Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coming Out

There comes a time in every gay person’s life when the claustrophobia and social isolation of the proverbial pink closet becomes too much and you need to step into the sunshine as the fabulous and authentic person you are. A time when you no longer can deny your true nature and the truth needs to be revealed. This experience can be daunting, exhilarating, traumatic and cathartic. All openly gay individuals have their own unique coming out stories and this is mine.
On an autumn Sunday afternoon at the tender age of 16 I decided to step out of the closet. After Sunday lunch I decided to break the news to my utterly unprepared family. My decision to do so was threefold: Firstly I have known that I was gay probably since the age of 6 (I kissed my first boy at that age); Secondly I was growing tired of having to make up lies about why I do not have a steady girlfriend; and Thirdly I no longer wanted to have to lie about the true nature of my “friendships” with certain boys.

I was considerate enough not to drop the bomb during lunch. I didn’t want to spoil the meal or cause anyone to choke on their food and having the family drama spill over to the emergency room. During the washing up the words every parent fear left my lips “Mom… Dad… I am gay…” It was received with a cold silence and a shocked pause. I remember my mother slowly turning around while loosing her grip of a plate that shattered into pieces on the floor much like my heterosexual future she had envisaged for me. In a slow, controlled and slightly strained voice she asked me to repeat myself hoping for a different outcome. “I am gay…” I hesitantly said again. The room flooded with tension, disillusioned stares where exchanged between my sister and father while my mother’s eyes were burning holes through me. In her eyes I could see the death of her imagined grandchildren and the perfect daughter-in-law. Without saying a word she left the kitchen, went to the master bedroom and sobbed behind a locked door for the remainder of the day. My father visibly distraught by my revelation later sat me down and told me that he had always suspected that I was gay. He explained that the gay lifestyle wasn’t what he wanted for me, but if this is what I am he would try to accept it, but it wasn’t going to be easy. My sister was fine with the fact that I am gay, apart from the sex part which “grossed her out”.

The next day at school I was unexpectedly called to the principal’s office. On arrival I found my mother waiting for me. Being in an all boy school, my first thought was that my parents are going to pull me out of school as instead of the testosterone fuelled environment “butching” me up I still became gay. As things turned out she was fetching me to go see a psychologist. After several sessions (10 to be exact) with a slightly homophobic therapist he unenthusiastically revealed to my parents that I was indeed gay and it wasn’t a phase. I remember my mother breaking down, wanting to know from the therapist what she and my dad did wrong causing me to be this way. The fears they had were also revealed: Was I going to get Aids? Am I going to start wearing woman’s clothes or even get a sex change? In retrospect, I guess I can’t blame their ignorance as they never had much exposure to gay people and the stereotypes about the gay community were all they knew. After the therapist explained to them with great compassion that the majority of their fears where unfounded and that they in all probability didn’t cause my homosexuality, their guilt reluctantly started to dissipate over the years to come.

Then the religious issues surfaced. How to be a good Christian and deal with your child being gay? Are you allowed to love your gay son who is condemned to hell by the Church? At this point both my parents had started to accept the fact that I am gay, but both were in denial regarding me being sexually active. You see being gay was not technically viewed as a sin, by them, as long as I didn’t practice the lifestyle. Unfortunately, my mother was yet again due for a rude awakening when she forgot something at home on her way to work. Returning home she walked in on me and my then boyfriend in the heat of passion. She almost died 20 deaths and my boyfriend was expelled from the house and remained in exile for 2 months. I am sure both my parents spend an extra couple of hours in prayer that evening.

When I met my now husband I had been out of the closet for just over 5 years. Both my parents, by this time, had accepted my sexual orientation and lifestyle. They have almost come to view it as “normal” and I was no longer the source of family shame or the result of their souls’ condemnation. My family welcomed my husband into our family with open arms, as he was the equivalent of the perfect “daughter-in-law”, so to speak. Unfortunately, at that time he was still in the closet to his family. After a couple of months, I ushered him out of the closet as I didn’t feel comfortable dating a guy and having to lie to his parents. I gave my husband the opportunity to exit the closet on his own time and on his own terms. He came out to his family in a restaurant. Always a good idea as drama will be limited and he went with his own car for an easy exit. After coming out and the truth about our relationship was revealed, I was banned from my husband’s parents home for 3 years, but he was still allowed to see me. After 11 years his parents too have grown to accept my husband and me for who we are and our relationship for what it is. They now treat me like a son. It wasn’t easy for them either, and like all parents I am sure their hearts were broken at first when the son they had didn’t turn out to be what they had wished for.

