Several folks in the LGBTQ+ community share with us their stories about coming out to their parents, and some tips on how we can be supportive of our LGBTQ+ child.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out of the closet to parents, friends and family members is a huge step in exploring and disclosing their gender identity and sexual orientation. It’s a deeply personal and unique experience, and takes a lot of courage to do so. And it provides a weight off their shoulders once they’re out and proud. But the process can be nerve-wracking and cause feelings of rejection, especially from loved ones and parents, whom we often seek acceptance from. After all, whether you’re a kid or an adult, we all just want to be loved for who we are.
This Pride Month, take a minute to read the experiences of several members in the LGBTQ+ community who’ve come out to their parents. Then read on for advice on how parents can be more supportive of LGBTQ+ children in our families and communities.
Coming out: real stories from Singapore’s LGBTQ+ community
1. To (finally) have peace of mind
“I wanted to be honest with myself; I didn’t like hiding a part of me just because I didn’t conform to my parents’ standards. The constant expectation that I needed to be married to a woman and have kids was too much to bear sometimes. After running away the first time, [being gay] became an open secret in the family no-one wanted to talk about. I played along for a while until I was 25. After going through some rough times, my identity was something I didn’t want to hide from my family anymore.”
“It’s been several years since I came out, and I must say I’m relieved. I never expected my parents to accept me for who I am (and my family is quite conservative), but I’m happy and feel satisfied that I’ve been liberated from this mental prison of needing to lie and hide who I am.”
2. Hoping for acceptance
“My parents always knew I was a lesbian – I was rather tomboyish in my younger days – and did have a fair bit of attention from females. So, by the time I came out, I was more androgynous than feminine. But I soon realised my initial denial gave them hope and led them to think that I agreed with them – that [being a lesbian] was a lifestyle of choice. So, I came out in the hope that if I admitted it in seriousness and stopped hiding, they would understand I didn’t see it as something I should hide or be ashamed of.”
“At first, I felt mostly relieved… and then rejected. My parents were angry I’d stopped trying to hide it. Angry that I couldn’t do the Asian thing and pretend for their sake, and to be straight for them. They even said, “I don’t appreciate your lifestyle.” Now, it’s a non-topic – they don’t want to hear about it so that they can pretend it’s not happening. In their opinion, absolutely no-one needs to know. In hindsight, I didn’t realise I had [come out because I had] hoped for acceptance.”
3. A life-changing moment
“I met my parents halfway between my school and home. We sat down at a chain-restaurant that was familiar territory and a family favourite. My parents asked me to tell them how I identified, and at the time I identified as bisexual. This probably softened the blow since they might have been holding out hope I’d end up with a woman.”
“But, despite being in a public place, my mum cried the entire time. She asked why I didn’t feel like I could trust them enough to tell them the truth. I didn’t have an answer. I was raised Christian and moderately conservative. However, I’d heard them state on multiple occasions that they supported the LGBTQ+ community and didn’t believe sexuality was a choice. Perhaps this was their way of opening the closet door for my grand exit…”
“Years later, I feel silly for holding it in. I was covering up a wound with a dirty rag instead of allowing anyone else to help me tend to it. I was never in danger of losing my relationship with my parents. It wasn’t until my coming out and beginning the healing process of my relationship with my parents that my life started to change for the better. But one thing I still hate about my coming out story is the way my mum sobbed throughout it. Was this really her moment to be crying? I’m the one who had to be vulnerable and honest! Regardless, I’m still glad I had the conversation with them.”
4. Keeping a tight-knit relationship
“I tell my parents everything. So I figured my sexuality seemed like a pretty important thing to share. When I came out, my mum had a different reaction from what I expected. She always seemed very open-minded and I thought she’d just say she was happy for me. But instead, she asked me if I was sure and not to tell anybody just in case I realised I was actually straight. She also told me not to tell my dad.”
“I actually wasn’t planning to tell him right away because, unlike my mother, he’d always had some difficulty in grasping the concept of non-straight individuals. He’d often ask questions with extremely obvious answers, and other times he would obliviously make homophobic and transphobic jokes. I just thought it was going to be harder to talk to him about it and to deal with his reaction. A couple of months later though I went shopping with him. As we were walking, I told him, “Dad, I also like girls.” To my surprise, he just said: “Also? Ok.” and we carried on shopping.”
“Later that evening, Dad told me maybe it was best if I didn’t share that information with my 89-year-old grandma (to whom I came out this year, and she’s perfectly fine with it!). So I guess both my parents surprised me, but now they are both perfectly fine with how I identify and can’t wait to officially meet my girlfriend.”
5. Relieved, and free
“Before coming out to my parents, I was stressed, anxious and depressed. Like I couldn’t be honest with them or share my life with them. I felt I needed to hide a certain aspect of my life. And then I thought, if I came out, I wouldn’t feel so down all the time.”
“So I sat down with them and my older brother (whom I had already come out to and is an ally) and just said that I was gay. It was all very, very emotional for all of us there. They felt bad for the negative and prejudiced things they had said about gay people before, and apologised for not being there for me while I was growing up. They said they’d love and accept me no matter what. I felt some reservation or caution when it came to their religious beliefs, as though they probably still believe that it is sinful, but they are still trying to figure it out.”
“Now, I feel amazing, relieved and free – as though my life had started over, in a sense. It feels as though it’s a new beginning for me where I don’t need to hide anything anymore.”
How can parents support their LGBTQ+ child?
Here are some tips that may help:
- Explain to your LGBTQ+ child how the world can be tough for them. And if you can, remind them you love them no matter what. Be patient, unapologetic and kind.
- Consider how difficult it was for your child to come out. Create a safe and loving environment for them to do so.
- Your child might not be ready to come out – they might be angry, emotional or thinking of the consequences of coming out. Let them come to you!
- Probing and asking questions loaded with judgement and guilt may give you some hope that your child isn’t gay. But remember that your child is very much the one who possesses all the values you brought them with, before you only see them for their sexuality.
- As parents, do the work. Learn about the different terms the community uses and take a look at several resources available that can support your LGBTQ+ child.
Happy Pride Month, everyone!
Top image: Teddy Osterblom via Unsplash