Eric Marcus

How Do I Come Out to My Parents Again?

Filed By Eric Marcus | January 18, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, Lifetime Television, Parents, PFLAG, Prayers for Bobby

Hi Eric,

This month it will have been 8 years since I came out to my parents. It didn't go very well at all.

I sat down at the kitchen table with them and said simply "I'm gay" and that launched a truly stereotypical and cliched conversation/conflict. My dad was yelling and beating on the table as he said things like "How can you uphold the honor of the household?", "If you can get an erection then you can learn to have sex with women!" and "I don't want to hear any more about it until a good decision has been made."

My mom was less violent and angry but still upset. They both seemed concerned over the religious implications and their being embarrassed in the local community over having a gay son...

...It pretty much ended with them saying I can choose to be straight or I can be happy with being single.

I went back to college (this was on winter break) and proceeded to be out and open with friends and coworkers (I'm out to pretty much everyone now). But I haven't spoken to my parents about it since that night. I do still talk with and visit my parents occasionally but neither of us bring up anything tangentially related to being gay.

I want this to change. I want to be able to bring a boyfriend home to them or talk about how disappointed I am that Amendment 2 passed in Florida. I want a more normal relationship with my parents.

How should I proceed? How do I come out again (ugh)?

I'm exasperated.

Dear Exasperated,

I'm sorry to hear that coming out to your parents was such an upsetting experience (I know you didn't say that it was upsetting, but it sounds incredibly upsetting and disappointing--probably infuriating, too). I can't believe what your father said. Besides being incredibly crude and disrespectful, he clearly doesn't understand anything about sexual orientation or your experience of being gay.

This is what I would say to you if I were your parents and you came out to me again (8 years after the first time): We're so proud of you for having the courage to be yourself and to live your life openly and honestly. Please forgive us for not doing a better job of listening and understanding. We feel lucky to have a son who didn't give up on his parents even though he had every reason to. We love and support you and want you to feel comfortable introducing us to any of your friends or a boyfriend, if he's important to you. And we want you to know that we're interested in issues concerning gay rights and hope that you'll help us to better understand what your life is like and what the gay civil rights movement is about.

Well, that's my fantasy for you.

In preparing to talk to your parents, I suggest a couple of things.

First, spend some time at the PFLAG web site to see if you can gain some insight into what your parents may be going through and how best to talk with them.

Second, before you talk to your parents, think about whether there's another adult in your family (an aunt or uncle or a cousin or a close family friend) you can confide in and ask them sound out your parents before you talk to them. That person could find out whether your parents have softened in their views. Maybe you'll discover that your mother is eager to talk to you, but is afraid of your father's wrath. Who knows? But by having another adult ask the questions you won't leave yourself open to a full-frontal attack again--or at least you'll have some idea of what you're in for. One can hope that you'll learn some things that may help you map out the best approach for your second coming out.

I also suggest that you go to a PFLAG meeting (I'm hoping that there's a chapter near you) to talk to some PFLAG parents about what they recommend you do. Even if they don't have any useful suggestions, you'll at least have their support as you figure out how to approach your parents.

Finally, I'd like to ask the people who read my blog for their suggestions, so I hope they'll post their suggestions in the comments section.

One more thing. Lifetime television is airing a movie on January 24 called "Prayers For Bobby," which is based on a book about a young man and his family. It's mostly about Bobby's deeply religious mother coming to terms with Bobby's suicide. Perhaps one day it's a movie your parents will be able to watch and learn from.

Good luck!

All best, Eric


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You came out to them. You did the work once. I don't think there's any reason you should have to do it again. It's their turn to get over themselves and come to terms with it.

To the extent you feel brave and strong enough to do it, I think you should just share your life with them, tell them about boyfriends, friends, etc. Your life is normal, and there's no reason to keep it secret from them. It's their attitude that is abnormal. I know it's difficult and painful, but if you want to be close to your parents, you have to open yourself to them.

If they continue to give you shit, if they absolutely refuse to grow up and accept who you are, they will have to settle for a diminished relationship with you, and you with them.

All the best to you.

You did it once, you told them and now you live your life out. If you want are not ok with them avoiding the subject then you can avoid them or you can just be who you are neither rubbing their faces in it or avoiding it. Be yourself and they can choose to be there or not.

I agree with the previous two commenters. The writer has done his job. Now it's the parents' turn to realize their mistake.

I'm sorry your parents reacted in such a disappointing way. I reiterate what Eric suggested - go to a PFLAG meeting. Some chapters have libraries and perhaps you can find a book to bring to your parents to read. Some suggestions are: "Beyond Acceptance" by Griffin, Wirth and Wirth. Parents of lesbians and gays share reactions.

A second book is: "Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together" by Bob Bernstein. Families in PFLAG tell their stories.

A third book is: "The Children Are Free" by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connelley. Reexamines the Biblical evidence on same-sex relationships.

You can read them and then pass them along to your parents, or you can give them to your parents first. The more they learn about other families' experiences, the more they hopefully will understand. You can find a local PFLAG chapter by going to www.pflag.org - there is a listing of all the chapters in the United States.

And last of all, I'd like to give you a big hug from a PFLAG mom (((Exasperated)))

Wow! This story is a lot like me, except I only had 6 years before coming out the first time and coming out the second time. I don't think I've ever read about someone else who, like me, had to come out to their parents twice!

Well, the first time I was 15 and the second I was 21. I thought it would be horrible the second time but actually it was a lot easier. In many ways they were eager to talk about it again. They wanted to know that I didn't hold it against them the way they acted the first time but couldn't find an excuse to bring it up.

I was also better at it - when I "came out" at 15 it was just because I didn't know what a history list was (yeah... the most dignified way to come out is having your father find the porn sites you've been visiting!). At 21 I wrote a letter. I think that difference helped out.

Yeah, I'd suggest actually coming out again instead of just living a gay life in front of them. They might not understand how to deal with it if he just shows up with a boyfriend and makes out with him. Anything like that will come off as confrontational. He should pretend like you need to do it for the first time, because, in many ways, he un-outed himself by hiding this part of his life (and, yes, when you avoid the conversation, that's hiding your sexuality. It's the closet again).