Coming out is inherently terrifying – there are so many horror stories that my expectations were low, getting through it and back into the arms of my lover was all I really hoped for.
Looking back ten years later I may have done myself a disservice by leaving so much unsaid. It’s a pattern I’ve developed into a lifestyle as I let myself believe I should just be happy to eat at the same table as my straight relatives.
So I returned to the topic by interviewing my Mom since she was the first person I came out to; not just to see it from her point of view but also to confirm a suspicion I’d long since held…
I originally broke the news on the way to the mall for ‘back to school’ shopping so I could avoid eye contact and she’d be forced to keep her cool enough to avoid swerving off the road. This served me well as we started to shop, looking at clothes instead of each other – comments on sizes and colors interspersed with questions like ‘Are you sure’? ‘How long have you known?’ & ‘What about Nora? I thought you loved her?’
She suggested we delay telling my Father so she could ‘prepare’ him for the news but I suspected she’d told him herself and used the time to bring him around before I approached. When a few weeks later she said he was ‘ready’ I was too grateful to question her. I told him over dinner at a chain restaurant and he simply nodded before saying he always knew I was ‘special’ – a comment I didn’t know how to take but was content to let sit in silence as I picked at my over cooked steak.
Not only did my Mom confirm this during our interview but went a step further to relay that he had been so troubled by the revelation that he cast blame upon her for ‘feminizing’ me so she took him to a therapist who explained you can’t make someone gay; it’s not an illness, a malfunction or a punishment.
I hesitated to include this in the interview because I didn’t want to cast aspersions on my father. It hurt to know he thought someone was to ‘blame’ for who I am but it’s more important he was able to evolve beyond his prejudices and misinformation to embrace his only son. I give him credit for using his love of family to lead to a wider understanding of human sexuality and even more for not letting me feel the brunt of this personal struggle.
Would he have evolved on his own were our relationship not directly threatened? Probably not – change is hard and we’ll stay stuck in our ways until pushed in the right direction. Sadly, that’s not the case every time but I’m grateful I didn’t let that fear stop me. Too often being homosexual is viewed in a tragic light and while those are the stories we remember, more and more often coming out is an important opportunity for families to break their codes of silence and connect on a deeper level. One confession deserves another and I’ve since learned more about each one of my family members than I ever could have imagined before I made the first move by coming out.