Coming out is an incredibly scary idea for many, but it is even scarier when you have to tell your parents. The fear of impending doom that you might be rejected by your parents is crippling and leads to many people not coming out for years. Sadly, when some people come out, their parents do not react well. There are many reasons for this, and this guide will help you to understand why they may have responded this way.
REASONS FOR A BAD REACTION
THEY MAY HAVE OPINIONS WHICH AREN’T NECESSARILY WHAT THEY THINK
Depending on our upbringing, we learn certain points of views and opinions from our parents, wider family and community, religion, and friends. As this could be all we know when growing up, we may not be exposed to, or develop an opinion that is different to this. Also, these opinions may not represent what we actually think, but what we have learned from our role models.
Before I came out, my father said, “I don’t agree with gay people”. Therefore, I delayed coming out to him for years because of crippling fears that stemmed from this one comment. However, it is now clear to me that this opinion was due to his strict upbringing, and the reality is that he is very accepting. So, if your parents react badly, consider that their reaction may be based on opinions which aren’t what they actually think; it’s just how they were raised.
THEY MAY FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE LOST THEIR CHILD
As being heterosexual is often assumed, a parent may consider this to be a core aspect of their child’s identity. So, when they find out that their child isn’t straight as they had assumed, this can lead to a crisis; an initial ‘rejection’ from them and may be why the parent(s) could say something like “You are not my child anymore”.
To the person that comes out, this is absolutely the last thing they want to hear. Coming out is such a vulnerable moment, and all you want is to feel secure and supported when you’re doing something that scary.
THEY WERE NOT EXPECTING IT
Some parents may already have an idea that their child is not heterosexual, for example, they may have found messages on your phone to a boyfriend / girlfriend before you came out to them. Therefore, this gives them time to process the information which can make for a smoother coming out experience. However, some parents may have no idea that their child is not straight, and therefore, this does not give them the time they may need to process the information.
As a result, this could lead to the parents reacting badly due to shock. This does not mean that they do not agree with you not being heterosexual, but that they were simply not expecting it. This could, in turn, lead to them saying things they do not mean.
TOP TIPS FOR A BAD REACTION
It is of course entirely normal to want a positive reaction to your coming out immediately – you absolutely deserve to be accepted for who you are, but sadly this does not always happen. There are many reasons why you might not get the reaction you wanted, as described above.
It is important to give them time to process the information and come to terms with it. It is best to leave your parents to it when this happens – it’s likely that they need some time to themselves.
HAVE AN OPEN DISCUSSION
Keep this as calm and mature as possible. Your parents may have questions about your sexuality, and they could be asking them because they are worried about you and they have little or no knowledge about different sexualities. It is important to answer all questions honestly (as long as they are respectful and relevant and you feel comfortable answering). It is also important to ask why they had a bad reaction to your sexuality and to state the reasons why. This could help them to clear their mind and rationalise their thoughts.
TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST
As your parents may be taking time to deal with their emotions over you coming out, they may be emotionally unavailable and caught up in their reaction while you naturally may want to talk about your feelings. It is really important for you to access support, but it may be better to do this with someone else other than your parents. This can help to give them the space they need to deal with their emotions which could result in them reacting positively sooner.
It is worth noting that parents often feel guilt and regret for a very long time for reacting the way they did and may want to discuss this with you.
In an ideal world, parents (and indeed, everyone) would react positively and want to celebrate you sharing this with them.
If that doesn’t happen then remember that any negative reaction from parents to their child coming out has a lot more to do with them than you. In other words, their reaction is not your fault, and you should not feel ashamed. You are being exactly who you were always meant to be.
The article was written by a Ditch the Label support mentor.