Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m an undergrad English student who just got published for the first time (yay!) and I’ll be starting work on my capstone thesis next semester (although I’ve already started reading and outlining and stuff like that). My family is currently very supportive and thrilled for me- also yay! Problem is, I’m not sure if that will continue once they actually read the paper in question. I promised to get them copies of the journal in the heat of the moment when I first announced my big news, and now I’m thinking that might not have been such a good idea.
I hold some rather… radical opinions on gender, sexuality, and the politics thereof, which is what I’m writing about, and my writing makes that VERY clear. My parents aren’t good at dealing with this stuff- I came out to my mom once, very awkwardly, and she still thinks it’s a phase; I’m closeted to the rest of my family because my grandmother is Super Catholic. This paper is the most important thing going on in my life right now, but I’m not sure how to talk about it with my family beyond a very cursory “I’m writing about gender and sexuality in Shakespeare” (which is totally not going to cut it for long). And once the journal is published and they get to actually read what I wrote, things could get very awkward very fast. (I do have an aunt and uncle who are ex-professors- they read the paper and loved it, but sadly I don’t get to see them very often.) It sucks, because otherwise I’m very close with my family, and I want to be able to share the biggest step so far in my academic and professional life without screwing things up permanently. Any suggestions?
Please Just be Happy for Me and Don’t Read the Paper
Dear PJBHFMADRTP, or, as I will address you henceforth, Wünderkind,
Sweet Machine reporting for duty, as resident queer literature scholar WHAT UP. We are in good company, don’t you think? If this were another blog, I’d be all over talking shop with you. Instead, I’ll try to help you sort this mess out.
But first! Congratulations are in order! Publishing as an undergrad is a huge deal — it means you done good, kid, and you are right to be thrilled. (Also, kudos to your profs for mentoring you through that process.) You are a talented scholar, and in a just world your family would be throwing you a party.
You don’t quite say enough about your family for me to know how drastic you expect things to get. You are out to your mom, who was not supportive but apparently hasn’t cut ties; you have a supportive aunt and uncle who, even if you’re not officially out, know about your “radical opinions;” you have a Super Catholic Grandma (the least impressive superhero ever, btw). You say you’re not out because of SCG, but it sounds like she doesn’t rule your family with an iron fist, at least not completely. Do other family members share her religious and political views? Can you make a list of who does and who doesn’t, or ask your nice aunt and uncle for their take? Since I’m not sure how many family members we’re talking about here, let me issue a Blanket Statement to the Awkward Army:
Blanket Statement: Your family is made of individuals, and you’re allowed to have different relationships with different individuals even if they live in the same house/go to the same church/watch the game every weekend.
The reason I think this is important to keep in mind is that you are totally, totally allowed to show off the paper to some members of your family and not others. You are also allowed to come out to some members and not others. Please note: showing off your paper may or may not be equivalent to coming out (assuming the first line is not “Since the dawn of time, undergraduate students have always [loved/abhorred] cock…”). With that in mind, here are some possible options for any given family member:*
- Don’t give them the paper for a made-up but plausible academic-sounding reason. You couldn’t get multiple copies of the journal! Your advisor wants you to revise it for a writing sample for grad school, so it’s not really done! TRUMP CARD: It’s excruciatingly boring to anyone not in your field of study! (Seriously, that is true of most academic papers — you can snap a pic of the table of contents with your name in print and send it to your adoring relatives instead.) Note: This will only work with people who aren’t very familiar with academia.
- Give them the paper and let them speculate on what it means for your personal life. The fact that a friend of mine writes about Soviet propaganda doesn’t mean she’s a Stalinist, right? The fact that you write about cross-dressing in Elizabethan theater doesn’t mean you’re about to get your own show on Logo. If they feel like extrapolating, that’s their business, and they’d damn well better have an actual conversation with you before jumping to any conclusions.
- Give them the paper and explicitly come out. You don’t have to do this all at once, necessarily, but if you want to come out to a given family member, this is a readymade opportunity to do so. Possible script: “Uncle Luis, I’m so glad that you wanted to read my paper — I’m so proud I can barely describe it. This may seem like a weird thing to talk about now, but I figured once you read it you might be wondering why I chose such a hot topic. The fact is, I’m [INSERT IDENTITY HERE], and not many people in the family know. I’ve been nervous about telling you, but I trust you and I want to have this conversation.” Then, have the conversation.
