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Coming out to your parents

Sun 29 Oct 2006 In: True Stories View at NDHA

Ten gay and lesbian New Zealanders remember when they came out to their mums and dads. Robin, 34 I was 23 when I told both my parents, but my mum found out by snooping when I was 17. She found a gay fantasy story that I had written. She told my dad and brother and I lied about it, as I knew she was (and still is) homophobic. We had a long talk when I was 23 and my mum sort of accepted it. My dad never had a problem and was OK when I told him. I've since introduced partners I've had to my parents, but never directly as my partner - more as a friend, I've said. My mum is still homophobic and my dad died in 2003. Although my father and I never said that we loved each other, we had a conversation shortly before he died and we both said it without words. Vanessa, 29 When I came out to my parents, I said "Mum, I just want to tell you before anyone else tells you, I'm seeing a woman, and that is my choice at the moment. It's what I want to do." My mum said, "It could be worse, you could have a tattoo"! It was a weird one, I know. My father cried and said he loved me. I was 25. Now, they won't mention it. They do come over and see me and my partner. They're very chatty with my partner - but she has to cover up her tattoo! Eric, 18 I was 15 when I came out to them - both parents on the same night. I told my mother first, in the car, as she had just picked me up from a babysitting job - we got home at 2am. I was very direct: "Mum, (very long pause), I'm gay." Then she started talking, and I let her do so for a good 10 or 15 minutes. I wasn't listening very much - it was just sweet to see her concern. Then I went upstairs into the house and told my father, with the very similar, "Dad, (slightly shorter pause), I'm gay." He gave me a hug and said it was OK. It brought a tear to my eye. Then my mother came upstairs and we all sat down at the table and talked about it some more (mainly my mother spoke). The main reason I chose to tell my mother at 2am is that she gets tired easily and would only be able to lecture me for a short period of time before sleeping! But it was still about an hour. I was annoyed at my mother for prattling on about things that she knew little about. I don't think I got much in the way of acceptance from her for quite some time. It was disappointing. On the flip side, I could not be happier with my dad's response, and he will always be close to me because of it. Daniel, 30 I chose Christmas Day, almost three years ago now, to come out to my parents. I was 27, and I figured that I had waited long enough. It took me so long to come out because I had been concerned about how my family would react. Judging by the occasional joke my family members would make over the years when I was growing up, I wasn't sure how they would take it if they found out that one of their own was gay. Eventually I became tired of waiting for the right moment to tell my parents, so I just decided that Christmas Day would be the day. I went over to my parent's house that morning, as we were going to have a family lunch together, and I told them there, in the dining room. I turned on the waterworks immediately, because it was such an emotional thing for me, to finally get it off my chest. It had been closely guarded-secret of mine for so many years that it had really begun to weigh me down. It was such a relief to tell them, and to explain why I had been so unhappy for such a long time. My parents were fine with it. It was a surprise to them, but they were mostly just happy for me. They simply wanted me to be happy. Given how much better I have felt for the past three years, I really wish I had done it a long time ago. Sharon, 34 My mum told me, actually, when I was 17. We were walking along the beach at Waikanai, and I said, "I've got something to say to you." She said, "What, that you're gay?" I said "What? How do you know?" She said, "It's pretty obvious really." When my father found out, he said it was just a phase. And he still thinks it is. So many years later, he still thinks it's a phase. Aaron, 24 I never came out to my dad and stepmum who I lived with from when I was seven. They figured it out later but it was never really discussed. My mum however, came to pick me up from school when I was 15, and made a comment on how my friend Chris (who she hadn't seen in years) was turning into a very handsome young man. To which I replied, "yeah, that's why I sleep with him". She then said "What?!" in what I thought was a loud angry tone, then said "You score someone that hot and don't tell me straight away? He's a good catch!" Jo, 30 I was 21. My parents had separated so I had to tell him separately. I told my mum first. "Mum, I'm gay." She thought I was on drugs or alcohol because I'd suddenly withdrawn from the family because I was so worried about how I was going to tell them. So I finally told her and she was like, "Oh, OK!" She was a little upset, because I'm the only girl in a family of a lot of boys. But she's quite proud now, and I'd taken girlfriends to meet her. And my dad was fine, no dramas, he said, "you're still the same person". It was quite nice - I had a very easy coming out, really. Nick, 22 I was 13 and a half! I'd known since I remember looking at guys in the school locker room - which must have been when I was seven. My mum asked me. I was out at the horses; my mum and me were taking the horses out to the paddock. Out of the blue, my mum just asked me "Are you gay?" I felt like I had a whole lot of butterflies in me, and I paused for what seemed like ages and then said "Yes" and walked away. I was so nervous. And then I suppose that was when I really started to question it myself - I'd said yes without really knowing what I was saying yes to. I had a psychiatrist, and also saw the psychologist at the AIDS Foundation after that. My mum told my dad. There wasn't an issue and nothing was immediately discussed. Sarah, 24 I was 16, and I came out when my girlfriend came downstairs in a thong and bumped into my mother in the hallway. The next day my mother asked if she was my 'special friend'. I was shocked. I told her yes and she said, "We've always known, we've just been waiting for you to tell us." She was absolutely fine about it, and so was my dad. Matt, 28 I didn't have to tell my mum. She always knew, I think. We used to joke about it. My Dad seemed to have no idea though. I told him when we were in the car - he was dropping me off home after I'd been to visit him. I was 20. I said, "Um, I've got something to tell you - I'm gay". He was silent for a while, but eventually he said, "I thought something was going on like that. Have you… have you got a… friend?" "No" I said, mortified. It was a long time before I ever introduced him to a guy I was seeing. It was so nerve-wracking, but I think introducing your partner to your parents is always scary, no matter if you're gay or straight. Really, I think most parents aren't stupid, and if you haven't ever mentioned a 'special someone' by a certain age, they must suspect something's up. I always encourage friends to come out to their families - it's a shame when someone feels like they can't be honest with the people who love them most in the world.     Matt Akersten - 29th October 2006

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Sunday, 29th October 2006 - 12:00pm

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