Coming Out To Your Parents
People fear failure. Gays and lesbians have a hard time coming out to their parents because they fear that they will be considered a failure to them. This is what I heard from the people that I interviewed for my project. So what happens when you do come out to your parents? How does it affect your relationship with them and how do they actually feel about you now? For my final project, I asked a mixture of people from the ages of 20–26 and just listened to their stories and their relationship with their parents today. Everyone has a story but no one’s is the same.
One of the people I interviewed was a male named Eduardo. Eduardo is 26 years old and identifies himself as gay. He noticed that he was not the same as the other boys in his class. Eddie continued by saying that he didn’t know what the feeling he had on the inside was until he was 13 when he realized what the word gay meant. He knew he was gay, he just didn’t know what it was called. However, he said he didn’t feel different from everyone else. Eddie’s parents were divorced when he was around the age of 5. His father lived in Texas and his mother lived in Milwaukee. He said communication was non-existent. He didn’t know what the real definition of family is, and he still doesn’t until this day.
Eddie didn’t have the chance to tell his parents that he was gay simply because he was “ratted out” by his boyfriend when he was 16. When his boyfriend told his dad, his dad ignored it until his boyfriend left home. When Eddie’s boyfriend left home, his dad beat him to the point where he had to be hospitalized. His father was arrested for child abuse and then he kicked Eddie out. Eddie moved to Milwaukee at the age of 16 and lived with his mother. His mother, however, didn’t know he was gay until the age of 20. When Eddie came out to his mother she was more shocked at the situation then the fact that he was gay.
Eddie has two sisters and four brothers but only one sister knows that he’s gay because he lived with her when he wasn’t financially stable around the age of 23. I asked Eddie “Why didn’t you tell all of your other sibling that you are gay?” His response was “I don’t know them as a family or as siblings. I would rather have them actually know who I am than just showing up and telling them that I’m gay”. Stability doesn’t feel right to Eddie because he said it’s a cycle that will never stop. “My life has never been stable. Once it is stable, I end up fucking it up”. He also talked about relationships in general and how he doesn’t know how to keep a stable relationship at all.
I asked Eddie to tell me about his experiences with relationships and what he thinks his role is in homosexual relationships. When talking about relationships I asked him to tell me about his experience in them. What he thinks his role are as a homosexual relationship as well as what he expects from them. Eddie said that he has a type. He prefers to date someone older because “they have more sense of self”. He also said “the younger crowd are still trying to find themselves. He also said that he doesn’t find any attachment with anyone because he grew up with a mentality of having things taken away from him. He never had friends growing up because he was also moving. I also asked him what he called the people that he was dating and he said “Whatever they call us, I say it. So if called me his boyfriend, I will tell him that he’s my boyfriend. If he wanted me to call him my partner than that’s fine, but they all mean the same to me, they just have different definitions for each of them.” I also asked Eduardo about marriage and he said that he doesn’t see himself getting married nor does he want to get married because he thinks they’re useless. “I had a history of watching a so called “marriage” and marriage will never work well in my eyes. Maybe that’s why relationships aren’t for me”. He also continued by saying that he doesn’t believe in love or is capable of being loved by someone, that he doesn’t know what love is. That honestly breaks my heart.
Coming out for Eddie was tough because for one, he didn’t do it himself and two, he didn’t have anyone for him during the time, except alcohol. At the age of 19, Eddie defined himself as an alcoholic. “I didn’t know what it felt like to be sober for 3 years, alcohol was my escape from reality”. Drinking for Eddie was his only best friend, in his eyes. He would also binge drink especially when he had negative thoughts. As I asked him to elaborate on what he meant by negative thoughts he said “I was suicidal. I felt like a failure, not only to my parents but to myself as well”. During this portion of the interview, Eddie started to cry, which hurt me because no one should ever feel that way, especially for being who they are. Eddie admitted that he still drinks today, but he does it responsibly. He only drinks when he is at a gay bar, socializing with friends, or if he just feels like having a drink in general. Today, Eddie does not have a relationship with either of his parents. He has not talked to his parents for about 7 years and he believes it will be like that forever. However, he does not regret being gay which I was happy to hear.
