Coming Out to Parents



From Chapter 5, “My Voice in the Crowd: Finding My Authentic Voice”

“Son, How Do You Know So Much About Homosexuality?”

This is what my mother casually asked me when we sat down to her great home cooking. Suddenly I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I wasn’t going to lie about it anymore, but I was definitely not ready to come out — not now, right before the concert. I tried to blow the question off as unimportant without lying, but they saw right through it. Needless to say, by the time dinner was through, Mom and Dad were asking me point blank, “So are you telling us you’re a homosexual?” And their panic was on the rise.

Several hours and a few nightmares later, we were all a mess. Wailing and gnashing of teeth paled in comparison to how my parents were behaving. I remember highlights in the negative of that evening. I remember watching what I could only describe as these dark and distorted stereotypes surfacing in my parents’ minds and the sheer terror of their son being one of “them” flashing across their faces as though real pain was being inflicted on them. I would try to educate. I would try to stop them from blaming themselves, or the college I had attended — at one point they were sure I had been molested. I would try to dispel their myths of what a gay person was and let them know that it was going to be okay. Then another thought would flood their faces and it was more than I — more than anyone, really — could keep up with. It was as if my parents were engulfed by one trauma after another and there was nothing I could do but watch. How could they possibly respond in a loving manner when they were experiencing such a tidal wave of fear and shock from their misinformation (and lack of information) regarding homosexuality? I remember at one point my mother realizing that I might never have children, and her sobbing words were, “...and you’re so good looking.” That really surprised me since I don’t remember ever getting such a compliment when she was in her right mind. Everything they believed me to be was falling apart and they could not hold back the “horror.”

Mixed into the revelation and the sadness was argument. I can’t say that my mother uses her emotions to manipulate a situation in her favor, at least not consciously. I’m not sure she has the mental dexterity to be that malicious (which I realize is a back-handed compliment, but a compliment nonetheless). But I will give her credit for not being able to hide her internal emotions — ever. Unfortunately, she could be so emotionally forthcoming that hurting Mom’s feelings, either purposely or accidentally, seemed like “the” cardinal sin in our house. As I was growing up, it was one of the reasons I’d rather lie than be honest about something that could make my mother upset. I would rather cut her with a knife than hurt her feelings. It was as if her emotional pain was just as real as physical pain, or more so. The hurt in the room that night seemed out of everyone’s control.

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