Coming out. It’s that seemingly mandatory, horrible, awkward thing that every LGBTQ+ person is expected to do, just because. Society has made us feel abnormal and like we have to announce that hey, we aren’t straight or hey, we feel like a different gender to what we were born or we feel like no gender at all. It’s something we’re told that we have to do and let me tell you - it’s freaking terrifying.
I’m not fully out to everyone. Yes, I’m out to strangers on the internet and I’m out to close friends and my parents but there’s still a whole bunch of people who don’t know and a whole bunch of people who I’m hoping will never find out that I’m out. Why? you ask. For the shame of not being ‘normal’ and for the fear of rejection.
My nan was super homophobic. She once got so disgusted at two gay men walking down the road in London holding hands that she turned us around and frog-marched us in completely the wrong direction to where we wanted to go just so we weren’t passing them in the street. I didn’t know that I liked girls back then, but even so, I was horrified at her reaction. For that reason, I refuse to tell anyone on my mum’s side of the family except my mum, for an overwhelming fear that they share her views.
My dad didn’t accept me either when I first came out. It was accidental. I’d posted a comment on a video about embarrassing stories saying that my teacher had inadvertently outed me as bisexual to my entire class in school when I hadn’t told anyone at all that I was bisexual. I hadn’t even fully accepted it to myself yet. This was back in the time when all your comments were automatically shared to Google+ and so of course, my father follows me on Google+ and saw this. He then asked me why I didn’t correct her and I said ‘because it’s true.’ He then proceeded to tell me to not be so stupid, of course, I wasn’t gay, I was straight, I always had been and always will be, blah blah blah. It broke my heart.
I’m lucky now because, after a long heartfelt letter that I wrote to him, he accepted me and apologised. But not everyone is lucky.
The hard truth about coming out is that not everyone will accept you and quite honestly, you can’t make them. You can try to change the way something thinks, but you can’t force it because it just won’t work. People are going to think whatever they want to think, whatever they’ve been told they should think, whatever they think they should think, and that’s just something that you sometimes need to accept. But that doesn’t mean that you have to change who you are or be unhappy.
Here are some tips which could be the spoonful of sugar for that hard to swallow coming out pill:
1) Just because your biological family doesn’t accept you doesn’t mean your family doesn’t accept you
Family isn’t just blood and DNA - it’s so much more than that. Family is love, laughter, friendship, nurturing, caring, supportiveness, and all of these things put together is what makes a family. So as heartbreaking as it might be that your blood doesn’t accept you, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a family that does accept you, because your chosen family does. This could be a best friend, a godmother, a best friend’s parent or your next-door neighbour. Your chosen family is whoever you want them to be, that’s why they’re chosen and they may be the family to accept you.
2) Try to educate them on what being gay or bisexual or transgender means
Someone not accepting you doesn’t necessarily mean that they are homophobic or hate gay people. Some people don’t accept you straight away because they don’t understand. If it’s a grandparent or a parent, they were born in a different time and back then, being bisexual or transgender was completely unheard of - it didn’t even exist. I’ve had to explain to family friends what it is to be bisexual and how I know I’m bisexual even though I’m a virgin and it helped them to understand and be more accepting of me.
3) Don't write yourself off
Just because your family is struggling with who you are and how you identify, that doesn't mean that your feelings and your identity is any less valid. Acceptance doesn't equal validity. You need to remember to be who you want to be, who you are inside, and don't let anybody tell you who to be.
4) Just because they don't accept you doesn't mean they don't love you
Sometimes families can find it hard to accept something about a family member because it's a shock or they didn't know or they felt like you were lying to them. But them not accepting you doesn't change the fact that they love you. I know that this isn't always the case but in my experience, the love is still there and is always there even if the acceptance isn't there.
5) Times are changing
It's 2019. Life in 2019 is a lot different to life in 1919, and people's beliefs are a lot different too. The world is getting a lot more accepting of new identities and that tolerance of people is growing and escalating hugely. You are part of a huge community who supports you for now, and who is to say that your family won't change their mind. Times will keep changing and their beliefs might too.
I know it's hard and all of this is easier said than done. But you'll get there.
In the meantime, I support you and I love you.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers with a platform to share and help others from their own experiences while also educating others on different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all teenagers around the world and support others. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.