How to come out to your parents
‘My mum hung up on me when I told her I was gay and didn’t call back for 45 minutes’
If you’re gay and haven’t yet come out to your parents, going home for the holidays can be a pretty daunting prospect. Experts have lots of advice on how to come out properly, but really, it’s better hearing it from people who have actually done it:
Simon, 24, Dancer
Coming out presents a myriad of different emotions but to be honest it’s just really daunting. I was 20 and had been out to friends for a year or two and was living my life in London. My parents never broached the subject aside from every year at Christmas my overzealous auntie would ask who I was dating and why hadn’t I snapped any lovely girls up yet. Followed by an awkward laugh and a quick sideline into another topic that was as far as it got.
My parents were coming down to visit and I decided now was the opportune time to tell them. Only we ended up in Bills, Covent Garden and although I thought I’d kind of introduced the subject, it just doesn’t feel right to come out over a fish finger sandwich and the eavesdropping woman on the table next door. So after we went our separate ways I just texted my mum basically saying I was gay, I knew I was and had been for some time and wanted them to know. It’s a lot easier when you’re not face to face and you have time to collect your thoughts.
My dad called and said they couldn’t have been happier. They told me they were just happy I was happy and didn’t have to pretend anymore. It was a massive weight off of my shoulders and I was immediately so much happier. I saw them the next day and there was no fuss made, no big deal because ultimately looking back, it isn’t a big deal or something to be made a fuss over. I say that knowing I have incredibly supportive and liberal parents. I just wish I’d done it sooner. Shackles off.
Aileen, 20, Film and TV Studies at Glasgow
I actually started to think I was gay relatively late. It was about half way through first year so I was 18. I think I had it pretty easy to be honest, my friends were so supportive and understanding (especially considering that all they had ever experienced before that was me sleeping with guys). I didn’t make a big deal out of it, and neither did they. When they asked me what was happening in my life I would just say “uh well, I guess I might be gay” and although they were a bit surprised, everyone was generally cool with it.
The only issues I had were with the odd girl getting a bit weird or accusing me of liking her, or the not so odd guy in a club who thinks he’s entitled to my sexuality. It’s really important to put your foot down when stuff like that happens and to just make it clear that that’s not OK. My parents didn’t go down nearly as smoothly, I have a huge family (nine siblings and two sets of parents) and so far only some of them know. I guess it feels like a bigger deal with family members. My siblings that know are great about it, so with brothers and sisters I would say it’s best just to bite the bullet. My step-mum and step-dad actually confronted me about it and in both cases all I could do was cry, which is stupid in retrospect.
It seems like a huge deal at the time in terms of family, mainly because they come from a different generation. What’s important to remember is that they’re your family and they love you and being gay isn’t you screwing up in any way, lying to them about who you are is actually worse. Also, I can almost 100 per cent guarantee that they already know, so best just to get it over with.
Jack, 20, Music Technology and Applied Electronics at York
In first year I got back with an ex over an easter break and we had lots of free time. Basically I went home for a bit and was covered in lovebites and I didn’t even know. My mum was driving me home and she started quizzing me on the state of my neck. I like to think i’m good at lying but I just couldn’t make up a convincing story of getting pounced on in a club by a girl considering I’d just put a Lady Gaga CD on. She pulled over so we could talk and I was like “yes, i am in fact, a gay”. I didn’t really have to come out to anyone else, they just know. I have my “gay ear” pierced so that helps.
Charles, 21, Theology at Durham
On my dad’s birthday my sister stole my phone and read my texts. I was having a relationship with a much older family man – but I was 18 and living my best life. My mum confronted me a couple days later because I hadn’t written an essay and she said I was being distracted from work. The fact I was gay was never questioned, all my childhood pictures are me in a dress or a tutu. But the type of relationship, and the fact that it was a criminal offence in the country I was in at the time raised alarm bells for my parents. Obviously I wish that I had the confidence to tell them out right at a much earlier time, and I think my life would have turned out better in terms of the stupid choices made when I was 18. But c’est la vie, and now my mum’s some Stonewall fanatic: I mean what would you expect?
