Yes, we've all heard it many, many times before. "I'm not out to my parents but they know." Or- "Yeah, they know but we don't talk about it."
Listen, ok. I get it. I really do. Not everyone is blessed with liberal open-minded parents who don't have a problem with homosexuality and/or have the ability to accept the fact that their son or daughter is gay. I also understand that to realize or accept that one's son or daughter is gay is a huge and life changing event for a parent.
But for a modern gay person to withhold these very simple and basic details of their life from their parents only closets the child further and prevents the parent from truly getting to know their child for who they really are. If a parent is homophobic or judgmental or believes the stereotypes about gay people, then not coming out only perpetuates the parent to carry on with these beliefs.
I have a friend who has been gay since we were in college. He hasn't brought a girlfriend home since he was at most, 20 years old. His parents are southern, religious conservatives who have preconceived Christian views as to what and who gay people are. My friend is now approaching thirty and has had a committed boyfriend for over two years. However, my friend is not out to either of his parents and he continually uses the excuse, "They know, they have to, but we don't talk about it," and thus he lives the existence with his parents with this huge pink elephant in the room.
I beg him, "How much longer are you going to continue doing this? What way is this to have a relationship? Yeah it will be a blow to them at first but coming out will only let them get to know who you are- who you really are, and further, it will challenge and potentially break their views on gay people and homosexuality!" To this, as always, he shrugs and changes the conversation.
Now I certainly wouldn't stress this to him if he had desperate financial connections to his parents, if they were drunks, violent or gun owners. But they're not- they're simple people living in simple America and he's an adult with the power to take ownership over his life and change his parents' perspective. Why, in this day and age are we so afraid to be real with our parents?
Of course there are reasons to remain closeted. If you live under your parents' roof or finances and risk being cut off or thrown out- then by all means, stay in the closet. Never put yourself in harm's way just to come out but if you're an adult living a full-on gay life and your parents "know but kinda don't know" then come the fuck out of the closet and put an end to this nonsense.
You're not only hurting yourself and your relationship with your parents but, moreover, you're hurting the gay community as a whole by not changing the way your parents think. To be able to change even one uneducated or homophobic mind is so utterly and completely necessary. Education and change of opinion only spreads to positive outcomes.
In talking with gay men in their 20's, 30's, 40's and up I've often heard the excuse, "Why do my parents need to know? They don't need to know about my sex life." Or- "My brother and his wife don't talk about their sex life, why should I?" Well, at least your parents know your brother has a wife!
Here's the thing- this isn't about your sex life. I'm not asking you to say, "Gosh, Mom, you won't believe the guy I had sex with last night, what a stud-monster!" What I am asking is that you talk about your life, what you do, who your friends are, what your hobbies are because all of them include you and your gay friends. It is essential that uncomfortable parents realize and understand entirely that your life is just the same as theirs (although probably a lot more fun and exciting.)
Ask yourself, what benefits do you have by remaining in the closet to your parents? If you're afraid coming out to your parents will hurt your relationship, ask what relationship you're currently having? Is having a status-quo relationship where you repeatedly sputter out the "life's good- work's good" mantra than you never had much of a relationship from the start.
Grab your courage. Grab your voice. Deal with the fact that the gasps might come out, that the fork and knife might drop and clatter on the plates, but understand that by this Thanksgiving or next or the Thanksgiving years from now, your parents will know the child they are sitting next to at the table.