I am a lesbian in her mid-twenties who grew up in a very religious (and homophobic) environment. In my last year of college, I began dating one of my best friends who lived in another state, and slowly began to come out to my social circle, which at that time was largely composed of friends I met at my religious college. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and nearly all of the people I’ve told have responded well, but I still have not been able to tell any of my biological family. Her parents are both supportive of us, and paid for us to elope and have a short honeymoon in New York back in December. (Elopement has been on the table for a long time, but we wanted to make it official after the election.) They are also temporarily offering her financial support while she looks for a job here (she moved to be with me and we got an apartment last month). As far as my parents know, the trip to New York was an early Christmas present from her parents that she invited me on because we’re really close, and we’re just roommates.
Neither of my parents have any idea about either my sexuality or my relationship – I lived at home the whole time I was dating my wife, and I was very careful. My mom is the kind of person who would ask me directly if she thought I was gay (she cornered me after marriage equality passed for an hour-long “chat” about it) and my dad and I have never discussed my romantic life even when I thought I was straight. I love my parents and I’m pretty close with them, but they’re both openly homophobic, so I honestly don’t know how they’ll react when they find out about me. Part of me hopes that maybe now that I don’t live with them, it will get easier and I can be more open about my relationship, but I also know they’ll probably be at least upset that I lied to them for years. Do you have any advice about how to broach this topic with them? I’m considering breaking the news that my wife and I are in a relationship to them via email soon, but I worry that somehow they’ll find out that we’re actually married and it will upset them even further. I want to be as kind and respectful to them as I can be, but I love my wife and I won’t apologize for that, or for making choices that make me happy. Thanks, Captain.
-Almost Out of the Closet
Dear Almost Out,
My good friend Julie from King Is A Fink had great advice on coming out to family way back when. My first advice is that you listen to her, because she is a woman married to a woman (Hi Jessica!) and they know what you are going through in a way I do not.
My second advice is to just skip ahead to telling them about being married to your wife. (They’ll infer the “lesbian” part on their own from that). Doling out the truth in little chunks won’t make it easier for anyone.
You could find a site that makes nice wedding announcements, get some printed out, and send them to your entire biological family at the same time. I did a quick search for “We eloped wedding announcement” and came up with eleventy jillion results, so, hey, you’re not alone in this.
What to maybe put on the announcement:
- We eloped!
- Our anniversary is [Date].
- A nice photo of you together.
- Both your names (helpful if they don’t know your wife’s name, also helpful if somebody changed their name).
- An address where people could mail you stuff.
Advantages to this method:
- It’s the truth!
- You can let everybody know in one fell swoop.
- You get to treat it like the exciting, happy announcement that it is and daring your family to do the right thing.
- You get to use a traditional etiquette tool to get the job done, which, again, if your family sees itself as “traditional” is an advantage. Use the shield of “respectfulness” and respectability that good stationery gives! It’s also a tradition to not be a jerk to a bride about her wedding!
- Doing it in writing gives your family the opportunity to have their initial reaction privately, without you having to see it or deal with it, and gives them more room to do the right thing.
Send those out. For the record the right thing to do when receiving a wedding announcement from someone is to say “Wow, congratulations!” and maybe send them a card in return. But you may get other reactions, like:
“But what will Grandma think when we tell her?”
Did she not get her announcement? We sent it to the whole family.
“But you didn’t invite us!”
That’s what elopement means. We wanted it to be just us, no hassle, etc. (Lots of people elope and end up just as married as people who don’t elope and have to explain it to families who are mad they weren’t invited.)
Keep reminding yourself and your family that this is happy news. This is not news you feel like apologizing for. This is news you want to shout from the rooftops: “I married my favorite person and I am in love and happy and I deserve the same congratulations and support as anybody else in this family when they get married.” “I am telling you happy news!” “I am telling you a good thing that makes me happy!”
“But you liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiied to us about being gay!”
Well, you made it pretty clear that gay was a thing you did not want me to be, which hurt my feelings a lot and made me afraid to tell you while I still lived under your roof. I hated lying, and I very much want you to know the truth and be a part of my life, but I never felt safe to tell you before now. But since I’m so very happy and in love, I wanted my family to share in that happy news and celebrate with me.
Any parent is gonna have a lot of feelings about being told “Hey, you made me feel unsafe about this so I had to keep it a giant secret.” Those feelings are not yours to manage or absolve, and they also aren’t the only feelings or the most important feelings in this situation.
Lemme use the big font when I say this:
Homophobic parents are asking to be lied to about this stuff.
If you hate and fear people because of their identity, and your kid has that identity and feels that they have to hide it in order to live safely in their home with you, you have zero moral high ground about “being lied to.” I’m sure it sucks to be a parent and hear this big life-changing news about your kid and realize you were on the outside of it all. You know what else sucks? Being forced to lie about who you are to the people who are supposed to love you and support you. Feeling like you can’t tell your parents about your marriage because they might disown you. Doing all of this in a country where your rights are considered debatable and disposable, and hearing constant confirmation of the second-class/bound-for-eternal-hellfire status of people like you from the people who raised you and who are supposed to love you.
If your parents were on the outside of knowing about your romantic life before now, it’s because they made choices that put them there. They have choices about how they treat you now and in the future. If they want to be part of your happy adult life, they’ll make the right ones.
P.S. Your mom knows already, or at least suspects, which is why she did all the quizzing about marriage equality. Tell her/them!
P.P.S. Pledge drive week continues at Captain Awkward Dot Com Enterprises. If you like what we do here and have a little extra $, the Patreon is very close to the level where we make the blog ad-free. Thanks to all who have donated so far, it means a lot and makes a real material difference in my life.
179 thoughts on “#941: How do I tell my parents I’m a) gay and b) married?”
I love this answer.
Congratulations! I hope things go as well as possible with telling your family, but THAT IS SO EXCITING CONGRATULATIONS EEEEEEEE!!!!
Congrats LW and wife!
Congratulations! Here’s to many, many happy years together, you lovely couple.
Sending the announcement to everyone is genius. So often, families try to hold Grandma or Aunt Betty or whoever over people’s heads so I just love this:
“But what will Grandma think when we tell her?”
Did she not get her announcement?
Telling more conservative relatives could be part of the parents’ anxiety, so, helpfully remove this “burden” from them!
It would also deprive said parents of a weapon to hold over their LGBT offspring’s head, if said parents are abusive @#$#@%.
Almost, here is my advice as someone who came out to thought-they-weren’t-homophobic-parents-who-nonetheless-had-a-freakout-when-it-was-their-daughter: it is not your job to help your parents process their feelings about you coming out. I really hope you can trust your parents to get to the point where the “omg but our daughter 😢😠😢” phase if over and they love and accept you: you say that you are close to your parents so I hope they get there. But even if you trust that they will get there, decline to be part of the process. I don’t mean cut off contact with your parents until they get there, but don’t tolerate the conversations where they tell you all the big difficult Feelings they have about you being gay. They can have those conversations with each other, with their friends, with your other relatives, with PFLAG, with their church, whoever. But they don’t need to have them with you.
My mum was supposed to be very liberal and cool, but when I came out at 22 she was overwhelmed with “but not MY daughter!!!” feelings. She was also angry with herself for not living up to her own stated ideals. I knew she loved me and that she was just having temporary Big Feelings, so I tried to talk her through them and be her sounding board, to try and reassure her that we were still close. I still think that was a mistake: she said some things that were very hurtful, and which I still remember, even though I know she knew they were hurtful and later regretted them and apologised for them. Things only really got better when I started setting boundaries and saying, “you can feel whatever you want about me being gay, and you can decide who you want to discuss that with, but this is how you treat me and this is how you treat my partner”. I wish I’d done it earlier.
best of luck, and I hope your parents massively surprise you xxx
Yess. This is a thing for OTHER PEOPLE to help them process.
