Here at The Gay UK this month it’s all about Coming Out. We’ve spoken to two parents about their experiences of Coming Out to their children. Both of these parents were concerned about the impact of telling their story on themselves and their family and asked for their identities to be protected. So throughout this article pseudo names are used for both the parents and the children.
The first is Linda, a 55 years old mother from Glasgow, Scotland. Linda has two now-adult children her daughter Julie, 37 years old and her son Darren, 34 years old.
Tell us, how did you Come Out to your children?
Mine had a whole load of baggage built in; my relationship with my adult children was affable but inevitably affected by their marred childhood. And it was, thanks to a violently bipolar father, and a mother who must have appeared to pay more attention to him than to them.
Difficult to cite diversionary tactics, although this was often true; he was perfectly capable of inflicting cruelty on them to make me suffer; obvious confrontation gave him power. Not the whole story, of course; I admit that I was a dutiful and pragmatic parent, rather than the sort of warm, cuddly mother that my own mum was.
So after my husband’s death and my subsequent ecstatic love affair with my beautiful partner, it became apparent that I would need to tell the kids.
I dreaded it.
I prepared. Rehearsed. Lost sleep. Imagined worst-case scenarios. But it had to be done; I’m gay, whatever their reaction, I told myself; and I can’t keep it secret forever. This was at a moment when diplomatic channels were open and the climate looking propitious for the announcement, but that almost made it worse, in that there was so much more to lose.
Things will always be tricky. But these things have to be worked at, and at least hailing frequencies are open.
What were you worried about before you Came Out?
I feared yet another barrier to add to the issues they already had with their father and me as parents.
How old were your children when you Came Out to them?
Julie was 29 and Darren was 27.
Has it made you closer to your children?
No, we’re not closer. I’m on good terms with both, but there are always underlying reservations.
Neither of them is homophobic, but bear in mind that even liberal children can be shocked to think that their parents actually have sex – eeeeeew! – let alone a form of sex with which they may not be too familiar!
Have any of your children told their friends or partner about your sexuality?
I told Julie my daughter’s partner. He was totally cool with it. Darren my son presumably told his wife.
Both children’s partners have always been supportive and affectionate. I have no idea whether my children have told their friends; possibly not, since my being a lesbian has never been considered a suitable topic for conversation with them.
They wouldn’t hide it if asked, but as I don’t present as particularly butch and visit rarely, I’d be surprised if anyone would be that interested.
Have they spoke to you about how they felt when you Came Out to them?
As I gather from other people, individual children will take it differently, and so it proved. The elder, Julie claimed that it had been a matter of conjecture for some time, and that the news was neither a bombshell nor any big deal.
The younger Darren operates on two levels: a saying level and a thinking level. Once I made it clear that my partner was not a 70s-style, aggressive, possessive, stuff-it-down-your-throat stereotype, the saying level was cautiously satisfied. Unfortunately, despite an outwardly liberal stance, I believe that his thinking level may have sustained another degree of separation.
Did you access any sources of support before or after Coming Out to them?
No. I cope with my own sh*t, apart from sharing (some of) it with my partner. I internalise. I also write, which is an excellent form of therapy!
What advice would you give to other parents thinking about Coming Out to their children?
(a) Do it.
(b) If geographically possible, do it by stealth.
Condition the kids to being used to seeing you with your friend, introduce the partner to family occasions, Christmas dinner etc., till the assumption of partnership is subliminally planted. Then mention something in passing that will leave them in no doubt, and move on, as if it were a given.
The big, dramatic announcement is something I would avoid, if I had to do it again!
Of course, if you’ve discovered your sexuality but don’t have a partner, telling the kids that you’re just off down to the leather bar or lesbian singles night could be a mistake…
Thank you Linda, for sharing your story.
Published by: The Gay UK on Tuesday 24th September 2013.