Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Will Somebody Just Drag Me Out Of The Closet Already?

Okay, I wrote about this a year ago and nothing has really changed. I really am ready to come out to my parents. I'm out to pretty much everyone else I know and I'm loving it, because it's just nice not to have to pretend. It's nice to know that the people you care about know a bit about where you're coming from, and aren't assuming things about you that aren't true.

That being said, I had plenty of opportunities to tell my parents this weekend and I... just... couldn't... do... it. The words got stuck as they were about to pass from my lips, and if they had blurted out I probably would have had a heart attack. I really was that anxious about the whole thing. The worst part is I don't know why.

Like I said before, I am confident that my parents' reactions won't be that bad. I guess I'm just a little scared because my mind always seems to jump to the worst possible reaction. I know guys who didn't get the chance to come out. They were dragged out by parents who couldn't possibly accept the fact that their sons were gay, and who essentially kicked them out when they found out the truth. I am blessed to know that my folks won't even consider doing something like that, so what am I scared of?

I had a good opportunity this weekend. My dad and Mom were talking about parenting in general, and I overheard Dad say, "We may not always agree with what our kids do, but our job is to support them no matter what." I mean... seriously? What better chance did I have? I should have busted in there and said, "Well, looks like I'm in luck, Padre!"

But... nope... couldn't do it. Does anyone (gay, ex-gay, heck...even straight!) have any good advice? I mean, I know that I should wait for the right time, but even when the time is right I can't bring myself to pluck up the courage.

17 comments:

PSUdain said...

Hey, I've been reading your blog for a while (9 months?) now, and I may have even posted once or twice quite a while ago. But I really feel that I might have something to say on this. It's not even been a year yet since I came out to my parents, so it's all still fairly fresh in my memory.

As far as a "good time" goes, there really isn't one. Think of it as more of a "least bad time", or odds are you can keep finding reasons to put it off. I know that that's what I did. What finally brought me to speak was when I had a bad semester down here at PSU. My parents couldn't figure it out (I'd always been a good student), and they finally dragged it out of my the last night of Christmas Break. It was not something that I wanted to talk about with them, but it was something which was important to do.

So that's more of a "how not to", but what about "how to"? Well, it always helps if you leave yourself time to talk about it (another mistake I made), so if you plan to do it over a weekend, doing it at the beginning might not be a bad idea, so that your parents have time to absorb it and ask you questions/talk to you if they need to. If you do it over a longer break, give yourself at least a few days time for the proverbial dust to settle, I'd say. (Beginning might not be bad, either though, as it would give you time to really try to normalize the situation.)

A good way to start? Well, now when I need to talk to my parents about it, I typically say something along the lines of, "Mom, Dad, I need to talk to you, both of you, it might take some time; can we do that now?"

That isn't a bad idea on how to talk to your parents about serious matters in general, really.

But, again, there's no good way to start the conversation, so I think it's best to either start with very little preface, or with none. Just get settled down with each other to talk, and say to them something along the lines of, "Mom, Dad, I have something important to tell you. I'm Gay. This doesn't change who I am; I'm still the boy you raised, and I still love you very much. You're my parents. This is just something that I've figured out about myself, and I have to share it with you, because, again, you're my parents, and it's important to be honest with you." It's really important, most people say, to emphasize how you're the same person, and this has always been there, to emphasize that you haven't changed, that there's just something new that you found out about you and that you're now sharing with them.

I hope I've been coherent, here. There's so much to say, and so much that I could say, that it could probably fill a small book. And these things are partly just my opinion, partly things that I've gleaned from "coming out" resources before I came out, partly things I've gained through experience, and partly advice from my pastor here at PSU. It's different for every person.

I wish you the very best; I know how hard it is. If you need support or advice or if there's any way I can be of aid, please just let me know (Facebook or a comment on my woefully unkept blog would work, and my AIM is macedain).

Good luck!

kurt_t said...

Agree with your buddy here. There is no good time.

I know exactly what you mean about you would have had a heart attack if you said it. That was very much my experience. But I said it (eventually), and I didn't have a heart attack.

Hang in there, Jay. It's gonna be ok.

grace said...

Knowing what I bits you've shared here and with me privately about your parents....I can't imagine that they don't already know this information. They may very well be wondering when in the heck you are going to feel comfortable enough to talk with them about it....and they may be even "baiting" you a bit with those sorts of comments and feeling possibly sad that you haven't trusted them with your info. just yet. You are possibly way more worried about it than they are. ;)

Justin said...

