[oasis] [columns]

Emily Rizzo

November 1996

The Parents' Corner

Coming out is for parents, too

Q: I'm a 17 year old high school senior and still living at home. My family is very homophobic and are always making negative comments about gays. I tried coming out to them when I was 14 but they got so upset that I finally lied and told them I was going to "go straight" just to get them off my back. I know they won't pay for college if they think I'm still gay. I feel bad about lying to them and don't know what to do.

A: First of all, stop feeling guilty because you lied. You did what you thought was necessary to protect yourself and it's not your fault that we live in such a homophobic society that parents can cause so much misery for their gay children.

Right now, you are in an extremely difficult position and the best thing you can do is plan for the future.

If you believe that your parents will really cut you off financially and emotionally if you come out to them, and you aren't ready to handle that, then there is no shame in staying in the closet. 17 is still pretty young to be on your own; most of us really need our families both for money and emotional support at that age.

If you believe, on the other hand, that living a lie is just too painful then you should plan carefully to set up alternate support systems for yourself. While most people think of the financial support in some ways that is easier to replace; many people do manage to support themselves entirely and get through college.

We all, however, depend on our families for emotional support and this is also something you can plan for. Try to establish a network of good friends who can, if your own family rejects you, buoy you up and become a "family of choice."

I strongly urge you to contact local gay and lesbian support groups in your neighborhood. Also, contact your local chapter of PFLAG, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- with over 380 chapters across the country there's probably one near you. PFLAG can provide a warm, welcoming place for you to meet both accepting parents and other gay people who can help you come to terms with the limitations of your family.

On a final more optimistic note, don't assume that because your parents are negative now that they will always be that way. A number of parents, but not all, do eventually come around to accept their gay child although often the process can take months if not years.

Be sure to check out the unofficial PFLAG web page at http://www.critpath.org/pflag-talk/ for a list of chapters, PFLAG pamphlets, and other resource material.

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