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Coming Out in A Faithful Family

25 May

When a family has been exposed to one of our group (the LGBT community) in a positive way, they’ve the opportunity to grow and evolve past the prejudice that may have been present before. We have to remember that prejudice is first learned and cultivated in a vacuum of evidence while it is dissipated through experience and an open mind.

For young adults and teens growing up within the confines of religion and religious families, I completely understand the reasons behind the fear of coming out (or being out’ed).

It isn’t easy to take that leap of faith, in the hope that your family will react favorably to the news that you aren’t what they’d assumed you were (all these years later). You and I have had time to reach some level of comfort with and acceptance of our sexual orientation. Even while some members of our family may have “suspected” it at times, the “news” that we are gay is still that; news that they have to process.

I always tell young people who are contemplating the act of “coming out” to their families, the most important preparation for that day is to be certain that you love and respect yourself and as well, that you have a support system in place to fall back on if your “coming out” doesn’t go as well as you may have hoped.

Growing up I was surrounded by family members who were very religious. I was fortunate in that they didn’t “seem” to be the kind who would react dis-favorably if and when I came out to them. (That didn’t make it much easier.)

All but one has been fine with the disclosure. A few were, and are, perhaps uncomfortable talking about the subject matter but that’s only because they, like so many others, seemingly think of it as being only about sex and little to do with who we are in our heart of hearts). For those persons, I wish you would understand that in the end it’s no different than how you feel; it’s a matter of whom we feel most comfortable sharing our lives. That’s it.

I came out years ago (to my mother first, around 1988 and the to the rest of my family the following year.

To be honest, I don’t for the life of me understand why they never figured it out on their own. I never dated [girls] and if anything, the hidden young man’s underwear section of the Sear’s catalog in my bedroom along with what Mom repeatedly described as my “snot rags” (ROFL!) back in those days should have been cause enough to clue the family in.

People see what they want to see I suppose.

I’m well aware there are families that are more religious than mine, whose members have spoken and acted out hatefully while discussing homosexuals, our pride events and/or actions intended to bring about understanding, equality and tolerance. I understand the hesitation and fear [some] feel over the thought of coming out, even in this so-called more accepting and enlightened age. The truth is there are no guarantees and it’s that “not knowing” that often paralyzes us into inaction.

Prior to coming out, take stock of the situation carefully. Gauge your circumstances and come out when YOU are ready to do so, not a moment before and certainly not at the bequest or perceived need of another (a boyfriend or girlfriend perhaps). Will it be as though a burden has been lifted? Many have said it’s like finally being able to breathe. I know that sounds like every reason to do so but I always tell young people to not act in haste; to come out only when they are in a position to care for themselves if necessary (or have verified they’ve the support of others if worse comes to worse. Sometimes this means waiting until after you’ve completed your secondary training (college, etc) and don’t for a moment feel guilty about that.

The world is a wonderful place but it isn’t always fair; sometimes it is anything but [fair]…

The day arrives, and…

Sometimes it goes well and at other [times], total chaos and dissension ensue. I’m aware of young teens who were disowned and told “leave and never look back.” {sigh} It’s heartbreaking to me when I read of this happening (and obviously worse yet for the young person who’s lost all of the family he ever knew growing up). It isn’t right and depending on the circumstances, can lead to any number of bad decisions on the part of the youth; actions taken just to “get by” and/or secure love and affection from anyone who will accept him into their life.

My response to every young person who experiences the worst from their families after coming out is, “YOU are still the very same person you were before they knew. You are worthy, intelligent, loving and certainly deserving of a happy future. Don’t let the ignorant, unreasonable reactions of others, even if they are your family, make you feel any less of a person than the blessing that you are. If they are incapable of seeing you for who you are, that’s their loss. Don’t make it your own by losing faith in yourself.

In closing and to those reading who are young and contemplating coming out under what may prove to be difficult circumstances and duress. Look to those “you trust” for the support that you will need. Be very observant, careful to recognize the signs if a person is offering his or her shoulder to lean on (but in truth, has a personal agenda). There are good people and bad people in this world; some have ulterior motives and their “support” is anything but free and without strings attached. I want you to be liberated of your own closet (when you are ready) but please try to do so without stepping from one set of confines into another that may be much, MUCH worse for you in the long-run.

To put it bluntly, do everything within your power not to become a statistic; one who is taken advantage of emotionally (and perhaps even physically) during the process of coming out to your family.

Namaste,
Michael

Resource Links:

  • LGBTQ Youth Rights by Vickie L. Henry, Director of GLAD’s Youth Initiative — On first glance, this appears to be a fairly comprehensive and well thought out resource for LGBTQ youth growing up in families of faith.

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About The Author

54-years old and determined to sail through life with a smile (but sometimes brash as hell). LOL. Born and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico but having lived more than half of my life in Texas. Raised with a strong faith in God but describe myself more as simply a faithful person rather than a Christian. (Too many people rely on their religious 'beliefs' as an excuse to maintain a closed mind rather than emulate the loving nature I believe Jesus Christ did represent.) Registered as a Democrat but fiscally I'm probably more likely to identify with the Republicans. Am equally disgusted with both parties at the moment and tired of the status quo in Washington, D.C. I'm a spiritualist who believes you should reach for your dreams and believes you can attain them, for the only thing that really stands between you and your goals ... is yourself. Favorite quote of recent is "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, the present is a 'present' (a gift)..." —Author unknown

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