To come out, or not to come out

I’ve known I’ve liked girls since I was twelve years old. In fact, I knew I liked girls “that way” long before I was certain that I even liked boys. But, this isn’t something I’ve ever been all that comfortable admitting to. Lots of gays and lesbians have been friends of the family over the years and they’ve always been embraced with open arms, but there’s a quiet sort of pity that I’ve disliked. My family accepts and loves them in the same, patronizing way they might accept and love a three-legged dog. “Poor dears, they can’t help it” would probably sum it up fairly well. And, my mother has said often enough that she doesn’t get why gays have to push their personal lives in her face. She doesn’t feel that coming out is necessary. She finds it offensive. Don’t tell her about your sex life! Straight people don’t do that!

So, obligingly, I haven’t told her. I’ve dated women, but there’s never been anything remarkably serious and so I’ve kept it quiet enough. Most of my friends in college knew. Now that I’ve graduated college and moved away from Anything Goes Las Vegas to Small Town USA, I’ve had a pretty remarkably dismal love life and so it’s been an entirely moot point. All of the friends I’ve made over the past few years are unaware of my interest in women. Most of them don’t say anything blatant, but they’ll occasionally make comments about being made uncomfortable by lesbians and so I figure they’d have a hard time dealing with the fact that I’m bisexual and no, really, I don’t want to molest them.

There was a girl I’d met that I rather liked and who seemed to be hinting at the same sorts of feelings, but she backed off pretty quickly, so I didn’t push and lived in terror for a few hours that I’d soon be known as the village dyke. Nothing like that happened and I felt silly for having worried so much.

But, now I’m finally, finally getting a writing gig. It’s something I need desperately, since my current day job is looking really awful and uncertain and any extra bit of cash will help. The column I’ll be writing is on LGBT issues. I can use a pen name. Nobody ever has to know it’s me.


I am so sick of saying nobody has to know. It’s nobody’s business. I don’t want to trouble anyone else. Why is it trouble? Why is it offensive? Why am I twenty-six years old and terrified to just be myself? My co-workers and friends tell me about their sex lives constantly. I can spout off the contraceptive method used by nearly every woman I know. I’m shown pictures of people’s kids and invited to weddings and every last bit of it is a reminder that straight people are screwing.

So I’m not using a pen name. I’ve told my mother the magazine I’ll be published in. I’m left sitting here wondering, do I let her figure it out for herself or tell her first? She’s said over and over again, all of my life, that she thinks “coming out” is offensive, but it still seems like it’d be an asshole move on my part to not warn her. Then again, it seems almost as if she’s willfully ignorant at this point. She knows the magazine, she knows I’m writing about gay topics. She’s told me, that’s okay, a straight woman can write about LGBT issues and not be stigmatized. :dubious:

It’d be really, hysterically funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.

Don’t do anything today!

Wait until Thursday.

It sounds like your mother is in denial. Furthermore, if she finds coming out offensive I can only conclude that deep-down she is just not comfortable about homosexuality.

I think you have to tell her though, what with the column coming out and all you really seem to have little choice. I’m not gay so I can’t say I’ve been in your shoes, but I did have to tell my devout mom that I don’t believe in God and she was really hurt by that, but she got over it. Love conquers all.

It’s a tough process. Though I don’t believe I fit into the LGBT spectrum (though I will concede that I spent some time covertly admiring a certain fellow trainee’s ass in the boot camp showers–hey, a great ass is a great ass), I’ve been there for friends who have come out, and it’s almost never easy. I think it only gets harder as you move away from places like coastal California or Las Vegas where people are more accepting of it. You’ve already shown a lot of courage by using your real name in the magazine and telling your mom about it. Where I think your mom is missing the mark is: coming out isn’t just telling someone about your sex life. In our society, being LGBT is about your entire identity, for better or for worse. People look at you differently, people talk to you differently, people think about you differently. And since such strong emotions are tied up in it, it can be like telling fundamentalist parents that you worship Loki.

It sounds like it’s important to you that your mother knows this part of who you are, and, more importantly, accepts you as a person–not a “disabled” person. Maybe it could help for you to tell her just that: that you’re not trying to push your sex life into her mind, you’re just telling her who you are, and you’re looking for her support.

It sounds to me like you’re right and your mom is living in willful ignorance.

I’m straight, so take my advice with a grain of never-had-to-do-it-herself salt, but I’d tell her. I’m assuming that your column is not going to make any bones about being bi*? If so, if there’s ever any chance that she’ll pick up the magazine, then you have already come out, she just hasn’t been notified yet.