YES! Boundaries to enforce Comfort In, Dump Out. You are NOT the appropriate person for them to process their feelings about [what should be great and lovely news but in our twisted world isn’t always for everyone], and that is exactly how that should be.
This is a great point.
You can never forget the hurtful things that they may say, even if forgiving and moving on later.
Yes, this is brilliant advice.
Excellent point. I had this conversation with my parents very early in my transition, where I basically said ‘You are perfectly entitled to talk about how hard you’re finding me being trans…to literally anybody but me. Complain all you want to friends, therapists, support groups, each other, strangers in the street if you want to, but I am not going to sit here and listen to you talk about how difficult it is to be related to me.’
I still need to reinforce that message every so often, but on the whole it’s worked out very well for us.
This. Apparently it’s great for my best friend to be gay, and my mother said it was the best wedding ever (um, thanks?) but when it comes to me I am apparently being ridiculous and oh my goodness we must never speak of this again, you don’t know what you’re saying.
Gay is good enough for everyone else but not for her precious daughter!
We barely speak now.
My mum is also very liberal and cool – and the younger sister of a lesbian anyway – but she still had some processing to do, first when I told her I was bi (which I did just before I left the country, haha) and again when I got together with my now-wife. Thankfully, she did it out of my sight/hearing, and never passed on anything that any family members said either. She said later that, in particular, adjusting to a daughter-in-law instead of the long-hypothesised and awaited son-in-law was a small grief that she worked through.
Mum’s an atheist, but spends a lot of time with a very Christian-housewifey group of quilters, and she said that they were oddly comforting… they assumed that it was disapproval that had her grieving over it slightly, which was incorrect, but the fact that they expected her to grieve slightly gave her space to do it safely.
She came halfway around the world my wedding and adores my wife 🙂
“Mum’s an atheist, but spends a lot of time with a very Christian-housewifey group of quilters, and she said that they were oddly comforting… they assumed that it was disapproval that had her grieving over it slightly, which was incorrect, but the fact that they expected her to grieve slightly gave her space to do it safely.”
That is… very poignant and thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing this story.
My dad had the same process when my brother came out. Dad is not as liberal anymore (one of those sucked-in-by-Fox-News types) but was self-aware enough to realize that his reaction would define their relationship moving forward. According to my mom, he had lots of feelings to work through, but only ever talked to her about them and wasn’t anything but supportive to/for my brother. Bonus for everyone else is that the varying levels of subtly homophobic comments have been cut way down, so that makes family time much more pleasant, since politics have been officially banned from conversations.
Just to say that sometimes people surprise you in good ways.
Very good point from Mary there. My own really-cool-and-liberal mother still had some freakouts about my coming out. Was afraid that I’d die lonely and poor, and couldn’t manage in this sick world without some man’s ‘protection’. She got over it in time. I think it’s normal to some extent for -all- parents to worry when their child deviates from the obvious path, and heads for the Dark Discrimination Forest. For that matter, my mother was a lot more forceful in her disapproval of the maths, but that’s another story :-).
The Captain’s advice is excellent as usual – your line of attack is best as “I’m so HAPPY!!!”. You’re really in the best possible coming out position here. It’s much harder to explain vague early lesbian stirrings, a potentially fleeting girlfriend with major problems, being outed by someone else, being unsure of yourself in general. And so much better to be able to pull the cover of respectability around yourself and your new bride. Especially if you’re living independently. Prepare yourself to meet any objection with a barrage of “But LOVE|||” and you should be able to shut down most of it, what they say to each other in their shock doesn’t really concern you.
But know also that you’re not alone, there’s a whole huge infrastructure out there. The most isolated community is likely to have at least a small PFLAG chapter. Investigate as you design your announcement, it’s entirely possible that there are people in there who your parents would obviously relate to well normally, these are the ones to call on for intervention when the invitation hits the fan. Get some book recommendations your can amazon over. Do your parents have any friends with queer children, a bit more evolved? My mother did a lot of talking with the parents of my little sister’s best high school friend for instance. And it seems like you have your own built-in PFLAG chapter with your lovely in-laws. Be sure to organize an almost immediate meet-the-in-laws dinner to introduce them, allow them to model good queer-parental behavior. Introduce the in-laws right along with the wife, as part of the package. If your parents resist, hand their contact info to the in-laws and encourage them to get in touch anyway. You want to counteract the religious shame factor with another point of view, and appeal to their best parental instincts,
You know your mother knows already, right? You’ve already had the worst of it. She may calm down once she knows for sure, although i don’t want to make any promises here, it’s possible that all the bad things you anticipate may happen. The elections have unleashed some very entitled feelings from people about controlling others’ lives. Still, she knows. And probably your dad knows too, as it’s unlikely she’d keep it to herself.
Let me also point out that you have a whole lesbian community out there. Often young couples retreat into being together only, especially if they’re under attack from the families. But it’s a mistake – you need to be around people who don’t scrutinize you for flaws, you need to hear the stories and strategies of people who’ve gone through this before, or get mutual support from people who’re going through it now. Your relationship is much more likely to last if you get a constant circulation of new ideas and fresh points of views, global understanding of different factors in your life, not just about how to train the dog but about how to really live your life on a larger scale. Give it a chance..
>>Homophobic parents are asking to be lied to about this stuff.
(also even if you are a non-homophobic parent, your queer kid is getting all sorts of messages about what it a big deal it is to tell your parents that you’re queer, and has heard lots and lots of stories about people getting ostracised or abandoned or cut off because they came out, and also sexuality is not just about sex but it is still partly about sex, especially when you’re just coming out because the first inclination that you get that you’re queer is probably pantsfeelings, and literally nobody is like “hey, talking about your pantsfeelings with your parents is a cool and fun thing to do!” So even if you are the coolest and most homofriendly parent ever, your kid may lie to you about their sexuality, and that is 100% OK and not something you get to freak out about. At least, not to your kid.)
The first time I told anybody I was queer, I was so nervous I almost threw up. That friend? Was an out gay dude. Yeah, coming out is fraught even when you’re pretty sure no one’s going to yell at you. I’m still not out to my parents because I can’t tell my dad without telling my mom, and she almost had a meltdown over a pierced navel when I was eighteen and I can’t be sure she’s matured enough to handle something bigger.
I actually had a harder time coming out to the queer people in my life than the straight people. Straight people could either accept me or not, but the queer people could tell me I was doing it wrong.
and in my experience at least, so very often do. We are not the kindest to our own, sometimes.
How do you come out wrong? Unless you say something hideously offensive while also coming out, I can’t think of how it could or should be interpreted as wrong.
My experience of that is that it’s less “you came out wrong” than it is “You’re being queer wrong”. Either you’re not out enough or you’re too out or you’re not dressing queer enough or bi people don’t really exist or you’re passing as straight/cis/whatever normative stereotype therefore you’re not really queer… (That last one would be the one I got. On multiple axes of queerness.)
Yeah, like Kit said, the bi erasure thing is what came to mind for me. Bi person coming out to gay/lesbian person; L/G person telling them they’re “really” gay, and predicting that when they had more courage and/or were less confused, they would come out properly as gay. That’s pretty common (or was – not sure if it’s getting better these days).
