When Family Members Don’t Support Your Coming Out

First, my apologies for that blog hiatus! Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, but I’m back on track now. I’m busily working on completing my book and also working on another exciting project that I plan to unveil this summer! So many good things happening at ALLS! I can’t wait to share them all with you.

Which reminds me…if you haven’t signed up for my email newsletter yet, please do that now! I will be sending out exclusive excerpts from the book soon, and newsletter subscribers will be first in line to get info on my new project launch. The link is at the top of the blog on the right under “Stay in touch!”–one click, one email address (name not required!), and you’re in the know. How easy is that?

So, I received a message on the Late Life Lesbian Facebook page this week from a brave woman who had come out, left her marriage, and is in a relationship with a woman now. I know firsthand how difficult this can be, but she did it! Very proud of her. The only problem is that her family is not supportive of her decision to live her truth and be happy. And I wanted to use her message to me as an opportunity to talk about coming out to our families.

A lot of attention is paid to young people coming out to their families, and all of the difficulties that they can face. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project is devoted to showing these kids that it gets better as an adult, when you can life your own life free from your ties to unsupportive (and sometimes actively hostile) family members. I love this project as it connects gay kids to their community and I know it has saved so many lives.

But, gay adults can also feel estrangement from their families when they come out later in life. They may not be financially dependent on their moms and dads, but they are still connected in important ways–emotionally, generationally (through their kids), and communally (through shared community).

Let me be clear–being shunned or otherwise estranged from family members because you are gay is awful no matter how old you are when it happens. In some cases (mine included), the fear of losing your family members because you are gay is the main reason we stay in the closet. When faced with the choice to live your truth and possibly lose your family vs. living someone else’s version of your life and keeping those family connections–many gay people choose the latter.

I wish I had a magic solution for this issue–my heart broke for the woman who messaged me. I don’t have a way to make it all better, but I do know from my own experience that you simply have to live your truth and I hope that your family members will eventually come around. I do believe that love conquers hate in the end, and all you can do is continue to reach out to your family members with love as they work through their confusion and bad feelings. Be kind to yourself. Find a good therapist. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life (see a list here). But know that your happiness is yours–no one else can decide for you what kind of life you need to live, no matter how much they love you.

Leave me a comment below to let me know how you’ve handled similar situations with your family members. Share your advice with us and encouragement to others going through this! I love hearing from all of you and I know that we are stronger together than we are in isolation. Here’s to our best second half!

 

4 thoughts on “When Family Members Don’t Support Your Coming Out

  1. April

    Great to see a new blog post, Andrea! I’m so not at this point yet, but it’s still incredibly helpful to read what other women have experienced and are experiencing. Can’t wait for the book previews!

  2. I’m 35. I just told my parents. They are very socially conservative. My mum is trying to ‘forbid’ me from this ‘path’. She’s instructing me to find a boyfriend. That’s not going to happen. But I’m heartbroken that I’ve upset and disappointed them. I only wanted more transparency. I had been feeling like a sneaky teenager ‘getting up to stuff’ and not disclosing. But now I’m asking myself…was telling them a mistake? I knew it would be difficult but this is bad. Please help!

    1. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this right now. As I said in my blog post, it’s horrible no matter how old you are when this happens to you. I can tell you from my own experience that being true to myself was worth the pain of losing friends and possibly family members. I couldn’t take lying to anyone about it any longer. I hope that you have access to a good therapist and/or a support network of friends and perhaps other family members who can get you through this rough time. And people’s responses can change over time, so don’t give up hope! I know it’s a tall order to be patient in the midst of all this stress, but you can truly only control your own responses–you have no control over your family’s responses. Be kind and compassionate with yourself, and I’m sending you strength to get through this tough time!

  3. Thank you so much for your kind and considered response! You know what, it’s actually kind of getting better. My dad seems completely fine (though my mum tried to tell me at first that he wasn’t, to make me feel bad). Even she has started to listen to me a little more and the ‘forbidding’ has stopped, though there is still passive-aggressive guilt-tripping. The thing is, my family isn’t even religious. At all. Yet my mum is now grasping at straws and referring to the Bible. This is one symptom in a long line of problems in the way my mother and I relate to each other. I am the only child so I do understand her reaction. Yet when I tell her I understand she talks down to me, desperately trying to keep me in my ‘child’ role. I am standing my ground and will never do otherwise, because my attraction to girls is true. My mum can sense that I have found my backbone because for the first time I am not backing down in an argument or trying to deflect attention in order to seek or gain her approval. My dad’s tacit support helps. My mum has always been seeking more transparency from me. Now she has it, she just is seeing something different from what she expected. She is a judgmental and fearful person who believes in appearance over inner life (which she sees as ‘imagination’) every time. This is not my fault. She is still talking to me, so that’s something. Actually we are talking more than ever. Go figure.
    I am 35, single and have no children. Unlike many (I feel for you!), I have not left a man for this and there are no children to be affected. I came to this after falling deeply in love with a woman two years ago (we are not together and I have recently emotionally recovered from that situation). After years of my attraction to girls tapping me on the shoulder, falling in love was a slap on the face. I fully believe this girl was sent. I had always liked girls. Take societal expectations away and there is NO WAY I’d choose men. I honestly believed all girls felt like this. It is only recently that I have discovered that fully straight girls actually PREFER men. Who knew?! Haha.
    I relate to the generic anger that someone (you?) posted about. Irritability and something just not being right. My relationships with men were ‘fine’. Sex was always about them wanting me and I was just…fine with it. Sometimes it was good, sure. I just thought that’s what it was like for women.
    You know, I grew up. The teenage girl ‘ooh he likes me that means I must be pretty’ ego boost is just not enough any more. I want to want. Am I bi? Gay? I don’t know what my label is. I just know I’m doing this now. I have no interest in men these days.
    From kissing a girl at 22 to running alone to lesbian bars whenever I was in a strange city over the years…I mean COME ON! Who was I kidding 🙂 5 years ago I left a 5-year relationship with a man for no reason other than I knew it wasn’t right.
    I’ve been active on the ‘scene’ (lucky enough to live in a major city) for over 6 months now and LOVE it. In lesbian bars I am a kid in a candy store and can’t stop smiling. I’ve discovered that people smile back. I’m flirting, approaching, being approached, looking, kissing…(and more, from time to time 😉 )
    This is what it’s like to feel ‘normal’. It’s intense when there is no veneer but I love it.
    I am never going back.
    I have blogged (under my username) about my experience. Read if you please!
    Apologies for the long post. I got carried away with my truth.
    With our truth, what else can we do? 🙂

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