Coming out as an individual who is gay is probably one of the hardest things anyone would have to go through… but is there anything you can do to make the process easier?
Because I’m straight, coming out is something I have never had to deal with. But when a family member approached me to ask how he should tell his parents that he was gay, I realised just how difficult it can be.
For starters, most people are not well equipped to talk about their sexual preferences and sexual tendencies with their parents. We are either too shy, embarrassed or at a loss when it comes to it, and this is enough to make us feel rejected and scared long before we have even embarked on the epic journey to let the cat out of the bag and possibly unleash Pandora’s demons.
But should anyone facing the ‘coming out’ saga be scared? Well, no; but it’s important to think before you act.
You might think that your parents are likely to be shocked, disgusted or disappointed by what you have to say. This may very well happen, but they will also feel protective and worried. You need to understand that not everyone has been exposed to certain life issues, and it may take longer for them to accept it.
Before you tell your parents, you need to ask yourselves three questions:
1. Am I sure of my sexual orientation?
2. Am I comfortable with my sexual orientation?
3. Are my family and I in the right emotional state to deal with this?
The first question determines whether you should tell them at all. Some people go through phases in which they experiment, but nothing comes out of it, apart from a few hook ups. The second question determines whether you should deal with your own issues first, after all: if you don’t feel comfortable with your own sexuality, then you might need to give yourself more time or seek help. The third question helps you determine whether this is really the right time to tell your family, as timing may be crucial to the way the news is handled.
There are many organisations which are there to help you out, including the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Drachma and We Are; and they have all made it their mission to aid those who are finding it difficult to deal with their sexuality, or to deal with the way others are dealing with their sexuality.
It is also important to remember that – although it may be hurtful to your feelings – you need to allow others the time to come to terms with the news. There is obviously nothing wrong with being gay, but a mother whose only son or daughter has just come out might also have to deal with the fact that she may never become a grandmother; or that the ideal life and lifestyle she envisaged for her child will never be realised. Of course, same sex couples can get married, have children and live the white-picket-fence lifestyle, but we know that and have to appreciate that some other people don’t yet.
The majority of parents will be fine with it – if not immediately, then after a while. You are still their child at the end of the day. Some may not be okay with it, and it might be difficult to deal with the situation at hand. Try to understand their reaction, but also do assert your position. Seek help from other family members or friends and make sure that you have the support of someone you trust before you come out.
Ultimately, however, coming out is a liberating experience that will allow you to lead the life you want to. You should also remember that while being gay is not a choice, coming out is – and you should be the one who makes that choice, in your own time.
Are you a parent whose child has come out? Are you someone who’s come out? Then let us know if James has missed anything!