The upshot is, there are two decisions here: Share the paper y/n; come out y/n. There’s some thinking you’ve gotta do about each of those, but try to answer them separately at first so you can decide which course of action is best for which person. And if you do trust someone enough to come out to them, you can ask them not to share this information with Super Catholic Grandma; even if they think she should know, that is your decision, not theirs, and you can impress upon them how important it is that they respect this boundary.
Wünderkind, you are doing awesome things with your awesome self, and anyone not poisoned by homophobia will be so proud of you. I’m not gonna lie to you: coming out can be hard and awkward, and sadly it’s not something you get to do once and then it’s over. Queer people have to come out again and again in our lives, always assessing our safety and our expected level of wearying and intrusive questions. The good news is, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Everything in your life is in transition or new right now, and whatever you do, it may take a while for your family to get used to it. Your mom, for instance, clings to the “phase” idea because doing so allows her not to make the effort to get used to it or to understand what your future might look like. Eventually, she’s going to have to make that effort; meanwhile, you are turning into a fine, talented adult who can build support systems that don’t involve her dumb “phase” wishes. Assemble Team You, Avengers-style, make a “queer-friendly” and a “stuck in the 1950s” family tree, and map out your course of action. If Super Catholic Grandma sends beams of Catholic Guilt your way, they can be deflected with your Rainbow Shield of Justice and your Riverside Shakespeare.
*NOTA BENE: The absolute most important factor in coming out is your safety. If you suspect you might not be safe — physically, psychologically, financially — once you come out to a given person, you should not do it! Be safe.
43 thoughts on “#266: Oops, I might have come out by being wildly successful at college, PLUS bonus Blanket Statement”
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS, LW! I really don’t have anything to add to Sweet Machine’s sterling advice, but she is 100% right about how you should be really proud of yourself for publishing as an undergrad, because that is awesome. I hope your family can be supportive and proud of your work and also of you as an individual.
Seconded! *internet high five to you, LW*
P.S. Your family may be totally fine with not having a copy of the paper, and they may very well forget. Mine have, surprisingly soon after their “OMGOMGOMG” initial response, and have still been very proud. 🙂
And Sweet Machine is right that you don’t have to tell your family *why* you did the work you did. I get the feeling that most people assumed that my work as an undergrad was authentically my effort and something I was curious about…but somehow also assigned by my research mentor (which it was not). Good luck to you! And congrats again!
yes, I agree with this. Congrats on being awesome, and consider just not following up on providing copies if it will cause anxiety. My own husband hasn’t even read my academic publications, not because they are sensitive, but because they are LONG and a bit tedious.
Chiming in on this. My professor dad has actually published a book, but I haven’t read it, because I’m pretty sure I’d have no idea what he’s talking about.
Congratulations! Wow! It’s great that you are getting published! It sounds like something that I’d have fun reading….
And I don’t think that you are actually likely to have to hide the paper from most people, unfortunately. Fortunately? Something like that.
Your aunt and uncle who read it and loved it may be as far as it gets in the family. If you promised copies to people, you might have them in reserve, and only bring them out if they ask for it? Give it readily to the people that you really want to have it.
Your family is happy for you I am sure. Actually reading academic papers is a little more than most families do. Come out or don’t as you feel like it to the individuals in your family.
w00t – go you! tell them that it won’t be published for awhile and they’ll probably forget about it. in the meantime this advice: “Assemble Team You, Avengers-style, make a “queer-friendly” and a “stuck in the 1950s” family tree, and map out your course of action.” pretty much rocks my world.
you never know how people are going to react. even family that isn’t like you, might be accepting of you. i mean, i’m the square friend (straight, one sexual partner, long time marriage, never done drugs…) of many people who aren’t like me in the least bit – and i love them very very much. heck, i just designed the logo for the local gay straight alliance – ironically enough, it’s a superhero shield!
this is all easy for me to say, though, because i’m not the one having to make the decision. i wish you luck no matter how you decide to proceed.
