Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
March 18, 2011
It’s Not Just How You Come Out, but Also Whom You Come Out To.
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Everybody Has Questions
We participate in a series of seminars on fund raising for nonprofit organizations. The seminar has been going on for a while and we all know each other pretty well. During the seminar we often form teams and during the last one we teamed with two people from two other nonprofits. The assigned task for which the team was formed was completed in record time and talk turned to what we do. One member of our team has a lesbian sister living in Mexico. She is out to her parents and siblings, but not to her grandmother. The question at first was: “How do you tell your grandmother?” but then turned into into: “Who should tell the grandmother, the lesbian sister or the mother?”
We Can Help . . .
We conduct a workshop on coming out. The information for the workshop comes from studies, interviews, and anecdotes collected over the years. So, for example, we say that API LGBTs hesitate to come out because they fear disappointing their parents, losing their love, getting kicked out or being ignored and silenced. Parents, on the other hand, are often confused and hurt when their child comes out to them. We know we were, we had no clue, and until our son sent us literature, we did not know where to get a clue. Our workshop talks about obstacles, strategies to overcome the obstacles, and we even have a small section on whom to come out to. Coming out to parents is usually a top priority, but we know that coming out to friends, siblings, cousins, or aunties may be easier at first and satisfying for a while. We have anecdotes where coming out to parents took years, where parents accepting also took years. Then too, we know people who never intend to come out.
. . . But You Make the Final Decision
Coming out is intensely personal and so is whom you come out to. All the ‘lessons learned’ of our workshop are generalizations from other people, not you. We have feedback that indicates that our workshop helps, but in the end the decision when, how, and to whom to come out belongs to you. If coming out to your parents seems daunting, start slow and prepare. Get to know yourself: how do you deal with conflict, what are or aren’t you comfortable with, how do you communicate, how do you react under pressure, how do you relate to other people. Prepare yourself for the inevitable questions that will come your way. Ask other LGBTs who are out to their parents what some of these questions are, or you can contact us. Finally, build a solid support network of people whom you trust, who are willing to listen and who love you for who you are. We have a friend who became active in our little nonprofit and so built her community. After awhile, she introduced her parents to other API parents with LGBT children just to show that they were not alone. All that took a couple of years and she told us it was difficult, but in the end she got her family back.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org.