Coming out of the closet is different for everyone. We all have different families and friends who react in different ways. Coming out is a rebirth and it can be a painful experience for all involved. Those of us who are lucky have family and friends who understand that even though we are gay and live a different lifestyle we remain the persons we were before we exited the closet. They love us just the same and wish us happiness and true love as they do everyone else. I have a lot of respect for families and friends of gay people who support their gay children and peers. They are the unsung heroes who should also be celebrated. As both my family and that of my husband have come to realize, having a gay child and brother is not the end of the world. We can still make them proud and live healthy, constructive and happy lives. This month I have been out of the closet for 16 years and am still proud, queer and here!
Till next time.

Prayers for Bobby- Trailer
True story of Mary Griffith, gay rights crusader, whose teenage son committed suicide due to her religious intolerance. Based on the book of the same title by Leroy Aarons. Stars Sigourney Weaver.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your comming out story. It was very touching and so like others. I will post mine as well. We all need to hear these stories and never forget that children everywhere in the work from South Florida to South Africa still stuggle with this dificult but necesary task... Cheers to you and your Husband!!!

Anonymous said...

In 2003 i paid a visit to my mother in PR. I went with a heavy heart because my grandpa had just died and she needed my moral support. After about two months, i told her i had to return to London and take of some business and that I had something to tell her. That is when i told her i was gay. she cried for what seemed like forever. She told me that she never wanted to see me again and that I was disowned. I started crying on the way to San Juan airport to fly back to London.

Anonymous said...

my mom had her own child day care centre, when i was 19, my best friend got invovled with an ex husband of one of my moms clients, things got ugly and he threaten me by saying if i dont leave his girlfriend {my bestfriend} alone he will tell my parents what he knows about me, being the person that i am i told him you will not blackmail me, i went home told my mom we need to talk, i started of all sweet and had this whole speach planned but my mom had her own planned and before i could come out to her, she said 'my dear boy i know you are gay, have for a while and im so glad you finally decided to let me into your life in that way, i still love you like before and you are still my hearts point, you just need to tell your dad as well'. I told my dad and up until today the only thing he said was 'just go to church and pray,. My gran was the first who i told about 6 months before my parent, she recently passed away, it has been 10years since my coming out and im currently in a relationship of 6years and things are just so great, my whole family and all my friends know now and i can thank God that i have all of there support and love and encouragement, telling my parents and family just made the bond between us so much stronger.

Anonymous said...

thank you Pierre, its just so sad like you said about so many gay children getting kicked out of their family and homes for being what they are that should be classified as a big sin according to be

nursemyra said...

I knew my son was gay from a very early age but had to wait for ages for him to tell me. Finally when he was 16, he came home with a new haircut one day and asked for my opinion I said "I like it. It makes you look rather gay. Is that the look you're aiming for?"

I have two sons, one gay and one straight. I love them both with all my heart. this is what I'd like to say to all women: "If you're going to have children, try and have at least one that's gay. The world needs less war and more pink :-)

this is not a plug for my blog or for my son but you can check him out here if you're interested.... (not that I'm pimping him, he's got a lovely boyfriend already)

http://www.jakekilby.com/home.html

PS: I found your blog while I was voting for a friend of mine on best SA blogs. Good luck with yours.

Pierre said...

nursemyra, thanks for your lovely comment ;-)

Anonymous said...

thats great! i came out to my parents 4 yrs. ago, and my father slightly accepts me for who i am, even though he sometimes wonders how i could be gay without showing any indication of it whatsoever, my mother outright does not accept me at all, the very mention of me being gay causes an uproar, she is a catholic all her life and has never had any contact with gays, so this is something she cannot/ will not accept, therefore, our relationship continues to be strained, my sister (like your story) accepts me for who i am, but doesn't want to know anything about sex. i'm glad that my father kind of accepts me because at least i have some kind of support rather than nothing at all, as for my mother, we barely coexist, and i'm not sitting here waiting for her to come 'round, i'm moving on with my life.

Jason Shaw said...

Beautiful piece. Touching, honest and expressive. Thanks as always for sharing.

Femme on a Mission said...

You're life should be a movie! I can't believe your mom actually shattered a plate when you came out!

Thanks for sharing.. Funny and touching!

Pierre said...

@Jason Shaw, thanks Jason.

@Femme on a Mission, thanks. My mom was dramatic like that! Bless her soul.

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