Awesome job, Wunderkind, awesome reply SweetMachine, awesome use of the Ass-vengers illustration.
That illustration makes me so, so happy. And sad. Happysad.
If what’s already been published is less alarming (to them), perhaps you can fob them off with that? Especially if it’s dry enough that non-academic family members will keep meaning to get around to reading the whole thing and never quite get past the first page or two?
But first! Congratulations are in order! Publishing as an undergrad is a huge deal — it means you done good, kid, and you are right to be thrilled.
Srsly! TOTALLY FUCKEN AWESOME ACCOMPLISHMENT!!!
I’m disappointed that Captain America’s is the only actual ManBoobs-and-Butt pose in the picture. I demand more Manboobs!
“Give them the paper and let them speculate on what it means for your personal life. The fact that a friend of mine writes about Soviet propaganda doesn’t mean she’s a Stalinist, right? The fact that you write about cross-dressing in Elizabethan theater doesn’t mean you’re about to get your own show on Logo. If they feel like extrapolating, that’s their business, and they’d damn well better have an actual conversation with you before jumping to any conclusions.”
This. Unless your thesis is a first-person expose of Your Personal Life Choices, I don’t get how it’s outing you. Writing a paper about gender doesn’t = anything, other than your area of study.
And congrats!! If it wasn’t creepy, I’d want you to share where we could find the paper in question – I’d read it!!
Ditto this. I would advise letting them just read it without commenting (yet) explicitly on what it means for you personally.
If they read it and then ask you about it, maybe it means they’re ready to hear the answer?
I would also add that this would have another benefit – letting some of the ideas and matter-of-fact discussion about gender-type stuff percolate for a while. One of the harsh lessons I learnt when I came out is that it may take WAY longer than you think for your folks to wrap their heads around it.* This may be a way to non-confrontationally start the process.
*Although I had known for years that I was kind of queer – for me, it was never “Am I gay?” as “Am I gay or do I like boys too?” – I didn’t tell my parents until I actually had a girlfriend because I thought that would be easier. My dad wasn’t surprised and was supportive, but my Mum had a hard time dealing with it. I knew it would take a while, but not HOW long. I think it was also difficult for her to go through queer AND girlfriend, and then it was easy for her angst on my girlfriend.
I do regret it all now. It made sense to me when I was 18 and everything seemed like the biggest deal ever, but if I could re-do it I would come out (or started laying positive groundwork) earlier and with a better understanding of how my parents might deal.
If they read it and then ask you about it, maybe it means they’re ready to hear the answer?
I think this is an excellent point. People have an amazing ability to not see things they don’t want to see, or at least act like they’re not seeing it even if on some level they’ve figured things out, so it’s entirely possible that even if you did give your paper to your whole family, those that don’t want to think about your queer identity won’t.
(Obviously same caveat here as with Sweet Machine’s original advice, always always be cognizant of your safety and make that priority number one.)
Yeah, I liked that too.
Hey, LW – huge congratulations to you! Your letter reminds me very much of a situation that faced one of my relatives about 20 years ago. She graduated from a very prestigious university with a flawless GPA, a novel in the process of being published and a secret girlfriend.
Her parents (we come from a family immersed in a very traditional and generally not super gay-friendly culture) thought it was a phase too. Furthermore, her dad was a prominent newscaster in their city, and her mother worried that my cousin’s work – which very much outed her – would hurt her father’s career. She urged my cousin to write under a pseudonym, or consider a different career altogether.
As it turned out, my cousin came out to a few of us – including me, two aunts, two other cousins, and her parents and siblings. One of our cooler aunts loaned my cousin enough money to live on for a year, then went back to her parents and scolded them until they came around. The rest of us kept in touch with her as she began a kickass writing career. Today she is very successful, very happy, living a life that is authentically hers. Ten years ago, her Very Patriarchal Grandpa passed away, and today she is out to every member of the family. She is still writing and also a dean at a university.
I think her strategy – to hand-pick family members who would be supportive – to continue to do what she loved without really sharing her work with anyone beyond the core of family supporters – ultimately served her well. It definitely seemed to help to have that core group of supporters within the family. It may also help, when certain family members ask to see your work, to just laugh and say, “I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s about 400 pages long. You can just pretend you read it, I’ll be OK with that.”