Like Kit said, less “coming out wrong” and more “being queer wrong.” For me, that’s been: you’re not *really* bisexual; you’re not *really* lesbian [I had a complicated relationship with my own orientation for a while there]; you’re too butch, you’re too femme, you can’t be queer because you’re a housewife [married to another woman, even], etc., etc., etc.
The latest times were someone (two different people) seriously telling me that I couldn’t be a queer woman because (a) I can’t stand Ellen DeGeneres [I’m sure she’s a lovely human being–this is purely about her as an entertainer] and (b) I don’t find Ruby Rose attractive at all.
Yeah, what Kit M. and uncharted worlds said. And if you’re coming out as non-binary, chances are high that people will be assholes of the “that silly gender doesn’t even exist” kind to you. Or if you come out as trans, some people expect you to perform your gender following the traditional gender roles/gender binary. And I shudder to think what kind of shit ace people have to deal with when they come out to some.
Sometimes, straight people are more understanding because, since it’s all Greek to them (pun intended), they are more willing to listen and learn. GSD (Gender and Sexuality Diverse) people often can act as gatekeepers.
I wish I could pretend that “being queer wrong” was not a thing. It was my first experience of being queer, and it continues decades later. Fuck them! You’re being queer the way you know how, the way you like. There will be others to be queer with you, no matter whether they’re queer like you as well. Just be sure to tell the Queer Police to shut the fuck up, loudly and publicly, so that others may find you. If you can muster the courage to be queer at all, you can do it your own way.
Ack. I’m asexual, and now I’m a little nervous to tell people.
OMG let me tell you the story of going to a trans support group that was clearly and voluntarily segregated along binary lines, as a baby non binary person. And the organizers told me to PICK ONE. And kept prodding me towards a very specific vision of transition that I did not want. I stopped going after 3 sessions.
That is a feel I am VERY FAMILIAR with. Jedi hugs to you.
OMG yes. My parents were both very cool about my coming out, but we had other conflicts and personality clashes that made it hard or weird sometimes. When I started dating in high school (2 years after coming out), and invited a girl I was interested in (who became my first girlfriend a bit later) to a family party, I remember my mom asking, “So, when you say “girlfriend”, does that mean you want to have sex with her?” AUGH MOM. I am a)not ready for sex b)not wanting to talk to you about my sex life c)just crushing on her and don’t even really know if she’s interested. LAY OFF.
I wouldn’t mind straight people, but they’re all so obsessed with sex all the time. /tongue in cheek
and d) EWWWW!!!! DON’T ASK ABOUT YOUR OFFSPRING’S SEX LIFE, EVER!!!!!
To be fair, we could all stand to be more open and honest when speaking about sex. Forbidden topics are never much help.
WTH no. Nobody’s entitled to information about other people’s sex lives. If you ask a question in good faith and realise they find it intrusive, you apologise and desist.
And “don’t ask people about their sex life unless they’ve given you an indication that it’s welcome” is a pretty good guide for life.
I mean, yes, more open communication about sex is good…
But when sex is a forbidden topic UNTIL the person you’re badgering about it is a member of a marginalised group over whom you have rather a lot of power, that’s not openness. It’s disrespect and fetishisation.
There’s a difference between open and honest communication and violating other people’s privacy. Asking other people for details about their sex lives, especially if they’re your relatives, is clearly the latter.
I feel like some people are giving this a hard no that it doesn’t deserve. Some of my friends who have the best relationships with their parents (and now, as adults, with their partners) had those kinds of conversations as teens. If it’s high pressure and invasive/disrespectful, obviously that’s wrong, but I think outright dismissing “parents and offspring communicating about sex” as eww, icky! is pretty juvenile.
Sorry for the misunderstanding. I meant that when you are raising someone it’s important to include honest talks about sex, what it is and what are good things to look for in it (aka safety, consent, communication…) in the education of said someone. I meant “forbidden” as in “taboo, shameful”, not as in “personal boundaries”, which obviously always have to be respected. “No means no” also works in “I don’t want to discuss this with you”.
There’s too much shame surrounding even talking about sex in our cultures (ta very much, abstinence rethoric!), and that helps no one. Too many young people are afraid to ask questions about something that may be an important part of their lives, and that has to change. In order for that to change, parents and adults have to create safe spaces where those questions can be asked and answered kindly and honestly.
And of course, there are parents who are not safe to have this conversation with. That does not mean the topic is bad or shameful, tho.
Good points on not invading people’s privacy or fetishising their experiences.
My mum talked to me about sex. She told me about how my dad had pushed her to have sex before they were married but she said no. Most. Uncomfortable. Conversation. Ever.
She did not tell me anything about anything useful, which ended in messed-up-ness around sex for years.
I’m with B. – this taboo on talking about sexuality with parents is harmful* and a very, very recent invention that’s limited to a subset of specific populations. It’s really only families that can afford the living space and furnishings for separate rooms and beds for children for whom the taboo is a logistical possibility. My perspective on this is informed mostly by studying historical shifts in sexual norms in the USA from the colonial period through now, and for much of that time, dwellings for most people had a single room or at best a shared sleeping room if the dwelling actually had separate rooms, often with a single shared bed for the family, with the result that children regularly saw their parents having sex, rendering that kind of taboo impossible to maintain. This is, of course, still the case for plenty of people who find themselves in particular communal living situations (either as a family unit or with multiple family units) as a function of local cultural norms, economic necessity, convenience, etc.
As far as I can tell, the taboo is largely a result of people conflating talking (or even thinking?) about sexuality with sexuality itself, so talking about sex with parents becomes just as squicky as sex with parents. While I think many people are concerned that it somehow constitutes sexual abuse for parents to talk openly about sexuality with children, the reverse is more likely to be true: a culture of silence about sexuality means children don’t feel able to discuss what’s happening if someone is sexually abusing them becasue they have learned that describing exactly what is happening is part of a taboo subject. Be aware that this taboo is culturally specific and is not anywhere near universal in, say, the USA, nor even middle-to-upper-class USA (I can speak best about my own cultural milieu, but Isuspect this is true elsewhere, too).
I find Remy’s mother’s question above to be entirely appropriate – it doesn’t sounds like she was asking for a play-by-play of her daughter’s fantasy or extant sex life, just that she was trying to clarify the nature of the relationship, which is important for knowing how to properly offer parental support. I agree that nobody other than one’s sex partners is entitled to information about another’s sex life, but a lack of entitlement doesn’t mean that asking isn’t okay.
*It both specifically prevents the sharing of important information about sexuality and more generally contributes to a culture of silence around sexuality that at least enables and often outright promotes problematic cultural systems like homophobia, misogyny, rape culture, etc.
The first time my mother and I ever talked about sex was when she asked me, while I was coming out to her, how does lesbian sex work. Just no, mom. You never gave me the sex talk and now I’m supposed to explain it to you?
I told her to google it. She wasn’t pleased.
Ick. Yuck. Gross. I’m sorry she did that to you! That is inappropriate and NOT OK on so many levels.
That question is MADDENING. My answer has become a deadpan “We rub our undercuts together.”
Markethill, I haven’t laughed like that in a long while. Thanks. 🙂
anytime someone asks me to be their guidebook to lesbian sex I always want to get cheerful and say something on the order of “oooh, wait, I’ve always wondered, …” and then ask a question that has an equal amount of ignorance about straight sex.
One of these days…
No, I think it’s fair to ask about safer sex (“and you are using condoms right?”).
