The Coming Out Journey – If It Doesn’t Go Well

So what happens if you take our advice and come out, but when you tell your parents or someone else close to you, it doesn’t go well.  Despite all of the success stories we know of, unfortunately there are many that end up being tragic.  This was recently the case with a good friend of mine after he came out to his parents.  For most of his life, he strived to please his parents by achieving in school and then finding a “good woman” to marry.  In fact he did find a woman who he truly fell in love with and did marry.  He was destined to create a traditional family just as his mother dreamed of for him.  But then, a few months later, his true self, that had always been there, began to emerge and his marriage ended.  At the age of 31, he identified who he truly is and came out.  It wasn’t easy, for him at all, but the courage was always there and he marched out with confidence and great enthusiasm all the while knowing that telling his parents might be the greatest challenge of all.  When he did tell the two people who for most of his life he has tried to please, it didn’t go well, at all.  Tragically, they rejected him entirely and blamed him for “ruining the family.”  He heard all of the usual non-accepting responses, like, “there are plenty of good women out there for you.  You just haven’t found the right one.”  He was no longer invited to holiday family gatherings and when he would call with holiday greetings, the phone would go unanswered.

Is it all worth it?  Well that’s a question you have to answer for yourself, but consider the sacrifice of living your life for your parents or anyone else.  We spend the first 18 years of our lives growing, learning, and developing, much at the whim and desire of our parents.  When we become adults, we begin making our own decisions.  As an LGBT person, you can decide to live your life as someone else – someone you are not to satisfy the dreams and desires of others including your parents.  Many people, especially men, do this by getting married, having children, raising a family, and then later in life, destroying it all by coming out and admitting that it’s all been unreal.  The other option is to realize who you are, accept who you are, understand that you were created to be who you are and that being LGBT is not a choice or lifestyle you select.  You can choose to live your life in the truth and then to share who you are with those you love.  It is not, however, your responsibility to make sure others accept you.

In all that we’ve written about coming out to date, we’ve always said that finding the right time and place to share your very personal news is critical.  Hopefully you didn’t and won’t choose a holiday or other family gathering.  You know your parents and others who are closet to you the best.  And if you don’t know how they will react, plan for all possible outcomes.  Remember, that just because you get an emotional and seemingly negative response, it doesn’t mean that things won’t evolve and change.  Parents, too, need time to “come out” about having an LGBT son or daughter.  Allow them the time to process the idea and consider they really may not have known about you.  But the point of this article is about what to do if it doesn’t go well.  The simple answer is that you can’t do anything about it.

Aside from being aware and sensitive about how you share your sexual orientation or gender identity, you are not responsible for how your parents or anyone else accepts you.  Rejecting you is not going to change one bit of who you are.  Making you feel guilty about “destroying the family” or telling you that you are a sinner and that you are going to hell is not going to make you any less gay.  You are who you are and no one, including your parents or even you, can change that.  Part of your plan should be preparing to walk away from it all and I mean actually leaving.  It should include the idea that you may no longer be welcome at family gathering, holiday celebrations, and that your calls may go unanswered.  Your “best friend” could decide to walk away and dissolve your friendship.  But, then again, how good of a friend were they really if they cannot accept you for who you really are.  Have courage, have confidence, and if you are tossed away by your parents, walk away with confidence.  Of course it might hurt you a great deal, so allow yourself some time to mourn.  But once that mourning has come and gone, move forward with your life.  If you have done what we suggested early on about forming a network of LGBT friends and supporters, you will never be alone.  You will have a new family, a new place to gather for holidays, and a community that loves and supports you for who you are.  You simply have to look at the important people in your life differently.  Those who reject you are no longer as important as those who do support you.  Let those who do not accept you go.  Let the stress from all of those years of trying to please them slip away.  Allow yourself to experience happiness independently from the approval of anyone else.  If and when you find someone to love, to become your partner, husband, or wife, the only one’s acceptance of that partner that is at all important is your own.  If you get from your parents the old line, “well that’s fine if you are gay, just don’t bring it around here,” then don’t.  This is not acceptance and you are worth so much more than having to live your life under those limitations.  Go out there and find the love you deserve and let go any consideration of how your parents will accept or not accept your partner.

Here’s the bottom line.  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  But in all cases, be who you are.  The acceptance of others won’t change the reality of who you are.  Be true to yourself always and leave the responsibility for others to accept you to them.  Lean on your friends and those who support you for strength and confidence and know you will never be alone.

This article is part of a series on “coming out.”  Click Here To Begin The Series.

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