So… I thought this question would be about how to get your relatives to read your paper! 90% of extended families are not going to follow through with reading an academic paper. It’s fine to worry but I best if you ask in your school, most of their experiences will be that people outside of academia want the conversational highlights, not to actually read the thing!
What this means is that you can have the big celebratory family event, just do it before it’s published. Then bask in the wonderful certainty that no one will ever follow up to read the thing.
Oops, I realize this sounded a bit dismissive – it’s not! It’s a great achievement and you should be proud. But yeah, one of my best friends published a novel a few years ago and I still haven’t read it. I bought it but I haven’t read it. I’m guessing most people won’t.
THIS. It is a wonderful & remarkable accomplishment to be published, especially as an undergrad! Congratulations! But no one in your family has to read it, and they may not even want to. I know you “promised” to give them copies, but they may not be expecting you to follow through with it. So you may not have to worry about this at all; it might be enough to take a picture of your name on the title page of the journal article (or in the table of contents). Share that, that may be all they want to see. If they ask for copies, tell them it’s weird, discipline-specific stuff and that everyone outside of your field finds dull (this may not be true, of course, but it sounds plausible).
If they still insist, know that they might be bogged down early and just start skimming, so their experience of your writing might be less shocking than you fear.
Of course, if your title reveals more than you want, something like “Loves Labours Lost: How Shakespeare Taught Me to Hate The Pope and Love the Vulva*” disregard this advice.
*FWIW I would read that article
This was my first thought too. How revealing/comprehensible are the title and first two paragraphs to somebody who isn’t versed in literary theory? Do you think these relatives really actually want to read the article because they are interested in what it says, or are they saying it because that’s what people say when a family member gets a book/poem/article published somewhere important? In my family personally, I know I have a bunch of relatives who would be really excited, and ask for a copy with the best intentions of reading it, maybe try to read a little bit, but definitely would not get through an entire journal article and probably wouldn’t get to the point of drawing conclusions about anything. Unless the first bits are particularly clear. You know your relatives best, so maybe yours are not like mine and they will read you loud and clear, but it’s something to think about.
On another note, CONGRATS!! That is really exciting. I tried (and failed) to get published as an undergraduate. Rock on!
Holy shit, Wunderkind, are you me two years ago??? I don’t know how this time-traveling mail works, but the advice I’ll send back when the mailman comes by in his TARDIS is that publishing is actually a really low-stress way of having this conversation. I don’t know where you are in the process of coming out, but if you really are me two years ago you’re still in the stage when you think it’s a big watershed moment after which your troubles are on their way to being resolved, one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, that’s partially true — but the thing you don’t realize until you’ve been totally out for a year or so is that this particular trouble is never over. Like Sweet Machine said, coming out is not a one-time (or however many stages it takes to open the closet door the first time; for me it was three) event; you’ll be doing it again and again your whole life. Sometimes even to the same people, especially if you have weirdo conservative family members. (No Catholics here, so I guess we’re not exactly the same, but I do have a grandfather who watches Bill O’Reilly religiously.) It becomes boring and obnoxious after awhile. So occasionally publishing A Gay Thing becomes a nice way to remind the folks of who you are without having to have the same conversation over and over. (“Grandpa, you understand that I AM GAY and I AM GOING TO MARRY A GIRL ONE DAY so that asshole’s show is PERSONALLY OFFENSIVE and by watching it YOU are offending me, right?” Or, alternatively, repeated pointed “my ex-girlfriend” references at dinnertime.)
Sweet Machine’s advice is sound. When I was you, I went the “send the paper out to everyone and let them make of it what they will” route, because it made the most sense for me at that time. You’ll have to figure out for yourself which way of dealing with this best balances danger and pride. (Sounds to me like maybe your mom is now in the in denial/needs casual reminding stage, like my grandparents still are? My mom was like that too, and it took a lot of super-awkward repetitions to get the point across — maybe this paper could be one of those awkward repetitions for you?)
