I Didn't Deserve to Lose You: An Open Letter to My Anti-Gay Parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

I was filling out an application the other day. It asked me what I felt my greatest accomplishment thus far was. I thought for a moment and answered that I am most proud of surviving all that came with coming out to you as a lesbian.

I am an adult and a college student with a job and a life apart from you. I've been told that I don't need you, and for the most part I rarely think about your absence. I have said before that I sometimes forget that I ever had parents; my life is too busy to dwell. Part of that is denial, isn't it? Being 20 years old hardly makes me an adult, and one always needs family, no matter his or her age.

I have lost friends, extended family and mentors as a result of coming out, but all those are secondary to parents. Friends come and go, extended family move about and expand, and mentors are replaced as one ages, but parents are needed. My first mature relationship, my first heartbreak, when friends turn on me, my big adventures, my successes and failures -- I want to share these experiences with you. I'm supposed to share them with you. I want you to be the first to know about my engagement. I want you to help me with the wedding planning. I want you to come with me to pick out my dress. I want you, Dad, to walk me down the aisle. I want you to be excited when my wife and I announce that we're expecting your grandchildren. I want you to be there when those children arrive.

But you won't be. You will turn up your nose, as you have done since I came out, and as you will continue to do. You will be somewhere in Tennessee, ranting about my sins, while my brother and older sister take your place at all these milestones.

I have always been a hardheaded, independent kid who never quite fit into the conservative, legalistic Christian box you had set up for me. Maybe it was easy for you to step away from me. You have to understand: I have spent most of my life attempting to run away from myself. The first thing I was ever told about homosexuality came from you, Dad. You were explaining that I couldn't join Girl Scouts because "they let homosexuals be den mothers." You elaborated, "Do you know what homosexuals do, Shura? They rape children." I was 8. Several months earlier I had been introduced to rape by a monster in a rest-stop bathroom outside Savannah. I didn't want to be a monster.

And if the sermons and radio programs that I was constantly hearing were correct, I didn't want to go to hell, either. Everything in our conservative Christian world was telling me that I was disgusting, perverted, ruining America and dangerous to children. I hated myself. I was willing to do anything to get away from myself, including suicide.

Yes, I was a difficult child. I wasn't easy to raise, or easy to love. And in the years leading up to my coming out, I was perhaps the most difficult.

You may not have suspected that I was anything but straight, but others did. From 15 to 17, when I wasn't living with you, I had few friends. Instead, girls would loudly accuse me of looking at them in a sexual way, called me "dyke," "fag" and "lez." They would strip down in front of me just to accuse me of masturbating to the image later. The harassment culminated in a month during which two girls would slip into my bed at night, pin me down and sexually assault me, all while whispering in my ear, "You like this, don't you, dyke?" I didn't feel like I could tell anyone about any of it, because I didn't want the subject of my sexuality to come up. I thought it would be written off because of the suspicions.

I was right. When I came out to you last year, that was one of the first things out of your mouth. "Why did you whine about those girls?" you demanded. "Didn't you like it, girls touching you? You like that. Why did you pitch a fit about it?"

Let me provide you with an answer: I didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve believing that I was disgusting, a monster or going to hell because of others' ignorance and hatred. I didn't deserve being ostracized and harassed because of others' ignorance and hatred. I didn't deserve to have my body violated because of others' ignorance and hatred. And I didn't deserve to lose you because of your ignorance and hatred. But all those things happened to me.

As a result, I have grown up. I have learned to stand on my own two feet and keep myself from being affected by others' actions. I have learned to be confident in myself. I have learned that in life there are hard choices to be made, and I have learned to make them. I have learned to rely not on others for my validation but on myself. I have learned to love myself.

My life is not always easy, partially because of your absence from it. How I am going to pay for college and where I am going to go on school breaks are constant worries. But you are the ones who are truly missing out. I will do great things. I will bring about positive change in this world. I will have a beautiful life. I'm quite convinced that my future kids will be adorable and ridiculously cool. You will miss out on all that.

I feel sorry for you. Your hatred, your ignorance and your fear are blinding you and took away your daughter. I will not dwell on this. I have living to do.

With all my love,

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