Coming out to your family, facing your sexual orientation
Coming out to your family is a process that represents a big step for most people. The fear of disapproval or rejection might be a reason to keep your sexual orientation hidden and thus protect your feelings.
My friend was 12 when we already knew that he liked guys and even though his closest friends and his mum had the feeling he was gay, it was a banned topic to talk about, especially with his dad.
For years they pretended everything was 'normal' considering his family was very conservative and his dad had the typical traditional mindset where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer was wrong and 'abnormal'.
Coming out when you are rejected
It´s been a while I haven´t heard from him, but the last time I saw him (after his 30s) we had a conversation about how life-changing his decision to be open about his sexual orientation to his father was.
It was difficult at the beginning and he was too young to be taken seriously. His dad refused to believe it and he was constantly saying it was part of being a teenager and being rebellious.
Thomas distanced himself from his family after coming out and for a while, they did not talk to him. Therapy was crucial at that point. The guilt was too much for him and he got depressed. His father's disapproval also led to him having suicidal thoughts.
Even after going through those difficult times, however, Thomas did not doubt that being honest and real with his parents had helped build a better relationship with them in the following years or at least a genuine one. Looking back and remembering how unhappy he was when he had to pretend all the time and fake his feelings, was very painful.
He understood the problem was not only his dad's disapproval but his own struggle to accept himself. His family needed time to accept and be supportive of him, and he needed time to work on his self-love.
Some things to consider when you decide to come out
I don't think there is a fixed script for what to do or what not to do when coming out to your loved ones, but I want to share some ideas to keep in mind:
- Get ready for a wide range of reactions from your family members, but don't anticipate one exact situation. Avoid measuring the success of the conversation from their initial reaction.
- Their approval is not required. It is not about them, it’s about you and who you truly are. Your wellbeing comes first.
- Speak from your heart and be patient with their feelings as well as your own.
- Give them time to process. Remember you´ve been planning this talk for a long time, they´re only just hearing it now.
- Speak kindly and softly.
- Listen to what they say. Tell them that you´re hearing what they say and that you understand if they need time. You don´t have to change their minds on the first day if they react unpleasantly.
- Keep it short. If the conversation becomes too intense or emotional, it is OK to end it. You can come back to it later or another day.
- I suggest you work on accepting yourself first, maybe through therapy or by talking to friends. Knowing you´re worthy and/or having people who know you are, can help you be more confident when coming out and knowing you´ll be OK.
- If possible, let someone close to you, who loves and accepts you, know that you´ll be coming out to your family, just in case you´d like to stay with them for a day or two if things get too heated at home.
- Ask for help if you need it.
Remember that if your family does not accept you as you are, it is NOT your fault, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. It is about how limited their knowledge was growing up and how impossible it is for them to break their own walls down and be free. It´s very scary for them. It is a shame because you might all suffer because of it, but it is vital you remember that we are all beautiful and worthy as we are. No one has the right to define who is worthy of acceptance and love and who is not.
Let this Pride Month be an opportunity to encourage people to face their sexual orientation and for society to accept and be loving towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Action creates change.
Being open with the people you love is bigger than simply knowing your orientation, it is about owning your sexuality and having the courage to accept yourself.
If you feel like you need some help with your process, ask for guidance from a professional and get help through therapy.
You might be interested in reading my blog post on how to deal with anxiety.