Living room. Talk. Now.
The message stared back at me on the screen, my heart racing out of my chest. I felt like I could throw up.
There was no turning back, not now. I had done what I thought would be impossible. After a few years of secretly struggling to come to terms with my attractions to men, I had finally come out of the closet at the age of fifteen.
Now all I wanted to do was crawl back in and shut the door.
A few days prior, I had sent my dad an email explaining that I was gay. I can’t remember what all I said or how I said it, but looking back, that probably wasn’t the best way to go about it. I was just too afraid to bring it up face to face; an email was easy to send.
Hitting send on that coming out email to my dad felt like being pushed out of a plane: there was no turning back, and the parachute better well work.
Living room. Talk. Now. This was his daunting response.
I couldn’t bring myself to open my bedroom door. There was no telling what awaited me on the other side. Would my parents accept me? Would they still love me? Would they kick me out of their home? I was expecting the worst.
I believed this would be the night my parents stopped loving me.
I stood in my room silently, hoping that if I ignored it, the conversation would never happen. If I just stayed here, this too would pass.
A few minutes passed, and my mom knocked on my door. “You need to come to the living room,” she said softly.
This coming out conversation would be just as hard for my parents as it would be for me. At least I had seen my sexuality coming for years; to them, it was a complete shock.
I opened my door and looked into the empty hallway. I could already hear my parents in the living room waiting for me. I left the safety of my bedroom and ventured into the scary new world before me.
I took the long way through the kitchen and walked into the living room to see my parents sitting in the two armchairs. The sofa had been sent off for repairs, so I was left to sit on the floor. I found a corner and retreated there in an attempt to find whatever piece of safety I could.
I waited there for whatever was about to come my way.
To this day, our conversation on that dark night is a blur. My parents had so many questions. They wanted to know why I thought I was gay. They asked me endless questions about the girls I’d had “crushes” on as a kid. They asked about my friends and whether they were gay or had convinced me to be gay too, as if this were a club one could join willingly.
Why would anyone choose this?
My parents also wanted to know who else I had told. I lied and told them only a few friends. I didn’t bother mentioning that one of those friends had let it slip to a guy who’d then told the whole school. I didn’t bother telling them about the things some of the guys at school had said to me — the harassment I faced just for being attracted to other men.
I sat there and answered my parents’ questions as best I could, in between heaving breaths and tears running down my face. To this day, I’m positive it’s the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with anyone.
In the end, my parents asked that I take some time to meet with our pastor and talk with him about my sexuality. I knew this conversation would probably entail more of the same, but I reluctantly agreed. I wanted to get these conversations over with so I could move on and live my life.
After hiding for fifteen years, I was ready to be free.
The days leading up to meeting with my pastor were quiet at home. I didn’t talk much with my parents, mostly keeping to myself in my room. Despite how difficult that time was, though, I don’t regret sending that coming out email to my dad. It was a conversation that needed to happen.
At the end of the day, I knew I was still loved. My parents needed time to process it all, but they still loved me.
Did you also come out to your parents as a teenager, or have you come out to them later in life? What was your first coming out experience like? What advice would you offer to those wanting to come out to their parents or other family?