The Hook Up: Small town homophobia and hopelessness

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I’m about to start my third year of university, and this summer I came back to my hometown to work. I’m out to everyone in my new city, and to my brother and parents at home. The plan is to come out to the rest of my extended family right before I go back to school in the fall. My parents really aren’t dealing well—my dad hasn’t talked about it since I came out to them seven months ago, and my mom practically cries whenever she talks to me for any length of time—and I come from a very small, at times homophobic, community. The problem is, I have a job here that I like a lot, and my boss (who knows that I’m gay and is totally cool with it) offered me a raise and whatever schedule I want if I were to come home and work for him again next summer.

Being more or less back in the closet for the summer has really taken its toll on me, and I don’t expect being out in my community will be any more fun, but this job is a really great opportunity and I couldn’t ask for a better boss or working environment. I know this might seem like an easy choice, but I know how hard it is to get a job that you actually like doing, let alone a great boss and reasonable hours. So, do I come “home” one last time, or try to start fresh in my new (LGBT-friendly) city?

Anna says: If you like your job, which you seem to a great deal, I don’t see why it’s not worth sticking out for a few months before heading back to your other life in your other city, where I presume people aren’t bursting into tears at the mere suggestion of your gayness. So yes, earn some money with your flexible schedule and awesome-sounding boss— hopefully it’s a full-time position—and if it turns out your small town is really truly awful and unbearable and soul-destroying, then console yourself with the thought that summer is only a few months long and pretty soon you’ll be back in more gay-friendly climes (and with hella scrilla lining the pockets of your lesbian-approved indigenous pantsuit).

Plenty of people throw themselves into their work in order to avoid unpleasant home lives. You can do it too, sugar shoes! Just don’t make it a lifelong habit, please.

If you feel like taking another swing at talking with your mom and dad, I’d do so. Silence and near-crying make for uncomfortable living situations, and, I mean, maybe you can help them along with some solid lesbian processing. You don’t need to be like, “Mom, Dad, I’m going to be munching a lot of rug in the coming years and I need you to support that,” but you do need to be honest with them about how being semi-closeted is making you unhappy, and also to maybe remind your mom there are far more tragic things in the world to shed tears over than your interest in girls (like the royal baby being born a boy, for instance. All those cute princess dress fantasies, GONE).

It’s possible your fam is simply still going through the initial freak-out period that most everyone goes through. They might need more time to deal, and there’s not much you can do about that besides being true to yourself and your happiness.

After I answered last week’s question about the questioner’s mom having a hard time accepting her queerness, I remembered a talk I had with my own mom a decade ago. She told me that she didn’t have a problem with me being gay, but that she did worry it would make my life harder, and she feared that I would be more vulnerable to hate, intolerance, and discrimination. I’d never thought of it that way, that her fears might have little to do with accepting my sexuality and far more to do with shielding me from the ugliness of the world. It’s something I’ve come to think of as a distinctly mom-like concern, though it could apply to anyone you feel protective of. And, of course, ugliness is everywhere. We can’t escape it, not even the straightest, richest, whitest dude in the world can. Besides, the worse ugliness for me would come from living a lie, from denying the part of myself that felt most true.

Having that talk with my mom gave me some much-needed perspective, and also forced me to cut her some slack when she didn’t immediately embrace the latest queer theory revelation I was having every other day as a newly out 20-year-old. And it made me realize that we’re all struggling to feel right in the world, even though we might express it in ways not easily understood. Good luck.

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