The second person I interviewed was a male named Kevin. Kevin is 24 years old and defines himself as a pansexual. When I heard pansexual, I was really confused simply because I didn’t know what it meant. Pansexual is someone who is open to any sexual/gender orientation. Kevin first identified himself as gay when he was around 16 years old because he started dating males, but secretly. During the time of Kevin realizing that he was gay, he was living in Arizona with his father and stepmother. Kevin grew up in a strict Lutheran family. His stepmother’s father was a priest and they would go to church occasionally.
One day, Kevin’s stepmom was cleaning the house and she decided to go to Kevin’s room. Kevin was sleeping on his bed but he accidently forgot his phone unlocked. She saw it open and decided to snoop through his phone. She read a couple of text messages, saw a couple of pictures and found some stuff she was not expecting. She woke him out of his sleep by yelling at him and cussing him out. She dragged him downstairs where his father was and she made him tell him everything. At first, Kevin denied that he was gay, but then later on in the argument he admitted that he was. His stepmom broke his phone and started to make him do manly chores. She made him paint the entire house, do all of the landscaping, as well as making him sleep on the floor. They took away everything from him, including his bed because they thought that it would “teach him a lesson”. Kevin and his dad got into a physical fight and it didn’t end well.
Kevin lived in an upscale house in Arizona in the rich white suburbs but his mother lived in the ghetto part of Milwaukee. His step mom threatened him and told him that if he still identified as gay then he had to go live with his mother. At the age of 18, Kevin moved in with his mother in Milwaukee. His mother at first didn’t know the whole story on why he got into an altercation with his father and stepmother, Kevin just told her that he didn’t want to live with him anymore. At the age of 18, Kevin decided to tell his mother. His mother was not accepting of it. She told him that she would give him a year to save up money so he could move out because she did not want him in her house. Kevin ended up dropping out of high school to work three jobs and save up money. He got his GED and moved out at the age of 19.
Kevin was exposed to sexual behavior when he was only 5 years old. When he was 5 years old up until he was 11, he was molested by one of his uncles. Kevin told me that this made an impact on him and his viewpoint on men. I asked him if he ever told anyone what was happening and he said he did, however neither of his parents believed him. They thought he was lying because when they confronted his uncle about it he denied it. Kevin also told me that he didn’t have a strong attraction to men until he experienced a sexual interaction with a male, but he continued saying that it wasn’t because of the molestation, but because of dating other men when he got older.
Even though Kevin identifies as pansexual, he has so far only dated men. He said is more into men than women, but he is attracted to women. He is attracted to women but not a sexual attraction. When it comes to transsexuals, he would be more attracted to a female transitioned into a male than a male transitioned into a woman. However, he is open for new experiences. Kevin continued by saying he only had 3 serious relationships. The first relationship was when he was 19. The guy he was dating was 45. He said that he was naïve at the time and he didn’t know whom to turn to when he was going through these types of times. The man he was dating lived in Washington. He would fly Kevin out at least 5 times a month and made sure that he was financially stable. “Towards the end of the relationship, I felt like he was just a sugar daddy and not my partner. When I ended it, it was very bad. He almost became my stalker”. The second relationship he had was a lesson for him because he discovered the “dark side” of the gay scene. That included the drugs, alcohol, violence, and gay pool houses. The last relationship he had was the closest to him because he said that he ended up discovering more about himself and being comfortable. “The older you get, the more you get comfortable with your sexuality”.
