Ask Dr. Jay

by Dr. Jay Nagdimon
March 1996

Dear Dr. Jay,

I'm a 22 year old, bisexual male living with my folks. My problem sounds like a very common one and that is my parents and both my brother and sister are homophobic. I would dearly like to come out to them. If my family found out by other means I believe that it would hurt my mother a lot more than if I told them. But I fear that my father will get violent or do something that will put me into a lot of trouble possibly even throw me out of home. I am in contact with a Bi support group and they help but I would like to hear what you have to say on the matter.

Signed, The Bard

To "The Bard" -- I'm glad to hear that you are in contact with a Bisupport group. Since you are living with a homophobic family, you can probably use a little support from friends. It is very difficult to live with people you care about and have to listen to them say unwittingly hurtful things. This double life is one of the greatest difficulties of growing up bisexual or gay. It's to your credit that you have endured it for so long.

I can appreciate your desire to come out to your family. On the positive side, it would avoid the possibility of them finding out from other people. It also holds the possibility of improving your life by allowing you the freedom to be yourself. In fact, in a perfect world we all should have the freedom to be who we are. People, especially our own family, should be accepting of us.

Unfortunately, if we base our decisions on the way things should be, we could easily find ourselves on a collision course with reality. From your note, it sounds like you are in a dependent position with them. You are living in their house and may still rely on them for money. If the worst case scenario came true, you could be thrown out of the house and have no place to live.

I think coming out decisions should be based on two considerations. The first consideration involves your own safety and security. If a parent reacts badly, how miserable can they make your life? The second consideration involves your motivations for coming out. Ideally, people should reveal something intimate about themselves to others to make the relationship stronger. While other reasons can be important, your heart needs to be in the right place. This is why so many people warn: never come out to your parents in anger or defiance; it will send the wrong message.

In considering to come out to parents, siblings, or even friends, it is important to remember your own experience with coming out. It probably took you quite some time, perhaps years, to acknowledge your own same sex feelings. It may take even longer to fully be comfortable with them. I think it is only fair to assume that it will take your parents, siblings, and others time to reach your level of acceptance. During this period, they can make life very difficult for you, and you should be prepared for their own stages of denial, rejection, anger, disbelief, bargaining, etc. If you are at all concerned about their reactions, then you should give serious consideration to postponing coming out to them until you are more financially and emotionally independent from them. If they discover your bisexuality from another person, then they may understand, given their own homophobic behavior, why it was difficult for you to share the news.

If you do decide to come out to them, I would first read the pamphlet Coming Out to Your Parents by the group Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (P-FLAG). It is the best pamphlet I've seen on the subject. You can order it through your local P-FLAG chapter (I presume they have PFLAG's in Australia) or you can write to P-FLAG at 1101 - 14th Street, NW, Suite 1030, Washington DC 20005, USA, Ph# 202-638-4200. I also recommend going to a P-FLAG meeting and asking them for help in working out how and when to tell them. Finally, buying a book to give to them (whether they read it immediately or not) can be helpful.

Dr. Jay

Jay Nagdimon, Ph.D. was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. His early involvements included six years of volunteering at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center's Youth Department. Jay worked on the Gay and Lesbian Youth Talkline, both as a volunteer and later as a trainer of new volunteers. He also was very involved in the Center's Pen Pal Program and youth newsletter.

You can e-mail Dr. Jay at DrJay@oasismag.com. He will try his best to respond to everyone, depending upon the volume of mail received.

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