I am privileged to come from a family (or I say family, actually it's just me and my mum) who are very open minded. My mum made it clear to me just what she thought of the racists, fascists and religious bigots in this world and this was what influenced me in my decision to come out to her at 15, which is pretty young in the whole scheme of things. Needless to say, she was totally fine with me "being gay" and all that -- but one of the things that I have learned through the Internet is that often that is not the case.
A lot of people are scared to come out to their parents because they are afraid of what the reaction will be. Often this is just a natural fear and in reality, when the parents find out, they will be supportive and there will be nothing to worry about. But unfortunately there are many cases when this does not happen. The person, after having put off the decision to come out for many years, finally plucks up the courage to come out and WHAM, the parents are very much not sympathetic.
This can range from the simple "I want you to know that I don't like what you've chosen," (and I'll leave the discussion about the use of the word "chosen" for another time) through to the "you're no son/daughter of mine--get out," style of speech.
The fact is that these views stem from a lack of education and understanding, but also from surprise. Now while everyone reading this knows it is okay to be gay--and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise--a parent would, given the option, probably prefer a heterosexual child. When a child comes out as being gay, some of the earliest thoughts to a parent is the shattering of the illusion of wedding bells, grandchildren and such like, replaced with images of camp men dressed in tight clothes and unprotected sex on one night stands, the so called "gay community."
But when a parent does not get over this initial shock, this is when the problems begin. This was portrayed really well in a film that I saw called Our Sons (or at least I think it was called that...!). Here is a brief summery of the story line: "boy 1 comes out to mother, mother throws him out, boy 2 comes out to his mother, mother is supportive, boy 1 and boy 2 are going out, boy 1 gets aids, boy 2's mother goes to try and persuade boy 1's mother to come and see him before he dies as they haven't seen each other for a long long time, boy 1's mother does come and see him eventually and realizes what a fool she's been." Understand? Good!
So in the cases where the rejection does not wear off it is easy to see what can happen, time can pass quickly. I'm sure that this scenario has happened in real life as well. And this is a criminal waste of family. Unfortunately there is no easy solution--in fact there is no solution at all that I can think of. But the very making of this film shows that there is some headway being made, people are beginning to understand they can't run away from their fears forever, and this film will hopefully inspire some people to get in contact again, or even change a parent's views making it easier for just one person. This film is no blockbuster, but it is proof that our society is progressing, slowly but surely...
Thank you to all of you who wrote to me after last month's article, and yes I do stick to my promise of a guaranteed reply (!) so do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you whatever you have to say. Until next month, see ya.
PS: good luck to any of you who have had exams in the past month, I wish you all the best!