I am a 16-year-old boy who was recently forced out of the closet. My mother asked me if I saw a future with a woman, I did not respond because I did not want to lie anymore, and I have regretted my silence ever since. My family is a strict Catholic and Republican household. I am the youngest of five nearly perfect siblings and I attend a all-male boarding school. So when my mother found out that I "might" be gay, we immediately had a conversation. She let me know that she and my father will always love me and never give up on me, but that they will never accept this. She kept asking me, "How do you know? You have never been with a girl. Maybe you're confused." And I agreed that I am confused. (Even though I'm pretty sure that I am not.) I said anything and everything to make the conversation stop.
All this happened back in April and now I am home from school and have found out that she told my dad. They are spinning this from a completely religious point of view and have been giving me lots of "Catholic Boy Guilt." But part of the problem is that I am still saying that I am confused and not ready to talk about anything FOR A WHILE. After the conversation with my Dad putting the religious spin on the situation, I am definitely confused. My whole life I have always worked to please my parents and I never want to disappoint them, but I cannot deny the sexual attractions I have towards men. Also in the conversation including my dad, my mom seriously thinks that the devil is inside me and tempting me. (It was extremely hard to keep a straight face and not laugh.) My parents are extremely stubborn but I know that they come from a kind-hearted place. They just have views that disapprove of me and how I want to live my life. I told my parents that this is not a choice, my mother said that it is a choice to act upon my feelings. My dad thinks that it is easier to hook up with men than women, and that I want to take the easier route.
I am still religious, not hardcore or anything. I pray, believe in God and Jesus, and I do believe that there are mistakes in the Old Testament. God did not write it and humans do make mistakes. I know that to move on from the situation, I need to confirm to my parents that I am gay and am not changing. But the situation is extremely awkward. How am I supposed to tell my parents that I basically want a dick in my mouth? I am still just a 16-year-old kid and I have to live with and be dependent on my parents. I don't want to throw the situation in their faces constantly and end up alienating them, but they (especially my mom) are constantly telling me to pray and soon they will alienate me. I have no one to talk to. My parents and I have agreed not to tell anyone, but I am thinking that I may need therapy. I may need someone outside the situation without the religious element involved, to talk to.
I just don't know how to defend myself. I have no one to talk to. I honestly just don't want to be in this life. I don't want to disappoint my parents. But I need my happiness. Please tell me what I should say and how I could make the situation better.
P.S. Please respond, at least with an email back to me. I need someone to talk to. I have no one and I am about to go insane. I am sad all the time but I have to hide it.
My response after the jump...
I shared your letter—your absolutely heartbreaking letter—with Aaron Hartzler. He's the author of the new memoir Rapture Practice, which is about his experiences growing up gay and closeted in a hyper-religious, hyper-conservative family. Here's Aaron...
First of all, congrats for being honest with your Mom when she asked. That was a courageous decision. I know you say you’ve regretted it since, but part of growing up is finding your voice, and learning to stand up for what you know is your truth. So, good job. Self esteem is built by doing estimable acts, and one of the most important ones is being honest—to others, yes, but especially to yourself.
On that front, it sounds like the only people who are confused here are your Mom and Dad. From what you’ve written in this letter, you’re pretty clear on the subject. You’re gay, and you’re ready to “confirm to them” that you are “not changing.”
The God issue is tricky. I am the oldest of five from a strict, born again Christian family, and have learned from experience that there is no way to argue logic with a rigid religious belief system. Through trial and error, I figured out that some well-placed boundaries were necessary.
I would encourage you not to engage in a conversation about this if it feels unsafe—and I’m not only talking physically unsafe. (Seems like your parents are fairly loving and aren’t batting you around with their hands and feet.) I’m also talking about emotionally or psychologically unsafe. This means anytime they start saying things that are aimed at drawing you into a discussion which shames your for being gay, or calls your feelings into question—when your Dad starts in with the God guilt, or your Mom goes on about Satan—it is perfectly okay for you to say the following: “Mom/Dad, I love you, but I don’t want to talk about this right now.”
