Coming Out / To Family

“Hi, I have known I was queer for a while (like… a while. a long while) but haven’t actually come out to anyone until a month ago (to my out gay friend at church camp–different story). The problem is, I have no idea how to tell people. Sometimes I feel like yelling "HEY I ACTUALLY ALSO LIKE GIRLS THANKS” when my roommate walks through the door or talks about guys, but there is always the fear I have that I will be treated differently. What should I do?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kathy Says:

Hey, friend. First and foremost, I just want to say to you that your feelings are completely valid! I remember when my friends would talk about boys or dates to the school dance or celebrity crushes, and I would feel so left out, because I had absolutely nothing to contribute. Believe you me, had I known I was queer back in school, I would absolutely have wanted to jump in and add who I was crushing on.

Okay, now onto your actual question. You have the urge to come out to the people around you, but you’re afraid that people will treat you differently.

I think that if you have the urge to come out, you should absolutely do so. Listen to your gut on this one – and it seems like your gut wants to tell people! I think that people tend to emulate the energy that you give out to them, so that’s a good thing to keep in mind when you take the plunge. For example, if you are just bursting to tell your roommate that you’re also into girls, tell them with all the excitement in your body, and more likely than not they will be excited with you! I mean, don’t just shout “HEY I AM A GAY!” at them as they walk through the door, because that might be confusing…

Personally, I like coming out to people in the chillest way possible. When people talk about their partners, I will casually slip in something about a girl I used to date, or a girl I’ve had a crush on, or a girl I think is cute. Sometimes people raise an eyebrow, so I follow up with, “oh yeah, I’m into girls too,” and then I move on. Because I am completely relaxed about it, usually the people I’m talking to are too. I’ve also come out by having “the conversation”: I sat someone down and I said, “hey, here’s a thing I want you to know about me…” and proceeded to talk to them about my sexuality.

Another thing I’ve learned: the people you come out to sometimes need time to process what you’ve just told them, and giving them the space to do that will be helpful. Maybe your roommate will just take things in stride and immediately begin talk to you about your thoughts on Demi Lovato’s girlfriend – but it is also possible that she will hesitate at first and then find her footing once she has a moment (or a few days) to process.

If the thing you’re most worried about is people treating you differently after you’ve come out to them, well…  the harsh reality is that you have absolutely no control over how other people are going to treat you. Some people are going to be dickheads and make inane comments about lesbians or bisexuality. That’s on them. They need to learn to not do that, or you just don’t need them in your life. Sometimes people are going to ask dumb questions, or make hurtful remarks without thinking twice about it. You may be the first person in their lives to tell them what they’re saying is hurtful. In spite of this, there will also be people who are super supportive of your sexuality. There really is no controlling it.

Since you’ve only told a few people so far, I’d start coming out to the people around you who you trust, and the ones you feel like need to know most–for your own sanity (like your roommate!). I get the feeling that the main reason you want to scream “I AM A GAY!” at your roommate is because you haven’t had the opportunity to talk about your sexuality very often with people. You can start slow and have a few longer conversations with people; don’t feel like you have to cast a wide net when you come out. It’s not a race and it never will be!

Also keep in mind that you can be as out as you want to be. Coming out can mean telling your friends and family about your sexuality. But it can also mean presenting more authentically as yourself (e.g. more androgynous, more feminine, more butch). It can mean writing in your journal about how you’re feeling. It can also mean going to queer-normative spaces like a gay bar, a queer art show, or generally the entire Pacific Northwest (just kidding about the Pacific Northwest… but also maybe not kidding, I hear it’s pretty queer over there).

I’ve got a playlist here of music that my girlfriend help me put together. It’s by mostly queer artists who write about various aspects of queerness and are all out in different degrees. I hope you can take inspiration from them, and feel more agency in your coming out story.

You can be as out as you want to be.

ItsCodeMockup

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!


Kathy Tu is the co-host and producer of Nancy, a podcast about the LGBTQ experience today. Prior to Nancy, Kathy worked on The Memory PalaceThe Mortified Podcast, Masterpiece Studio, and others. And prior to that she was an EMT and law school grad. It’s been a trip. Kathy’s on twitter @_ktu.

“An Honest Mixtape” is a new advice series here at Everyone Is Gay! Every month we will feature a new guest writer who will tackle one of your advice questions with words *and* music! 