My mom did that with me, the first night I spent with my now-husband. We actually didn’t have sex, and I was really quite pissed off about it. I think she got that 🙂
She said “So…. has your relationship… developed?”
And I said “NO. But if it had we would have used condoms.” And then I stormed off in a huff, because dammit, I WANTED there to have been sex and there was no sex! And now even my mom knew that!!
But then I grew up partly in Germany/Belgium, where attitudes to sex are much more sane, and my parents aren’t religious at all, and we do have quite a good/respectful relationship. We all knew that everyone masturbated in our immediate family, for as long as I can remember, for example. We would always knock on bedroom doors, for example 🙂
Safer sex with lesbians/women who have sex with women, well, I don’t think anyone actually bothers to be very informed, unless it concerns them directly. Even the people at the STD clinic weren’t much help there, when I asked them for advice. “Use condoms on toys” was actually all the advice they had. This is in the Netherlands too.
It is fair to ask about safer sex and contraception, but nothing else. I’m glad you and your mom have a good relationship.
“So even if you are the coolest and most homofriendly parent ever, your kid may lie to you about their sexuality, and that is 100% OK and not something you get to freak out about. At least, not to your kid.”
I would quite honestly question the “homofriendly” levels of someone who “defaults” their kid to “straight” based purely on assumption. Not that it’s unusual to see happen! It just frustrates me how many “default” assumptions so many of us continue to hold re sexuality, gender, political opinions based on nothing more than a shared skin color, etc etc etc…
Yup. Although we’re a gay couple with a 2 year old daughter-until/unless-she-tells-us-otherwise, so I think our assumptions are fairly wide open, but I still think that when it comes to her sexuality or gender identity she’s allowed to mislead or misinform us until she’s ready! She’s entitled to privacy and we’re not entitled to knowledge.
I have been saying to kids since my son was born that maybe he might marry a man. Or not marry.
It’s true, it messes with people’s assumptions, and it’s fun!
We do this with our kids, as in “if the person you date…” “if you want to have a partner…” “if you bring your girlfriend or boyfriend home…” Just trying to be open about the possibilities with them about who they might want to date and if they will even want to in a way that doesn’t make assumptions about their sexuality. I hope this will give them more space to develop and explore without ever needing to come out to us (in the sense of correcting our assumptions about their sexuality). We’ve tried to do this with gender identity and (since they are so far all girls) whether or not they have kids.
I work with kids, and once a seven-year-old asked me many questions about engagement rings. To wit: does your husband have to give you a diamond ring when you get married, do you really get a real diamond FOR FREE, how come only girls get them anyway, and what if he wants one?
To which I said it’s not obligatory but lots of people do it, it’s a special present you give someone you love very much at an important time, usually it’s girls who get diamonds from boys but it doesn’t have to be, and when he grows up, if he falls in love with someone and he wants a diamond, maybe if he asks real nice they’ll give him one as a special present. (That discussion of gender roles and materialism over, we read Curious George Goes to School.)
Might be able to shed some light? At least for me. I assume you are the gender you appear, that you are attracted to the opposite gender, and you’ve always been that gender. Until informed otherwise. For a couple of reasons. First, it is the majority of people. Second, it’s easier on my poor brain that gets confused about social stuff. Third, it doesn’t impact how I treat you. Gay? Ok. Kicks puppies? You’re in trouble.
The main side effect is one of reprocessing in my brain. If I have previously assumed straight, and you’re not straight, then I just have to process that. From what I can tell and my friend’s reactions, it doesn’t actually change anything in how I behave. In fact, if you dye your hair a different color, I have the same processing to do.
For this processing reason, it really is best if I find out that someone is gay (or dyed their hair) in a nonpublic fashion. I quite literally stop dead for a moment while I process, and I think it does look to outsiders that I disapprove or don’t like.
I’m a woman who has been married to a women for 12 years, we have a daughter, etc. I never get offended when someone finds out I’m married and asks me something about my husband. I casually correct them and answer the question, operating on an assumption of non-malice. If they continue to deliberately get it wrong, things begin to go a bit differently.
People outside the parenting relationship should not make judgements about whether the parent has ‘defaulted… based purely on assumption’ . You don’t have enough information. The base post doesn’t state that the parent has defaulted to anything. They just say there’s a lot of data inputs for a child in addition to parents.
As to the actual issue of ‘defaulting’, I’ve been including both male and female partnering options when I talk about relationships / parenting to my son, and I will be fine whoever he partners with, as long as they are happy, but… well… some people, the sexual orientation seems pretty clear from a pretty young age. I know I was clearly straight from the age of 4; I’m a 1 or 2 on the Kinsey scale, for reference. My son seemed straight / straight interested from about the same age, and so does one of the other boys in our social group. The other 6 boys and girls of the core social group have not expressed strong single-sex interest; one girl has expressed interest in both genders (as in, I’m going to marry x this week, y the next, where x is male and y is female). Personally, I’m going to continue to make sure my kid is aware of the many forms relationships can be (we got to explain poly a couple of months ago…), but I’m not going to ignore his clear and stated preferences.
Just wanted to point out that there are more than two genders 🙂
I’m a lesbian. When someone meets me for the first time, it is entirely reasonable for them to assume I’m straight. If you assume ‘straight’ for everyone you meet, you’ll be right 95% of the time. Why wouldn’t you assume everyone is straight? It’s like assuming everyone I see walking around my area lives here, assuming they’re all tourists would lead to me being wrong more often than right.
It’s nice when people leave some room for openness, it feels like they’re making an effort, but it doesn’t mean someone who assumes everyone is straight based on the mathematical likelihood is not sufficiently homofriendly. The person who says “oh, you’re married? Is your husband also a scientist?” and then apologizes for the assumption when I say that my wife is actually an English teacher is perfectly reasonable. The person who keeps calling my wife “your… friend” even when I respond to that with “do you mean my wife? Yea, she’s home sick today” is the homounfriendly one, and the person who shouted that we were disgusting when we kissed in a park on a bridge is homohostile.
Questioning someone’s homofriendliness because they assume the default seems a bit far. Their reaction to having the default assumption challenged is the test of their homofriendliness.
Maybe I’m just overthinking this because I’d rather not be classified as insufficiently homofriendly myself though. I may make an effort to avoid using pronouns but if someone said they needed to start dating again I would assume they were straight unless I knew otherwise, and I don’t think that default assumption is that unreasonable.
I have no idea if my son is gay or straight. I just want him to have someone who loves him and treats him well. Either way, it is a struggle to keep from prying. My personal issue is that I want to be reassured that he is happy. He’s very quiet and self-contained, so I find it hard to tell how he feels.
Suggestion if you decide you’re going to send the wedding notices Captain A. recommends: you could if you like, ring or email your parents (or mail them a letter, the day before you post the wedding notices) and explain that you’re now married and happy and yay. Basically the same information that the wedding notices are going to convey, but notified to them shortly before the ‘official’ on swanky respectable stationery news is issued. This short bit of advance warning gives them a moment to process before Great Aunt Winifred and her ilk get their notices in the mail and immediately start ringing your parents going ‘OMG Ermintrude and Oswald, did you *know* the OP had entered the blessed state of matrimony with another lady?’ And then at least your parents can in all honesty say they did know. In my experience, people who are going to be surprised by some news can be irritated in two ways – that (a) they didn’t know themselves, and (b) they are only finding out when everyone else finds out. In the interests of diplomacy, you can if you wish prevent (b) and may find a little time to process and a lot of face saving for them could well mean a lot less aggravation towards you and your new wife. If they start banging on about not being invited, tell them they are welcome to throw you and your new wife a lavish party. Congratulations, again. 😀 I wish you both every happiness.
