A reader emailed me this question a few months ago, and it has taken me quite some time to respond. After a lot of self-reflection I have determined that this was so hard for me to respond to because initially this was an idea to which I couldn’t relate. Seriously, my coming out at the age of 15 basically looked like this:
In retrospect I was a teenager, and Criminal Minds has taught me that all youth are considered psychopaths at that age, so yeah, I didn’t care what others thought. At least I didn’t care what MOST people thought. For most people my coming out just was–I’m here, I’m queer, get over it. However, for a select few–my siblings, my grandmother, and a cousin who always felt like a brother–they actually received conversations that started with, ‘I have something to tell you.’
Considering my reader’s request focuses specifically on how to tell her family, this is an area to which I can relate. Coming out to my siblings was especially hard because: 1. I didn’t know how they would respond, 2. I didn’t want my feelings hurt by them judging me, and 3. I didn’t want to have to cut anyone out of my life for being closed-minded. The responses I received from the five conversations literally ran the continuum from perfect to worst than I imagined. One would imagine that my grandmother kicking me out would’ve been the worst response, but nope. My cousin who had always adored me looking at me, in what I interpreted as, complete disgust was definitely the worst.
What made all of this bearable? The response from my brother. It was absolutely perfect. My brother has always been my favorite person in the world, so his response only solidified that 1000 times over. He didn’t skip a beat, he didn’t flinch, nothing in him shifted. In fact, his reply was, “Okay. You want to go to the club with me to pick up girls or something? I don’t care who you date as long as they treat you right.” THIS was so so so so so beyond perfect.
Now as for you, the adult hesitantly attempting to burst open that closet door, is it too late for you to come out? Of course not! You may not have the lack of inhibition of my teenage self, but that doesn’t mean you’re too old to feel that same liberation. My advice? Break free of anything holding you back in life. Whether you realize it or not, this is a weight you do not need to carry.
Proper steps to have in my place before making your announcement? A great support system. As I stated, my brother was undoubtedly the silver lining, but I understand not everyone may have that. Luckily for you there are support groups dedicated to such a cause!
“PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education, and advocacy.” – See more at: http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=191#sthash.xrvTN9Le.dpuf
2. Daily Strength
“Daily Strength is the largest, most comprehensive network of people sharing their knowledge, experience and support.” – See more at: http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Coming-Out/support-group
Seriously, feel free to contact me anytime at: @email@example.com with questions, or if you just need someone who somewhat gets it. I was watching Gaycation: https://www.viceland.com/en_us/show/gaycation and learned that in Japan you can rent a friend to go with you when you come out to your family and try to help resolve any issues that may arise. You can think of me as something like that :).
As always, Love and Hug more!
– Ms. Malcolm Hughes
Ms. Malcolm Hughes is the editor-in-chief of For Your Black? Conscious. She is a Chicago, IL native–from the city, not the suburbs–strategizing in Washington, D.C. She strives every day not to disappoint or defer the dreams of her 13 year old self. Because at that age, more than any other, she just wanted to see her people win. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter @fybconscious.