So basically I have nothing to add beyond commiseration. Sorry. But for me, publishing Gay and Feminist Things has actually lowered the stress of dealing with the stubborn holdouts in my family. And I’m going to be in your situation again in a few months, when I will have a story published that is explicitly about being a closeted thirteen-year-old girl. I’m sure it will make some of my relatives uncomfortable! But, you know, that’s on them. And I’ll bet a zillion dollars they won’t say anything about it unless I bring it up. Awkwardness is funny that way.
Anyway, congratulations on your absurd success from another absurdly successful young queer. Make sure to remind all your friends that you’re published at every opportunity! I’m sure they will be impressed and not annoyed.
Also, if you really are me from the past, be assured that your life only gets better and better.
I once received this advice: Write like your parents are dead. I can’t say that I actually follow that advice, but it is something I strive for.
And I come from a family of academics who LOVE to proofread, and I don’t think they always read what I write. They just look at the pictures. So maybe you can include lots of diagrams in your published piece and they can focus on those.
One thing that I do, especially with my dad, is I tell him what I need from him before he reads something, usually along the lines of: “This piece has already been submitted, so please so not find anything wrong with it. I’m happy to discuss the general ideas, the time to point out spelling errors has passed.” Or, “Please spend hours ripping this to shreds and use an entire red ink pen on it.”
Your family sounds enthusiastic your academic work and career. I’m sure that you will arrive at a solution that allows them to share your success and support who you are.
What a great quote – the line about writing like your parents are dead. It made me think of my favourite Dear Sugar moment – “no-one will give you permission to write about your vagina” which has helped me anytime I wanted to make art about something socially icky (not just my vagina, but you know).
LW congrats! I think it’s wonderful to have a space where your skills and talents can combine with your life in this way and I think the ‘they probably won’t read it’ is safe advice – no one in my family read my dissertation for example, even though they said they would etc etc
Super Catholic Grandmas can surprise you. I have [had, actually 😦 ] one of those – and a gay cousin. Super Catholic Grandma shocked the hell out of my very anti-gay conservative parents by not only continuing to accept and love him, but by going to to events like his Gay Men’s Choir. We had moved away during the coming out time, so I don’t know how long of an adjustment period it was, but he remained very close to her until the end of her life. She never changed her Catholic views, but she loved him. If my parents had been asked at the time, I guarantee they would have said, “You can’t tell her that – it would kill her!”
(p.s. I’ve posted before, but working on a better handle)
From my admittedly outside perspective, homophobia is in the category of stances it is very easy to take in the abstract, but when it’s not abstract, that might be different.
I’ve noticed the downside of this phenomenon a lot, but it also has an upside.
(Grumble grumble, wordpress ate my comment while I was futzing around with trying to fix my screenname to something that’s less recognizable than my own unusual name but not associated with online dating weirdos, as I learned here the one I’ve been using is. Hi, I’ve posted here before but not recently. Anyway…hopefully I can re-create)
Super Catholic Grandmas can surprise you! I had one of those – and also a gay cousin. And Super Catholic Grandma shocked the hell out of my very anti-gay conservative parents by continuing to love and accept him. Not only that, but she would attend events of his like Gay Men’s Choir. We had moved away during the coming out time, so I don’t know how long of an adjustment period there was, but they remained very close until the end of her life. She never changed her Catholic views, but she loved him. If my parents had been asked at the time, I guarantee they would have said, “You can’t tell her that – it would kill her!”
For what it’s worth…
Wunderkind, congratulations on the publication! That is so awesome.
I don’t have any direct experience with coming out of the closet, but I do write both poetry and academic articles that are sometimes awkward to share with family members and acquaintances. Here are some things I’ve found useful, in case you find them useful too.
Academic stuff: This is mostly a strategy for people you are not very close to, but I find it useful to have a “boring” description of my work (for when I want to change the topic) as well as an “interesting” description (for when I’m actually open to a conversation). The boring description can have lots of big words. I am lucky because my field has a significant amount of math in it, and if you emphasize the math it shuts people right up. I’m not sure what the analogous respectable-but-boring thing for English majors is—maybe something involving historical details? Anyway, the point of the boring description is just to bore the other person enough that you can follow it up with a question that changes the subject. Then, you can ask the person about themselves, and have a nice conversation in territory that is potentially less scary. You can’t keep doing this with your parents, but for aunts and uncles you see a couple of times a year? This strategy is absolute gold.
