Coming out to my Christian Parents and other hilarious anecdotes from my youth by Suicide Blonde
July 8, 2013 § 5 Comments
I wish this was one of those coming out stories that has a happy ending, that I could reassure you that if you come out people might surprise you with their acceptance and unconditional love. In my case, I had no loving acceptance as a response to my revealing to my family that I am gay. I do know these happy ending stories exist though, and that gives me enough hope to overcome any cynicism about coming out in general.
I didn’t get to choose when or if I came out to my parents. One evening when I was 18, my mother, in her typical overbearing way, asked me if I thought I was gay. (Notice the dismissive-from-the-start wording of ‘thought I was.’ That’s intentional.) The fact that she asked me this shows how disconnected she was from me at that point in my life. Since graduating from high school, I had steadily worked to remove all false labels from my identity. I had allowed myself to react to every question, externally or internally posed, about who I was with complete honesty. My actions were speaking very loudly of this change, I had stopped attending church, had gotten many times tattooed, pierced, hanging out with biker dudes and stoners til dawn, regularly going off for weeks to be with my heathen, witchy great gramma.
In this current mind frame it had been impossible to lie to her, especially about this thing in myself that had so recently came into bloom. The actualization of my attraction to girls was like a fully opened rose inside me. It would have been impossible to hide it. I answered her with my immediate reaction “If I tell you, you’ll be mad,” basically confirmed her fears.
The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur, it was mainly a lot of crying on her part and a lot of uncomfortable fact giving on mine. I know I told her I was bi-sexual, as that was what I identified myself as at the time. In the following years when any idea that I was attracted to men disappeared, I would regret this because it allowed my mother to believe it was a phase and I would eventually settle down and get married. It took my being in a committed relationship for many years for her to accept that this might actually be a real thing. Even still, now, she’ll waver away from this reality. More than 10 years in this relationship, she’ll refer to my partner as my friend.
I distinctly remember one other thing from that evening. She asked me about the tarot card I had displayed on my nightstand and what that was about. I had placed it there without really thinking about her reaction to it, though probably subconsciously wanting this piece of information – “Look Mom! I’m a heretic now!” – to be conveyed to her. I told her that I had got them with my great gramma and that I had been reading about them in some books about Wicca. My interest in them had more to do with the revival of new age-y religious stuff in the 90’s than any need to rebel. This general revival of spirituality was a terrifying thing for the Christian Church. Things as innocuous as dream-catchers, yoga, earth-conscious lifestyles, all these got reinterpreted by the Christian Church as satanism and black magic being practiced by misguided souls who’d been taken over by the Devil. (I’m not speaking metaphorically here, this was a real fear in the Church for most of the 90’s. The West Memphis Three are the best/worst example of this.) My mother saw those tarot cards as idolatry, the witchcraft as me spitting in the face of ‘our’ beliefs.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked her fearfully.
“Oh no. The homosexuality we can cure. It’s this witchcraft we’re worried about.”
She said this with complete confidence. (My family would attempt to dissuade my ‘lifestyle choices’ as she would later call them, but that’s a story for another time.) The assurance with which she spoke this sentence shocked me in a way that still resonances now. I repeated it in my head for days, months afterwards, trying to actualize that she would honestly believe this. It didn’t fully hit home for me until a couple of years later when helping my parents pack, I found books about ‘converting homosexuals’ in my Dad’s office. I had been out of the house over a year at this point, awed by the freedom of my own space. Seeing these books pulled me right back down again, reminded me that this was not something that my parents accepted, not in the slightest. All their affirmations of parental love, their insistence that they still did love me no matter were proved false by their actions. They didn’t accept this part of me. There were conditions on their love. My mom told me once a few months after I came out that she ‘loved me but hated the gay part of me.’ This is not love. Love accepts all parts and judges not.
My parents continuous refusal to accept and love who I really am is something I had to work through during most of my twenties. I allowed myself to feel anger, betrayal, abandonment, and lived with those negative emotions inside me for a long time. It wasn’t until I saw ignorance as a cage they were seemingly forever trapped in that I was able to not attach their limitations to my sense of self. I have never made excuses or apologies for their treatment of me, rather felt pity towards them. They refuse to change their minds on basic human emotions, hide behind their prejudices – these are facts I can’t change about them. All I can change is how I will not allow their ignorant opinion to determine my reaction to those around me.
I ended up counterbalancing the abandonment of my family by creating a family of my own. This is the best thing I can tell people who want to come out to their family but are unsure of their reaction. That as gay people, we create our own families, and those families love and accept you in ways you never dreamed possible. So maybe my story ends happy after all, based on this. The love and support I get from those I have allowed into my life fills the emptiness I always had with my family – from before I came out and I knew I wasn’t able to be all I really was around them, to after when they refused the parts of me that I felt the most proud of. I experience a level of love from without and within unlike I was ever able to before that night when I was 18. After all that I went through from it myself, I can still say that coming out is worth the risk. You owe it to your family and those closest to you to know who you really are. More importantly, you owe it to yourself.