Ciaran Fitzpatrick, 19, History and Politics at Liverpool
I knew my parents would be OK with me being gay, but there’s always that one little worry that they could throw me out, cut me off completely, take away all my Destiny’s Child albums – you know, the common themes. But I wanted to be open to them about everything in my life as I was about to start university and I had a (now ex) boyfriend at the time who I wanted to show off. I set the date as the Sunday 31st August 2014 because my dad works away in the week and I wanted to get both my parents together so it would be easier. Plus I wanted to start the new academic year as a loud and proud homosexual.
My brother had known for years and he was there to start up a conversation about how great I am if it got awkward. I was literally about to Diana Ross my life up and Come Out to my parents when my mum’s fucking best friend decided to have a crisis at her house and come round unannounced. Plan foiled. In the end I had to tell them separately.
I sat my mum down later on, paused the Strictly Results show and burst into tears as I said “I’m gay and I have a boyfriend”. My mum started uncontrollably laughing, walked to the alcohol cupboard, picked out the gin and poured us a drink and proclaimed: “fucking knew for ages, mate”. I love her. She told me to call Dad the following evening and that they had been worried for years that I wouldn’t be able to tell them because my best friend is gay and he’s Muslim and his parents don’t know. To cut a long story short, I told my Dad over the phone and he just said “And?”
They were more concerned that I’d never tell them and lead an unhappy, secretive life. There are still large elements of my family who don’t know because they wouldn’t understand – but they live in the countryside so it’s fine, I never see them and they’re kind of dickheads anyway. Coming out was one of the scariest moments of my life but I don’t regret it one bit. My mum and I can now talk about all the fit guys we fancy, dad and I can openly discuss how tragic my love life is and he gives me great advice. I guess I’m lucky that my parents are wonderfully liberal, open people who don’t give a shit about sexuality.
Caitlin Ward, Politics and International Relations at Sheffield
I first realised I liked girls when I was 14. I felt so ashamed that I was gay I kept it secret from my parents for three years, constantly telling them my girlfriends were mates and feeling awful over it. I was horrendously bullied at the age of 16 receiving anomous texts and calls saying I was a dirty dyke and that I should never go back to school again. I attempted to kill myself when I was 16, due to the huge amount of depression I began to feel from the negative comments and abuse. It wasn’t until my final years at school and early years of college I met the right people who made me feel myself, happy and wanted.
I finally told my parents in college and they didn’t take it well at first as I am from a Muslim background, my mum has eventually warmed to it, but when I go to family events from my Turkish family I still can’t say anything or tell them as It would result in exclusion of future family events, and my mum doesn’t want that. I don’t care though. I’m still myself and I think it takes more energy to hate than accept. I know people will always try and push you down but at the end of the day its about how much you want it and how much you stand up for yourself. My girlfriend has been amazing to me and all my friends, We all need people around us that accept us to feel happy with ourselves.
Jimmie Franklin, 20, Comparative Literature at Kent
I came out on February 11th at age 16. I remember the exact date because after I did it, I got home, turned on the TV and found out Whitney Houston had died, which inevitably led me to the theory that every time a diva dies, a gay man comes out (Grindr may crash once Cher passes).
Despite coming out at 16, it took me a lot of time to get used to. I had known since I was around eight years old yet had kept it secret so suddenly I was going into school and everyone was asking me questions such as “do you think you’d be the giver or receiver?” when I didn’t even know what either were. I had the enjoyment of people thinking I was making up my sexuality for attention, which is ridiculous, who on earth would go that far to be able to openly admit having Geri Halliwell on their iPod? Being out in the open was pretty liberating though, I could finally delete all the female porn videos from the favourites tab on my PC and I no longer had to pretend I had any interest in women’s backsides.
Coming out is just the beginning of a long process. I went through stages of wanting to distance myself from the LGBT community as well as wanting to come across as something I wasn’t. I drank beer and tried to show an interest in things like football out of fear that I would come across as “too gay”. Alas, this backfired as then I came across as wanting to “fit in” too much.
