When Coming Out: Know Yourself, Know Your Parents.
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on October 6th, 2011

6Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

October 6, 2011

When Coming Out: Know Yourself, Know Your Parents.


An important feature of the workshops we conduct for LGBT people is a question for the participants: “In coming out to your parents what kind of support do you think you need, or, if you are already out, what kind of support did you use?” Over time the answers we collected aren’t all that different from workshop to workshop. But a participant at one workshop surprised us by asking why come out at all? That brought on a lively discussion, and we learned of reasons not to come out. The anticipation of rejection born out by too many actual cases is a real fear. Other reasons were voiced: reluctance to disappoint parents, desire to protect parents from shame, unwillingness to add to parents’ burden providing a future for their children, and “my parents don’t speak English well and I don’t speak [insert an Asian language here].”

Our workshops are based on an LGBT person’s desire to come out. Being closeted is a difficult existence and when a partner enters into the situation, it becomes more difficult still. Testimonies we collected here point toward a desire “to be a whole person and share all of my life.” We began to ask: “If you are out to your parents, why did you decide to come out and what support did you use? If you are not out to your parents, do you think you eventually would want to and what support do you think you’ll need?” Guess what? Over time the answers to either question began to merge. The obstacles for not wanting to come out are by and large the same as the obstacles to coming out. In retrospect, we slapped our foreheads because it should have been obvious, but we learned one important lesson: the decision to come out is personal. We can collect all the testimony we want, distill strategies and variations on those strategies and fill up several forests worth of paper, but in the end the decision to tell parents is personal, intensely so. “My parents are very religious and they are not in good health; I don’t want to lose them now,” is a good reason for a barrier to remain a barrier.

We also conduct workshops for parents of LGBT children. Of course, these are parents who want to understand their new reality; these are not parents who outright reject their LGBT child. One lesson we learned in those workshops is that parents want, and in some cases need, to accept their child. They have a responsibility that they cannot and don’t want to escape. “What happens to my child when I reject him? A child needs his family, otherwise they’d be alone.” The API tenet of the centrality of family in life is an asset. We remember the passionate plea to LGBT children of one parent who had come a ways in the difficult journey: “Give your parents credit for what they can do and are willing to do!” We also learned that parents need time.

When LGBT children want to come out and plan a strategy for doing so, there are many things we can advise and one of them is: know yourself and trust yourself, but equally important, know you parents and give them time.


Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org


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