Hi Jay, this is my first comment to you, though I am a regular reader :)

I also agree with Psudain,
I wouldnt just wait for the right moment to arise in conversation. Better to make the time, as Psudain said tell them there is something you want to talk to them about, ask when they might have some time available. This way at least they are prepared for the fact that your gonna share something big with them. And if you make a time with them, then you wont be able to back down  Make sure there is enough time for them to ask questions and for you to talk about it. They may need a day or so to process it and may want to talk more later. A few days later you could ask them how they are feeling about it since you last talked, with that time to think about it they may have more to say to you.

Also remember its not the first time you’ve been through this, you’ve had to do it each time with each of your friends, what did you learn from those times? What worked for you then that you can try again?

Its not an easy thing to do, even when you trust the person. Last minute fear always seems to comes up, I think its because your exposing your self, making yourself vulnerable.

All the best man.

Pomoprophet said...

From what you've told me of your parents it seems that they'll react fine. Let us know when youre going to do it so we can PRAY! My hand was forced when I told my parents. I had just been fired from the church I worked at and had to explain why I wasnt working there anymore.

I had friends praying and fasting for me that weekend. It was painful but I'm glad its over with.

MR said...

I agree with Grace. Maybe they already know and are just leaving the initiative with you to start the discussion. If that is true, there may be a lot less drama than you think.

On the slight chance that there might be a problem, give them plenty of time to talk it over with you like everyone is saying above. Also, be dependent on God: pray!

I will be praying.

kurt_t said...

Sounds like you're kind of in the position I was in when I was in my 20s, where you're out to a lot of people, and you have kind of an unspoken understanding with your parents, but getting from the unspoken understanding to actually talking about your sexuality is very, very scary.

I read a book called "Coming Out: An Act of Love," by Rob Eichberg, which is this very touchy feely self-help book, and there's this one exercise in the book that really made an impression on me (and I actually DID the exercise, which is pretty amazing, because who ever really does the exercises in self-help books, right?), and the exercise was you make a list of all the people you're out to, and then you go down the list and ask yourself, for each person on the list, "If I could, would I take away this person's knowledge of my gayness?"

That really made me think about how I was holding onto something, in my case my semi-closetedness with my parents, that really had no value in my life and was making it hard for me to have a healthy relationship with two people I loved (even though they are crazy, but that's another post).

Norm! said...

Today is National Coming Out Day, if you need an official excuse to come out.

I know coming out to parents is the probably the most difficult -- not because their reaction, but because parents often represent one's last connection to an old identity.

Silus Grok said...

A few thoughts:

No time like the present. This is an important part of who you are, you should share this with those who love you — soon.

You're better prepared than you think. You've had your whole life, as it were, to come to terms with this... approach coming-out to your parents understanding that this may be the first they've heard/thought about it. That's not a bad thing, just an important part of the process.

Pete said...

Just a thought, but perhaps you could set a stage where your folks think you are about to tell them something much "worse", then they will perhaps be relieved. For example, ask them if they would support you if you ever got a girl pregnant. When they say "yes", then you can tell them not to worry -it will never happen. Then you can tell them why.

Of course, they probably already know. Parents have a way of knowing yet not admitting that they know at the same time.

Jay said...

Wow! I didn't expect for there to be such a wealth of wonderful advice to be found. You all are truly being a blessing to me, and it's really calmed me down.

I know a lot of the advice here is different, and I'm taking it all in the best I can. The reason this "coming out" issue has concerned me so much is because I'm afraid of change. My parents and I have a great relationship. I can honestly say that I share 90% of my life with them (and how many kids can say that?) It's just that extra 10% that I want out of the door.

More than that, I'm worried about the fact that I have been keeping this 10% from them all these years. I guess you could say I'm feeling guilty, because if I knew it was safe to talk to them, why didn't I say it sooner? They might be hurt by that and by the fact that it seems like I didn't trust them.

In any case, it will be a while before I say anything. After all, I'm not gonna come out over the phone or e-mail. Thanks again to all! And God bless!

Brandon said...

Howdy, Jay.

You know I've been going through the same thing here lately. I've battled out in my mind every scenario of how to tell my parents and what reactions they're likely or not likely to make. Funny, because a few years ago, I battled all this out, intending to tell them I was gay and they'd just have to accept it like I had, and now I feel even more worried about it all (about five years later) because I'd have a little more explaining to do. "I'm gay, but I'm not going to act on those feelings, and I've been trying to change for a little over a year now, and... and... and..." But anyway, I know I'm worrying about telling them more than I probably should. I think my parents would also be rather understanding about everything. I guess it's just a fear of things changing, and worrying that my parents might react somewhat differently toward me than they do now. Not necessarily angrily or badly, but just different. For example, I don't want either of my parents apologizing to me for commenting about some girl being cute or something along the lines of that. If I knew they would just treat me the exact same way they do now, I probably wouldn't have any trouble telling them at all.

