Since today is National Coming Out Day, my friend wrote about coming out to his family. Here’s his story.
A little over one year ago, I came out to my mom and my dad. Since then, things have settled into a new, but also somewhat into an old, “normal.”
This event was the catalyst for many emotions, questions, suspicions, memories, fears, doubts, air, water, earth — oops lol. Let’s try that again.
This event shook up the fine clay particles of my life, and suspended them into a cloudy mess. It takes a long time for sediment to collect at the bottom of a liquid. Likewise, it took a year for my relationship with my parents to settle down. Ha, looks like the elements did have a place in my list!
I feel compelled to share my story because it’s different than common coming out narratives. I’ve seen so many YouTube coming outs met by a parent’s loving affirmation. And on the other end, I’ve heard so many scary stories about coming out resulting in being kicked out or disowned or worse.
My coming out was more in-between, meant different things for each of my parents, and simultaneously did and didn’t alter my family dynamic.
Let’s start at the beginning. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony–
Okay, okay FINE. I’ll stop with the Avatar jokes, and start telling my far less epic tale. If you insiiiiiiiiiiiiiiist.
I first came out to my mom. After months of scheming and plotting how to get the words — lodged firmly in the back of my throat — out, I finally came up with a simple solution!
While helping my mom clean the bathrooms, I would tell her to find her phone that I hid 10 minutes prior. And in the time she’d spend finding it, I would send her a three line poem that cryptically expressed that I needed to tell her something. And then she would spend the next hour pulling my teeth until what I wanted to tell her seeped out. Easy, right?
As you can tell by my sarcasm, no. I’m laughing about my elaborate plan in retrospect, but in the moment, I remember how I didn’t know what else to do. I felt so desperate to get the words out, yet so gut-wrenchingly terrified. I needed to get closer to the words so they’d get out of my damn mouth, but every ounce of my being, every one of my atoms, was hurtling away from them. It was like running on a treadmill. I wasn’t getting anywhere.
When I finally did it, do you know what the words that came out (ha) of my mouth were? Because I never once uttered the words to my mom. I never said “I’m gay.”
I told her “Can I hangout with him?”
When I’m at MIT, I can proudly claim the “gay” identity. I’m part of Queer West. I go to the Rainbow Lounge. I am gay. I use the word.
But when I’m at home, sexual orientation labels do not exist. It wouldn’t even make sense to say “I’m straight,” because that’s the expectation — no. Rather, me “marrying a woman one day” is the assumption.
So, I had to say something grounded in reality, not an abstract word. While hiding my face behind my laptop, I mumbled that I wanted to hangout with this guy. I could see my mom’s face changing, as the gears started turning, as the suspicions she must have had came together. She cried, yelled, and barged out of the house. She had a physical therapy appointment she was already running late for, but she clearly didn’t run out because of that. She needed to be alone.
When she came back, she was still devastated and shocked. “Are you sure?” “Is it my fault?” “How could this be true?”
These memories live in my mind as one ugly blur, but I think the next thing that happened, happened the next day. My mom decided she wanted to tell my dad.
If my mom’s reaction was like the spark of a match, my dad’s reaction was like the explosion of a bomb. He roared curses, slammed doors, yelled threats. My dad doesn’t cry, because “men don’t cry.” But he cried that day. For the first time in ten years.
The next two days were incredibly hard. I was scared of my dad. I was scared to sleep. I cried, as I deleted messages and pictures from my phone, in case my dad would steal my phone and go through it. We went to family therapy. But it didn’t help. Not at all. My dad doesn’t believe in science, or educated people, and wouldn’t budge from his point of view that homosexuality is completely unnatural, fake, and caused by reading milenial blogs. After these days of extreme tension, my mom stepped up.
She is the hero of this story.
When my dad was at work, she came up with a plan. She told me to tell him I was just confused. She told me she knew him better than I did, and it would be the only way to make living at home bearable for me before I went back to MIT.
When my dad came home from work, I blatantly lied, convincing him I didn’t know what I was thinking, and actually wanted desperately to like girls and that this upcoming year I would try. As I shoved myself back deeper into the closet, my dad’s eyes showed warmth for the first time in days. He loved me, but on his terms.
About 10 days after that, I was back at MIT to start junior year. Things were back to normal. Well, kind of.
With my dad, we just reverted back to how things were before I came out. It was as if a switch flipped. The same way my dad wanted me to reprogram myself to be straight, he reprogrammed himself to forget those two weeks last year even happened.
While my dad is stuck firmly solid in time and in his stubborn ways, my mom has been fluidly changing her mindset over the past My dad is an earth bender. My mom is a water bender.
My dad’s eyes show him whatever he wants to see, but my mom’s see the truth. And she either has immense powers of perception, or I’m a horrible liar, or both. Because when I would try to hide the fact that my long distance boyfriend was visiting me during the semester, she knew.
The first couple times, she was upset, like really upset. It made me confused about what to do, because I saw how much pain her knowing about these visits caused her. I felt like I was choosing my happiness over hers, like I was the cause of the pain I saw in her eyes. But the temporary solution of “lying” to my mom about these visits was just that, temporary.
I’m beyond-words grateful for my mom. Because she did in one year what I’m convinced my dad will never be able to do — accept me. Over this past spring break, she told me she wants me to be honest with her above all else, that she’s ready for that. She’d rather hear me honestly telling her whenever I’m with my boyfriend, instead of her picking up hints from my lies. And this summer, I did just that. I honestly told her whenever I was with him, and she didn’t get upset. Then one day towards the end of summer, she even told me to invite him over because she wanted to meet him! He came over just a couple days after my one year coming out anniversary. It was really full circle, and amazing to see how much things have changed for the better.
So, that’s where I am now. I’m honest with my mom and I’m not with my dad.
And I’m okay with that. As Eugene of the Try Guys said, “there’s a cultural point that [some parents] can’t bring themselves across.”
This isn’t how I imagined coming out would turn out, but I’m happy where things are now. I’m still scared about the future when I think about the prospect of coming out to my dad for the second time, because I think that will happen eventually. But all I can do is take it one day at a time, so that’s what I’ll do.
- My dad is an earth bender. My mom is a water bender. back to text ↑