Coming Out Isn’t a Rite of Passage into the LGBTQ+ Community
I am never coming out to my conservative Christian, African parents, and that’s ok
I have thought a lot about my own coming out. Imagined sitting down my father on the coffee table and breaking the news (even though I am yet to tell him about my BPD diagnosis). Or how I would take my mom out for dinner, soak her in wine. Hoping the liquor and public setting would soften the blow. However, the more I have thought about it, the more I have settled on the fact that I don’t want to come out to them.
Being Black and queer means that things like this aren’t as clear cut as most situations. As I have shared, my family is deeply conservative. I grew up being taught that homosexuality is an abomination.
I can count on my hands and feet the number of pastors and religious leaders in my family. As first-generation Africans, there is a culture of “accepted homophobia” in the ranks, though it’s not thought of as such, but something more like, “the fight for purity and preservation of life in an increasing sodomist world.”
The more I thought about coming out, the more I realised I was doing it because I thought I had to. It is all we are exposed to. We face and accept our sexuality, come out before we get outed and then deal with the blowback. The narrative normally swings towards familial approval after they have had some time to sit on it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how different my story would turn out.
I know I am being selfish. But why must it always be the Black woman who uses her body to build a bridge so others can walk across the canyon?
In my culture, there is this belief that a parent is always right. Even if you know they aren’t, you don’t speak up; you follow. So I know coming out wouldn’t change their hearts.
Do I honestly think my father wouldn’t attempt to beat the gay out of me? I have beaten for much less. Do I honestly believe a woman who still sends me bible verses and thinks that I will give her a grandchild, even though I told her about my dislike of children, will take it well that her oldest daughter is gay? To her, I am too liberal as it is, to which she blames on my father. And a liberal he is not.
There isn’t any scenario in which I won’t suffer enormous blowback. Some of my family members will act like Marley K.’s and ignore it, but others will most likely harass me with questions and threats.
A woman at my old church recently tried to leave her husband of 20 years due to domestic abuse and whisperings of rape accusations. Her family and the church community pressured her to stay. All the while her story spread around England. I haven’t gone to church for years and I know about it. There are people hundreds of miles away who know her business. That isn’t a situation I want any part in.
A part of me feels guilty. My father and mother both have nine siblings each. As far as I am aware, no one has ever dared to come out. Statistically, I can’t be the only queer individual; However, I would be the first. Coming out would make it easier for the next person and so on. But do I want to martyr myself for the greater good? It feels selfish. I know I am being selfish. But why must it always be the Black woman who uses her body to build a bridge so others can walk across the canyon?
I have spent years cultivating a life that is protected and blocked off from family and church members. Do I want to blow up that safety net? Do I want to be the first?
I gave up on seeking my parents’ validation years ago. I don’t need it. I don’t want to share with them the most precious thing in my life because from experience anything they touch gets tarnished. I like the silence of my life. I came out to my friends, and that was enough for me.
Sometimes I daydream about becoming so self-sufficient that I can throw the grenade and not be impacted by the blast. However, I am not at that place right now. I still rely on them. It would be great to share my truth with my family. However, they don’t even accept my chosen career field. How can I seriously consider them being fine with me being queer?
Coming out isn’t a rite of passage into the LGBTQ+ community. I was born as queer as I shall die. Them not knowing doesn’t make my experience any less valid. Trying to change decades of conservative indoctrination would be an exercise in futility. Them not knowing actually makes my queer experience joyful and stress-free. I don’t want to give up this serenity.
If they find out, it won’t be from me! I think it’s important for people to know that you don’t have to come out if you don’t want to.
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