Dear Richard: Mother May I?
I have, like many others, grown up with a strong religious upbringing. Mine was Southern Baptist and they frown big-time on homosexuals of any kind. My parents have always been great people, but they are very old fashion when it comes to their beliefs of what the bible says about being gay. I am still in the closet to my family. My brother was very sick and two years ago, on his death bed, I told him I was bisexual and he was very much okay with it. I was so relieved to tell someone in my own family, but then he died two days later. I lost all courage to tell my parents after that and now I have just lost my father as well. My mother was older when she had me and I am lost to what I should do if I should come out to her, or just let her be. She is still very narrow minded about the subject and I am afraid it would just cause conflict and pain for her. Any thoughts?
Lost in religion
Your concern about your mother's feelings is honorable and sweet, but what price do you pay for that personally?
For many men and women, coming out to their parents is the most difficult step of all in the process of becoming who they really are. In many cases the family suspects, and so the announcement is a formality. Sometimes, the family knows before the son or daughter knows. And then there is the situation that sounds closer to yours where the family is fairly unaware.
Some people never come out to their family. Geographical distance and, perhaps, a bachelor lifestyle keeps their orientation under the radar. For others the closet door starts to burst open as they build their own relationships and family. It's pretty hard to hide your preferences in a studio apartment with one double bed and a boyfriend named Ramon.
Not coming out to your mother is not a crime. However, you may be denying her the experience of being able to show you how much she loves you, even if there is a period of discomfort for you both.
These days, coming out doesn't have to be a formally announced change of status. In can be a clarifying piece of information to help explain a new partner, a job in an LGBT-related business, or as a final bar against the "what's a nice boy like you not married for" questions.
The HRC Coming Out page has some helpful links and information. Reading other peoples experiences before you test the waters with your mother would probably be a good idea.
Here are a few things to try to remember in the moment:
• You have nothing to apologize for, you haven't done anything wrong.
• She did not make this happen, she did not do anything wrong.
• Give her time to take this information in and try to forgive her first 24 hours of reactions.
• Give her resources to help guide her, like the HRC page.
• Stay as matter-of-fact as you can.
This is not unimportant, but it is essentially part of you, like eye color, or finger prints. It's not something that can be argued or changed. Your confidence will set the tone.
Some parents are very concerned about what other friends and relatives might think. Assure her that this is between the two of you for the time being. It would be a thoughtful to confer with her as you open up to the further reaches of your family.
You have had a long soul-searching time of this. You have had time to adjust and accept. She hasn't. Even when parents suspect things, they often don't let those thoughts become concrete possibilities. If you have done your work on your own self-acceptance, the hardest part is done.
Dear Richard is not a medical doctor, a licensed psychiatrist, a counselor, a reverend, or a rabbi. He has not been evaluated by the FDA, the CDC, or the BBC, and his words are not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. The information is for educational purposes only and it not intended to serve as medical advice. Dear Richard does, however, love hearing from you and answering your questions. Leave a comment or send him an e-mail.