All month long we’ve been talking about LGBTQ topics in honor of Pride Month. Last week we discussed coming out to your parents, this week we’ll discuss when a parent comes out to their kids or grandkids.
Believe it or not, there’s still a large number of LGBTQ people who are adults and living their lives in the closet. It’s not just the young who come out, there are more and more seniors coming out to their families each day. Baby Boomers or Gen Xers grew up in a time of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Now that gay marriage is legal everywhere in the US, more and more closeted adults are finding the courage to come out. Often they need to come out to straight spouses, their children and even grandchildren – this can be a terrifying thought to those who have spent their whole life hiding who they really are.
If you’ve decided it’s time to come out to your spouse, children, and even grandchildren (and probably to your parents too) there are many things you’ll have to consider that LGBTQ youth have not had to worry about. You’ve built a life that includes other people. You’ve created a life built on a lie, one others probably have no idea about.
Know what you want going forward – If you’re married to a straight spouse you’re about to rock their boat in ways they’ve never imagined. Before you upset their world, know what you want to do going forward. For some couples it might mean divorce, for others, that is not desired. Determine what you want to do, but be ready for your spouse to choose a different path. You may want to stay married, your spouse may not. Those are things you’ll have to work out in the months to come, but you need to know what you want to do before you open this can of worms.
Parenting – Coming out to your children isn’t as difficult as coming out to a spouse. Most children of gay parents are supportive, even if it takes a while to get there. You don’t owe your kids any explanation, but if you choose to give one make sure it is age appropriate. If your kids live at home tell them what you and the other parent plan on doing going forward, but that no matter what, you and the other parent will continue to love and parent the kids like you always have.
Gay Adolescence – When older adults come out, they often go through what has been termed a gay adolescence – it’s a time when adults act like teenagers discovering sex and all its wonders. This can include risky behavior so do your best to keep a level head.
Extended Family – As an LGBTQ adult coming out for the first time later in life, extended family members might have a difficult time changing their perception of you. In-laws are going to be upset for hurting their child, or believing that to be the case, and other family members simply might not know what to say or do. We all want acceptance, and it will probably come over time, but keep in mind that family members might feel as though they have been decieved and might not be ready to accept you with open arms. It may have nothing to do with your newfound identity as much as it does your deception all these years.
Coming out is never easy, but it is easier than living a lie. Trust that things will work out over time and don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of a professional family counselor to help get over the bumps in the road.