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Coming out to divorced Parents

Question:

So my parents divorced recently. No big deal, right? Wrong. My parents divorced because they disapprove of each others’ parenting styles, and I’m pretty sure if I come out to them, they’ll blame the other person and get into fights. That being said, I’m pretty sure my dad will be more accepting than my mom. She’s pretty religious (Catholic), and while she isn’t homophobic and has been supportive of LGBT issues such as striking down Prop 8, she doesn’t quite get the idea of other genders than the gender binary. I’ve tried explaining it to her in the context of other issues, but she just doesn’t get it. I haven’t come out to anyone else yet, because I really want to come out to my parents first. Do you think I should come out to them separately or both at once? Either way, I’ll come out about my genderfluidity and my panromantic asexuality at once. If I come out separately, who do you think I should start with? And since I haven’t chosen a new name yet (my given name is pretty feminine and I want to choose a more androgynous one), how should I explain that to one or both of them without making them feel bad about my name? (One of the names they had originally had in mind was pretty androgynous, so….) Thanks!

Letter submitted by:

Answer:

Dear AnneMarie,

Sexuality, in however we choose to define it for ourselves (or not define it), is a very personal thing and something that you should feel obligated to share only when you are ready.  Moreover, for many people, young and old, discovering one’s sexuality is a journey which can often take many years and can take many forms.  The fact that you have a desire to share this with your parents is very brave but you should do it only if you are 100% ready, comfortable and feel safe.

The first thing you have to understand and acknowledge is that you do not own any of the baggage of your parents’ relationship and imminent divorce.  They are grown adults and you are not responsible for their conflicts over parenting styles.  You are only responsible for yourself in this situation and you should be proud to be who you are.  Whether you choose to share this with your father, mother or both is a deeply personal issue and something we at the Trevor Project can’t advise you on since only you know your parents as well as you do and can gauge how they’d respond.  Coming out as “genderfluid” or “panromantic asexual” may be difficult for them to understand but there are advantages to coming out which I’m sure you’ve thought about.  By coming out to your parents it may make you feel less alone and enable you to share a very private side of yourself with your parents which you previously couldn’t.  This can lead to a stronger, closer relationship.  Something to consider trying with one or both of your parents:  try to bring up in conversation with them a character in a book, movie, television show, or pop culture who you identify most closely with sexually.  How do they respond?  This might be a good test to see how they’d respond if you were to ever tell them.  Whatever you ultimately decide, the most important thing is that you have a support group and feel safe physically and emotionally.

There are many resources online for you and your parents on this subject.  The Human Rights Campaign has a number of resources which you should browse which may help shed light on the issues you are facing and answer questions you may have (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/resource-guide-to-coming-out).  Additionally, the organization PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has 350 chapters a cross the country and can serve as a support group for one or both your parents should you decide to tell either or both of them.  They also have a number of support resources (click “Get Support” at www.pflag.org) for them to browse if they need help ( http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539).  Last, but not least, you always have the folks at the TrevorProject to turn to if you need help.  Call us anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-4-U-TREVOR) or reach us at TrevorChat.  Remember that you are not alone and have people that care about you.  Be strong, continue to be brave, and realize that you, more than anyone else, know when you’re ready.

Trevor Staff