Tip #4: No Apologies
To read Tip # 3 in this series of How to Deal with Families and Friends, visit here.
When I came out to my mom, or rather, when she pulled me out of the closet with her questions (see whole story here), the first thing I said to her after confirming that yes, I am a lesbian, was, "I am so sorry." Her response to me taught me a very valuable lesson that I hope I can pass along to as many gay and lesbian men and women as I know. She said to me, "You have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to apologize for."
Years later, in sharing my story with a friend, she said to me, "You are so lucky," referring to how accepting my family has been, and how supportive they are. This observation that I am "lucky" that my parents accept me struck me as odd. I thought to myself, would my brother ever find himself sitting around thinking, "I am so lucky that my mom and dad accept me?" I don't think so. He might if he had DONE something wrong - but I doubt he would if he were just pondering his existence.
Parents are people with judgments, opinions, beliefs and concerns that don't stop existing just because they have children. When we, their children, buy into their beliefs as THE TRUTH, without seeking our own answers, we cease to grow. We must fiercely pursue our own understanding of the truth, while respecting the right for others to have their own understanding of the truth.
However you identify, whatever choices you make about how to live and how to love, be sure that you are able to do so without apology. Sure, we DO things, or behave in ways that may invite apology. Apologizing when we have done something wrong makes sense and I'm a fan of this type of personal responsibility. When we apologize for being gay though, we are saying to the world, "there is something wrong with who I am."
Apologies aren't limited to the words, "I'm sorry." We apologize in many ways, and through many actions. Some of the more common apologies I have witnessed are these responses by gay men and women when asked if they plan to come out to their parents:
- "I can't do that to my parents, it would kill them."
- "They have enough stress to deal with, I don't need to add to it."
- "I don't want them to be bothered this."
- "It's selfish to burden them with my issues."
I hear these words as, "I am sorry for who I am and how my existence may affect you. Therefore, I will protect you from who I really am so that you do not have to be harmed by the truth of my existence." If asking someone to grow, to understand, to step outside of their world view and their personal understanding of life and people is a bad thing, then we may never grow as a population of people.
Thanks to my mom, I learned very early in my process that while I certainly have my own share of quirks and flaws for which I may need to apologize from time to time, being gay is not one of them.