Straight Talk Advice

Sep 23, 2009

Gay girl fears “coming out” to intolerant parents

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I haven’t told anyone, but I’m gay. I wish I wasn’t and I’ve tried to change, but nothing works. My parents are very religious and think being gay is one of the worst sins possible. I get sick thinking about how they would treat me if they knew. I’m also worried about my friends rejecting me. What do I do? I’m 16. I can’t keep it a secret forever. — Kristie, Carmichael, CA

Maureen 17, Redding, CA Ask me a question

Step one: tell an understanding friend. I was the first person my friend told. He is now openly gay among friends, but his parents, who are close-minded, are still unaware. For further advice, go to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at www.pflag.org.

Molly 17, Fair Oaks, CA Ask me a question

The good part is you sound sure of your orientation. Many go years denying it especially when it goes against family beliefs. It’s possible your parents will reject you, at least for awhile, so I would have at least 10 people who will support you before you tell them. You could even have one of them there with you. Above all, you first must be confident that there is nothing wrong or shameful about being gay.

Katelyn 14, Huntington Beach, CA Ask me a question

Look for a homosexual support group; knowing you’re not alone will help. At the same time, don’t give up on being straight. Exodus International (www.exodusinternational.org) helps Christians who feel gay but wish not to. I believe gay feelings are temptations. Don’t let society paint you into a corner by saying you have to be gay.

Rachel 18, Fair Oaks, CA Ask me a question

Start by telling one person. Then decide your next step.

Mariah 17, Sand Springs, OK Ask me a question

Your parents may not like it, but ultimately, they will love you. I have plenty of gay friends. If your friends reject you, they weren’t friends anyway.

Catherine 22, Amherst, MA Ask me a question

You cannot, and should not, hide who you are from those you love. For some of my friends, coming out to their parents was the hardest thing they ever did — until they did it. I recommend Am I Blue? Coming out from the Silence, which is a compilation of coming-out stories. It helped me come out and I was lucky to discover how compassionate my family and friends were.

Jack 18, San Luis Obispo, CA Ask me a question

I hate to be a downer, but there is a great possibility that religious parents won’t take kindly to your being gay. Is telling them worth going through two more years in a house where your parents resent your sexuality?

DEAR KRISTIE: Your generation is very accepting of homosexuality, so definitely tell your friends. You’ll feel much better and most will stand by you. However, with intolerant parents, I’m inclined to take Jack’s advice a step farther and suggest waiting until you finish college or are self-supporting. There are two reasons for waiting that long (which is not so long): one, you continue having loving parents who perhaps plan to help with college, and two, you have more time to explore your sexuality.

Female sexuality is very different from male sexuality. Some gay females do appear to be “born” gay — and this might be you. But whereas males tend to be either straight or gay with little in between, brain research shows that most females can be fluid in their sexuality and can change from straight to gay to bi and back again. (See our column JAN 14, 2009.) Because of this, “gay” or “bi” females should be hesitant about labeling themselves too quickly.

Explore the websites recommended above. Research the neuroscience on female sexuality. Get some more life under your belt, stay mindful of inner experiences, see what settles out. Then decide what and when to tell parents such as yours.

Editor’s Web Note: Welcome to another straight-shooting smorgasbord of advice from the youth panel. Distinct for their generation is a tectonic shift in changing sexual orientations. Female sexuality is only beginning to be studied rigorously and it is proving to be very fluid compared to male sexuality. I invite you to our archives (column Jan 14, 2009), where we look at a possible social component to such a rapid, widespread change in sexual orientation, particularly among females. — Lauren

  1. By Heather, 19, Panelist, age , from Ware Shoals, SC on 09/23/2009

    I have many gay and bi friends. I don’t love them anymore or any less. About your parents, I would just sit down and explain it to them. They love you and sure they might be hurt, upset and maybe in shock but sooner or later they will get use to the fact of knowing that you are gay. If you friends say they are your friends then they will stick with you. If not then they weren’t your true friends.

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  2. By Rebecca, age , from Fullerton, CA USA on 10/07/2009

    I am surprised that no one suggested that this is a perfect reason for teens not to be having sex.  Teenage years are confusing and challenging enough without adding doubts about your sexuality.  It is perfectly acceptable to choose not to have sex.  You may not have a choice about whome you are attracted to, male or female, but you have a choice to act on those feelings or not.  Since you, Kristie, stated that “you wish you weren’t gay” I would offer the possibility that you don’t have to be either.  Just be a teenager and enjoy life. Your sexuality doesn’t have to define who you are.  You are free to choose neither at this point.  I think you parents would be proud of this choice but you don’t need to share it with anyone.

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  3. By Thomas W. Johnson, PhD, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 10/20/2009

    I always read your “Straight Talk for Teens” column whenever it appears in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. While I’m well beyond that age, my original research as an anthropologist was on peer group socialization during late childhood and early adolescence in Japan and Korea. I’ve conducted research and written about the impact of peer groups on becoming a “normal” adult.

    My research today (at Medicare age) has taken a very different twist, but today’s column threw up red flags for me and compelled me to write.

    My current work is on gender dysphoria – those whose physical sex is different from the gender that their brain tells them that they are. I have been working with a population born with male external plumbing who know from an early age that they are not boys, but who also know by about the age of puberty that they are not girls either. They work toward establishing a neutral sex and gender for themselves through castration and an androgynous presentation in society. There are thousands of them – very well hidden.

    What bothered me about your column today about coming out as gay derives from some of those whom I have encountered during this research project. They are not part of the study, but came to my attention along the way as I researched males who have been castrated.

    Children of extremely religious parents need to be very cautious about coming out. Parents can act violently to learning that their child is gay.

    I will give but a single example, that of a young person, now in his 20s, who came out as gay to his parents when he was 14. His father castrated him, preferring a NON-sexual son to a homosexual son. The father served far too short a time in prison for his act. The son now lives in the greater Sacramento area, is on hormone replacement therapy, and is contentedly gay after his horrific ordeal.

    Please think through the possible worst case scenario for your columns and add a warning where appropriate.

    Your column provides a wonderful resource to teens, but needs a bit more care on some topics.

    Sincerely,
    Thomas W. Johnson, PhD

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