I’m a Queer Person with Queerphobic Parents, and…

1. I still love my parents.
People are quick to assume that I despise my parents because of their attitudes toward my sexuality. The truth is, I care about and respect my mom and dad, even though there’s tension. I certainly don’t respect some of their views, but I also don’t dislike them as people. My mom and I sometimes call each other multiples times a day; my dad and I have an ongoing chain of elephant jokes over text. In a lot of ways, my relationship with them is pretty normal.

2. It’s hard.
Because of my parents’ opposition to my orientation, there countless things I can’t tell them. This is especially difficult, considering the closeness of our relationship and how badly I’d like to share with them the triumphs and struggles of my queer experience. It’s also emotionally draining because I have to live with the fact that my parents don’t accept a natural and fundamental part of my identity. At times, I feel animosity toward them for their close-mindedness and animosity toward myself for being the way that I am. Though I consider our connection to be a strong one, distance has definitely come between us since I came out. There’s a lot of self-blame tied to “ruining” our family; I struggle not to beat myself up over it.

3. I lead a double life.
The person I am at school and the person I am at home are very different from one another. My parents have no clue I wear neckties or own gay t-shirts or actively date other women. They do not know I attended Cincinnati Pride this summer. They don’t know I’m a member of the LGBT+ student organization at my university. They don’t know about this blog, which is why I include the disclaimer “please don’t share without permission” when posting links on Facebook. My dad knows I’m out to people here; my mom pretends I haven’t told anyone because she wants my gayness to remain a Family Secret. If they knew I wrote or posted openly about any of these things on social media, I would be in serious trouble.

4. Being out doesn’t mean I can be entirely out.
Sometimes, people are confused as to how I can be out to my parents, but still act as though I’m in the closet around them. After I came out to my parents four years ago, they made it very clear that they didn’t want to be reminded of my sexuality – at. all. My mom remains in denial (though she just recently stopped talking about my future “husband”) and my dad would prefer not to think about it. The backlash I’ve received the few times I’ve brought up my orientation since coming out has been so unpleasant that I would rather stay quiet and play it safe. Also, I’m still financially dependent on my parents for my education and I don’t want to risk losing that support.

5. No one wants to date me.
I don’t say this in a self-loathing way; it’s just the truth. Most of the women I meet who are interested in a relationship are able to be entirely out in all facets of their lives…or they’ve chosen to leave those who oppose them in the dust. There’s absolutely no problem with this (more power to them!) other than that no one is interested in going back into the closet for the sake of dating me. Telling them that we have to tip-toe around my parents Romeo and Juliet style is a major turn off.

6. No, I’m not going to disown my parents for the sake of dating you.
Sometimes, after disclosing to a potential boo that my parents can’t find out about our relationship, I receive a response similar to this: “F*ck your parents! You’re an adult; they can’t control you. You should leave!” Nope. Not an option. If you look back at numbers 1 and 4 above, you’ll see that I still value the relationship I have with my parents and am also dependent upon them for my college education. I love them and have no intention of losing everything I have with them for a Tinder date. Also, I’m not going to tell my parents you’re just a really good friend of mine. They’re highly suspicious people and I think they’d figure things out pretty quickly if my “super good friend” who I’ve never mentioned before is suddenly around all the time.

7. There’s a grey area.
Oftentimes, people view parental acceptance as a dichotomy. On one side, there’s the idea that parents are super supportive and overjoyed at their child’s coming out; on the other, there’s the narrative of rejection and homelessness that occurs in our community far too frequently. Rarely do people picture a middle ground where the child isn’t totally disowned, but their coming out isn’t well-received. Though certainly better than some people’s experiences, it’s still a sticky situation to be in. I’m allowed to participate as a family member, but can never bring up the elephant in the room (unless I’m ready to deal with the consequences).

Opposite of the misconception that I hate my parents, people tend to assume that living with them and being out to them automatically means they’re accepting. Once, a friend who assumed being out meant that I was entirely out and that everyone was okay with it, exclaimed (in close proximity to my parents), “I think you and [other gay girl we know] would be super cute together!” I spent the rest of the day terrified of what they might do, but it seemed they hadn’t been paying attention because it never came up. Still, my friend’s remark put me in a dangerous position. Being out to my parents doesn’t mean my sexuality is a safe topic of conversation when we’re around them.

8. I hate spending long stretches of time at home.
Going home for breaks is always a challenge because I have to hide away many of the things (material and not) that make me who I am. No menswear. No Pride things. No talking about queer issues. No mention of all the queer-related stuff I did during the semester. At the start of my first ever Winter Break home from college, my mom screamed at me for wearing a baseball cap because “What kind of fashion statement was I trying to make?!” I’m extra vigilant of what I wear, say, and do when at home. It’s suffocating, but survivable.

9. It hasn’t gotten better.
When I first came out (and for the two years that followed), I was met with remarks like, “It’ll get better,” or “They’ll come around eventually.” Nowadays, people say things like, “They’re still not okay with it? How?” The absolute truth is that it hasn’t gotten better. My parents’ views on the LGBT+ community haven’t budged since the day I came out back in 2012; their views of me haven’t budged since that day. Shortly after the marriage equality ruling in 2015, my mom informed me that she didn’t want to be involved with my future family, should I marry another woman. That was the last conversation we had about me being gay. Things haven’t changed.

10. It’s gotten so much better.
While the difficulties with my parents haven’t disappeared, I’ve learned to live with my situation and navigate around some of the challenges that exist as a result. I’ve figured out how to balance my queer authenticity with my parents’ expectations and have continued to grow, despite the limitations my parents enforce. Things didn’t improve in the way I expected them to, but I’ve come farther and grown stronger than I could’ve imagined.

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