I asked Kevin who he looked up to when he was going through tough times, especially with his parents and he said “Well during the time, God”. He was also really religious growing up until he ended up coming out. One thing that bothered Kevin the most was wondering what was God going to do to him when he dies. “I felt God’s love, but why am I going to hell because I’m gay”? He had a hard time coping with it so he turned to alcohol and drugs. Kevin would drink to escape reality but he would smoke weed to help with stress and boost his mood. He never thought that it was a problem until he started to drink a lot. Currently, he drinks on occasions but he smokes almost every day. Kevin is more open now when it comes to his sexuality, he told me “At the end of the day, we are our own person, and no one has your back like you do”. Kevin hasn’t had any communication with his dad or step mom for 7 years and his mother and stepfather for 6 years.
The third person I interviewed is another male named Jovan. Jovan is 24 years old and identifies as a bisexual. In the beginning, Jovan started to realize that he liked both girls and guys when he was in elementary school. He liked this girl named Kayla, but he also liked this guy named Mike at the same time! “I was so confused, I had no idea what was going on. Like they were both cute and attractive to me!” Jovan grew up in a stable household with his parents and siblings. He also said that his parents ended up educating his siblings and himself on the subject of sex super young, but Jovan still didn’t understand it until he experienced it. Jovan was dating a guy in high school and he just had the urge to tell his parents that he was bisexual. He ended up bringing his boyfriend home after school and told his parents.
Jovan’s dad doesn’t accept Jovan for who he is and thinks that he should just date women and not men, while his mother is accepting of it but she told him that she doesn’t want to see it. While Jovan was telling me that he had this look in his face. I asked him what was wrong, we can stop the interview if he was feeling uncomfortable and he responds with “No, I want to continue. I was just thinking about it and I honestly don’t think my mom is supportive of me when I think about it. Even though she says she doesn’t want to “see it”, means she isn’t 100% acceptable of it yet”. When Jovan told his siblings, his brothers would always tease him about it. They would call him a faggot as well as other names, but his sister was completely fine with him.
Jovan has only had 2 serious relationships. In the first relationship he dated a female for 4 years. He said that the only reason they didn’t work out was because they would always end up arguing and fighting over his sexuality. Jovan told her that he started to have feelings for other men but she didn’t want to be with someone who wasn’t straight. She didn’t take it too well and she said, “I can’t date a man that’s also interested in other men”. That is what ended his relationship with her. The second relationship that he had was his first boyfriend when he was 17 and his boyfriend was 19. He told me that he didn’t know what to do with another male, and it was weird. This relationship was an abusive one as well. Jovan continued talking about it and said how if he didn’t do what he wanted he would abuse him both physically and emotionally. He ended up ending the relationship, which was a relief to hear. Even though Jovan identifies as bisexual, he prefers men over women.
When it came to handling with his sexuality, Jovan wasn’t “punished” for being the way he was, he was simply ignored. Even though he wasn’t shunned or kicked out, being ignored can hurt as well. “Sometimes I just wanted to talk to my mom about my day, but she obviously didn’t care nor wanted to wear what I had to say, which sucked”. Jovan is an occasional drinker. He told me he never drank when he was depressed nor going through the tough times he went through. He only loved to drink because he said he would end up being more social with people around him and it brought down a lot of walls he had. Today, Jovan does not have any contact with any of his family members, which include his siblings. He said “You have the option to be who you are, but my sexuality doesn’t define who I am as a person. I am black, I am Mexican, and I am bi”.
The fourth person that I interviewed is a female named Sasha. Sasha is a 21 year old and she identifies as lesbian. As a kid, she realized she wasn’t “fitting in” with the rest of the girls in her class. She said that she had short hair, wore t-shirts and shorts. “I was the real definition of a tomboy”. She then proceeded to show me a picture of her as a kid and she legitimately looked like a boy. In the 6th grade, she ended up changing her appearance. She let her hair grow, she started to wear make up and well as wearing more feminine clothes. She then proceeded to say, “I changed everything about me, but my feelings towards girls didn’t. I didn’t know what to do”. As she grew older she started to gain more feelings for females and had her first girlfriend when she was a freshman in high school. But it didn’t end up working because she was scared of getting exposed.
