… “I might be going to hell but at least it isn’t for sucking dick. No kid of mine’s gonna be a queer.” Had I heard him correctly? Yes. He stormed out of the house, and stood on our front porch. My mother followed him. By this point I knew that there was no turning back, and I’m really an all or nothing kind of gal. I was right on their heels. “One of your kids is a queer. That queer is me.” My mother asked me again to wait until I was 18 to make that decision. It wasn’t a decision. I didn’t wake up one day and say “I think today I’ll be a lesbian”, like some young women decide to change their hair color. The only decision I made was to be true to myself, and honest to my family.

It took my parents a while to come around. My mother started to understand that the only thing that had changed was her opinion. Not the person who I was. I had stayed the same sweet girl I had always been, I just loved differently than she did. Once she grasped that concept, it became easier for her to accept. She is now one of my biggest supporters and an advocate for LGBTQ equality. My father and I bonded over a Carrie Underwood music video. (We both have an appreciation for toned legs.) He too realized that who I loved didn’t change how he loved me. My life began to develop normalcy. I had contemplated changing schools, but decided not to. I wasn’t going to run. I had never ran from anything in my life and I wasn’t about to start then. I held my head up when I walked through the hallway, and whether they accepted me or not, people had to at least tolerate me. It was by no means easy, but as I got older I moved away and found peace and structure as well as love and acceptance. Columbia Missouri has been a great place to grow, which is why I wasn’t shocked that Macy’s parents blamed it for her liberal “condition”. The only thing she “caught” here was freedom and individuality.

Ultimately I believe myself to be lucky. Some people never find that acceptance. Others never learn to cope with the hate. We’re reminded of this every time another gay suicide occurs. All I can offer are my thoughts. All we can do is continue to educate. I was presented with a few articles by some friends of mine that I would like to share with you. Hopefully they will help you along your journey.

I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay-

A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”-  

A special Thank You to Linda at PFLAG of Mid-Missouri for sharing the following information with me as well.  

PFLAG "Coming Out" PDF-

PFLAG "Coming Out to Your Parents" PDF-

Sexual Orientation Is Not A Choice-

Our Sons and Daughters-

I wish you all the best of luck. If you aren’t going through this, but know someone who is feel free to pass along my blog and/or these articles. Finally, I am also willing to back it up. If you have any other questions or comments, or just need someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through, feel free to email me at  

Remember me, I’m Tennessee.

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