I’m a teenager who lives at home and I’ve known I was gay since I was 12 years old but I’ve never told anyone. My dad works at a church that believes homosexuality will send anyone who practices it to hell, but not those who simply resist their urges.
I have a very close relationship with my entire family including my 3 sisters and my parents and I don’t want to mess that up since they are the only people I really have. What would be your advice for me in terms of coming out, I don’t know how they would respond and I don’t want to lose them but I also think I need to be myself.
I feel like I would be loosing everything I have if I come out and don’t know what I would gain from being out but alone. I also do believe in god but I don’t personally believe that homosexuality is a sin and I don’t want to abandon my faith.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated and I want to thank you for you writing
You will never be “out but alone.” We take care of our own. You just have to find us.
Part of my childhood was spent in Zambia, Africa because my parents were Baptist missionaries. I was raised in a conservative Christian home and my coming-out was predictably hard. So I have some experience in coming out in a situation like yours, and I won’t sugarcoat my reply — the road ahead may be tough. But it will get better.
If your family adheres to more conservative Christianity (if they’re not Christians at, say, a Unitarian Universalist church or some more liberal congregation), they may react strongly and negatively if you come out now. In a way, they have to — in their cosmology, they have no choice. You are their child and it’s their job to “save” you.
They may see your sexuality as a failure of their parentage. They might say it’s the work of evil spirits. They may suggest various ways to resist your desires, including “cures” and Bible camps. Just so you know, all “cures” are fake, disproven, and non-scientific. You are not sick or wrong. If they do any of these horrible things, you must understand that they are done out of love. That doesn’t pardon them, but it may help you understand them. Love takes many forms, even cruelty. It’s still love.
I was 16 — a junior in high school — when my dad walked in my room, angry, and made me tell the truth. The two years that followed made me the person I am now — someone who, for better or worse, runs on a deep, inextinguishable engine of rage. I have rejected not just God but virtually all forms of belief. I didn’t have a choice in coming out, but if I had, I would have waited and kept my parents in the dark until after college. That’s what I suggest you do.
I don’t have much advice on being a gay Christian or how to reconcile those two generally oppositional states of being, but there are many LGBTQ+ Christians our there. You don’t have to give up God. You can find liberal, welcoming churches across the U.S. (which is where I’m assuming you live). Many congregations do not share your church’s beliefs about homosexuality.
[Edit: Shortly after this post was published, a reader sent a message suggesting two helpful organizations: Q Christian offers digital small groups and support for queer Christians. If you’re Canadian, try Generous Space.]
Now, let me be explicit: if you think there’s a real chance you’ll lose everything — including, most importantly, the shelter and financial support provided by your parents — you must wait. This may not be the answer you want, but generations of people like us have had to weigh truth against survival. Your life with your family isn’t forever — you will inevitably leave home (probably pretty soon) — so outness is, for most of us, just a waiting game.
I don’t know how old or geographically isolated you are so I can’t gauge your access to outside support in the event they kick you out — or worse, force you into dangerous (and scientifically disproven) “conversion therapy” or threaten to send you to a “gay cure” camp. Without this information, I can’t suggest actions that might cause physical and/or psychological harm.
If you adamantly want to come out, you have more resources at your disposal than I did. You have the internet (you used it to contact me) — something I didn’t have freely. And you’d be coming out in a vastly different social climate. Public opinion of LGBTQ+ people has shifted since 2008. Since then, we’ve won national marriage equality and have seen more LGBTQ+ representation in media than at any point in history.
Only you can make the final decision, but I must caution that, no matter how you think they’ll react, you can always be wrong. My coming-out was actually worse than I thought it would be, and mine was a dream compared to others’. Have a disaster plan — more on that in a bit.
Coming out is something every LGBTQ+ person must do. But there’s a safety clause to that: only do so if you can take care of yourself in the event that you lose the financial support of your family. If you’re close to “leaving home” age — 18, 19 — you’re old enough to support yourself. College, of course, complicates things. If you have college plans or are currently a student and your parents are even partially footing the bill, wait until you’ve graduated before telling them. One of my college boyfriends had to drop out when he was outed to his parents and they cut his funding.
No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but they’re real. Queer and trans youth make up a disproportionate percentage of homeless youth. Your father, who works at an anti-gay church, likely has negative beliefs about homosexuality — as did mine — and that’s not to be taken lightly. Also, a quick word about that “loophole” for homosexuality: the Christian idea that gay men who simply “resist their urges” are permissible in the eyes of God. This is the same cruel thing I was told and that all generations of gay men have been told. First, it reduces your homosexuality to physical actions, which it’s not. Second, it’s unspeakably cruel. They would deny you affection and intimacy — things people can’t live without.