Or just send the announcement to your parents a day or two in advance of all the other ones. They then still get advance notice and you still don’t have to listen to the FEELINGSTALK.
So many congratulations to you and yours!
Yeah, this is a better idea, in my opinion, since the goal of mailing the announcement is to avoid having to deal with the Feelings directly.
I agree, Aurora_Belle.
I like that. Mail the parent’s on Monday, then the rest of the family on Thursday. That way they’re not bombarded with questions from family, but you also can tell them ‘there’s no discussion here, they’re already in the mail’.
I like yours and tehomet’s ideas very much. I will probably go with the mailing a day or two ahead of time, but we’ll see how I feel when I end up doing this. Thank you!
I don’t know if the mail system in the US is any more reliable than were I am, but I’d make that 4-5 days later to be sure. Else, you risk the notices getting there at the same time, depending on where people live.
Having sent a lot of wedding invitations fairly recently: it’s not. I might make it a week in advance for your parents’ announcements. The US Postal Service can be weird about how quickly things arrive, and the timing of arrival doesn’t always logically correspond to geographic location.
Yes, the parents should find out before everyone else, no matter how it’s done.
Yeah, I think it’s a really solid idea to send them a note that says, for example, “WE GOT MARRIED! We’re sending out the official announcements to all our friends and family but wanted you to hear it first.” Just make sure you don’t take any phone calls from your family until you’ve already sent those official announcements, so that they can’t try to talk you out of sharing the news far and wide. 😉
I agree with Tehomet about telling just your parents, over the phone, before you send all the other announcements (or maybe right after you drop them in the mail, because then it’s harder to chicken out!). I hear that they’ve been homophobic, I know it will be a scary call to make, but…listen, I’m a mother with a grown daughter, and if I got the news that she was married via postcard, along with a bunch of other people, it would feel dismissive, even deliberately insulting, like a slap in the face. It would feel like my child didn’t even value our relationship enough to make a phone call. It would be very hard to get over that. I mean, I would try, because I adore that kid, but gosh, it would hurt.
I hear frequently about homophobic parents who come around eventually, accept their kids’ orientation, love their kids’ spouses/partners, the whole nine yards. (I know it doesn’t always happen by any means! But it happens, even with parents who have said some pretty awful things.) If you want a chance at a strong, honest future relationship with your folks, LW, I do suggest you start off with a phone call. Even if it doesn’t go well, they’ll remember that you tried to reach out to them and it might start a healing process between you eventually.
To be clear: I don’t think you should subject yourself to abuse. If they start yelling or calling you names or whatever, by all means hang up. And I don’t think you have to subject yourself to a big debate or a lot of weeping and wailing; if after you give them the news they’re carrying on and on, you can say, “Mom/Dad, I think we should talk about this when you’ve had a little time to take it in, so I’m going to go now,” and then do. But I think just making the call, however it goes, will be something you’ll be glad you did, later on.
The thing that jumped out most to me in the original letter was this: “(she cornered me after marriage equality passed for an hour-long “chat” about it)”
‘Cornered’, at least from my admittedly biased perspective, is a really telling word that speaks to the dynamic at play there. LW is the only one who knows if her parents are going to react badly over a phone call, and ‘just hang up if they get abusive’ is not always easy advice to take when you’ve been conditioned to be obedient and accommodating. (I once accidentally ‘hung up’ on my mother during a fight by holding the phone too close to my cheek, and immediately got the cold shakes once I realized what had happened. Sure enough, next communication was filled with screaming and expletives.)
I agree that the parents being notified first is a helpful idea, both logistically and for emotional reasons: Wanted to send you this letter because the wedding announcements are coming in a day or two, but before the formal stuff comes, I wanted you, personally, to know how happy I am and about [cute/quirky detail of the elopement], and how much I’m looking forward to celebrating this with you the next time we see each other, etc.
It’s easier to screen a call than hang up on one – and there will be one. Let it go to voicemail, listen to said voicemail (or read the text messages), let that inform you as to how they’re going to behave, and from there you have a rough idea of how much mental and emotional energy it’s going to cost when you do speak with them.
To be fair, I’m not sure “cornered” was the best phrase I could have used? Basically what happened was, I deliberately spent the weekend after Marriage Equality Day with a friend so that my mom couldn’t ambush me into a Talk about it (when she tries to talk about politics, I’ve gotten very good at telling her things that are close enough to what she wants to hear that she backs off – “I don’t like abortions,” “I have gay friends and I don’t like that they get treated like shit,” etc. But then my dad and brother went out of town for a couple of days and when I came home from work, she suggested we get takeout and then go to a cheap movie. It was while we were eating the takeout that she pounced re: marriage equality. So maybe “ambushed” is a better word? I managed to deflect and lie my way through it and then I texted my girlfriend and ranted at Twitter to decompress and it turned out okay. But at the time it was terrifying. (She did something similar to me a couple months ago when Target announced the trans bathroom policy, but I was less anxious about that and I was able to be a bit more logical and truthful.)
I also like your point about screening the call and gauging based on a voicemail; that makes a lot of sense. Part of the problem, like I said, is that I’m not sure how they’ll react? I think probably they’ll just be sad and confused, but they might start screaming or they might freeze me out. I really don’t know.
Ugh, that sounds awful, I’m sorry you had to go through that!
I do my best to avoid talking politics with my dad for that same reason, but he also ambushes me during meals *shudders*. I usually go with non-commital sound + enthusiastic unrelated question to change the topic (people do love to talk about themselves).
Given your circumstances, LW, I wouldn’t feel obligated to lead with a phonecall. Sending their copy of the announcement early, and maybe with a personalized letter included, would be a kind gesture.
That’s shitty – it’s hard enough to hear about the backlash to this stuff on the news without knowing you’re going to get your own personal performance of it. I’m (and I’m sure everyone here is) pulling for you and hoping the reaction won’t be as bad as you fear, but if her historical pattern has been ‘I get to vent my spleen about whatever I like and you smile and nod’, it’s absolutely your prerogative to control the method of delivery for this one. (And I’m sorry for honing in on ‘cornered’ – like I said, big bias at play there, so I don’t want to make incorrect assumptions on the basis of it.)
As far as their reaction, even before the voicemail arrives, it might help to journal/talk/think about each general possibility. They’re sad and confused? Okay, well, their daughter is happy and in love. It’s a shame they consider that something to be sad about, but that doesn’t make it a sad thing. Screaming? You don’t deserve to be screamed at by someone you love. Nobody does. Freezing you out? That’s going to become it’s own punishment for them, or at least it should be.
Yep – you think you know people, but can you ever really predict their reaction to something specific? Nope. Not even close. Not even your own reactions sometimes :-). I really like Emma9’s advice – it does preserve the ‘parents are special’ note of pre-announcement that might make things better in the long run, but it still insulates you from their immediate reaction. You might even want to have a friend screen that first voicemail, and delete it if it’s too painful. Don’t let yourself stand in the first full gale of reaction.. Your instincts are right there, you know you have a rational basis to be careful. Give them a chance to get over it without mashing you to bits in the process.
How about a personal letter with the announcement? Personal, kind of intimate, and OP doesn’t have to get the unfiltered response.
Emma9, I hear you about the dynamics of a phone call, and I think your idea of a personal letter to the parents (as opposed to the same announcement everyone else gets) would have a similar relationship-preserving, making-an-effort effect while protecting LW’s feelings if the idea of a phone call is too stressful.
