Athny asks: I recently found out I was gay. How do I explain it to my parents?
Hi Athny –
There are just about as many answers to your question as there are families. I’ll go over some thoughts, but in the end, the answer is going to be to do what’s best for you and them.
It’s a normal rite-of-passage for just about everyone, that they have to tell their parents something they’re pretty sure those parents don’t want to hear. Maybe it’s that you’re moving out, or you’re dating someone they don’t like, or getting married, or even voting a different way than they do. But few of these carry as much tension as when someone tells their parents that their sexual orientation isn’t what was expected.
There are lots of reasons for this. Some parents have strong moral views against anything other than man-woman relations, and in those cases, they might be less bothered by you saying that you feel a certain way than by the fact that you’re considering acting on it. Other parents are tolerant of what others do, but can’t fathom the thought that their own child is this way, as if it casts a negative light on them. Others won’t believe their child, thinking it’s a silly rebellion the kid’s going through. Others will fear that this means they’ll never be grandparents. And then others simply hate and fear people of other sexualities than theirs.
The problem for you, Athny, is that people often don’t know how they’ll react at such news until it actually happens. There’s a famous movie from the 1960s called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” in which parents who pride themselves on their open-mindedness have a terrible time when their white daughter brings home a black boyfriend. In fact, it might not be a bad idea for you to watch that movie before talking to your parents, just to see some of the things that can go wrong.
My main advice is to take this very slowly. Test the waters first. Tell your parents about a friend of yours who’s gay, and see how they react (even if you have to make that friend up!). Talk with them about some of the ways other kids you know are behaving, which your parents might have an even worse view towards (like taking drugs, or harsher criminal activity). And work to help them understand that that gay friend was just born that way; he or she isn’t making a choice to be like this.
You see, what you want is for them to realize that, other than in your sexuality, you are exactly the person they thought you were, with all your strengths and joys and charms. And while they might have some problems with this truth you’ve found, it doesn’t make you a bad person, or them bad parents, at all.
So again, just take this s-l-o-w-l-y. Let them start wondering about you before you tell them. In fact, it seems to me most people suspect that gay people are gay before they’re told; in fact, they might be relieved to hear that it’s out in the open. That is probably the best thing that could happen with you, my friend.
But I want to throw in one other thing. What do you do if you find that your parents are really intolerant of this? To the degree that they could get violent? If this is the case, I want you to write me back before you ever talk with them. In no way do I want you putting yourself in any danger.
I really appreciate you trusting me with this question Athny. As long as you proceed with sensitivity, self-care, and a concern for your parents’ feelings, I have great hopes that this can work out absolutely fine, and you can begin a newer and happier chapter of your life.
Good Luck my friend,