Well, I wish you the best in this situation. Don't worry, just be yourself, pray about this, and when you finally feel comfortable enough to tell them, it will happen. (Good advice for myself as well I suppose).

God bless.

kurt_t said...

I definitely understand where you're coming from, Jay. I feel like that's pretty much where I was when I was your age. You feel like part of the message you're going to give your parents is "I didn't trust you enough to tell you before." or "I always assumed your love was conditional upon my growing into something different from what I have become."

And I think you have to accept that that's going to be part of the message, and you want to try to address it.

With both my parents, I remember saying to them "I kept waiting for the right time to say this, but that time never came, so I'm just saying it now."

I'll tell you something I've said to a lot of young people. The people who love you love you. They don't love some alternate you or some hypothetical more perfect you. They don't love a you who is taller, or better looking or smarter. They don't love a you with a different marital status or sexual orientation or religious affiliation. They don't love a you who's less frightened or less confused. They love you, the person who you are right now, today.

So don't be afraid to be that person, and don't be afraid that people won't love that person. They already do.

Jay said...

Brandon: Actually, you summed up how I feel most articulately. In fact, this right here is something that I've thought about a lot: I guess it's just a fear of things changing, and worrying that my parents might react somewhat differently toward me than they do now. Not necessarily angrily or badly, but just different.

I guess I just have to come to terms that if by different I mean more honest, then different will have to do.

Kurt: You, sir, should write an advice column or something. That's an amazing bit of motivation right there. God bless you, friend.

Robert said...

Jay,

I had this same apprehension coming out to friends who I KNEW would have no problem with me being gay. In fact -- some of them had come out to me. Kurt's right: the fear that friends and family will think that you didn't trust them enough to tell them before is a big reason to be guarded (in fact, a couple of friends indeed had this INITIAL reaction).

I think Brandon also touched upon something else -- an important hidden part of you is about to be revealed. The two-dimensional Jay is about to go 3D. That is very stressful, regardless of the reaction you know you will receive. You know that you will receive a positive reaction from youre parents, but you also suspect that your parents' preconceived view of who you are is going to be replaced with something different (but wonderful nonetheless).

Jane said...

Wow! Great timing on this post. Last weekend, I just did my biggest coming out yet. It was to my best friend of 13 years. Turns out she had always suspected, but figured I'd tell her when I was ready. She did question why I hadn't told her before (the trust thing). It's because I was scared. She also said nothing will ever change our friendship. This means I'm out to all of my friends and at work. Next on the list... my parents. I can't tell them either. First, I need to be more self-sufficient and second, they might not take it so well because they are very conservative Christian.

It seems the longer I've known the person, the harder it is to come out. People who I've known for years mean more to me and I don't want to lose them or their friendship in anyway. The most favorable responses I've gotten were from people who suspected. It wasn't such a shock. So with my parents, I am not saying it bluntly, but I hide none of the evidence. CDs, DVDs, websites, blogs, and anything else are out in the open. I just make sure all the stuff they find is wholesome. For example, I do all my computer work on my dad's computer (the computer I'm on right now) and don't delete the history. I'm hoping they will suspect, do some pre-processing, and become more educated. In due time I will confirm it for them. That's my plan for coming out to my parents. Slow and steady. A little at a time.

Jane

Joe said...

Hi, I've been reading off and on again for a while (I kept not saving the link and losing it, but now I bookmarked it!). I was pretty much in your same position a little over a year ago. All my friends at school knew, all my friends at home knew, and I knew it was time to tell my parents (and sister), the last truly close and important people in my life to know. But every time there was the perfect moment, I just pictured myself saying it and I couldn't, even though I was confident they wouldn't have a bad reaction either. One summer day I mentioned a friend I was going to visit and it was revealed that he was gay. Apparently from that, my mom realized I was gay and then finally asked me the next day. More recently, she basically said that she had thought so all along, so I feel like your parents could "know" already too, it's just a matter of getting it confirmed for them or something. I know I've made a lot of assumptions of how your parents would act based on you saying you don't think they'd react that bad, but if you really feel like that, then it's probably true. My mom cried a little, but it was only out of fear for something bad or violent happening to me because I was gay.

When I came out to four close friends at home, another close friend (who I already told) and I had them over at her house for a set-up "I have something to tell you all" thing. I said half of the sentence that would say I was gay but without getting to the words that would say I was gay literally 10 times before I finished it. But once it was over, I felt so good. One of them did mention Exodus International to me later, but I think she's past that now. So basically, don't panic. No one will have a heart attack. The people who really love you aren't about to do any of the worst case scenarios we dream up when we picture coming out.