My point was not so much that there’s something magical about the phone vs. the mails as it was that an announcement alone is pretty impersonal, and reaching out personally to the parents would be better. A written letter would do that admirably. And I agree – letting any return call go to voicemail is a great way for LW to gauge their reaction and prepare to speak with them when and if she is ready!
Uh, this is not really about how you or LW’s parents will feel though. As the Captain wrote: If they would have wanted the news ahead of time/in person, they could have given her indication that they are not homophobic and would welcome any new partner.
Let’s be honest, they’ll be offended either way. The right strategy does not depend on whether they will be offended, but how much emotional work LW has to put into when telling them. That is why I second the strategy to send a card to the parents a little ahead of the other cards.
These parents deserve to feel dismissed, because they created a situation in which the LW did not feel safe telling them she was married. They made their bed, and now they’re lying in it. Re: “I would be sad if my kid did this to me” — um, okay, but that is a completely different situation? Assuming that you raised your kid in a queer-friendly way. Coming out to your parents is, for many people, basically the deepest circle of hell, even if you know they’ll be supportive. “I know it will be scary, but I think you should call them even if you don’t want to” is like saying “I know you are planning to perform surgery on yourself with no anesthesia, but I think you should also bathe in salt water while doing so.”
Parents are not morally entitled to information about their adult children’s lives just because they want it. LW’s parents, by being homophobic, have EARNED being lied to and kept in the dark, which means LW is doing them a favor by telling them at all, via any medium. No matter how well you recover and go on to thrive in life, it is permanently damaging for a queer kid to grow up in a homophobic home. No matter how much the parents may eventually “come around,” they will never be able to undo that. They will never be able to change the fact that they made their own child feel afraid and unsafe and fundamentally in accepted in their own home by the people who were supposed to love her most. Will the parents feel betrayed? Probably, but they betrayed their kid first. And they are probably going to have to understand the enormity of what they did if they are ever going to have a good relationship with their child post-coming out.
*unaccepted, not in accepted
Speaking as a fellow parent, I can’t help but note that your hypothetical reaction skipped right over the part of asking “Why am I finding out about this in a letter after the fact?” and jumped right into the assumption that it was unfair and a deliberate insult.
When we’re assholes to our kids, and they let us know, it’s SUPPOSED to hurt. But you know, we’re the parents. We aren’t supposed to nurse grudges and sulk because our kids did what we taught them to do, even if we didn’t know that we were doing. And we aren’t supposed to demand that our kids bend over backwards and put themselves at risk to help US grow, which is what you are suggesting with your mention that some parents do come around.
So no, I can’t agree with this “Just call your mother!!!!” scolding.
This. Coming out or not and how and when and to whom should be left entirely at the LW’s discretion.
It’s valid to note that the parents might (might) feel more receptive/supportive if they are told first/on the phone, but LW should be the one to make that decision, based on what she wants to accomplish and how much resources she wants to put into it.
That’s all I was trying to note – that LW’s likelier to have a positive response (eventually) from her folks if they hear in a more personal way. I never meant to pressure her if that isn’t what she wants to do.
If that’s the path she wants to take, I agree about a personal letter with the announcement being a great idea.
Thank you! Oh my gosh, I could not stand the “but what about the PARENTS and THEIR feelings???” vibe there.
I wasn’t trying to say “The poor parents!” Not at all. I was exclusively thinking of LW and her wife and what relationship they hopes to have with LW’s parents down the road. I think she has a better chance of it being a good relationship if she contacts them ahead of the other relatives and in a more personal way than an out-of-the-blue wedding announcement. That’s all I meant.
Another commenter pointed out that a personal, written letter, sent ahead of the other announcements, would have a similar effect and probably be less stressful for LW, and that is a very good idea. A phone call vs. announcement only are not the only possible options! I should have thought of that.
I didn’t mean to scold, and I’m very sorry it came across that way. LW should do what feels right to her. I only wanted to point out that LW’s parents might react more negatively to getting the news via announcement only, and that this might affect her chances at a good relationship with them if an ongoing relationship is what she wants. I think if she reaches out to them personally (and I like Emma’s suggestion of a written letter rather than a phone call – less stressful but still it’s personal) they’re more likely to get to a place of understanding. I’m not suggesting this because the parents deserve anything – they’ve behaved badly and yes, they should feel bad that their behavior caused them to be shut out of their daughter’s life in some ways. I just think a different approach might help LW down the road, if she wants to be close with them. Really, that’s all.
jumped right into the assumption that it was unfair and a deliberate insult.
I think that’s the thing that really got to me about that comment. I didn’t invite my mother to my wedding. If she even knows I got married (I cut off contact long before I got married, so I certainly didn’t tell her), she probably has some feelings about why I didn’t invite her to the wedding or even tell her I was getting married. If she wanted to be invited, or for that matter to be a part of my life at all, well then I guess she shouldn’t have spent my entire childhood terrorising me and my sister. Not inviting her wasn’t unfair or an insult (and is frankly the least of the problems between us), it was a natural consequence of her behaviour.
You don’t get to blame other people for the consequences of your own bad decisions and you don’t get to hold it against them when they make completely rational decisions given how you’ve acted their whole lives.
These people had choices about how to behave and they chose to be vocal about their bigotry and their homophobia to their kid. The fact that they now don’t know what’s going on in her life is a completely predictable consequence of their own terrible behavior, as is the fact that they might find out via a wedding announcement instead of something else they’d like better. The LW doesn’t owe them anything, and I think that the wedding announcement idea is a great way for the LW to minimize the bs she’ll have to endure from them about this. They’re lucky that she’s telling them the news at all.
Can we not with the “what about the parents’ feelings?!!!” There’s already a huge rift in LW’s relationship with her parents and it’s solely her parents’ doing. If they wanted total honestly they should have made it safe for LW to tell them the truth. If she feels comfortable with a phone call that’s great (LW, if you go that route, would it be possible to have your wife or a trusted friend standing by to help you end the call if your parents freak out?), but I’m honestly much more concerned with LW’s emotional safety than with protecting her parents from the obvious and predictable consequences of their homophobia. Being the parent is the parents’ job, not LW’s.
And LW, even if you do call your parents or send them their own separate letter, I think it’s possible that they will pick on your method of delivery because they don’t like the news. If you send a letter, it’ll be “couldn’t you even call us?”, if you call it’ll be “but couldn’t you tell us in person?”, if you visit in person it’ll be “why couldn’t you have told us before the wedding?” Er, not to be totally depressing, what I’m trying to get at here is that if your parents are determined to be unhappy that you’re married to a woman (congratulations!), there is literally nothing you can do that will make them happy (which they should be, you found your person!). Your parents’ feelings are not your fault and are not your problem to solve, and you should never ever blame yourself for not being able to do the magic of making homophobes happy about your objectively great news.
This comment is lovely and very true. I hope that the LW’s parents don’t react like that, and that they process their conflicted feelings away from her and are respectful and willing to listen when interacting with her.
However, if that doesn’t happen and they are focused and determined to be unhappy, as you said, it’s not the LW’s fault and there’s nothing she can do to make them happy. If they love the idea of a straight daughter more than they love their actual living and breathing daughter, that’s very sad and hurts terribly, but it’s on them.
If you are a parent of honest good will, you are not going to understand what parents who are malicious and ill-intentioned act like.
If you have been a good parent who has fostered a good, open, loving relationship with your child, you are not going to hear about their wedding on a postcard later, because you haven’t been that kind of parent and you don’t know what they’re like (unless you have one, in which case, wtf are you doing shaming anyone).
