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Thursday 09 April 2009

"Coming out is depressing after all"

Posted in: Family Matters
By - 17th January 2009

Jacquie Grant affectionately known as the "tranny granny", Jacquie's had a colourful life which has seen her go from being harassed by police and arrested on the streets of King's Cross in Sydney in the late 1950s, to a happier life in New Zealand, where she has fostered more than 60 children, and now has numerous grandchildren. Jacquie lives in Hokitika.

Bill Logan is a counsellor, celebrant, gay activist and revolutionist in his fifties, Bill's been on the Gay Helpline in Wellington since 1982, was a co-founder of the NZ AIDS Foundation, and played a significant role in the struggle for homosexual law reform.

Tom Hamilton is Rainbow Youth's Executive Director, and also has several years experience working within LGBT communities in Australia and the USA. Tom also has extensive knowledge about community law, support work and counselling.

Previous advisors include secondary school teacher Carol Bartlett, gay activist Jim Peron,"Out & Proud" ambassador AJ Marsh, ex Youth Coordinator for Rainbow Youth Rob Marshall and editor Jay Bennie.

If you have a question you'd like to put to our panel, please complete our

'An enchanted warrior' posted on's Forum telling us of his misfortune since he came out to his mother.

Our Family Matters crew - and a helpful reader with his similar story to share - decided to offer their sage advice.

Coming out is depressing after all

I thought coming out would be like a catharsis, something that will free me form the shackles of restraint and build more honesty in relationships. However it went a bit wrong.

I accidently came out to my mum, not really planned, at like night. She is like religious, and says being gay is unnatural and I should find ways to heal. She gets really depressed about it and says she is ashamed of me, and that I might get AIDS.

She says I'm too quick to label myself and that I became gay because of loneliness or just having problems in my childhood. She wants to take me to a doctor to doa blood test and like get advice to change me.

I said to her I have accepted myself and even though I could change in the future I'm not going to change at the moment. She also says not to go to support groups as they promote being gay and supposedly gay sex. I strongly disagreed. My relationship with my mum is broken down and my heart is truly broken. I mean she still loves me but its not the same. She says she just wants the best for me and she does but she is prejudiced also.

So yeah, I'm not feeling great and don't really know what to do. Any advice would be really appreciated.

An enchanted warrior

Advice from Jacquie Grant:

I'm glad you signed your letter 'an enchanted warrior' because that is exactly what you now are, you are a warrior in the fight against religious intolerance and the bigoted approach taken by some churches against gay people, even if it means you have to cut ties with your mum for a while this is possibly what you need to do for your own peace of mind.

Your Mum has some really unhealthy and unhelpful views regarding what it is to be BORN gay, you need time to find yourself and to gain strength as well as developing an understanding of your own unique situation.

If you are indeed gay - and I am assuming you are - I doubt that you will suddenly change later as you said, it is possible you may go into denial to please mum but deep down you won't change.

Mum's idea of a blood test I assume is to do an HIV check. That is something you can do on your own if you think it necessary, I hope it is not because mum thinks a blood test can provide a diagnosis and cure for gayness???

Given time, most mum's do come around to some sort of acceptance or at least tolerance of their gay children, I guess I am saying that you may want to distance yourself from mum for a while. And it would be a great idea if you looked for support from some of the gay groups out there like Rainbow Youth, where you will meet others who have had similar experiences, you will also be able to find resources and literature you can give your mum to study, reading behind the lines it seems mum may be blaming herself for the childhood problems, so she needs reassuring that you being gay is a separate issue.

A young gay man wrote to us saying he'd been through a similar experience. Here's his advice:

Yes, this is like my mother. Actually the religious issue got a little more exaggerated when I became gay. We were never religious at all when I was growing up, but suddenly we were when I came out. It was mostly my mother's safety net, and not really 'real'. Perhaps this guy's mother is similar?

My mother just can't listen to my side of the story. I get the feeling from my mother that my gayness isn't something to even consider. I mean, these mothers are like this because they're not open-minded enough, so one would imagine that they're not even going to entertain the idea of their son being gay. They become too busy arguing against it—and against us—to listen. My reaction was to cut my mother off completely. Now I'm not sure if that was right or not, but if she doesn't like me that much then I though I wouldn't make her have too much of me in her life.

This "I love you BUT" stuff is crap! The truth is that right now my mother doesn't like me all that much. She's really hostile to a big part of me (my sexuality) and she's so caught up in her confusion around that issue that it has made her incapable of loving me properly.

It's actually incredibly damaging, because our mothers are the people that, all our lives, are the ones that are meant to accept us.

Argh - it makes me so angry just reading about this mother! "It's unnatural and [he] should find ways to heal"? That's disgusting! I hope this guy is confident enough to know that he's doing nothing wrong and it might be best if he is able to find someone else who can be a mother figure to him in the meantime.

Hope that helps!

And Bill Logan has several thoughts he'd like to add:

(1) Contrary to the complacent modern myth that we live in a decent and liberal society, parents who fail to deal with coming out in an adult manner are very common, and cause immense and frequently dangerous pain and suffering to young people.

(2) Gay teenagers often do not predict accurately how their parents will react to news of their gayness.

(3) It is necessary to build a good supportive network of people who know you are gay. Ideally you will do this before you come out to your parents—but if necessary you have to do it afterwards.

(4) If parents react badly, it is the kids who have to be adult and strong. Anger is justified, but you also have to try to understand.

(5) These are usually not “bad parents” but this is bad parenting behaviour.

(6) There are usually three main things going on for the parents: (a) grief for the loss of the fantasy they had about your future, (b) a huge need for education on what gayness is all about, and (c) fear of what will be said by neighbours, aunties, friends and so on. There is a strategy for each of these aspects to the problem.

(7) It is helpful to talk to parents about the loss of the future they imagined for you. You might even find that you actually share some feelings on this score. Perhaps there is part of you that once looked forward to a spouse, a home, a nuclear family. There were fantasies about the future that you had to change as you came to terms with your gayness. So they had fantasies about your future, too, which are not going to be fulfilled, and there is a legitimate grief reaction on their part. But it may be worth reminding them that it is your future, not theirs. There were bound to be ways in which your life did not turn out quite the way they imagined it would.

(8) Parents often need serious education about gay life. Ideally this will involve them actually meeting and talking to other gay people. Are there any gay people you know who are a bit older, have settled lives, are more or less together? Would they be willing to talk to your parents? Sometimes you can get some help with this from the gay telephone helpline, or School's Out or the Rainbow Youth network.

Other educational inputs for parents involve reading. There are some useful websites.

It can also be good for parents to meet and talk to other parents of gay people. Have you got some gay friends whose parents have adjusted better than your parents? Would they talk to your Mum? Or could your school counsellor put you on to the parents of someone.

(9) Of all the responses, it is parents' fear of the reactions to your gayness by friends and relations that is the naughtiest. But this can often be turned around. In fact many friends and relations would be far more shocked by your parents bad parenting behaviour, than by your gayness. Of course your parents will want you to be secretive about your gayness among their friends and relations, but you should make your own mind up about that. If you are fairly certain that one or two of them would be supportive, why not approach them, tell them frankly about the problem, and ask if they think it would be any use their trying to discuss the matter with your parents.

(10) It is worth your looking at the Out There website to see if there is anything which might be helpful for you. In many areas there are groups of young queer people, and a lot of them have had experiences similar to yours—it might be good to catch up with them. - 17th January 2009