Sasha dated a guy, Jake for 4 years on and off. Jake completely broke her heart. A lot of people knew that they were dating; the only person that didn’t know was her father. Her parents are Muslim, so dating is completely forbidden or not considered acceptable. Sasha came out her junior year in high school to her friends and they were completely accepting towards her. They didn’t change their view of her nor did they judge her. So far, Sasha has only told her two sisters about her sexuality, she hasn’t come out to her parents yet.
Sasha’s oldest sister completely shunned her and acts completely different towards her. Her oldest sister lives in Albania and whenever Sasha tries to talk to her, her sister makes an excuse that she has to go do something or just hangs up the phone. Her second oldest sister is more accepting of Sasha, but she still thinks that she is going through a “phase”. This sister still questions her about it and is super traditional. She is ignorant and doesn’t want Sasha to come out or to even talk about it in general. She told Sasha that she is going to go to hell, she’s mentally ill and she also brought up the Quran. She has told Sasha “You are going to make your parents look bad”.
I asked Sasha why she hasn’t told her parents yet and she responded with “I’m scared”. Last year, her mother heard a rumor from her cousins talking about Sasha saying that she is lesbian and when her mother confronted her about it she was crying because she was hoping that it was not true. Sasha immediately denied that she was a lesbian. “Seeing my mom crying like that made me heart broken, I don’t want to imagine actually telling her. It will crush her”. As we continued talking about it she continued saying “I’m a failure, I’m never going to please my parents. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to be lesbian, I’d rather be straight, but I’m not”. Seeing someone sit in front of me telling me how they think they’re a failure simply because their parents are not accepting of them is completely heart breaking. She then continued saying that she will end up telling her parents some time by next year when she moves out. “I’m scared they might kick me out and right now I’m not financially stable”.
The last person I interviewed is a female named Charissa. Charissa is a 28 year old female and she identifies as nonbinary and demi sexual. I have never heard any of these terms before and she continued telling me that she is basically attracted more into personality than someone’s gender orientation. Growing up, she was really confused. She dated guys in high school but when she was around the age of 19 she realized that she had feelings for some of her female friends and she didn’t know how to cope with it, but by the age of 20 she finally accepted herself for being “mostly gay”.
At the age of 20, it was a tough time for Charissa. Charissa ended up overdosing during this age period, but it wasn’t just because of her sexuality. She dropped out of college, starting taking anti-depressants that had bad side effects, her house got broken into and she lost a lot of her stuff. She was in the process of figuring herself out. “20 was my turning point. I was falling apart as a person; I just needed to rebuild myself. This was rock bottom for me”. Charissa went into therapy and was there 8 hours a day for 2–3 weeks, it did help her though.
Charissa ended up telling her siblings first before she told her parents. Every single one of her 5 siblings was accepting of her. But she did say that she was nervous telling her youngest sibling who was a freshman in high school at the time because they had a 10 year age difference. She didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable or think that she was weird or different. Charissa told her younger sister and her reaction was “Oh okay, cool. Want to play video games now?” Charissa came out to her parents 3 years ago, when she was 25. She told them when she meant her fiancé.
Charissa is currently engaged to a transgender male named Nick. A year after dating Nick Charissa finally decided to tell her parents. She invited them her parents to dinner to have a talk. Charissa ended up telling her mom before her dad by like 2 minutes because he was outside at the time. The first thing I told my mom was “Mom, I’m dating someone”. Her mom’s reaction was “OH MY GOD WHERE IS HE?!” And Charissa blurts out “She’s not here right now!” Her mom responds with “Well, where is she?” Her mom was very accepting of her sexuality, however when her dad walked in, he asked what was going on and she told him. Her dad’s reaction was “Huh”, but with an upset face. He was not accepting. Charissa also told me that her dad has a sister that’s gay, but he doesn’t associate himself with her, which was also one of the reasons why she was scared to tell her dad. “I am his child, just because I’m gay doesn’t change who I am to him”.