But I see your response as being more about yourself than about the LW, and in a way that is oblivious to the specific concerns that the LW brought up (and gave examples of).
Congratulations on marrying your best friend!! I’m glad her family is super supportive of you two, that is a wonderful thing.
I think Captain’s advice is spot on here! While my parents aren’t homophobic, they are AGGRESSIVELY NOSY (mostly my mother, sorry, mom) so I choose to omit all kinds of information about my life until I’m ready to tell them (i.e. I did not come out until well after I was dating my first partner and it was already pretty serious; I don’t think I will ever admit I am polyamorous because my mother has flat out said that is a lifestyle she could not accept). Your parents are not entitled to all aspects of your life, especially if they make you super uncomfortable about a thing. I know that’s very difficult when it’s something as huge as “YO I HAVE A WIFE NOW”, but the sentiment still stands.
Another thing: you can usually use the carrot of having you in your parents’ lives as leverage for parents needing to treat you well. I had a friend once upon a time who was her homophobic, very right wing dad’s only child, and was able to use the “accept me as I am or deal with having no daughter anymore” gambit to wrangle him into at least behaving baseline decent. My mother did the same thing while my grandparents were being divorced, only the gambit was “do you want to see me or my children ever??? Stop complaining about each other and involving me in your BS.” This is a 100% chill and cool tactic because it is super reasonable to set the boundary of “if you want me in your life, you have to not be a dick about the thing.”
Congratulations again, and my fingers are crosses that your parents surprise you and decide to change their homophobic ways for you.
“Your parents are not entitled to all aspects of your life”
YOUR PARENTS ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. I just wanted to emphasize this because your parents may try to guilt-trip you for not telling them sooner blah blah blah. But even if they were totally 100% supportive, you get to decide when and how you tell people information about your life. This is something I’ve been trying to learn myself so I know how hard it can be. Don’t feel guilty for not telling them. Don’t take on their Feelings. Enjoy being a newlywed! Congratulations!
It’s such a hard dang thing to train yourself out of, right? Like especially if your parents are Nice and Treat You Well. THEY STILL AREN’T ENTITLED TO ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE!!!!
Solidarity in trying to internalize this lesson! It’s a rough one, but very necessary (aka repeat that phrase ad nauseum next time you are hyperventilating from an anxiety attack because you’re “lying by ommission” to your parents about your romantic life ha ha ha ha)
I’m a mom and you are totally right to maintain your privacy on any subject you choose. It’s just sooooo haaaarrrrrd to not be nosy. We compromised and I get 2-5 minutes to tell them that I want them to be happy and if they ever want to talk about , I am willing to listen whenever they are ready. They say “OK” and “Thanks” and that’s the end of it for at least 12 months.
Congratulations and Best Wishes to both of you!
Thiiiiiis. Parents or family members who pull the old “be a person/ have a lifestyle we find acceptable OR ELSE” card don’t get to be ANY degree of shocked/hurt/angry when it’s turned back around on them in the form of “Stop being a dick about this or lose out on being in my life”.
Nth’ing this comment. Yes yes a thousand times yes.
It took me YEARS to understand this, and even at the wizened decrepit old age of 32 I’m still struggling to accept it and figure out how that looks when applied to my life.
Although I’d make a tiny edit: Your parents are not entitled to ANY aspects of your life. Every aspect of your life is yours to share and yours alone. Anything you share with your parents is a gift of trust you give them – if they’re shitty about it and can’t appreciate the gift you’re giving, you are under no obligation to keep giving it.
I came out to my parents at the same time I told them I was getting divorced – over the phone, uugh, whyyy – and they were not terribly cool or supportive about either thing. Basically going “Yeah ok I get it but can’t you just… not? Either of those?” I had to remind myself several times that my sexuality and my choice to not be married anymore were both non-negotiable (especially since now-ex-husband was also Yeah-But-Can’t-You-Just-Not-ing me). My relationship with all of the above lands somewhere between cordial but distant and non-existent, and I find I’m much happier for it. It’s painful to know I won’t ever have the parents I would have wanted, but freeing to remember that’s it’s because of *their* choices, not mine.
LW – Many, many congratulations and I wish you and your wife nothing but the very best. However it shakes out with your parents, know that you did the best you could do on your side, and that you have made the incredibly brave decision to live your best life. We here at Captain Awkward are cheering you on.
From another perspective…
I’m an idiot. Many years ago, when I had no real understanding of what transgender really meant, I intentionally misgendered a translady on a TV show. Called her by a man’s name. At the time, my son didn’t realize he was my son. Fast forward. He realized he’s my son. He remembered those comments, and he postponed telling me. He was afraid of my reaction.
I’m an ass. No doubt about it. I joke about what I don’t understand.
As a parent, I will accept my children as they are, no questions asked. (Well, actually…lots of questions asked. I’ve learned a lot by having open conversations with my son.) No judging. I will be here for them. I really don’t care who they love. If they find love, I’ll celebrate it. I don’t claim to fully understand. I do claim to accept.
I can’t imagine I’m all that different from other parents. I love my kids. I didn’t love them any more or any less when we thought we found out their sex at birth. I won’t love them any more or any less as they go into life and find romantic partners. I really don’t need to hear or think about their sex lives. I don’t care. They’re my kids.
Unfortunately, you ARE different from many, many parents. There are thousands of LGBTQ teens who are homeless because their parents threw them out when they learned their identity. LW is not at all wrong to be concerned about her parents’ reaction.
(Upon rereading, I realize this is a little grim, so…)
LW, congratulations to you and your wife, and I’m happy to hear your in-laws are so supportive! Although, many parents are awful, more and more of them are not, so here’s hoping they can step up and be the loving parents you deserve!
I think it’s very sweet that you want to assume the best of other parents, but this strikes me as a deeply unhelpful and tone-deaf comment. Yes, in very rare cases, parents who have expressed homophobic ideas may do a 180 and become more accepting when they find out it’s their kid. But that is very rare. The opposite, in fact, is often true, and those of us who are queer and are involved in queer circles know that because we talk to each other about our experiences. You’re making assumptions from outside that are frankly pretty naive.
I hear you on the “sweet but naive” tone, but I disagree about the rareness of parents doing a 180 turn. In my and my circles’ experiences, it’s rather common.
For example, straight men who have internalised a lot of societal mysoginia and toxic masculinity (thus the jokes about “the gays”) but who, when they learn that their loved one is one of “the gays”, shut up and listen and learn and change because they a) love said loved one and want to be close to them and b) realise they’ve been screwing up for years. Though the learning process is really harrowing and hard to witness for any DSG person nearby.
Your experiences are valid and true, of course, and no DSG person is under any sacred duty to sign up as Guru and Sponsor of all Things Queer to their clueless relatives and friends. When you make a homophobic remark, all your loved ones can hear is the homophobia, and they react accordingly, because we humans aren’t mind-readers. But it’s true that 180 turns happen, and not so rarely. People can surprise you.
My wife and I were safely past most of the “!!!!!!” from our families by the time legal marriage was a possibility, but her mother and my grandmother had milked previous stages in our relationship for all the drama they were worth (setting up Big Dramatic Confession moments without my permission, suddenly needing there to be a big coming-out conversation with … people we’d been out to for years, etc.) so we *knew* traditional marry-age was going to be a horror farm. We did exactly what Captain Awkward suggests — excited announcements to absolutely everyone! — plus tehomet’s suggestion of informing the parents first by phone.