Poetry: Poetry gets personal and emotional when you’re doing it right, and that makes for a lot of social weirdness. What if people think my poems are about them? Or what if they see straight through the poems to my inner self, and then totally hate my inner self? Here, it is really valuable to have a distinction in my own mind between “my narrator” (the totally imaginary person at the center the story) from “me” (the inventor of this imaginary person, whose emotions and judgments are really not up for discussion). This is even easier if you’re writing an essay, because you are just presenting arguments, not making any claims about yourself. I think if you can keep this distinction very straight in your own mind, it is a lot easier to talk about your work with other people without feeling like you’re oversharing your innermost emotions.
Anyway, it sounds like you love your academic subject and are good at it, which is just excellent! Congratulations again.
P.S. My family mostly wants copies of my articles but does not actually want to slog through them.
Yeah! Publications are already hard enough to do when you have a PhD (I’m not complaining about my last reviewer notes, really!), so kudos to you!
I grew up in a Catholic family. Coming out to my parents was one of the hardest things EVER. I was extremely close to them, as we grew up in Alaska and all of my extended family lived in California, so I only ever saw them about 2-3 weeks out of the year when we went to Nowhere, California to visit them in the 100 degree heat. Alaska is also not one of the most liberal places as you can imagine (see Sarah Palin for an example).
Anyway, my only real advice to you is (if you haven’t already) to start working on your support network at university. It sounds like you’ve got plenty of things on track there, so I can only imagine you already have this amazing support network available to you. When we come out, sometimes our close family and friends just can’t handle it, and they leave us in the dust. We can make our own family with new people who do support us. If you do that first, you know you have people you can turn to if things get bad with your real family.
My dad is one of those uber-Catholics. He goes to mass every weekend. (Which isn’t as bad as my Grandmother, who went to mass every day.) Whenever he’s visited me in the areas where I’ve moved (New Mexico, California, the UK), he’s researched Catholic churches on the Internet to find one in the area so he won’t miss mass. He also finds them in the area he’s visiting if he’s going somewhere on vacation. If he does miss mass, he won’t take communion until he goes to confession. That’s some serious Catholicking folks! He’s also been so surprisingly awesome about my sexuality that it’s shocking. He might not have been at first, and it took time, but he’s been come out to by transgender people getting ready to go through the process of getting an operation, and he’s been really supportive. He’s even told off his friends from his men’s group when they start making homophobic remarks because “you just don’t know who may be around who is gay”. I’ve been really impressed with his ability to be that supportive.
Hopefully things will work out well for you if/when you decide to tell them. It may not be easy at first, but that support network is really crucial! I also agree with Sweet Machine’s advice to make sure you’re financially ready to be on your own. If there is a major problem, and they parents cut you off financially, then you don’t want to find yourself dropping out in order to live. Also agree with the fact you can come out to different family members and different times! You can often create your support network with those you know will be supportive (like that aunt and uncle).
Good luck, and congratulations again!
Can I hug your dad?
Sure, next time you’re in Alaska, look him up! But seriously, people can be surprising. Hopefully you’ll have a few surprises like that in your lifetime!
Eeeee you published as an undergrad well done. LW you are awesome. Go forth and shine.
Not much to add to the brilliant advice you’ve gotten, except that a really really good thing to keep in mind is that you will probably come out to your loved ones at some point in your life, so ask yourself the question “what do I REALLY want to get out of this interaction?” you know and love your family best, and only you know wht’s truly in your heart, so only you can answer this question. Coming out is more complex than people would have you believe; it isn’t an either/or case of rainbow glitter parties/dis inheritance. Consider your own feelings about the process, run them through your head and heart, and maybe you’ll decide that opening a hearty Thanksgiving discussion about Queere Speare is how you want to come out.
Parents rarely understand academic papers, and by now you should have a delightful repertoire of lit-major doubletalk. You have more control of the situation than you think; what do you want to do with it?
Finally, I used to tutor College Composition and one of the undergraduates brought in an essay aboit human vegetarianism, in which the first glorious sentence was:
Since the dawn of time, a battle has raged between vegetarians and meat-eaters.