If they insist on continuing to talk to you about it, it’s just fine to repeat that statement as many times as it takes until they get the message. This is about putting up a boundary to protect yourself from their fear and harmful dogma at a time when they are caught up in their own emotions, and asking questions or spouting comments that don’t take your feelings into account.
If they continue to press you to talk about it, tell them that you’re happy to do so in the presence of a licensed, non-religious, gay-friendly family counselor. (You can go to the Psychology Today website, type in your ZIP code, and click “Gay Issues” on the left hand side for a list of qualified professionals in your area.) You could also suggest that your Mom and Dad come to a PFLAG meeting with you. Another great resource you can recommend is Betty Fairchild’s book Now That You Know.
The bottom line here is that you don’t have to face your parents’ initial freak-out on your own. It sounds like you understand that your parents love you, and it’s good of you to acknowledge that, but you don’t have to be a punching bag for their emotions for the next two years.
For right now, it sucks, and I totally get it. To that end, here are some resources for YOU so that YOU have some people to talk to as you make your way through this:
1. My lesbian author friend, Malinda Lo just did a great post on her blog about how to come out to your parents. You’ve already done the lion’s share of this, but check out the links at the end for sure.
2. The Trevor Project. Anytime, day or night, 24/7, if you’re feeling down about this whole coming out process, you can pick up the phone and dial the Trevor Helpline at 866-488-7386. They’ve got trained staff members who can offer some advice, or just listen, and it’s all free. Also, if you’d rather IM you can also use Trevor Chat from 3-9pm EST (noon-6 PST.)
3. Trevor Space. This is a private social networking site run by the Trevor Project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13 through 24 and their friends and allies. You can meet teens your own age to talk to about what’s going on.
Finally, understand that you may not be able to make the situation better right away. Your Mom and Dad may need some time, and even then, they may never come around in the way that you hope they will. (Mine still haven’t. I get a lot of “we’re praying for you.”) However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be happy, or survive.
At this moment, I know that the debate seems endless. I get it. It was the same way for me. As somebody who has come through it, know this: You will get to college. You will find people who love and support you for who you are... even if your parents never do. It does get better—not necessarily because your parents change, but because you do by becoming less dependent on their approval.
I'm going to turn this over to my readers now, M, who are sure to have tons of great advice for you. (Just like they had tons of great advice last February for a teenage lesbian whose parents weren't being supportive.) I'm going to write an email to you as well and I'll send it to you privately.
But I want you and anyone out there struggling with the same issues to know that there people out here rooting for you. And if your parents are in the mood to read—if they're open to looking at Now That You Know or going to a PFLAG meeting—you might want to share this link with them. And this one too. Because what your parents are doing to you isn't just unkind, unloving, and unchristian, M, it's dangerous. Straight parents can't make gay kids into a straight kids but they can push gay kids to suicide. Your parents need to wake up and smell the despair they're inducing in you.
I wish my mother was still alive, M, because then I could have my mother call your mother for a little Catholic-mom-to-Catholic-mom conversation. My mom passed away a few years ago, sadly, so I can't unleash her on your mom. But I know what my mother would say to your mom because I heard her say it to other moms who were treating their gay kids they way your mom (and dad) are treating you. Take it away, Judy Savage...
"If you want to destroy your relationship with your son, if you want your son to drop out of school, if you want your son to run away from home, if you want your son addicted to drugs and abusing alcohol and living on the streets and engaging in survival prostitution by this time next year, if you want your son to commit suicide, then you just keep doing what you're doing. Because if that's what you want, lady, you're doing everything right."
God, I miss my mother.
Finally, M, if things are truly terrible and your parents won't take "I don’t want to talk about this right now" for an answer—if your parents continue to bully you emotionally and spiritually—you can always tell them what they wanna hear. You can lie to them. You can tell them you're straight if that's what it takes to get them off your back. I promise you, M, that no one Gayland will think less of you for your lying to your parents under duress when you were a vulnerable teenager.
Hang in there, kiddo. And keep checking back here for advice from my readers.