Saturday, August 20, 2005

Happy Coming Out

I "came out" to my parents in 1990, a few months before I went to University. It wasn't a particularly good time to do so (negative attitudes towards homosexuality increased during the 1980s according to the social surveys I've looked at.) My parents were supportive, although that night there were tears in the Odana household. And it took months, support groups and a number of self-help pamphlets before they really accepted it.

Nowadays, coming out is perhaps a little easier for gay and lesbian teenagers, but I still don't think it's easy. Both Craig and Kemal came out on Big Brother (although their parents must have been blind and deaf with IQs in the negative figures to have not worked it out previously). Both were worried about the reaction of their parents, although seeing video messages reassured them that everything was OK. "We love you no matter what" was the gist of the messages.

While this is certainly better than "I don't want to hear about it!" or "You need therapy", saying "I love you no matter what" is still a rather half-hearted response. Instead, coming out should be turned into a special occasion, a sign of maturity and a cause of celebration. A kid who comes out should receive presents and cards and have a party thrown for him or her (with a delegation of cuties from the local LGB youth group invited). The date should be celebrated annually as the person's "Coming Out Day". (since 2000 National Coming Out Day in the UK is October 7th apparently, and October 11th in the US - which co-incides with most people's first couple of weeks at University, so there's still plenty of time to prepare).

It is a good sign then, that Clinton Cards recently launched a range of gay anniversary and birthday cards (although no coming out card as yet). It would be great if future generations of gay and lesbian people viewed their coming out as a lot of fun, rather than an over-long "very special epsiode of Blossom" as I view mine.


matty said...

I was 16. Came home really late and quite stoned. My mother, always oblivious to my drug-induced state was annoyed that I had once again turned down her suggestion to meet her friend's daughter. As I crawled to the kitchen to eat everything in it, she came up to me and asked, "What is your problem? Are you gay?"

...I said yes.

she cried for a second and then muttered, "I guess I knew that when you made us buy you a Barbra Streisand record and you were only 4. I fucking hate that woman."

...and, that was about it. I was quite lucky --- and in Texas would ya believe?!?!

Trashbinder said...

I recall my coming out moment really well. I was 22 and it was in the kitchen at my parents house.

Mum was busily dishing up the evening meal and I was talking to her as she did this.

"Mum, I have met someone"

"Oh have you dear, that's nice. Would you like roast as well as mashed potatoes?"

"Yes please. Mum, I am happy you know and I think this relationship is going to go somewhere."

"Oh I'm happy too darling. Carrots?"

"Yes please. What I'm trying to say is...that..."

"Can you take the gravy boat to the table please. I think we're ready to call your father to the dining room."

"But Mum...I need to..."

"I know darling, you can tell me his name and how you met him when we're washing up, now please wash your hands and take your seat."

Lubin said...

Both great stories which made me laugh. (Maybe kitchens are the best place to come out to your mother?) Any more?

Jay said...

I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been back then. But you're right even in todays "gay-friendly" climate it's still not easy.

When I came out two years ago to my mother (at the age of 19, the Christmas after my first term at university) I got the standard "We love you no matter what" line.

However it soon became clear what she actually meant was "well I don't like it but if I ignore the issue for long enough maybe it will go away". We've barely discussed the issue since then.

One day I'll muster up the courage to confront her about it, but at the moment I simply don't feel strong enough to essentially come out again. Cowardly I know. Bloody parents eh?

I love the idea of celebrating your coming out day though...

Mr Kenneth said...

I had the "we don't want this to change the way we feel about you" line, which I believe is variant 3(a) of the "We love you no matter what" sentiment, as amended for the emotionally repressed Middle Class British parent who is less able to use the word 'love'.

It was followed up hours later by my mother suggesting that perhaps I could live my life like Stephen Fry, who at the time was known to be gay, but reputed to be celibate. (My father's clever idea apparently)

In a rare moment of indignant determination, and clear thinking, I suggested that perhaps it might be a little unfair for me to compromise my lifestyle in order to simply please my father who quite obviously just felt awkward with the idea.

They got used to it in the end and Stephen Fry got a boyfriend whilst I did not.