I came out as “bisexual” to my friends and family about two years ago, before I was fully ready to come to terms with my sexual orientation. I come from a very religious Christian family, so coming out wasn’t exactly the easiest task, and I thought that if I told my parents I was bisexual, rather than 100% gay, that they would be a little more accepting of me, but boy was I wrong! My mom tried so hard to get me to “purge” my same-sex feelings, and she even tried setting me up with some guys from my church in hopes that I would somehow change my preferences. She and some of the other people in my church kept shoving all of the stereotypical “gay people go to Hell” and “God doesn’t make people gay” speeches down my throat, and it put me in a really bad place for a long time. It got to the point where I was so desperate to please my parents, that I started fooling around with a guy to try to force myself to be interested in him.
The only thing I got out of that experience was the realization that I am, indeed, 100% gay, and I feel like if I don’t get my parents—specifically my mom—to accept me as I am, then I’m going to live the rest of my life alone. Somehow, because of my mom, and because of some other people in my family and the church, I’ve managed to push myself back into the closet, and I’m now more miserable than ever. How am I ever going to be comfortable with another woman if all I ever hear is my mom’s constant rejection buzzing around in my head?
Anna says: I’m so sorry you’re going through this. And I’m sorry your family and members of your church are saying horrible, untrue things about queer people in your presence. Not being accepted by people we love is a particular kind of devastation, one that they don’t really prepare you for in Coming Out 101. I want to internet-pat you on the back for coming out at all in such a difficult situation—having liberal, godless parents made my own coming out easier—and to tell you even if your mom doesn’t accept you for who you are, you’re not going to live the rest of your life alone.
Lots of queer people have contentious relationships with their families (and friends and bosses and that one particularly judgmental Starbucks barista). You don’t say how old you are, but if you’re old enough to move out of your parents’ house, please do it. It’s hard enough to be and love who you are when the people around you wish you were somebody else, that they could change you, or that they can “pray away the gay.” Lots of queer people, for this reason, make their own families. Their “chosen family” as they’re often called. Because you can’t change the clan you’re born into, but you can choose not to be around people who are hateful or wish to annihilate you for existing.
As I’ve said before, coming out is a lifelong process. It does get better, as Dan Savage says in his popular campaign. But a big part of the reason it gets better is because we make it better ourselves. It gets better when we surround ourselves with as many good friends and good people as possible. It gets better when we stop putting up with other people’s bigotry and start telling the truth about ourselves instead of pretending to be what others want us to be.
And I know it’s awful, but you can’t keep pretending to be straight (or even bisexual) in order to placate your family. Doing so will, as you’ve already seen, just make you miserable. People are entitled to their religious beliefs, of course, but not to use them to tear other people down. That’s called oppression and it has nothing to do with Jesus. I urge you to come out again (and again, as many times as is necessary), not just so your mom will stop playing matchmaker (though that’s a part of it) but because you owe it to yourself.
By telling the truth about your queerness, you might lose your family’s approval, but your emotional and spiritual well-being are far more important in the long run, I assure you. A friend puts it more bluntly: “Speaking from experience, if you sit around waiting for a super-religious mother to come around, you’ll be waiting until the Second Coming. You have to proactively choose to limit and/or separate yourself. It’s not worth it otherwise. Accept that she isn’t going to change.” If your mom/family doesn’t come around (and they very well might. Sometimes it takes people a while to reconcile their religious beliefs with their own humanity) there are so many other people out there who will love and appreciate you as you are. I encourage you to seek them out. They might be in the form of a youth group or an online forum, a girlfriend, a tolerant job, a queer-friendly church, or any number of allies.
Telling your truth means not letting other people define or erase you. It may not seem like it but you have a tremendous power. You are in charge of your own destiny. Other people may try to condemn you for it (I mean, hey, Jesus was crucified by an angry mob, remember?), but they can’t stop you from living or loving who you love. This isn’t to say you should banish your family from your life forever, but the more distance you can give yourself right now, the better. And please stop attending that church.