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Originally posted to Multiply on 6 February 2008.
I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about my story about coming out to my parents. I feel like there was so much that I left out. Of course, when I shared them during the panel discussion, I naturally had to keep my comments short, and this meant an extremely abbreviated story. So I shared what I felt were the most relevant points at the time.
However, now that I have more time to spend, I feel it’s important to share a bit more. After all, when I talked about how much time it’s taken my parents to work through everything, I felt like I was attributing it to them. That’s not entirely accurate. In retrospect, I made my own share of mistakes which has probably prolonged the reconciliation process.
The most immediate example is the fact that I came out to my parents well before I was ready. After all, I had only come to accept my sexuality a scant two months before I told my parents. So in reality, I was still emotionally processing everything myself.
Mind you, I don’t regret my choice to come out so quickly, mainly because it was the right choice at the time. The week before I had that fateful conversation with my mother, I had made another poor choice, the choice to tell another person about my sexual orientation. Telling that particular person was a horrible error in judgment on my part, and I can only say that I did so in a moment of emotional weakness.
The problem was, I knew that this particular person sometimes wasn’t the best at keeping secrets, and I was concerned that news of my revelation could get back to my parents. When I realized this, I decided that if my parents were going to find out, I wanted it to come from me. So I I made my decision to make sure that’s exactly what happened.
I made what I still believe was the moral choice. However, the moral choice meant trying to deal with my parents’ reactions to my sexuality while still trying to go through the emotional healing and self-acceptance process myself. That was a high price to pay, and I probably wasn’t always as understanding and patient with my parents as a result.
Another choice I made — and I’m not sure whether this one was ultimately a mistake or not — is that I backed off once I told my mother. Because of her reaction, I let the whole topic drop for a long time. I didn’t deny my sexuality, but I didn’t bring it up either. I didn’t correct my mother a year later when I moved back home and she told me that I wasn’t allowed to have “overnight guests of the female persuasion.” (Actually, I snickered to myself, thinking that wouldn’t be a difficult rule to keep.) In effect, I did allow my parents to linger in their denial and otherwise ignore the whole matter.
Was that a mistake? I don’t really know. In some ways, I wonder if I might have sped up the process if I had pushed the issue a bit more at crucial moments. But then, I also think that maybe they really did need that time.
Then there was an incident that I’m almost positive I made a mistake. It was back during the first few months when I was dating Mike. I had met him and taken a picture of him. One day, I printed out a picture of him because I was going to visit friends and wanted to show them what he looked like. My mother saw the picture and asked who he was. I told her he was a friend and left it a that.
I think she knew I wasn’t being completely honest with my answer. In fact, even back then, I had the impression she was looking for the real answer. But I chose not to tell her he was my boyfriend. I was afraid to admit it. I was afraid she’d once again go into a tense and brooding silence as a result. And I didn’t want to deal with that at the time.
In retrospect, I think she was trying to bridge that gulf of silence that had developed between us when she asked about Mike. Instead of responding with honesty, I chose to reward her efforts by maintaining the wall between us. I have to ask myself what percentage of responsibility for the time it’s taken us to be more open since then lies on my shoulders because of that choices. And I wonder what other ways I’ve shut my parents out without realizing it.
It’s something I’ve been working on recently. That’s partly due to my friend, Amy, who did a reading for me while we were at the Naturist Retreat this past August. She told me that I needed to share all of my life with my mother. And as Amy predicted, Mom’s been fairly open to it.