[Guest Post] Raining on the Gay Pride Parade

Today is National Coming Out Day. Below is a guest post from Miriam, who writes at Brute Reason (“Ruining your fun since 2009!”). She’s a friend, a social justice blogger, psychology student, and aspiring therapist.

National Coming Out Day is a bittersweet day for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea. I’m thankful to be out to my friends, and I’m glad that so many people are able to come out nowadays–although, of course, we still have so much left to do.

However, the reality of my life is this–I can never come out to my family.

Now, I know how the script goes. The poor queer kid is terrified of coming out. They’re sure that their parents will disown them or start a fight or send them to therapy or just go silent and cold, never to really return again.

But then they finally get up the courage and do it anyway, and their parents cry and hug them and say, “Well, this may not be what we would’ve wanted, but you’re our child and we love you anyway.”

Or they say, “Oh, we already knew, silly.”

Or they say, “We don’t care who you love as long as you’re happy.

Or they say, “Okay. When can we meet him/her/them?”

But that’s not how it would go for me at all.

I know them too well after 21 years. “We wouldn’t want our son raised around…those people.” “Call it whatever you want, just not ‘marriage.'” “I mean, I don’t care what they do, but why do they have to shove it in our faces all the time?” “It’s disgusting.”

It’s not just that I don’t want to be branded as one of “those people,” of course. If it were just a matter of dealing with bigotry, I could do it. As an open atheist and survivor of mental illness, I do that plenty.

The larger issue here is that of my culture, which is a collectivist one. (You wouldn’t know by my skin color, but it is.) In my culture, family ties trump personal identity. You don’t disappoint your family for the sake of “being yourself.” Love may be unconditional, but acceptance is not. My family is not required to accept who I am simply because I am their daughter.

In fact, although my parents probably think I’m not nearly obedient enough, every step I take to individuate myself from them is full of anxiety and guilt. Knowing how disappointed they are at my refusal to pursue a PhD or marry someone of our ethnicity or be politically conservative is hard enough; coming out would just be too much.

Of course, my privilege is what makes this choice possible–ironically. Since I’m bisexual, I can still date with my parents’ knowledge, and since I have the privilege of attending college and living apart from my family, having a separate life that doesn’t involve them is an option for me too. And even if I were to be outed, the consequences would not be nearly as awful as they would for many other LGBT folks. I try to remind myself of these things a lot.

But regardless, this is why I have never truly felt like a part of the queer community. Centered as it is on the idea of coming out–to everyone, not just to friends–it leaves little room for people like me, who choose to remain closeted in certain spheres of our lives. We are cowards at best and traitors at worst.

Instead of accepting my choice and supporting me through it, some people throw the same tired bits of advice at me. “You have to be yourself, it doesn’t matter what your family thinks.” “They’re just bigots anyway, ignore them.” “If they really loved you they’d accept who you are.” “I’m sure they’ll get over it.”

Advice like this comes from a Western perspective, a perspective that I understand and even agree with, but that does not even resemble the one I was raised with. I will not abandon my family for the sake of my identity or for the good of the queer community. “Being myself” is not more important than my family. “Ignoring” them is not an option. And yes, they do really love me, and I really love them too.

So, I’m sorry to rain on the gay pride parade. I’m sorry this isn’t another inspiring story about overcoming homophobia and coming out. I wish it could be.

But that will never be my story. I will not martyr myself for the cause. All I can do is keep writing and doing activism that will give others the opportunities that I don’t have.


[Guest Post] Raining on the Gay Pride Parade
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3 thoughts on “[Guest Post] Raining on the Gay Pride Parade

  1. 1

    Nobody has the right to tell you what you should and should not do, and I hope that if you have had people tell you that you owe everyone to come out that you don’t any more.

    I’m bi as well, so for a very long time I debated whether to come out since I could also date openly and not have to worry about my parents finding out. I kept thinking of my devout Catholic mother, or the way my dad got uncomfortable with gay guys on TV. Ultimately, I decided that it was the right thing to do for me.

    I can see their point, to an extent. Coming out has been a great boon to the LGBT community. Showing people that we’re regular, normal human beings changes people’s opinions and has served as a model for a lot of other movements. And I understand why coming out is such a big thing in the community, so I get why you would feel outside because you haven’t to your parents.

    But coming out is still a personal decision, one that people make or don’t make for a number of factors, and you shouldn’t have to deal with anybody telling you that you are obligated to drastically change your life for them.

    I hope one day you will be able to come out, but if it never happens, you’re working in a different way and it’s both none of my (or anyone else’s) business and mostly a shame for your parents who let their prejudices prevent them from fully knowing their daughter.

    Thank you for writing this, and while I will never know the full extent of what you’re going through, I hope you will know that there are people out there who support your decisions.

  2. 2

    I also didn’t come out to my parents for many years- I am now 35 and came out to them 3 years ago. I defined as bi when I was younger as well (although later realised I was only attracted to women- long story and not in any sense suggesting that is true of anyone else). I lived a kind of double life for many years, being very “out” and visible where I lived (public speaker at events, organiser of groups etc) as I lived far enough away from my parents to be able to do so, but our relationship was never good as I couldn’t really tell them about anything I was doing.

    I would agree with Kaoru, above- there was a lot of pressure on me to come out for a long time and I felt a bit left out- but true friends and allies will respect your choices. The queer community is only a community in quite a broad sense really, and there will always be people who want things to run to a preset narrative, maybe to make them feel more secure in their own choices, but you must do what is right for you. For example, I have faced a lot of criticism for supporting legalisation of gay marriage, and wanting to be married myself.

    As for me, I finally came out to my mother (I let her tell my father) the night before going in to hospital for an operation, when I was completely financially independent of them, and when I had reached the point where I could barely physically speak to her at all (I’m serious, I don’t know if it was a psychologial reaction, but our conversations were all monosyllabic on my part, almost like I was afraid I’d tell her if I opened my mouth!) It went ok-ish, they’ve mellowed a lot as they’ve gotten older. Now I am getting a civil partnership and they’re coming along so I guess they’re getting used to it. I’ve no idea what they will think of the fact I want children with my wife though…cross that bridge when I come to it!

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