*Err… bi is assumed, since you mentioned boys.

Aw this sucks. Even with TV shows and gay celebs and (a little bit of) progress in terms of legal rights, no girl’s ever had to sit her parents down and say: ‘Mom, Dad, I love dick.’ Well, maybe a porn star or two… But seriously, it sucks that this is still a big issue for most Americans.

I’m not sure what advice to give. Most of my gay friends have gone one of two routes: the coming out or lving life ‘incidentally gay.’ For the former there were no big parties or anything but most did feel a huge sense of relief, whatever their parents’ response (sometimes surprising e.g. conservatives being okay with it, liberals being saddened, or the all-too-common beating within an inch of their life. Yes, it still happens, but hooray for Will & Grace). The latter only brought it up when mentioning a new partner, or a gay club they’d been to, or while discussing gay rights. They acted as if everyone assumed they were gay already (and, often, their parents knew already deep down). Some got a one-on-one talk later on, often from Mom, with a ‘We sort of guessed…’ opener.

Whatever you choose to do, know that you are not alone. There are tons of coming out books and stories online. Some sad, some funny, many relatable to even the straightest folk. I also highly recommend Dan Savage’s column and podcast. he gets questions like yours every few weeks.

It sounds like you want to come out. I’d go so far as to suggest that people who are close to you already know, and it would be a relief to both you and them to just have things out in the open and quit ignoring the elephant in the room.

I say this in light of the fact that we’ve suspected my brother was gay for years. He’d gone through a rough time lately (depression, dropping out of school, etc.) and had moved back home. My mother was so tired of all the secrecy that in the middle of an argument, she blurted out, “If the reason you’re being so sneaky and secretive is because you’re afraid that your father and I will find out you’re gay, don’t bother. We already know.”
He asked her how long she knew. She said since he was about 4 or 5yrs old. He said she knew before he knew himself.

That was only a few months ago, but the pressure in the family is measurably less. My brother is relieved, and now instead of sneaking off and disappearing for entire weekends he can admit that he’s shacking up with his boyfriend. We’re prepared for a little backlash from certain jerk relatives, but that’s their problem. Besides, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I’m amazed at (and a little sorry for) the people who can stay closeted their whole lives.

Come out to her, quietly, during a one-to-one chat at her place, so she blow off steam without feeling exposed to the public–or bounded by the restrictions of being a guest at your place. Emphasize that you love her and care about her opinion of you, but be firm that this is who you are, and it’s not changing.

Whatever happens, you have my support and deepest best wishes. If you need to vent / talk / etc., my email’s in my profile.

There is a difference (in my personal opinion, with which you are more than welcome to disagree) in “coming out” and “being open.” Coming out implies that you have been hiding something and it’s some big announcement – “hey, look at me, I’m gay!” Being open is more like “sure, I’m gay, you didn’t realise that before?”

Unless you think your mother would be more shocked/angry/hurt/offended to find out on her own, then I would just let it happen. I would say “by the way, mom, the topic I will be covering is considered a bit controversial to some people” if I was at all concerned that she would be bothered by the realisation. That would open the floor for open discussion without being one of those “coming out” situations.

I am bisexual and have always been pretty open about it, but never “came out” I guess I just kind of assumed people who knew me knew I have recently found out though that my best friend all through high school and most of my young adult life had no clue. When my husband mentioned it in passing to said friend, friend looked at me and went “huh?” :eek: He just never noticed.

All that having been said, I am with your mom in a way that “coming out” is a bit offensive*. Heterosexuals don’t usually feel the need to shout “I’m straight and proud of it” – now, they also haven’t faced the same discriminations, but still. It’s just one of those things – if you don’t want to hear about your cow-orkers’ sex lives, tell them so.

*offensive used in place of a better word – not offensive as in “how disgusting” but more like “so? why do I need to know this?” I feel the same way about people who want to radomly tell me about their heterosexual encounters.

Not quite the same thing. Advertising and most TV/movies pretty much reinforce that being heterosexual is the norm and heterosexual sex is great and should be pursued at all costs. Every day is Hetero Pride Day.

Litoris said what I was thinking, with regard to “coming out” vs. “living your life.”
I did the former in the form of a letter to my dad when I was 19. For the rest of my family and friends, it was/is pretty much the latter.
I much prefer the ‘non-confrontational’ way.