Dear Aunty Jimothy,
I’m a 20-year-old lesbian in college, active in our LGBTQ society. I just got a serious girlfriend, and we love each other. My parents are very religious, and I’ve hidden other relationships from them since high school, because I’m afraid of what they might do if they know I’m gay. What should I do?
Only in the Closet at Home
Dear Only at Home,
I am so sorry you have to worry about this!
Child, I understand so well what it’s like to be LGBTQ and come from a very religious family. Aunty Jimothy has been there, done that. I feel your pain, really I do.
I have to wonder exactly what you’re asking me.
Are you looking for “permission” to come out to your parents? Are you asking me to help you figure out a way you can do that safely? Or are you searching for alternatives?
Let me back up a second.
I ran this question by a bevvy of my fabulous queer friends, though I kept Dame Edna out of the mix. Her only advice would be to wear an electric pink boa. Besides that hoary old harridan, everyone else I talked to worried about your safety and your education.
If your parents react badly, and if they cut off financial support (and this happens to students all the time) then your future is at stake.
I’m worried about you for other reasons too. I think you feel a real need to be out and not to hide from anybody. That’s so important for your self esteem and your mental health in general, and I totally get it. Hiding sucks, especially when we’re hiding from the most important people in our lives. Most especially when we’re in loooooooove. We wanna shout it from the mountaintops.
Am I right?
Aunty Jimothy reached out to a young LGBTQ woman who’s in college right now and to a LGBTQ faculty coordinator at a major American university.
Both of them tell me this: If you’re worried at all about your family discovering that you’re gay, and if they’re so religious that you have reason to believe they may stop supporting you, you need to get with your financial aid office.
Now. Before anything bad happens. Like today, even.
Colleges and universities do all SORTS of things to help queer students whose families aren’t accepting. I’m not gonna even try to get into the details, because they vary from institution to institution.
My faculty adviser friend urges you to talk to the faculty rep for the campus LGBTQ association you belong to. They probably get this question a lot. My friend sure does. If you were at his college, he’d have a whole packet of info to go over with you.
My student friend agrees and adds that you you should watch your back. Sometimes colleges are gossip factories. The more people you talk to, the bigger chance that word gets out to people you don’t want knowing. That’s certainly something to think about.
Here’s what I’m worried about.
The love of your family is so important. And it sounds like your family holds religious values that are at odds with who you are as a person. That has to hurt. A lot. It sure hurt me when I was your age.
In my experience, though, parental love is often stronger than homophobia. Of course I can’t know. Maybe you have an idea about how your mom and dad will react, but you probably can’t be sure either.
One thing I CAN be sure about. You don’t need to be dealing with this alone.
You’re already participating in the LGBTQ society. That’s awesome! You can build a strong support group that way. Share your pain with friends you like and trust. Shared pain is always less, child.
And obviously, share it with the woman you love. Right?
Counseling might be a wonderful idea in this case, especially if coming out is something you know is best put off until you’re more independent. Your college probably offers counseling services.
Aunty Jimothy says go for it!
So do my gay faculty friend and my lesbian student friend. Don’t underestimate the power of talking to a professional who’s spent years learning how to teach coping skills. You’re worth it, my dear!
Just be careful. Watch your back. Be safe. Be smart.
Know you’re loved and valuable for who you are, no matter what your family might think about LGBTQ people.
Be fierce and fabulous, but be safe first, child.
And let old Aunty Jimothy know how it’s going, will you? Don’t make me clutch my pearls for the next few years!
That’s another Aunty Jimothy column on Medium, guys and girls. Got a question? Post it under this story, and she’ll do her best to crank out some pearlescent balls of wisdom.
By the way, I’ve got a whole bat cave full of lesbians, trans guys and girls, and kinky polyamorous bisexual chicks. So when you ask Aunty Jimothy, you’re tapping into a lot more than just Dame Edna’s cranky nemesis.
Ask anything! Love, sex, dating, hooking up, Tinder and Grindr culture, and HIV/STD concerns. Life with your straight family. Coming out. Or not.
This Old Aunty has the Answers. Somewhere. If I can just remember where I left my purse.