This article was originally written for The Odyssey Online, and has been posted here with the author’s permission.
My coming out experience with my parents was accidental. Kind of.
As queer folks tend to do, I initially came out to close friends; my friends at secondary school and people I knew wouldn’t judge me for it. The response I have received to coming out has mostly been incredibly supportive, and I cannot downplay just how lucky I’ve been.
See, I’d wanted to come out for a long time, and it was in that moment on the car ride to my nan’s that I decided to do it. I say it was accidental, but the underlying urge to come out to my parents directed our conversation towards relationships, which finally led to the question, ‘is it a girl or a boy you’re talking about?’
I froze, and I said nothing. That was the answer he needed.
It had been a question on my dad’s mind for a while, as it probably is for many parents. Some men expect their son to grow up a certain way, and when it’s not like that it’s a little jarring for them; and especially when it comes to the idea of their son being homosexual.
“Right,” he said before the silence perpetuated itself a little longer.
I started crying; something I hate doing in front of people, especially my family. I apologized for not coming out earlier, explaining that I had been afraid. The rest of the journey was silent. He was OK with it, it seemed, and we didn’t speak about it again until later that evening.
When we got home was when I became really confused. My dad told my mum, and she actually seemed upset. It completely threw me off guard: I expected my mum to accept me, but she seemed to challenge the notion that I was gay. It went against everything I expected of her; the person that had worked for years in the fashion industry, learning to love all sorts of people with unique identities.
Later on, I realized why she responded in such a way. She knew it wouldn’t go down well with my dad, which I soon realised it didn’t. Dad refused to acknowledge my sexuality, and it irritated him to the point where he didn’t want to hear about it at all. It was like that for a while, and to some degree it still is. My dad’s gotten a bit better, and the mere mention of The Gays™ doesn’t upset him anymore, but it’s a subject still avoided in our home.
But, this is my story. I have been exceedingly fortunate to have a network of friends that support my identity, and a family that loves me regardless. I am lucky to have never experienced any of the harshnesses many in my community will experience, knowing that some homes are so toxic that knowing a child is queer can result in abuse and even homelessness. It’s something so horrific that it baffles me that anyone regardless of their background or perspective of the world could ever bestow such treatment on a person; especially towards their closest family.
Although, one odd thing I will experience along with my community is the repetitive nature of coming out: something in this world I’ll have to face for the rest of my life. Society has a heteronormative attitude when it comes to viewing humans within society, and so assumptions are made about how they identify, who they are and who they love.
Repeatedly coming out might not be as frustrating or worrying if it was as simple as admitting one’s sexuality or gender identity. For me, telling people I’m gay, if the situation arises, requires an understanding of the context: I need to consider how people will respond, how identifying myself might affect relationships, and even what might happen if I announce it. While my sexuality is a minimal aspect of my existence I still want to be respected for it and not judged solely on that basis, and it’s why I’m honest about who I am.
Because, at the end of the day, I’m a queer person: I am different. This doesn’t make me better, or worse, it just provides me with another characteristic of uniqueness; an aspect that every person on this earth possesses in one way or the other. It’s an identity that provides no harm towards anyone, and therefore it, along with prejudice towards other sexualities and gender identities, or any other non-harmful identity for that matter, shouldn’t be a problem.
But it still is, and it’s something the queer community faces daily: a trans person is murdered, a bisexual teen is thrown out of her home, or a gay person is rejected from a business because of their sexuality.
It’s why on days like today, on #NationalComingOutDay, we provide messages of love and support for people in our community: for the people who have come out, for those that will be today, and for those that might not be ready yet. We tell them that whatever happens they still belong, and are loved even if their families and friends can’t be decent human beings and provide that love for them.
We have a long way to go, but I can only see positive steps forward: families of different faiths loving their child no matter what, work colleagues fully capable of speaking to their friends about their dating without it being made awkward, and the ability for one’s parents to just say ‘It’s OK, and I still love you.’
Because that’s all we want.