Remember, you can come out to college friends even if your parents are footing the bill (unless you make the poor choice to go to a college close to home and continue living with them). If you go to college, the sudden freedom will be thrilling, but be smart. They probably track your spending and you don’t want a gay clothing brand or gay porn subscription on your card transaction history. Stay off social media if you can, particularly if you’re friends with folks back home who might talk.
If college is not in the plan, take steps to become financially independent. Whatever you choose, I still suggest coming out to friends before coming out to your family — that’s what most of us do. Sometimes we’re out to our friends for years before telling parents and siblings.
What does a worst-case scenario plan look like? Read my response to your comrade below.
The coming-out period for everyone is rarely easy, even for those of us with liberal, gay-friendly families. But this brief period of life is conquerable and will be overshadowed by the rest of your life as an out, happy queer person. If your family rejects you, you have another family — a much larger one — waiting. Come find us.
I’ve read most of your writings and it has really helped me to better understand my community but I still have one big problem, I have never told anyone I’m gay. I grew up in a very religious household, my father is actually a pastor and since I was little I have been told that homosexuality is wrong.
I want to come out however I don’t think i will be welcomed and I think I will be told that I just need to not act on anything. I have very few connections who are not a part of the church and while I am 18 I am not even close to being financially independent.
I guess what I want to know is how I can come out and be me without becoming isolated and having no one to help me. I know this isn’t the type of message you would typically reply to on your blog but if you could send me an email or something about what you think I should do that would be greatly appreciated.
My love, your message is why I started this blog. You are why it exists.
As you can see, everyone in your situation fears isolation and abandonment. While isolation is relative (there are likely more LGBTQ+ people close to you than you think), abandonment (and worse) is a real threat. Read my reply to your comrade above. I included your messages together so you — and all other queer kids like you — know you’re not alone.
If you think your physical and/or financial safety will be imperiled by coming out, wait. The closet is wrong on every level, but you must weigh it against the real risks of abandonment and abuse. We think we can predict how parents will respond, but religious-fueled reactions are notoriously hard to predict. Fervency appears in people at the strangest times.
The first evidence of homosexuality for many straight people over a certain age came in the ’80s with the outbreak of AIDS, which was followed swiftly by vicious widespread Christian condemnation of gay men. If your parents are late-Boomer or Generation X believers, their perspectives of LGBTQ+ people are almost certainly shaped, to some extent, by that rhetoric and its cultural residue, which has never abated. That rhetoric fueled AIDS panic and inspired rampant violence (and still does). Your parents will invariably associate your sexuality with AIDS and may say terrible things as a result. Be emotionally prepared for this.
A worst-case scenario is if someone hits you, beats you, or threatens to send you to a so-called “conversion therapy” camp. If that happens, you have to leave. Get on a bus. Go to the nearest city.
Do research now so you’re not scrambling if something terrible happens (if you’re accidentally outed — which can happen very easily). Learn where the closest LGBT center is — there’s one in nearly every major city. There are LGBT youth organizations in cities across the country. If you live in a rural, isolated area, learn where the nearest bus stop is. Have a friend with a car you can call in an emergency if you need a ride. Have cash for the fare saved.
Keeping emergency cash is important. You probably don’t have your own debit or credit card and your parents can cut it off the second you walk out the door.
This is important: save the Trevor Project hotline — 1-866-488-7386 — on your phone. It’s a 24-7, non-judgemental suicide hotline for queer youth. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call it — I have.
If all this sounds drastic (it’s not), at least have a friend (ideally a gay one) you can call who knows your situation and has a couch you can crash on.
Here’s the rest of my coming-out story to offer some hope: my parents reacted negatively, but they also paid my way through college and have never stopped supporting me. I was never abandoned, never hit. I have been needlessly harsh in my writing about them, and there are things I’ve written that I wish I could take back. It’s taken me ten years to heal from high school, and in those years, I’ve realized it’s wrong to hold my parents’ one mistake against a lifetime of love and support.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed two complicated, complex people change for the better. In ten years, you will likely see your parents as different people. Age and distance often soften prejudices and force reconciliation. That’s not guaranteed, but it is possible.
My story wasn’t a best-case scenario — a best-case scenario is when your parents, having known you’re gay for years, react with a shrug, and go about their business — but I owe everything to my parents. They’re still Southern Baptists and I’m still gay, and we will likely never understand each other fully. But you can fully love without fully understanding.
Many queer people are estranged from their parents. If that happens, you will find that we become family for each other. And his may be a frightening thought, but you are 18, so you’re legally able to be on your own. They’re effectively free to kick you out. Start working toward financial independence.
Make friends outside the church. I’m tough on Christians because they have a history of using every possible opportunity (bad economy, AIDS) to call for our extinction. Some of your church friends will support you. Many will not.
Do not give up. Life gets better. Stick around for the day when you kiss someone in public and it feels easy and natural and right. Stay for the moment when you’re at a party and everyone around you is gay. That moment is coming — please live to see it.
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