My parents are loving, supportive, open-minded folks, and I’m grateful to have a good relationship with them today. But it wasn’t always so easy…
As a teenager, we often disagreed. My mom wanted me home by midnight; I’d oblige, and then I would flip off the light and shimmy out my window. My dad wanted the cereal boxes alphabetized and the milk put away promptly; I wanted Cheerio crumbs on the counter and milk left to sour. Similarly, I attended church, and they wanted me to “think no impure thoughts,” but I lusted anyway, then felt shame for just being human. It seemed impossible to please my parents and teachers and church while simultaneously exploring my own identity. But looking back, I’m able to appreciate the importance of my role as an agent of change—breaking down assumptions, smudging blacks and whites to grays.
So what am I getting at with these cereal disputes and charcoal smears? I’m getting at—holy cats!—it can be hard as heck to stay linked to your family while being honest about who you are. This can be particularly challenging for LGBT+ identifying folks whose parents, grandparents, close relatives, or religious leaders see the world differently.
What to do??
Step 1: Don’t stop being you!
Step 2: Find folks you trust and lean on them—friends, teachers, GSA leaders*. Whether you’re trying to reassure your grandma that your gay friend isn’t going to “convert you,” or about how to tell your macho father that you’re questioning your gender, it helps to have a safety net of support.
Step 3: Consider the history and perspective of the parent or person you’re talking to, your relationship with them, and what you’ll do if they don’t respond well (or if it takes them a lonnnnnng time to warm up to your ideas/identity).
Step 4: It can be frightening to challenge family and cultural norms. Trust yourself in sensing when, where, and how much to share. There’s no right answer here, but if there were a wrong answer, it would be: letting yourself suffer or apologizing for who you are.
These steps are not scientific, just a few things to consider if you have moral conflicts with family members. If you’d like specific support around coming out or discussing your sexual or gender identity with your family, check out this link:
or call Fenway Health (The Borum’s) Peer Listening Line:
for LGBT youth 25 years old and younger
Also, see the asterisk below for more info about GSAs!
*a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) is a student-run club committed to providing a safe place for LGBT+ identifying teens and allies to support each other, discuss issues of sexuality and gender, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.