My parents see only the hardship that comes with being gay in America. Maybe that’s a protective parenting instinct, but it feels as if they don’t see my bisexuality. They don’t know or understand that I cried myself to sleep many nights, sick with anxiety and worry …
Feelings are essential information, but they shouldn’t be confused with facts.
I’m a far-left Democrat, agnostic, psychiatrist. I write about and advocate for LGBTQ people all the time. All of that, and I still went through some of what your parents are going through when an immediate member of my family came out early this summer.
Oh, did I mention, I am also gay? I wrote about my own struggle in FINALLY OUT.
I’ve been with my partner for thirty-three years, married to him since the time it became legal. We’re as accepted by our family as much as anyone could hope.
But, yes, I feel sad and protective. I know some about the pain that my family member may experience. At times I have hoped it would be “just a phase,” “an act of rebellion,” “a swing of a sexual pendulum.”
I don’t reject my family member or their life. I don’t want to hover and over-protect them.
But just like you, your parents have feelings, some they may not even like to discover in themselves. You’ve thought about it for a long time; it’s all new to them.
But people who love you must grieve. They will need to let go of the dreams they had for you and replace them with new hopes for you.
Do they and I ever wish I were straight? Of course, we do. Life might have been a lot easier for everyone in many ways. Some real advantages come to those who live a hetero-normative life. That is a fact.
I can imagine my family went through this same process when I came out at age forty. I believe they came to feel peace with it when they began to understand the pain I had before I came out and the joy and freedom I felt afterward. Their acceptance accelerated, I’m sure when they met and loved my husband.
The last thing I said to my family member following a recent visit was, “Give your parents some time.”
I guess I was asking them to give me some time, too. I’m not yet ready to celebrate this even though I can rejoice in the fact that they are taking charge of their own life and living authentically.
Did I want this for them? No. Will I love them and respect their choice? Of course. I hope this unfolds for them the way my own life has for me.
But I’m just not ready to celebrate.
Give your parents time, more time than you think you should need to give them. You will be able to forgive them once you learn to understand and accept their pain and feelings of loss as valid.
You can help them understand what it had been like for you by telling them about the nights you cried yourself to sleep. I feel confident they would not want you to go back to that.
Give them some time. Shed some tears together.