January 24, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

I had a lot of [potentially ridiculous] expectations about what it would be like to come out. I desperately wanted to anticipate every possible reaction or question that I might receive before I actually talked to anyone in the hope that it would reduce my anxiety or somehow make things ‘go smoother.’ Ironically, the one question that I never considered was also the one question that nearly everyone I’ve come out to asked me—in fact, it’s usually the very first question they have.

“So when did you tell your family?”

Really? What on earth would make you think that I would have told my family? You know me. You know it took me forever to come out to you, even though both of us knew. How would I have come out to my family?

Now, I suppose my relationship with my family is different than a lot of people’s, so this is probably a perfectly reasonable assumption/question for most people. See, while I’ve always had a good relationship with my family, I would never describe it as being a particularly close relationship. I’m not the type to talk about my personal life with many people, least of which being my family. The closest that our conversations ever get to being ‘personal’ are when we talk about what I’m doing in school. And quite frankly, I’m perfectly fine with it being like that.

Since I’m not used to talking to my family about my personal life, it’s never really been an issue (for me) that I’m not out to them. I’ve never felt the need to inform them that I’m not looking for any Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet. (No, there’s really nothing wrong with Duke’s dating pool—you can stop suggesting that I go over to UNC to meet a ‘nice young man.’) It’s just never been particularly relevant.

I’m sure that all of my friends assume that I would have told my family simply out of a desire for them to be involved in my life. But really, my family has been involved in my life. They have heard extensively about and/or met all of my girlfriends—even if they haven’t been aware of the extent of our relationship. I’ve never wanted to hide the people who are important to me from my family.

Recently, however, something has changed. The past few times that I’ve been home, it has been challenging, difficult, and even uncomfortable to be closeted around my family. My queer identity has become such a central part of my life that it feels impossible to ignore it when I am around my family. Perhaps that’s really the root of the issue—I never considered the possibility that I could so fully accept myself that it would be difficult to not talk about who I am with my family.

At this point, I’m really at a loss for what my family’s reaction will be when I do finally come out to them. I’ve been getting mixed signals about their level of awareness for the past several months—one day my mom starts using the term partner rather than boyfriend or husband, and the next she’s trying to set me up with the boy across the street. The level of tolerance within my extended family is a completely different question…I was informed over break that if I ever adopt a child of a different race, my grandparents would not acknowledge it as their grandchild. I wonder how they will react when I’m trying to adopt a child with my Lesbian Lover.

Regardless of how my family reacts, I feel much better now about the prospect of being out to them than I did a few years ago. Knowing who I am and feeling confident in my identity makes everything a little bit less scary. Best of all, I’ve realized that when the day comes that I get to marry the woman of my dreams, I will absolutely want to share it with my family.


  1. Mmmmm. I dig the part about having a different family relationship than people might expect. People still ask me, "so what was it like to come out to your Mom?" and it's like, gah, I realize that might be an assumed/normative experience to have, but it isn't mine!

  2. Yowzers, I never ask about coming out to family. I always assume that people tell friends first and then family. I'm so sorry if you were ever made to feel uncomfortable (even unintentionally).

    Maybe your parents have noticed a change and are kind of trending in the *might be queer* direction, but I'm glad that you're more comfortable with your identity and that if and when you choose to come out to them, it will be because you want to and not because you think they already know =)

  3. "Regardless of how my family reacts, I feel much better now about the prospect of being out to them than I did a few years ago."

    Preach. This was my biggest mistake. I came out to my family too early. Everything worked out fine, but I think settling into my own skin a bit first might have helped with talking to them about it. As always, best of luck with them.