Often I’m asked to approach all facets of coming out of the closet and today is no different. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about our process as we come to accept our sexuality. But I haven’t addressed how us coming out affects the people in our lives. Not just the everyday people that we may have to interact with at school or work. I’m talking about loved ones that are a part of our lives and care about. Our parents and siblings and extended family and even close friends.
See, often the process they go through isn’t talked about. Because while this journey is solely about your own self-discovery, when we come out, it is also a part of their lives and their stories. Talking about our process brings perspective and with that provides clarity for those who beginning the process. So I thought I would write a letter To Whom It May Concern to the parents that addresses their process as well as ours. Because we all go through a process. And we need to talk about it.
Dear Mom and Dad
Today, we shared with you one of, if not the, biggest secrets about who we are. Today we old you we are gay/lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. You don’t know how hard it was for us to tell you all this but it is a long, often challenging process that we do alone.We know that this is a process for you as well but there are some things you should know that we for various reasons may not be able to accurately express right now. We know that you are probably having varying levels of emotion right now so let us try to address some of what may be going on in your head.
From a young age we already knew this about ourselves and how different we were from almost everyone else. We tried so hard at a young age to understand why we were so different than everyone else. At first we just couldn’t understand what this meant and we didn’t know how to articulate it. And maybe you saw the internal battle taking place but didn’t know how to address it either and we can’t fault you for that.
As we grew older, we came to make more discoveries of why and at this point, may or may not have come to accept it. Going through puberty is hard on everyone and this secret magnified our experiences. We were constantly bombarded with moments of confusion and fear to anger because of how some of us are bullied for being different. We wanted to tell you so badly what we were going through but feared your judgment more than anything else and it would be too much to handle.
And then we reached a point that not telling the truth was too much because the thought of living the rest of our lives being someone we’re not was no longer worth it. And we, just like everyone else deserve a chance to be happy. From having the right career to good friends to being able to find a love of our own and possibly start a family, we deserve all of those things that you have envisioned. We’re also writing this because of some of the ways you may react to this and we want to address that as well.
We know at first you may not be accepting of who we are. You may struggle for months, even years after we come out. Sometimes even longer. We wish we knew how long it’ll take for you to accept the truth and somehow congratulate your child for being an exceptional being that embraced who they really are. All the while we wish that you would just hold us and take away the fear and anxiety that we are consumed with as we watch our parents struggle with this indelible truth.
We know that you may be relentlessly examining everything that you have ever said or done with us to determine if there is something that you did wrong. Beating yourself up over if maybe you were too lenient or not strict enough. Searching for signs that you may have missed or interpreted differently. Wondering if you somehow showed that this “behavior” as you see it was something that you condone. These may be your thoughts as a parent’s first instinct is always to love and protect us. You want to ensure that we are safe and free from any pain or threat. Maybe that’s where your resistance to accept our sexuality comes from.
We know that a lot of times the experience of finding out your child is gay is erroneously compared to the death of a child. We of course know that being gay is nowhere near that devastating and we implore that you stop saying that. Because it is not devastating. Being LGBT is great. Maybe you compare it to death because you feel like the child you have always known (or thought they knew) no longer exists. Maybe it feels like the dreams that you envisioned when you first laid eyes upon us child are gone.
But we also know that isn’t true either. We know that we are able to have fulfilling lives and can have families just like straight couples. We are working on fighting for equal rights so we can marry the man or woman of our dreams. We can have children if we choose to do so. All the things that you envisioned for us are still possible. It just doesn’t happen in the way that you thought it would, just like everything else in life. We are still alive and right in front of you. And we still want your warmth, guidance, and love.
Maybe you’re wondering why we didn’t tell you because you love and accept us no matter what and we are thankful. But there’s a lot of different reasons why. We feared being rejected and disowned by you and by society. We fear being bullied and beaten. We are angry at the prospect of being treated differently. Or we just wasn’t ready because this is a time of self-discovery and with that, some things we have to learn on our own. And even though you have supported us through everything else, we just weren’t ready because we were still processing it.
We know you may say it is because of your beliefs that you don’t support who we are. And we need for you to know that with all of your beliefs that the one thing that you have taught us all our lives is to love no matter what. To show compassion and a willingness to learn something that we (you) do not understand. And those beliefs taught both you and us to not judge the differences. That people are different and that this is no exception.
But we are our own people with our own thoughts and beliefs and truths that may not reflect your own, but we still love you just as much as when you kissed our scrapped knees and you took us to our first theme park and sleepovers. Our late-night chats about life. The hard lessons about discovering how cruel and how great the world can be. How to love and respect those around us.
We know now that some things are different. And as our parents, you do have to learn the new rules. Just as we discovered as adults, we know you have to learn how certain phrases that made us cringe at and would make us cry ourselves to sleep at night are no longer acceptable. Because when those jokes at someone else’s expense are about us now too. And we say this all with all the respect and love that we have for them.
Us coming out was not done out of contempt, malice, a challenge to authority or you grounding us for sneaking out of the house when we were kids. We told you because we want you to know us. The real us so that you see that we other than our sexuality, we are still your child with the same dreams.
We are here to remind you that we are still their children and are worthy of your love. That your fears and beliefs will not change that. We want you to know that under no uncertain terms was us being LGBT a decision that we were coerced into by wayward friends on the other side of the train tracks. It is simply how we were made. You have nothing to feel guilty about in that aspect.
We need you to know that this is not going to change and that this is who we are. We have learned that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT. You do however have a say in how you react and how you treat us. You can be open minded and let us share with you our experiences so that you can have clarity about it. You do have the power to show us that your love truly is unconditional.
We don’t know how you will process this but we hope that you will at least try to understand. And we are willing to respectfully talk about this with you to help your process. In the meantime, we will continue to live our lives authentically and proudly as you have always taught us to do so. We hope that you will want to be a part of that journey as much as you were the moment you laid eyes on us.
Some of these elements of this letter is what I wrote my parents and I am forever thankful for their understanding and love. Even after I came out, and even with how unconditional the love my parents have for me, they still needed time to process me being gay. Because until I said it, no matter their suspicions, they still weren’t sure. They needed to hear me say it in order for it to be true.
We all faced some elements of this letter and that’s why I constructed it in this manner, hoping I touched on the varying ways that our parent’s reactions are after we tell them our reality. We hope that our parents will be open and ready for meaningful dialogue. Even though it may take time we have to live our own lives. Still this process is about you, and hopefully they will see that and show that their love truly is unconditional.