When I was growing up, my parents and I had a pretty rough relationship, and though it got better as an adult, coming out was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. My parents worked really hard to keep a sense of normalcy in the home for my older brothers, but the extent of my mental illness took a hit on the family and we’ve been struggling to rebuild since my teens.
I didn’t know anyone who was gay and out when I was a teenager. Maybe that’s why my sexuality didn’t even cross my mind until my twenties, when I finally met people whose lives made sense to me. I somehow got it in my head that because I put my parents through hell in my teens with my mental illness, I couldn’t put them through more hell in my twenties with my sexuality.
I stayed in the closet for a few years and began a complex life of hiding and lying and the anxiety that comes with being found out. I was on hyper-alert all the time. If my parents were in the neighborhood and called to drop by, my girlfriend at the time and I could change the den in our apartment into a second bedroom in about 30 seconds.
Finally, the hiding got to be too tiring and it was time that I told my parents – regardless of consequence. They lived about a twenty-minute drive from my apartment at the time, and I visited them eight days in a row, practicing my coming-out speech every night as I drove over the bridge. Seven of those eight nights, I didn’t have the guts. I was too scared of rejection and riddled with shame. On the eighth night, I managed to get the few words out of my mouth. I closed my eyes, waiting for the backlash. Instead, my mother hugged me harder than she ever had in my life. My father was next.
I was incredibly lucky that it went so well and couldn’t really have asked for a better reaction, though one of the things that I will never forget from that night was my parents mourning the loss of my future offspring. They didn’t seem to think that pregnancy was an option unless there was a penis in my house. I didn’t think much of it then, thinking “I’ll cross that bridge later.” And now is later.
I have a similar sense of fear to that which I felt driving over the bridge to their house almost ten years ago. Although babies are an everyday thought for me, I have yet to figure out how to tell my parents that Devon and I will be trying to conceive this year. Perhaps they will be as supportive as they were years ago when I came out. Perhaps I finally have the relationship with them that I’ve always wanted and I’m terrified to lose that. Perhaps they will love our child the way they love my brothers’ kids. Perhaps they will have a tougher time.
I need their support, and I can’t imagine going through this journey without it. But right now, I feel as though I need to protect my dreams and desires. But, soon, I will drive across that bridge again. I think some rehearsal speeches are in order.
[Photo Credit: dieselbug2007]