Dr Dick: I am gay and I have no idea how to break it to my family. And they say, every time they see a gay guy, look at that fag glad he’s not my kid. I would disown him. Just wondering if u could help me.
Ain’t it a bitch being surrounded by a bunch of yahoos! Coming out is rarely easy, but doing so to ignorant, fearful, bigoted people is the worst.
Pete, you should know that such bigotry is deeply rooted in the bigot’s own fear about him or herself. It stands to reason, all irrational fears and hatred, like homophobia, are more indicative of the troubled psychological make-up of the one with the prejudice rather than the people he or she abhors.
Often people will use religion to back up their prejudice. It’s particularly galling when non-religious people do this. But it’s safe to say that authentically religious people don’t need to persecute or ostracize those who do not believe as they do. Any more than authentically heterosexual people need to persecute or ostracize people of other sexual persuasions. Let that be the standard by which you judge the worth of any message coming from a religious dogmatist or a moralizing heterosexual.
Before you start in on the self-disclosure thing with your family, Pete, I suggest you first try to clear a path for that discussion. Begin by challenging those around you who shame or denigrate those who are different. Ask them why they make such ridiculously uninformed and hurtful statements. Ask them if degrading other people makes them feel superior. And if it does, what does that say about their inadequacies. You could suggest that their intolerance of gay and lesbian people proves they have some hidden, unresolved sexual issues that they need to address. I mean — me thinks you doth protest too much — and all that, right?
If your family environment doesn’t improve with that tactic, you may find that, at least in the short run, discretion is the better part of valor. Sometimes coming out to one’s family is best done only after you’ve come out to friends and co-workers. This strategy will provide you a bank of support that you can fall back on if the family disclosure things turn out badly.
My counsel to those just starting the coming out process is to reserve the good news about you and your sexuality for the audience best situated to receive it. Celebrate your queerness with open-minded people first. Nowadays there’s way more acceptance of alternative lifestyles in the popular culture then ever before. Younger people, particularly, seem to have more tolerance for diversity. But however you choose to handle this difficult yet important developmental task, don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Don’t cave into the bigotry that surrounds you. Don’t let it intimidate you into a life of shame, repression, or self-loathing. Live authentically, Pete. And live proud! Because when you do, you are a shining example of a happy, healthy and integrated and well-adjusted human being.
Read other people’s coming out stories; they may offer you strategies for your own coming out. Then consider sharing your story to help others.
Finally, just remember you are not alone. Sex positive and gay positive organizations abound. If you need help with any of your coming out, if you’re feeling isolated and alone — turn to one of them. They are there to help. And there are even support organizations for your family members too. Turn them on to: PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians).