I’ve been thinking about this question (the serious one, not the 4th grade taunt) for a while. Especially since Rosie O’Donnell came out, and I heard a critic on National Public Radio wondering why she didn’t do it sooner.
Rosie O’Donnell: American actress, comedian, talk show host, editor of the magazine Rosie (formerly Ladies Home Journal); adoptive mother of three, erstwhile foster mom; recently declared lesbian. The piece on NPR that disturbed me said basically, Good for Rosie, but not so good for all the people she could have helped, if she had come out sooner. The author seemed to feel that her coming out was timed to help sell her new book Find Me and was also an attempt to influence a Florida law barring gay people from adopting. He felt that her coming out would have served a greater good if it had happened when she was at the top of the TV rating charts, when, presumably, her talk-show audience would have been forced to confront their biases and decide, by God, they loved Rosie and therefore all gays and lesbians must also be worthy of their love.
Whatever Rosie’s reasons for coming out when she did, as far as I’m concerned, she gets to have ‘em. She’s an adult; she gets to make the choices about how she lives her life. If her actions help others, so much the better, but a decision as big and personal as opening her private life to the national media is HER DECISION, and other people shouldn’t try to second-guess her. Or anybody else.
Friends interviewed in People Magazine ( “Rosie’s Brave Step”, March 18, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 10) say that her homosexuality has been no big secret, that she’s never been ashamed, and that she’s very, very happy with her girlfriend of 4 ½ years, Kelli Carpenter. Well, good for her. Coming out is a series of steps, and as with most other important choices, each individual gets to set hir own schedule.
I’m adding to a node that poses a question again. They have a tendency to turn into GTKY nodes and get nuked. I haven’t learned my lesson yet. . .
Advice on actually telling your parents that you’re gay, courtesy of Deb Price, author of And Say Hi to Joyce: the life and chronicles of a lesbian couplep>
Like other special occasions, the coming-out conversation is much more likely to turn out well—at least in the long run—if proper preparations are made.
The most important thing is to prepare yourself: Be certain you’re comfortable with your sexual orientation. And be sure you’re capable of coping emotionally and (if you’re still in school) financially with whatever immediate reactions you receive.
Otherwise, your parents are likely to mistake your fear of rejection for confusion about whether or not you’re really gay. Having heard the myth that sexual orientation is a choice, they might well think that showing disapproval would force you to straighten up.
“One of the common mistakes people make is coming out to others in the hopes that the other person will approve of them and thereby short-circuit their own personal self-acceptance,” says psychologist Rob Eichberg, author of Coming Out: An Act of Love.
As the subtitle of Eichberg’s book emphasizes, coming out to parents is a loving act, an attempt to tear down the wall of silence. Yet on the parents’ end of the conversation, coming out often seems like a hostile act, one that instantly puts up a barrier.
Be prepared to help your parents begin to rid themselves of the misconceptions that we all absorb simply by living in this anti-gay culture. Perhaps for the first time, you’ll be leading the way.
Immediately after breaking the news, give them the phone number of a parent now comfortable with having a gay child. P-FLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at (202) 467-8180 can put you in touch with the chapter nearest your folks and provide two helpful pamphlets: Read This Before Coming Out to Your Parents and Is Homosexuality a Sin?
Also, hand your parents a letter and a book to read once the emotions of the moment ebb. The letter should explain again that you want them to know who you are because you love them. The book should forthrightly address all the reasons that few parents break out the champagne when finding out a son or daughter is gay. Two of the best such books are Now That You Know: What Every Parent Should Know About Homosexuality and Beyond Acceptance: Parents of Lesbians and Gays Talk About Their Experiences.
A final word: Keep in mind that you spent a lot of time coming to the decision to talk to your folks, and you (probably have) spent a lot of time getting comfortable with who you are. Don’t expect your parents to be able to do these things in any shorter amount of time than what it took you.
Price, D., The Ins and Outs of Coming out to Your Parents,
, in Price, D. and Murdoch, J., And Say Hi to Joyce: the life and chronicles of a lesbian couple
, Doubleday, 1995 (pp. 293-295)