Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
November 11, 2011
When Children Come Out Of The Closet, Parents Go In.
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Un Uncomfortable Quote
We came across this quote:
Sometimes it bothers me, when I see that [my parents are] trying to conceal [my homosexuality] when friends ask them if I have a girlfriend or even a future wife to be [sic]. It’s then when I force the truth on them and “remind” them while notifying their unknowing friends, that I’m as gay as one can possibly be. Whoever can’t understand that, is free to go, I always pointed this out.
We particularly don’t like the phrase: “It’s then when I force the truth on them . . . ,“ but the whole paragraph appears selfish and inconsiderate. This is a young man who came out to his parents after college graduation and after he felt established enough to run the risk. His parents struggled with the reality of having a gay son and remain uncomfortable with it. Apparently, from the paragraph above, they don’t want it broadcast about; they want to stay in the closet themselves until they are comfortable with it. We believe that should be honored.
Coming Out Is A Personal Matter
From the many testimonies we have heard over the years, we know how difficult it is for an LGBT person to come out. We hear stories that not coming out is easier than coming out until a serious relationship develops, then it becomes difficult to be unable to bring him or her home. Some people have reasons not to come out. A South Asian lesbian does not want to come out to her dad because “. . . he is older and I don’t know how long I’ll still have him.” That, which she leaves unsaid speaks volumes. Others must come out: “I couldn’t stand it any more. I had to come out, because without it I couldn’t be a whole person.” We learned that the decision finally to do come out is personal because the reasons for the apprehension are personal. And we also learned that nobody comes out on behalf of an LGBT person; you don’t out anybody.
When Children Come Out Of The Closet, Parents Go In
Coming out is not just a one-way street. Parents also have a coming out process. While we can only infer from testimony how difficult it sometimes is for LGBT children to come out, we have firsthand knowledge of how difficult it is for parents. When our son told us he was gay, we had an immediate sense of failure, we are bad parents, we failed. And right after that: what would our family say, our friends, our colleagues? They would all think we were bad parents. When we first told John’s mother that she had a gay grandson, her admonition was to love him regardless, but not to tell anybody. John has a lesbian sister and a gay uncle, but their sexual preference is the elephant in any conversation or gathering. We were, and most parents are, creatures of a culture, of a value system that is totally clueless about homosexuality and when it comes home, all is confusion. There is the shame of having a gay son, the fear of losing friends, the trepidation of family judgments.
Parents Need Time To Stay In That Closet: To Learn, To Understand, To Accept
Just as LGBT children want to decide by themselves when and whom to tell about their sexual preferences, so parents want to decide when to tell family and friends of a child who does not fit one of the more cherished societal norms. And just as there are LGBT children who will never come out, so are there parents who will never tell. But neither side of this equation should one side decide for the other to tell.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org