We all know the story. After months or years of living in heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, mind-numbing dread, of living with this dread that even when buried down will reappear time and time again, each and every time you are confronted with the idea… after months or years (or even weeks, or days – it is a dread as deep as your bones and as long as your limbs, not as long the time you live with it), you finally wrangle up the courage to Come Out. To your parents.
No, I haven’t yet. Not quite. I’m getting there (I think). But we know the story.
You finally stutter out, standing in the kitchen clutching your fear into your heart, or scrawl in a trembling hand across the paper that has become that fear, your story, your truth. Mom, Dad, Aunt, Gran… I’m gay. I’m bi. I’m trans. I’m poly, ace, non-binary… And they say “I know.”
They dare to say, to your face, to you, “Yes, I know. I have known. I have always suspected. I was waiting for you.”
They. Fucking. Dare.
For some people, it is perhaps not as enraging, not as infuriating, not as much of a betrayal. For some people, their parents/guardians WERE explicit, to some degree, in acknowledging support for those who are not of typical sexuality or gender experience. All it takes is even one sentence, one comment of “Oh, I’m glad the government has supported [sexuality or gender rights issue here].”
This is not about that. This is about those whose parents, like mine, have never given a single fucking hint, not a single damn clue, that they could be supportive. That they could be not homophobic. They have kept their silence, maybe thinking that silence is better than explicit hate.
Maybe it is better.
But in a society that is heterosexist, that is not good enough. As with any other axis of oppression or discrimination (sexism, racism, classism, cissexism, insert -ism here), the onus is on them, is on everyone to prove that they are not. To prove that they are not heterosexist, or not homophobic, or are at the very damn least working towards the point of not being so.
If you have read my About page, you will realize that I am not out to my family. I am also selectively out in other circumstances – when I was working, I was cautious of such things, and I am not out to members of my church with whom I have church-related interaction.
I am, however, out of the closet in other circumstances. I have been out to my peers at school since high school, though in a fairly low-key fashion. As a general rule I dislike attention and am not particularly attention seeking. I bring it up if relevant and do not hide it in casual conversation or everyday life. At my university I am a member of the executive committee of the LGBTQ support group. I am willing to be, and previously have been, associated with the group. It’s a requirement to be on the exec, actually, that you are comfortable with being openly associated with a Big Queer Group.
I am fine with that. And last year, as the risk loomed of being outed by accident related to the LGBTQ group, I accepted that fact as well. I would much rather my parents be the ones to bring it up. Or to simply have it, in a way, done for me. I can deal, I think, with them finding out second-hand, as it were, via my connection with an organization.
And yet, I do not out myself to my parents. To my cousins. To my aunts or uncles. To people and good friends I have from church (although those who are my age are possibly aware of my “reputation”, such as it was, from school). Why? Why do I hide?