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“how can I surely know I am gay? like everyone is saying that they have known it since they were little kids, but can you figure out later that you somehow happen to love women? I told my mother about my feelings because I believed that she would help me with it but she said to me that, she knew me and I cant like women because I didnt obviously like girls when I was a little kid. does it really make sense? I am really confused, I dont think I am faking my feelings but what if she is right?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Your mom is wrong.

Want to know how I know? I know because I am pretty flippin’ gay (specifically a queer bisexual cisgender lady married to a queer cisgender lady, if you really want to know the particulars), and I didn’t have any awareness whatsoever of being anything except tiny Kristin Russo when I was tiny Kristin Russo.

When I was 4 ½ I met a boy named Peter and he was 4 ½ too, and I thought that was the most lovely thing I had ever heard and so we told our parents we were boyfriend and girlfriend and then wrote each other pen-pal letters for a few years. In middle school I had real, heart-stopping crushes on boys and I also adored my very best friend in the whole wide world who was a girl. When she moved from New York to Ohio it was as though all of our limbs were being ripped from our bodies. You know?! In tenth grade I kissed some girls on “dares,” and was like “Oooooh boy, I sure don’t think I am gay… that was a GRAND EXPERIMENT, though!” Then, when I was a senior in high school I kissed one more girl and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was like “OH WAIT OH SHOOT OH MY I AM SO GAY FOR THIS GIRL AHHHH.”

You can read some of what happened after that when it came to coming out to my family here, but my larger point is that while I can go back and see some deep connections that I made with other girls (like my BFF in middle school) and perhaps overlay some “Oh maybe I should have known something then” logic… I didn’t know then. I didn’t know at all! I wasn’t sitting up at night thinking, “Oh but if only my BFF would kiss me someday, wouldn’t that be swell?!” I didn’t want to kiss her! I just wanted to be her very best friend forever!!

Some people know from a young age, sure. They feel different, they have crushes that are clear, and they might do things that make their parents or family think, “She is gonna be gay.” (Which SPOILER ALERT is pretty problematic bc you cannot tell a person’s sexuality by watching their behavior alone, duh.) Some people might be able to say, “Well, my name is Tina and I am a lesbian, I have known forever, it is clear as day,” and then slap a big rainbow sticker on their laptop. That is super great for Tina! GO TINA.

However, there are a whole ton of people who, like me (and you!), navigate through our sexuality in a more complicated (and sometimes confusing) manner. You might not ever feel like you know who you will be forever, and that is okay. You might not feel like you know exactly how you feel right now, and that is also okay. What you are saying is that you might find girls attractive, and you don’t have a label for those feelings yet. THAT. IS. OKAY. That is great! That means you know something super rad about yourself, and it means that maybe you will explore those feelings with people as time goes on. That exploration might teach you even more about yourself – what you like, what you don’t – and help you in better understanding your identity.

You aren’t faking your feelings. If you were smushing down those feelings and not talking about them or acknowledging them at all, that would be really tricky, and might make you “fake” certain feelings (like forcing yourself to date a boy so you don’t have to think so much about your crushes on girls, for example). If you are curious or interested or super into the idea of dating a girl someday, that isn’t fake! Even if you someday date a girl or kiss a girl and think, “Welp, I didn’t like that after all,” those feelings still weren’t fake!! They were just feelings that changed over time.

It is okay to tell your mom you don’t have a word for yourself yet (and that you might not ever). It is okay to tell your mom that not all gay people “always knew” who they were. It is okay to tell your mom that what you need right now is her support and love as you work to understand yourself better, and that you would really love to keep an open dialogue with her as you figure things out more.

Here is a video where I talk a bit more about my own journey with my sexuality, and here is another video I made with my own mom about our coming out process together.

Coming out to ourselves and other people can be really confusing sometimes, and that is totally, completely okay.

All my love to you and your mom, and I hope 2017 brings you a whole bunch of new questions, new answers, and maybe even a girlfriend WHO KNOWS.

xo

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“Last night was one of the worst in my life. I’d been wearing a binder for about a week or so off and on because I was having really bad dysphoria and dressing more masculinely is the only way to relieve it sometimes. I was in no way out to my parents that I was transgender and I didn’t want to be. They cornered me last night and wouldn’t leave until I came out and then tried to make me feel bad for doing so. What should I do now? I never wanted to come out.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Mal Blum Says:

First, I’m sorry this happened and especially that it happened like this. I don’t need to tell anyone that coming out to parents can be difficult to begin with, and should never be forced. On top of that, physical dysphoria can feel intensely personal and vulnerable (especially if you are still figuring out how it manifests in your body, and what eases it). To have it confronted and dragged into conversation like this and forcing you to explain yourself is truly awful.