Thanks for reminding me, Sweet Machine…
YES THAT IS AWESOME
You’ve seen this, right? http://shitmystudentswrite.tumblr.com/
I’ve… I’ve never seen that before. It is relevant to my interests.
That is pretty amazing. As yet another denizen of academia, I can definitely appreciate it.
(I used to be involved in an intro bio course where, when it came time to grade the final exams, we would write “Discoveries New To Science” at the top of a whiteboard, and keep a running list of weird shit the students came up with. Ah, those were the days.)
Bloody well done, Wünderkind!
Nobody in my family has ever read any of my papers.
Congrats! I agree most families don’t read academic papers. My family and even my boyfriends and all friends outside my field had and have NO IDEA what my undergrad thesis, masters thesis, or dissertation were even about. I don’t take it personally at all. They would nod when offered a paper, but they would never ever read it. So, I think you could get away with quietly never giving the paper to anyone. I would bet no one asks for it. Academia is a bubble and the stuff is just too boring and technical to people outside your field. That said, your work does sound interesting.
I just wanted to say Squee! I am so impressed! I wrote a lot about gender roles in Shakespeare as an undergrad and I sure wasn’t published. I would have so. much. fun. talking to you about stuff that bores everyone that I know to tears, such as how interesting it is that Juliet speaks the prothalamium and has the male role in almost every way… OK I’ll stop.
Anywho, HUGE congrats on publishing. You have a bright future ahead of you.
Oh, and since I can’t edit– You’d better believe that no one in my family read my thesis. I told them what it was about, and that it was dry and boring. All of this was true, and they took my word for it.
I’ll be sad when I’m done giggling. Which may be a while. *wipes eyes*
I’m a fan of sweet machines advice: let them draw their own conclusions if they want to read all those pages in academic prose. However, you could just send out the abstract, and tell people that reading the whole thing might not be interesting to them, due to page count and academese. This would probably be sufficient and might not go into specific examples of your radical (yay!) thoughts. You could also slightly alter it or make the language more dense if you felt the abstract still gave you away to grandma. This kind of hurts my heart to suggest, because you wrote your truth truthfully and awesomely and you shouldn’t have to alter anything for homophobia. But if you’d feel better about safety and grandmas then I say go for it.
Honestly though, unless you’re trained it academese, it’s pretty hard to comprehend. And as an academic, I’m sure you can explain/interpret your ideas depending on audience. You’re the expert after all!
Had a stray thought, although i’m not sure it’d work for you. Maybe an excerpted reading at a family gathering, in lieu of sending it out to everyone? You get attaboys but still control the flow of info?
Major congrats! I’d also like to add a suggestion of how to send out awesomeness to your family without them reading the thing, exactly (if that’s what you want): get out your best Academia clothes and take a picture of you with the journal (or have someone else take the picture). I wrote a feature in my high school’s newspaper where I effectively came out and said “but I do other stuff too! I’m not just sitting around here being queer!” The article hasn’t survived, but the grainy picture of me (in the article, no less) as a sophomore has.
LW — chiming in just to add my congrats on publishing. Everyone else already had good advice.
Getting published is AWESOME. And totally on my to-do list.
LW, I offer this as an alternate view:
Getting academically published as an undergrad is an absolutely huge deal. You’re amazing.
I came out to my great-aunt by getting published.
I had a story in an anthology of Scottish lesbian and gay fiction. My first professional publication. I was hugely proud of myself. I took the book to my great-aunt and showed her (and told her the story was science-fiction so Not Her Thing, which was true) and she was so proud of me and exclaimed over it, and me, and looked at me with so much pride in her talented niece…
and then read the front cover, and we had a short coming-out conversation.
And that was it.
She found herself able (as I’d known she would be – she did genuinely love me, though she was unhappy about my sexual orientation) to accept me as me. She kept the book till she died. In a way, telling her like that was easier: we didn’t get into any of the stuff about “But what do you DO?” because how the information came to her was not via a relationship I was having, but an accomplishment that she was very proud of.
Maybe it will work that way for you, too. Only you can say.
The absolute most important factor in coming out is your safety. If you suspect you might not be safe — physically, psychologically, financially — once you come out to a given person, you should not do it! Be safe.
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