by Nancy Travers,LCSW
If you are gay or a lesbian, you know that one day you must tell your parents about your lifestyle. You may also wonder if they already know or if they will be completely taken by surprise. You may wonder if they will embrace you as the son or daughter they’ve always had or if they may cut themselves out of your life. Deciding to come out to one’s parents makes for a difficult conversation, but if you know what to expect going in, the outcomes will be a great deal more positive.
Four Tips for Coming Out To Parents
Pick a Good Time. Selecting an appropriate time to come out makes all of the difference. Don’t come out in a show of anger or when the new girlfriend or boyfriend has arrived at your parents for Thanksgiving. Pick a time where everyone is calm and open.
Know It Takes Time. Even if you’ve been raised in a supportive family, your parents may still need time to digest your coming out. They may go through a period of mourning where they realize that you won’t have a typical marriage or a typical relationship with the outside world. Be prepared for a worst case scenario if your parents cut you off. If you live with your parents, be sure you have a back-up place to stay. Be sure to gather friends and other family members who are supportive of your coming out and go to them if your parents reject you. And even if you want to reject your parents after they reject you, resist this urge and stay in contact with periodic hand-written notes which show that you are still willing to communicate and re-establish the relationship when they are ready.
Teach Your Parents. Now is the time to reassure your parents that they did nothing wrong and that you are the way you are because of biology. Gently reject any attempts of them trying to convert you to go straight, and instead say that you know they love you and remind them that they taught you to have integrity and stand up for your beliefs. This is what you’re doing now and you are not trying to be someone you are not. Even if they don’t like this response, they will come to respect you.
Explain Why You Are Coming Out. Let your parents know that you’re coming out so that you are not stressed anymore about hiding a vital part of yourself. Reassure them that you have a supportive network of friends you can go to if you need help. You can also allay their fears of your discrimination by saying that you stand up for yourself and that you can handle yourself with grace and strength when the situation allows.
The coming out talk is never easy, but it may enfold naturally if your parents ask you about your love life or if they ask you in you are gay or a lesbian. Go with the flow if the timing is right and trust that even though your parents need time to adjust, they are still your parents and love you unconditionally.
Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 orÂ contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.