The next day, her father showed up to her job and told her that she needed to talk. He told her “You know, I don’t think you’ve really thought about it. You should read the bible and look at what that says”. “I was a religious person, identified as a Christian; I would spend summers up at church camp. It took 3–4 years to come to myself that I can’t reconcile with faith and being gay.” Charissa ended up leaving the church because she didn’t agree with what is being said there. After having that talk with her father, she said that they haven’t brought up her sexuality since.
Charissa’s relationship with her dad has been tough because he is accepting with her sexuality but he doesn’t agree with it. “My relationship with my dad is stressing but he does do the little things to show me that he still cares”. Her father struggled with her sexuality and it bothered Charissa a lot, “And even a year after telling him, it still bothered me. It was so hard for me to come to terms with it just because I am so wired to just love people regardless and accept people for who they are and that’s not the way that he is wired”. Charissa’s relationship with her father is affecting her wedding plans because it’s on hold because of her family. Charissa told her family that she was engaged and her dad was still iffy about it. “It’s hard for me to picture a marriage right now because I don’t know if my dad will come and be supportive”. She still thinks she’s not confident enough to talk about it yet and she is not mentally prepared for the answer or finding out if her dad will be supportive or not. However, her relationship with her parents are great, she just wishes that her dad was just a little bit more comfortable with her being the way she is.
As I was finishing up my interviews, I had a habit of writing down what each of my interviewers said that reminded me either of my class or parts of the class readings that I remembered. As I was interviewing Eddie, he said something along the line “My father doesn’t want me gay, but that kind of sucks for him, right”? This reminded me of Kane’s argument and how fathers valued heterosexuality in men, but Kevin, Eddie, and Jovan are gay. Their parents kicked them out of their homes (except Jovan), just because they’re gay. Extending on Kane, Sasha is a female lesbian, but Kane also suggests that a kid being lesbian is a lesser problem than being a gay man. I don’t see it that way. I feel like race and religion play a huge role in that scenario because Sasha is a Muslim women, being gay is forbidden in the Islam world.
In the beginning for Sasha, she tried to oppress her feelings towards women. She is still basically stuck in the closet. I feel like she has only one foot door out of the closet because she hasn’t fully came out yet to her parents so she’s half way there. She is making progress that’s forsure, she just needs that little confidence and push. According to Collins, the metaphor of a closet relates to sexual oppression. Collins also stated that religion dominated over sexuality which means that people were basically forced to hide who they were in order to not be perceived as deviant by society. However when it comes to Sasha, she is feared only from her parents. You read above that she has told all of her friends and her siblings (even though they don’t agree with her) the only people that are left are her parents and her grandparents.
Charissa’s story reminded me of Richardson article about gender stereotyping in the english language because she doesn’t like the pronouns “he”, “she”, “her”, or “him”. Charissa prefers “they”. Charissa also continued to tell me that whenever someone would say he/she/her/him that she would feel uncomfortable. I asked her to continue on talking about that and what she meant and she just continued by saying “I don’t comfortable in any of those categories, I am a they”. The thing is, we tend to hear a word and that ends up with us trying to visualize what that word means. You start to pin point in your head and visualizing a person before you actually meet them. Charissa is a female that has a boy cut hair, gages and glasses. Some people assume that she is a female and would continue by saying “Have a good day, sir”. But, she’s a female.
It was hard for me to keep myself together when hearing these heartbreaking stories because I know each and every one of these beautiful people personally and consider them as some of my closest friends. I never knew their stories personally and I’m happy I found them out. People need to hear these stories because you never know what someone has been through, just for being who they are as a person. Everyone needs to hear these stories and understand that we are all human, regardless of our sexuality. These stories teach us that even though they like or are attracted to the same gender, they are the same person. I learned that coming out to your parents is one of the hardest things to do in life, but it’s also the most relieving one after all, regardless of the outcome.