This shouldn’t have happened and (this part is really important, if you don’t read any other part of this, please read this) it isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong and they are wrong right now.

I say this because I know that when you feel vulnerable about something like this, it can be easy to internalize the things the people around you (especially authority figures) say about it. If they confront you in an aggressive way, if they make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed, there may be a part of you that is thinking “this is my fault, I made this uncomfortable situation, if I wasn’t trans this wouldn’t be happening, etc. etc.” – Here is where I am going to say it again, and hope that you believe me: if they caused you to feel uncomfortable in this situation, they are wrong in this situation. You are not responsible for this happening and are not at fault. Okay? So if you don’t believe that little voice inside of your gut that is telling you it isn’t your fault, then you can believe me, a stranger on the internet. Okay, so now that we have that covered, there is that question of what to do now…

Without knowing more about your situation, it’s a matter of what you have access to now. First is finding support to lean on. Do you have a supportive friend who knows what’s going on? Do you have access to a trustworthy counselor or therapist, if your parents aren’t supportive in helping you access that, maybe through school? I know some might not, and the plight of sticking it out and cohabitating with your parents can seem dire – I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention as a resource for someone to talk to about what you’re going through that The Trevor Project has a free 24/7 line (866-488-7386) or 3-9pm E.T. online chat. You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.

Second, I want to encourage you to let yourself cope in whatever ways work for you. Is there anything that makes you feel better, or takes you out of your head, even if only marginally, even if only for a few minutes? Music, books, video games, memes, maybe this e-care package from Everyone Is Gay, whatever it is, I want to tell you that it’s okay. My opinion is as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, whatever you need to do to help yourself cope is okay.

Third, be as kind to yourself as you would be to somebody else going through the same thing (and there are other people going through this, if it helps, you are not alone). This is an important one. Try not to say mean things to yourself. Remember to be patient with yourself. Be a good friend to yourself. You deserve that.

This last bit is only for if you are anxious about the long term. I don’t know your parents, or your relationship with them. I do know that your relationship with your parents may grow and change. On my best days, I believe that people have a tremendous capacity for change. Part of my first “coming out” process involved an intervention-style “family meeting” where I was confronted, shamed and told awful things that I internalized, including the position that if I were “the gay kid” I would be responsible for my youngest sibling (my ally in the family) being bullied and assaulted on my account.

As an adult, I know that is wrong. It is not okay to put that responsibility on a child’s shoulders, it is not okay to aggressively confront your child about their gender or sexuality, or use derogatory language to get your point across. As a child, I think I knew that somewhere, but I didn’t totally believe it. I hope that you believe it.

I also don’t know if it helps, but I am close with my parents now. I kept them at arms length at times, and I did a lot of work once I was out of their house. I learned to assert boundaries, I learned to express myself and feel more valid in my opinions, thoughts, feelings and needs. I am still learning. That same sibling was really helpful in coming out to them about gender stuff over the last two years, and they have clearly grown a lot and I am glad to be close with them now. There were times I never could have imagined it 12 years ago, but a lot can change.

That said, if your parents are not the type to grow and change with you, if they are unwilling or unable, if they continue to be harmful or abusive, I don’t think you owe them anything, including a relationship.  Either way, you don’t have to figure it out today, all you have to do right now is focus on being kind and patient with yourself and surviving the best way you can.

Sending hugs, I hope you’re okay,
Mal

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How do i come out to my family as bisexual with actions instead of words because I'm to scared to say it.

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

1. Rousing family game of Scrabble (you won’t get any points on “I am Bisexual,” but I think they’ll get the point.)

2. Gift them This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, cross out “GAY” in sharpie marker and write “BI” and then circle all of the related advice questions inside of the book (spoiler: this is also a book for parents of bi kids). Bonus Points: Wrap it in newspaper clippings about famous bisexuals.

3. Wear this shirt to dinner:

4. OMG BAKE A CAKE:

5. Write them a letter. This one doesn’t really have a JOKE component, I just think it is a great way to come out as anything because it gives you the space to say exactly what you want, and gives them the space to digest and process the information. Ya know?!

6. Gather them together for a morning breathing session (it’ll be great, it’ll be grand) where you show them this GIF & explain how calming it can be to the central nervous system:

After they do that a few times, “accidentally” close that GIF to reveal this one:

Then, shrug and shout I AM BISEXUAL and do 16 jumping jacks. It will give you such a great story…

I HOPE THIS HAS HELPED.
You can also check out all theeeeese posts on coming out! Boom.

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