Emily Rizzo

February 1999

Obsessed With Being Gay?

Q. My mom gets really upset when I wear gay clothing or she sees me logging on to gay sites. She says I'm obsessed with being gay. Should I be more out around her, to make her notice that I'm gay and she can't get away from that fact about me? Should I wait a while, then come out again?

A. All parents go through a journey of acceptance just as gays and lesbians do. Sometimes parents know intellectually that it's okay for their child to be gay but they still can't accept it emotionally. It sounds as if your mom is stuck somewhere along the halfway point; she's still in some stage of denial where she's hoping that the whole issue will just go away.

My advice is to follow a middle course: don't let her force you back into the closet but don't rub her nose in it. I know this isn't always easy and it's not fair that the burden for her lack of understanding should be placed on you.

Perhaps go easy on the gay pride symbols but do keep the lines of communication open. Try to talk with her about your feelings and, just as important, get her to talk about her own feelings. Let her know how you felt when you first realized you were gay -- perhaps you too had a level of discomfort which it's taken you a while to overcome. It's important to get your mom to focus on your feelings as well as her own. Parents often get so wrapped up in the pain they are feeling (guilt, shame, anger) that they forget to think about their children.

Get other family members involved. If your other relatives are more accepting, perhaps they would be willing to intervene on your behalf and try to reason with your mother. Remember that parents always take the news harder than anyone else.

Try to get her to do some reading. An excellent book just out is Chastity Bono's "Family Outing" which illustrates beautifully how even the most liberal parents (Chastity's mom is Cher) can have problems accepting their own child as gay. There's a wonderful story in the book about a young man in a situation similar to yours. His mother asked him to remove his pink triangle earring in public and he then asked her to remove her wedding ring; for her it was the beginning of understanding.

Also, try to get your mother to a PFLAG meeting or to talk to a PFLAG helpline (there's over 430 chapters listed at www.pflag.org and all have phone numbers). Just talking to another parent can often be an eye-opening experience.

Don't give up on your mom; eventually she will get used to the idea of your being gay, although she may never reach a point where she is truly comfortable with it.

Please send your questions to emily.rizzo@nyu.edu. All questions will be answered confidentially.

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