"I want to come out to my parents, but my dad is in the military, and he’s always talked really shitty about gay people… so I have no idea what he will think when he finds out that his son is gay. :/"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Shane Billings as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Dear Young Baller: It has been my experience that people who talk really shitty about gays do so because they feel threatened and/or scared by the gays. Which is understandable because, like, have you SEEN that picture of Neil Patrick Harris holding a snake?!
I don’t know your father, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say he doesn’t hate the gays so much as he’s nervous about how the good gays (the ones that practice good gay sorcery) undermine the system that says “masculinity” is superior to “femininity.” We represent a huge change in social and cultural thought, and that is pretty effing scary.
Let me pause to say how much your situation resonates with me: my parents served in the Navy, so I know firsthand how military traditions — which essentially tell you to follow orders, fall in line, and cut your LUSCIOUS HAIR — can directly challenge the process of proclaiming, to yourself and to others, “I’M HERE AND I’M QUEER, Y’ALL.”
Let me also pause and ask that you please be safe, Young Baller. If at any point in the coming out process you feel like you’re at risk — bullying, abuse, or being thrown out by your parents — there are resources in place to help you. And whatever you do, do NOT trust anything you see or hear from an episode of Glee.
Try this: casually force your parents to watch The Birdcage with you. Tell them, for school, you have to compare and contrast a French work (La Cage aux Folles) with its English adaptation. Or just tell them to shut up and behold: Nathan Lane and Robin Williams conjure perfect cinematic comedy.
The reason I mention The Birdcage is because the whole story is about heterosexuals coming to terms with the gays, and gays coming to terms with themselves. It’s also about parenthood, and what it means to love selflessly, with some of the most AMAZING 90s hairdos and outfits (speedos) this world has ever seen. There’s even a hilarious mention of gays in the military, which might be useful common ground for you and your dad.
If you need reference material, GQ featured profiles of gay servicemen back in 2011, with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. You could also mention Alexander the Great (huge queen) or the hundreds of lesbians who made up the WAC Battalions during World War II.
And if it’s any consolation, my dad instructed me explicitly as a kid: “Don’t be gay.” Whoopsie! But when I finally came out to him (right before I boarded a plane back to college, perfect exit strategy), he told me how proud he was, and how brave I was for coming out. And like, they give MEDALS to military personnel who demonstrate bravery.
Best of luck to you, Young Baller! Personally, I think you and anyone who comes out to his or her parents deserves a medal, because there’s really nothing quite like facing the terror of Coming Out. Except NPH and that effing snake.