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Coming Out to My Parents

Question:

Im a 14 year old lesbian, a freshman. First off, I’ve heard of a lot of stories about gays coming out and having major negative tolls on their lives. A few of my close friends know about my sexuality and accept it. They help me through most of my problems from crushes to rumors around school. My 19 year old sister, who is straight, helps me sometimes but doesn’t really want to hear about it. My parents don’t know. Thats what I’ve been trying to figure out. I want to tell my parents because they might be able to help me out with some of my problems at school. They aren’t anything too serious to a point when I don’t want to be here but it causes a saddening, I guess, inside of me. See, my parents are the type of people that make fun of gays and call them names.
Just to see what my mom would say I asked her what would she do if my sister was gay. My mom said,”I’d rather have her be gay then on drugs.” We kept talking about people who are gay and she said,”I think that gays are born gay they can’t just choose to be gay all of a sudden(which I agree with)”, but then she said,”being gay is a mental illness, it’s not right. How can someone think of even liking the same sex?” At the point of the conversation I was scared and didn’t know what to say. I told her I don’t think sexuality matters. After that she said,” I think that people get bored and just try new things. That’s how people become gay.” I’m just worried that if I tell my parents they won’t treat me the same and won’t accept me the way I am. To be completely honest, I don’t even really accept the way I am. So, I have two problems: one, my parents and two, accepting myself. How do I tell my parents and when should I tell them? Second, how can I learn to accept myself being the way I am?

Letter submitted by: Julia

Answer:

Julia,

It can be difficult to decide how, when, and if you should come out, especially when you receive inconsistent messages from home. It is natural to be worried about how your parents will react. Coming out can be a big risk, because there is the chance that your parents won’t understand. However there is also the chance that coming out will help bring you closer together, as well as teach your parents to be a little more mindful of the messages they send out.

Nobody can tell you when to come out, or even if you should come out. Only you get to make that decision. As for how to tell them, you could take a minute and think about how you feel most comfortable talking about things. Some of us prefer to sit down and have “the talk”, while others prefer to talk while doing something active, even while just having a walk. If you’ve made the decision to come out, there is no wrong way to come out if you find a way that makes you feel comfortable talking about the issue. Creating a situation that helps your parents to feel comfortable can make the conversation easier as well. You might think about how each of them likes to handle serious talks, and either wait for or set up an opportunity to be in that situation, whether you decide to tell them separately or together is up to you. If and when you decide to tell them, assure them that nothing has changed and that you’re still the same person you have always been. Share what you’ve had time to figure out and how important it is to you that you can talk to them about your life.

As for accepting yourself, that’s sort of life’s great journey. It takes a lot of strength to accept yourself, and the fact that you’ve reached out shows a lot of courage. When learning to accept your sexual orientation, it might be helpful to get to know other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) people. A great way to meet other LGBTQ people is through your local PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) if you have one in your area. You can find more information at www.pflag.org. If you don’t have one in your area, TrevorSpace (www.trevorspace.org) is another good way to meet LGBTQ young people. TrevorSpace is a social networking site for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13 through 24 and their friends and allies. It is a safe place to talk about issues and share experiences with other people your own age. in the end, this is something that will probably take a little bit of time to get used to. Take some time to get to know yourself and get a feeling for what it means to be you and how your sexual orientation fits into your view of yourself.

If you need to talk and are in the United States, TrevorChat (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/chat) is open from 1-7 pm Pacific Time (4-10 Eastern) on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. You can also call the Trevor Lifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, or the GLBT National Youth Talkline (http://www.glnh.org/talkline/index.html) at 1-800-246-7743. You are also more than welcome to write to us again.

Wishing you well,
Trevor