November 16, 2011

Familial Equilibrium


This post is going to be more of a story than my previous posts, so bear with me if it’s a little boring. I’m not very good at emotional revelations, but enough avoiding the point, time (as the wise Graham Chapman always said) to “get on with it”.

I was one of the people that was always out of the closet. In fact, until my senior year of high school I wasn’t even aware that there was a closet to come out of. Once I had settled my own mind on the matter (enough to be sure that I was in fact bisexual and not just a bit curious), I decided that I had to tell my parents. Of course I knew that this was technically not my responsibility to share if I didn’t want to, but my parents and I have a very open relationship so I really wanted to tell them. Also I kind of assumed that they would provide a solid support base for me as they had always told me that they would love me no matter what.

Well, as you may be gathering, it didn’t exactly go like that. My mother was a bit confused at first and had no idea what to say, which even though it was pretty awkward was pretty understandable. My father’s reaction, though it wasn’t explicitly negative, was not at all supportive. In the couple of weeks after I came out he expressed various concerns to me and told me a number of things that nobody who is trying to adjust to their new (and fluid) identity wants to hear.

I’m going to go through some of the main ideas and outline my issues with them, though it might seem a bit obvious:

“I’m worried about you coming out in college. It’s a place to reinvent yourself and I don’t want you to get labeled as the queer kid.”

Ok, yeah of course college is a place to reinvent yourself, but what if that reinvention is partly that I want to finally be myself? What if I want to be open about all parts of who I am, instead of hiding and repressing myself? And finally, I AM a queer kid. As my father I hoped that he would support me being myself. Oh, and as a follow up to this, he told me he wanted me to “really think about” whether I want to be a part of LGBT life here at Duke. I did, and you can see what I decided.

“Being openly LGBT could really ruin your job prospects.”

This one’s pretty simple. I know that. Also, I’m just entering college. I don’t need to hear about the various ways that who I am could ruin my life. Finally, I’m really not interested in working for a company that isn’t cool with me being Bi.

“But you don’t even like the flamboyant gays. And they make up the majority of the gay community, so they’ll also make up most of your male dating prospects. So why even bother?”

Firstly, don’t speak for me. Sure, I’m an introvert and don’t mix terribly well with extroverts, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Secondly, false false false false FALSE! “Flamboyant” gays are not the only members of the gay community, there is such a wide spectrum of people in this community that such a demeaning generalization quite ignorant and offensive. Furthermore, even if I never actually meet a man I connect with (I’m not looking for one now), why does that mean my identity is irrelevant? Which leads into the next thing, a return from my previous post:

“You aren’t biactual, you’re bicurious. I don’t have to deal with it until you actually have a boyfriend. Then I’ll believe it.”

Ok, yeah. Because I would totally expose myself like this if it were just a curiosity. I understand the desire to dodge dealing with your own homophobia, but seriously? Don’t put that on me. Especially when I’m at my most vulnerable.

(After describing something as gay and me saying something): “What? You never used to get offended when I said these things. Do I have to change the way I live for you?”

Well actually, I was always offended when you said that kind of thing, I just never said anything because at first I just thought it was part of the common slang and then I thought it would be suspicious to say things against it. Yes, I do want you to change “the way you live” because its insulting and demeaning. But if you seriously consider that a part of the way you live, you have a serious problem. Changing offensive slang is not that hard. (I know this because you have changed how you speak recently)

Ok, so now for a little caveat. About a month ago my father sent me an email to tell me that he was very sorry about what he said and he finally realized how offensive this is. Ironically he made this realization while watching “some asshole from fox news” (<-direct quote from the email) talk about how Americans don’t realize that the homosexual agenda is the most dangerous short term threat to America. He said he got angry, and then realized how I must feel hearing the same kind of thing. Then, he made the jump from this guy on fox to some of the comments he made. So he decided to be the father I remember and apologized to me. Then he asked me to set up a meeting with Janie in the center so they could talk to someone about how to be supportive to me. I have to say, since the meeting on parents weekend they have been more than supportive. They’re everything I wanted them to be in the first place.

They’ve been great since. Really open and supportive, and most importantly they are willing to discuss LGBT issues with me. I had an email conversation with my father this week about my church’s stance on the LGBT community (You like how I foreshadow future posts?), a conversation that wouldn’t have happened even two months ago. My parents have finally adopted LGBT rights as human rights, as they now have a face to put with it. Mine. Judging by some of the statements made above, you can really see how far they’ve come. I guess this is my own little it gets better story. Life sure isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better now that I’m not worried about coming home. Yeah I wish they had reacted more positively initially, but the world just isn’t that simple. So everybody out there who is worried about coming out to the parents: It’s really your choice, but if you’re confident in who you are and are sick of hiding it, the only way to get that acceptance or at least arrangement is to just come out. It might take a while, but eventually you’ll reach a comfortable place as long as you don’t burn any bridges.

Disclaimer: I know this isn’t applicable in all circumstances, like if your parents are extremely homophobic or your relationship with them isn’t very good. In that case, I’m certainly not pressuring you to do anything that might be dangerous or you’re uncomfortable with.

3 comments:

  1. Kyle,
    Thanks for posting this. It was far from boring!! I appreciate your openness and hope that your words will help someone deal with their struggles.

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  2. Thanks for writing this, Kyle,

    I've been thinking about having a full discussion about my sexuality with my mom over break. I've been hesitant about it because of her previous reactions (which were kinda similar to your dad's) and so I've just been avoiding the topic as a whole. But now, considering that I'm applying to jobs as an open gay guy, I feel like I should have a sit down conversation with her. Your post gives me hope that my mother will continue to make changes in the right direction.

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  3. I dug this. Solid post, yo.

    I like how at once it is both relatable for the LG communities and nuanced to the B experience. Looking forward to learning more :)

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