But being openly gay has allowed me to make some brilliant friends who I don’t think I would be that close with now if it wasn’t for those early days. Do I think being gay is easy? Not at all, but I do think that we’re on our way to being treated like everyone else. Our generation seems to be one of the first where people are really starting to not give a fuck so about things like sexual preference and gender so, fingers crossed, that persists.
Austin, 23, Journalist
Regardless of your family situation or your age, coming out is unfortunately not going to be super fun for anyone involved. But the sooner you get past it the better, it’ll only become more difficult the longer you stay closeted. I was 16 when I first tried to come out. I was naive enough to think that I could be a pioneer at an all boys catholic school and it would all go off without a hitch. I told my mom, I spoke with a counselor, and I eventually was lead to the conclusion that when your hormones are raging and you’re only surrounded by men all the time it is definitely possible for your brain to get mixed signals.
But three years later at Dartmouth when I was surrounded by women and I still had the same feelings it became pretty clear that this wasn’t environmental or a phase. I made it though freshmen year (I attribute that last year in the closet to my ability to channel my angst into my sport as a rower). In Sophomore year after a long night of drinking when I was pledging my fraternity, I broke down in from of my best friend and told him everything. From there everything began to unravel as I told each one of my friends. I felt amazing, it was euphoric to be able to take that load off of my chest, be who I wanted to be and also have my friends support me throughout the process – I was privileged, not everyone has that a fortunate situation like that.
When I came home for holidays I decided I would tell my mom first. I worked up the courage and had everything written out that I wanted to say, when the time came I didn’t end up remembering any of it as it became an emotional back and forth. My mom was more concerned that I’d be living a harder life as a result, she doesn’t have an issue with gay people in the slightest. She refused to tell my father for me as I would have hoped, as a result I delayed for close to a half a year before I worked up the courage to tell him over the phone.
Don’t plan out your coming out, when the time comes and you work up bravery for that conversation, don’t expect anything out of it and just take it as it comes. If your parents don’t seem thrilled when you first say it, don’t try to force them to. It’s OK if they aren’t 100 per cent on the same page, they still love you and you need to be patient to let them understand. Think about how long it took you to be OK with your own sexuality (for me six years), now double or triple that time period and you have a realistic idea of how long it may take your parents to come to fully understand it.
Don’t tell your parents at different times even if it’s harder to tell one of them, its not fair to ask one of your parents to keep a secret from the other one. I wouldn’t recommend coming out with a large group of family or on a holiday and putting yourself into the spotlight on a family occasion. And despite the cliche, remember that it really does get better.
Nathan, 24, Hairdresser
I knew I was gay from the age of around 14, but I still had a girlfriend until I was 17, lying to myself and trying my hardest to be someone else. When I was 18 I started auditions for Musical Theatre college, and on my way I met a guy from Essex who tickled my fancy. That was the first time it really sank in: “Nathan you are a gay”.
I started dance training in Milton Keynes when I was 18 and moved away from my homophobic hometown. I instantly felt comfortable and at one with myself, surrounded by flouncy, overtop the gay guys. Then a cousin asked me if I was gay over Facebook chat. I told her I was and she was over the moon and said she had known since I was three and wanted to be the nurse when we played doctors and nurses. She encouraged me to tell my mum so I rang her there and then, feeling confident she would be over the moon. But she put the phone down on me and didn’t call me back for 45 minutes.
I thought she was disappointed but actually she was just upset that I’d suffered in silence for such a long time. It took a while but now I’m her gay best friend. I found it hard to even think about telling my dad or brother: they’re scaffolders, Arsenal season ticket holders and love pints and Page 3 models. But slowly people at home started finding out and I was scared to show my face: I was now the gay guy who used to date girls and be a lad. I was supposed to be going home for a family holiday but I was scared that they’d never talk to me again.
Finally as I was on the train home I sent my dad and brother a huge text, after hours of writing, deleting and hovering over the send button. I told them I was gay and I would accept them not talking to me ever again, but within five minutes Dad texted me back saying “I’ve always known Nath, doesn’t matter to me, see you in a bit, love you xx”. He never says “love you”. I couldn’t believe it. My brother found it harder and didn’t speak to me properly for a while, but now he’s one of my closest friends.
The holiday was great too.