I first came out to my parents about a year and a half ago. I hadn’t been in college for a full year yet, but I was already tired of keeping secrets. It went over like a lead balloon, and my parents were both upset and disbelieving – they considered it a phase. We barely mentioned it again, and eventually, I became aware that I would need to come out….again. However, I didn’t plan to do it anytime soon – I fully intended to wait until I was done with school. Life had other plans….
It began when my dad called me fat.
He didn’t mean any harm, mind you – he’s just genuinely concerned about my health. Never mind that I now play a sport at my university, and never mind that I used to have an eating disorder because I was so concerned about being thin. I stood around and took it for a bit, before I got mad and marched off. He tried to apologize, but I wouldn’t have any of it, given that comments about my weight are commonplace, and I’m tired of defending every miniscule gain that is an inevitable part of being a real person who has a lot on her plate. So I sulked and then the rest of the family went out, leaving just me and my mom at home. My mom came up and told me that I should “be nicer”. She continued to lecture me in that vein, telling me that if I couldn’t be pleasant to be around maybe I should just not come home for the holidays, until I snapped.
And maybe it was the mood I was in, maybe it was the combined effects of the awful weather and being so stressed about being “home”, but I just burst into tears. And I cried and cried and cried, wrenching sobs from someplace deep inside. My mom was anything but comforting. If anything, I think she was just baffled. She stood there, and then finally asked if I was depressed. I replied no, but it would be nice if, once in a while, they (being my parents) were satisfied with the person I am. Mom retorted that I was overreacting, that they’re fine with me, and I managed a pretty impressive scoff through the tears. I informed her that I never felt as if anything I’ve ever done was good enough for them, which is a discussion we’ve had time and time again in the past, because it’s true. Every year or so, I’ll have a complete breakdown because of how pressured I feel to conform to their wishes, and every year they’ll promise to back off, but it never lasts. My grades, my appearance, my goals, my hobbies – none of these have ever been things that my parents approved of, to say nothing of my sexuality. There was a long, long, awkward silence, while I sniffled and avoided eye contact, until my mom finally asked, “Does this have to do with you thinking that you’re gay?”
I hesitated….then replied in the affirmative, and launched once more into the waterworks. By this point, she was pretty mad about both the fact that I was bringing up what she had obviously been hoping was no longer an issue, and that I was crying. She’s never had much sympathy for crybabies. She asked some questions, and I gave some replies, until it got too awkward, because my mother is nosy even about things she doesn’t really want to know. She kept asking if I was dating anyone, but I refused to answer because I’m not ready to tell her about my girlfriend. She remains convinced that something traumatic either turned me gay, or that I’m too shy around boys. Which just goes to show how little attention she has paid to me over the years, because “shy” is about the last adjective anyone would use to describe me, ever.
But she sort of believes me this time. Which is a (teensy weensy) step forward. And she’s trying. This trip home was the debut of my dykey haircut at home – which didn’t go over so well, as the entire family pretty much hates it. But I made an effort to femme it up for Thanksgiving, and my mom recognized that and at least said thank you. And later on, she gave me a hug and said not to worry about disappointing them, and that everything would be okay. The gesture felt empty, but at least it was a gesture. At least she recognized that I worry.
I wish I could say that everything is better and that I feel great about having convinced my parents that I’m not straight, but to be honest, I don’t feel even remotely good about it. The first time was easier because I didn’t realized how hurt my parents would be – I thought they’d love the same child they’d always loved, except now they’d know a little more about me. The second time, I knew that wasn’t true. I knew that they’d blame themselves, and me, and anyone or anything just to try and make sense of how their only daughter could turn out like that. A part of me wants to direct them to PFLAG or counseling, because I know they could use it, but I also know they’d be highly offended and refuse to go.
The worst thing is that I feel responsible for their reactions. I’m embarrassed that they’re acting like this, and so I don’t acknowledge it. I know I should be more open with my girlfriend and with my friends, but I feel like I ought to shield them. I’m tired of my friends hating my family. But I’m equally tired of the way my family treats me simply because I’m not what they hoped for. While I can see that they’re trying, and I’m proud of their effort, I’m saddened that my normally tolerant, intelligent parents can’t see the amount of pain they’re inflicting on themselves and their child, simply through their unwillingness to be accepting.