I’ve been involved with a variety of queer communities throughout my life and so I’ve been around for a fair number of conversations about coming out to family members. Some conversations have been general theoretical conversations about hypothetical comings outs (I don’t know how to make that plural so I just winged it) while others have been personal conversations with friends who are seriously considering whether or not to come out. One thing that fascinates me is that in almost every single conversation I’ve participated is someone will say something along the lines of, “If you come out to your parents [or family in general] it’ll be tough but they love you because they’re your family.” The thing is, I have mixed feelings about this piece of advice.
Whenever I’m talking about coming out my first thought is always to safety. I was lucky in that my coming out process has been, for the most part, relatively straight forward. It was not, however, perfect or painless and I am uncomfortable with people who advocate all people to come out while claiming that, “It’s always the best option available.” The fact is that I’m not convinced that this is the truth. I advocate for a safety-first coming out policy that focuses on the safety of the person coming out. This is something that I want to write more about in future posts but I’d also be interested in engaging with people in the comments of this post.
The part of the “Just come out, it’ll be great because your parents love and accept you because they’re your parents”-advice that I’d like to take apart in this post is the “love and accept” section. There’s an idea floating around that love and acceptance are automatically bundled together but I’m not entirely sold on that one. (I’m not even sold on the idea that a parent’s love is unconditional.) When coming out be prepared for love and acceptance not to come hand-in-hand. Parents are from a different generation, a different culture even, and while they may feel love the acceptance might be a bit more difficult. Acceptance requires a level of comfort and understanding before it can reached.
Because love and acceptance are so often bundled together in our culture under the name of “love” we don’t always realize that one is missing. Speaking from my own experience it can be painful trying to sort out why the love you feel from your family isn’t complete. The two are linked together and when one of the two pieces isn’t there then the “love” feels empty.
I encourage those who are thinking of coming out, or even those who have already come out, to consider what I’ve written. This may not apply to your situation but I hope that it might provide a useful thought to mull over.
Note Bene- This post was harder than I expected to write. I’m still coming to terms with my own coming out and I’d like to thank my homeopathic anti-anxiety tablets for getting me through today (It took me a day to write 567 words, that’s just sad). If anyone wants to talk with me in the comment section or on Twitter (or even e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) I’d really enjoy hearing other thoughts. Alright, I’m going to schedule this post and go watch porn. (Too much information? Sorry, just trying to get my serotonin levels up.)