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!

 

How to bounce back after a bad experience coming out to someone

If you have gone through the coming out process or you’re still in it, you will most likely have a variety of experiences coming out to the people in your life. Some will be immediately accepting, some will be neutral, and some might be downright hostile.

The most important thing to know here is that all of these reactions are not about you–they are about the person who is reacting to your coming out story. The person is thinking about how your news affects them, and how your relationship might change because of this. They may be worried about you. They may wonder why they didn’t know this about you sooner. Or they may simply be envious of your newfound honesty.

You may be surprised at certain people’s reactions to your coming out story. People who you thought would be supportive may need time to process this news, and so they may not be initially as supportive as you like. You might find support in unlikely places. You might be surprised, and have others come out to you in turn! All of these things have happened to me in my coming out process, so I know that they are possible.

One friend I came out to was just unable to process that I was gay. I had been married twice! To men! Surely, I was simply bisexual or bored with my marriage. Was this a phase I was going through? A mid-life crisis? I was floored. Someone who I thought would be supportive had to deal with their own feelings first before they could be a real friend to me in my process.

But how do you bounce back after a bad experience coming out to someone? Here are some tips if and when this happens to you:

  1. Remember that your job is simply to come out: You don’t have to play therapist to someone else or spend time defending or explaining your process. Just say the words and let the other person deal with their feelings about it.
  2. Take a time out: It’s always acceptable to take a time out from that person or situation. Let them have time to integrate this new reality–that may be just what they need in order to pick up the relationship again. Time is the great healer in so many ways!
  3. Don’t let it set you back: Regardless of what someone else says, don’t let this deter your own process. Many people are so caught up in what others think of them that they lose sight of themselves. If this happens to you, regroup and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Don’t let others dictate where you go next on your path.

Keep these tips in mind, and don’t let a bad experience coming out to someone hinder your overall journey. It happens to us all, and you’ll be stronger for the next person you come out to!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you’ve done if you’ve had a bad experience coming out to someone. I’d love to hear your advice!

 

 

Questions answered: You can’t be gay–you are too feminine!

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers! Here’s the first one: “What do you say to someone who says, ‘You can’t be gay–you are too feminine!’ I am worried when I come out to my family and friends that this will be their reaction.”

Oh, how I understand this problem! I’m definitely on the feminine side of the spectrum, so when I came out, I did get this sort of reaction from some friends and acquaintances. Most people’s image of a gay girl is more like k.d. lang than Portia de Rossi. So it’s understandable that we have a way to go before many understand that there are as many different kinds of lesbians as there are people in the world.

Another complicating factor is that when you are a feminine gay girl growing up, society more easily puts you into the “straight” category. No one thinks to ask if you are gay, and you don’t know enough to ask that question of yourself, especially if you have no gay role models. You “look” straight, guys are attracted to you, so you think, “Hey, this must be what I’m meant to do.”

I believe that, in some ways, feminine lesbians have a more difficult time coming out to themselves than more obvious gay girls. While we don’t get the teasing and the bullying that those girls received, we are more prone to hiding behind the mask of straightness since it’s simply easier for us to pass–to ourselves and to others.

And this can lead to a lifetime of questioning, “So, since I don’t like softball, I can’t be gay, right? I love wearing skirts and lipstick, so surely I’m not gay? Of course I’m not gay, I’ve been married to a man!” Yes, you can be gay under all of these circumstances–trust me!

All of that said, once you have come out to yourself, you fabulous feminine gay girl, you know your truth and no one can take that from you! My advice to you is to anticipate that question and come up with a funny answer (“Guess I’ll have to trade my heels for sensible shoes now”), a question back at them (“That’s interesting. Why do you think that? Do you know many other gay people?”), or ignore the question completely by changing the subject if you don’t want to address it.

Choose your approach based on the person asking the question and how much you feel like discussing this in the moment. You really don’t need to justify your gayness to anyone else at all!

As a final aside, this is another reason why I think everyone should be as “out” as they can. The world needs to see that gay people come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. People who are questioning their sexuality desperately need role models to show them that being gay is not limited to the old stereotypes. Burly football players can be gay, lipstick-wearing actresses can be gay–break down those stereotypes and add your special style to the mix!

Feel free to tweet your questions to me @latelifelesbian or leave them in the comments section. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!