Eric Marcus

What Do I Tell My Mother? Part 1

Filed By Eric Marcus | August 31, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual, coming out of the closet, is it a choice, mothers, what if someone I know is gay

Dear Mr. Marcus,

I've finished reading your Is It a Choice book, and am currently reading What If Someone I know is Gay? But that's the thing. I know I'm a bisexual. With a preference to girls. I've known this ever since I was six. And yet, I've managed to suppress it all this time, and now I can't even admit it to my own mother. I mean, I already told my sister, who shrugged and said "okay" but what the heck can I do about my Mother?

Before you drop this email, I'll add some substance to it. For starters, I am an eighteen-year-old young woman about to attend ______________, with a local reputation of being the nice, quiet girl. Now, I would love to break from that, but I'm afraid of the implications of coming out so abruptly. So can I do it now? No. I mean, my mom's been single for fourteen years, and my sister's four years younger than me. Her best friend (who is like an adopted member of the family) is gay. He shouted it to "the whole world" in a school cafeteria.

I just recently accepted why I found girls more fascinating than guys. I mean, I've had a fling with a guy, but we parted before the start of senior year because we both wanted different things. And he told me to find my strength.

Then, I had a crush on a girl. She sat next to me in my AP Spanish class. It was so cool, because I never really got to talk to her a lot. She was in three of my classes, and I felt a bit of the attractions you described towards a guy. Even now, the recollection terrifies me, because I accept it, and don't know what to do!!!

I met a guy on campus during orientation who is in the same boat as me, and he said that his family was happier not knowing he's gay. Which made me sad, because something so simple can cause this much strife!

I cried when I realized how long I've lied to myself and the world. But how can I start the change? Especially since I'm starting college and moving on?

Thank you for your time. And eyes (since I'm typing this much).

--Bi and College Bound


Dear Bi and College Bound,

Congratulations on getting into ________________. This is a very exciting (and scary!) time in life, as you already know. Leaving home for college is a big step. Having to think about how to deal with your sexuality and what to say about it to the people closest to you and to the people you're about to meet makes the step your about to take all the more daunting.

I remember this moment in my own life as I contemplated who I was going to be when I got to college. Like you I had a reputation for being a nice, quiet kid. I always did the right thing. And I was very invested in my family and friends thinking the best of me. Looking back, I wish I'd focused more on what was best for me. And I think simply being myself would have been a lot easier than trying to project a certain image.

So, what should you do? I think you should be yourself. If that means shouting to the whole world in the school cafeteria that you're bi (with a preference for girls), then why not? If that's not your style (the thought of shouting something so personal to the entire school cafeteria would have scared me to death!), then perhaps you could just be yourself and when the subject of dating or crushes or sexuality comes up you can simply say that you like both boys and girls, with a preference for girls. If you indicate to people that it's not a big deal then that's how they're likely to deal with that information. You could also take your time and scope things out and then decide how open you want to be. You're not required to decide anything or say anything right now.

Why can't you talk to your mother about your feelings? Are you afraid she'll react badly? If your mother is someone you've always talked to about everything and she's a generally accepting person, then you should seriously consider talking to her before you leave for school.

Just keep in mind that if you feel confused or conflicted about your feelings, about what to say, about how you should act around your classmates, this is perfectly, totally normal.

One more suggestion--I suggest that you do something that I wish I had done when I started college. Find a counselor at school who you can talk to about your feelings. The first year of college is a huge adjustment for everyone, but it's all the more challenging for those of us who are not heterosexual (sexuality is a challenge for almost everyone when you're 18, but more complicated when your sexual orientation is still an issue with the larger society). Having a professional you can talk to can make a world of difference. I see a counselor now and have for many years, but wish I'd seen a counselor from the first day I arrived at Vassar College (in 1976).

I hope I've been of some help. Let me know if you have any other questions.

All best, Eric


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Also, BACB,

When you go from high school to college is a GREAT time to adjust the image that you project to the world--all those old friends that have seen the same you for years and years will either be gone, or at least will have a LOT of new faces lying around.

And those new faces don't expect anything from you. They don't even know you yet. For all they know, you're that loud, angry woman that doesn't take any guff from anyone. If you want to test drive being the queer person you know you are--there's hardly a better time to start.

Great advice, Eric & bittergradstudent. This is absolutely a time for new beginnings. How exciting!

One other suggestion I would make to BACB - take a Women's Studies class. Perhaps this will help you find your voice, as well as other students who can become a support network for you. Nothing like a bunch of energized, young feminists to help you find yourself. Plus, it's a great way to meet girls! ;^)