This is a date-choice thing too late to help LW, but may be adaptable to her situation or a reader’s: We managed it by getting married two days before Christmas (which happened to be the exact halfway point between our sixth and seventh dating anniversaries), sending the announcements in a top tissue-paper layer of the parents’ Christmas gifts, and dropping the extended-family announcements in the mail on the way to the altar (well, the Christmas tree in the apartment complex lobby). We called the parents later on the day to say “we want you to open it while we can listen!” Fait accompli: “We wanted you to know this super-exciting news first (while you’re in “be gracious about a gift” mode)!” and “Oh, everyone else’s announcements are already in the post and there is no way to manage this situation any differently at this point!”
Our announcement text, if it’s any help at all:
“After six and a half years
ME MY NAME
HER MY WIFE
joyfully announce that they have been united in legal marriage
Our town, South Carolina
December 23, 2015”
Short, sweet, to the point, got across that we were keeping our names, and established that our relationship was of long running.
The “combine with Xmas gift” approach: BRILLIANT.
I think the answer that the Captain have is excellent, and a great idea.
My only suggestion is, depending on how virulent/violent you fear the reaction may be, it might be good to rent a PO Box for the occasion, and put that on your announcement instead. That way, you get to choose when you engage with possibly-negative-or-hurtful reactions, and you also won’t have to worry about Uncle Bob coming out of the woodwork and trying to host an intervention at your home. Or leave off any return addresses, if a PO Box is too much trouble.
Well, you want people to be able to send you gifts/cards/future gifts/cards in the post at some point in the future as well as avoid negative/hurtful reactions like you describe, so if you’re going to get a PO Box, you might want to keep it for a while.
And then give your actual address to people you know are supportive and you actually want to visit.
Years ago, I dated someone who came from a pretty conservative and homophobic family, and wasn’t out to her family. I entered into a relationship with my then-girlfriend knowing she wasn’t out to her family, knowing why, and I had a lot of respect for her bravery and integrity. Someone who wasn’t me me decided to have a go at her about this and claimed it wasn’t fair on me. It was really annoying of them and presumptive and patronising to me, and also none of the business and clearly about their own issues not mine. Don’t be that person.
… sorry, did this on my phone and it randomly came out in totally the wrong place!
For the rest, the Captain’s advice is golden.
Lw it sounds like you have a terrific wife and inlaws. Something you did that was not very nice to your wife was dragging her back to the closet while she was dating you. Obviously if coming out would have put you in any sort of risk then it was good you didn’t. But it was still not cool of you. Make sure you let your wife know that you appreciate her putting up with being shoved back into the closet
This seems really off topic and shamey and enormously unhelpful for LW. Shoving and dragging back into the closet, really?
Hey, so I can’t help but see that you acknowledge the risk LW had by living in a homophobic household and still chose to shame her for protecting herself? Also, we have no idea what their dating period looked like (if I was LW, I wouldn’t want my wife having to spend time in a toxic environment like that), or what sorts of conversations LW has had with her wife, because she has not shared them with us. Taking a situation where someone has to be closeted for their safety and trying to make it about the partner’s feelings? That is not very nice.
Going to disagree here – Wife is a person, who can set her own boundaries. You have no idea how Wife felt about this, how it was communicated, really anything at all other than how you would feel in the same situation. You are assuming LW steamrolled Wife’s boundaries, over great protestation, and caused a lot of problems, which – hey, maybe not true. As someone who’s in a long-term relationship with someone from a different culture, that is less permissive of our lifestyle and living arrangement than my family, I can say with certainty that I don’t look at their norms of disclosure to their family as something I’m entitled to control. I could only decide whether, when they stated their need about this, it was something I could live with or not.
Not only am I fairly chill about giving Family only the information partner is comfortable sharing, I understand that I’m really lucky to have a family where it isn’t an issue and that this is a privilege that not everyone shares. There’s all sorts of risks with disclosures, they’re different in every situation, and they aren’t up to anyone but the person whose information it is to share to assess. I have no right to tell someone’s family something that could put them in danger, and it’s not helpful to intimate that their insistence on that same courtesy from Wife makes LW a Bad Person.
Yeah, it doesn’t really seem like LW forced her wife to be in the closet; LW was closeted around her parents, as is her right, and presumably something her wife knew when she chose to date her. Really not a fan of this attitude that staying closeted for one’s own safety is ‘not cool’ or ‘shoving your partner back in the closet’. LW’s girlfriend was out to her family, and it sounds like they were both out to their mutual friends; LW didn’t feel safe or comfortable coming out to her family, but that’s unfortunately not that uncommon. A lot of people aren’t out in every aspect of their lives.
How do you know that her wife was ever in the closet to anyone but LW’s family, who live in another state and whom we have no idea if she’s ever even met? She might have spent those years out to every other person she was introduced to. Conversely, for that matter, she have been completely in the closet herself until a week before the wedding and just got lucky in the parental sweepstakes. We weren’t told either way.
This. It’d be one thing if she was like “so you’re going to have to pretend we’re both straight for the entirety of our relationship,” but “so my parents who live in the faraway land of not-here city, whogivesafuck state, don’t know I’m gay and I’m not telling them,” is totally different. That’s not closeted, that’s just steering clear of your partner’s parents.
Yeah, that’s kind of mean of you. I’m sure that Wife knew the risks of being a lesbian as well as dating LW, because both are common risks in general. I mean, if the LW wants to apologize or otherwise express her appreciation, great, but I don’t think Wife would be super annoyed about it.
Many, many people will give the advice of don’t come out to your parents/family until you’ve moved out if you have the SLIGHTEST idea that you won’t be completely welcomed and accepted right away. Wait until you are independent – not in college, but actually living on your own – or with some other means of support in case they completely cut you off and you end up being homeless or at least without financial support.
Wife knows LW’s parents: she knows and understands that risk, I’m sure. Putting up with being in the closet for interactions with LW’s family for short periods FAR FAR FAR outweighs the risk of being ostracized and cut off PERMANENTLY.
Once more, with feeling:
It is not safe for every queer person to come out (to their family, or anywhere else).
It is not required for every queer person to come out.
It is not the duty of every queer person to come out.
Deciding how “not cool” the family closet was to Wife is entirely the prerogative of Wife. If privacy and discretion about sexual orientation and relationships is consensual, it’s not “dragging” or “forcing” or “shoving” or “not cool” – in fact, it is a private agreement between partners about how to handle a sensitive situation. Our judgment on their agreement is not invited or appropriate.
And honestly, some of us (including me) have family that we cannot and will not ever come out to. Dealing with that, temporarily or permanently, is part of price of admission for being in relationships with us; partners consent to that and work with it in order to be part of our lives. It sucks, but it’s real life, and no amount of sacred queer duty is going to change the fact that it is not safe or wise or worth it for me. I guess it’s “not cool” that I “shove” my wife into that closet, even though we had extensive conversations about it and decided together how we would handle it and what we would say if awkward questions came up – but it is the only choice my wife and I can make. I am sure others in my situation or the LW’s don’t appreciate the shaming or unkind reminders that our situation is less than ideal and demands some difficult choices.
P.S. Congratulations on your awesome marriage, LW!
Same thing for me — I’m out and proud to everyone except my mother (who is an unsafe person overall, she does not get ANY unnecessary personal info about myself/my daughter — we stick to surface stuff), and my partners have never expected me to tolerate abuse (and disinheritance from the money that my *father*, who I loved, earned during his life and intended me to have after my mother’s death) in order to feel like they weren’t being “forced into the closet.”
I did, however, ask my longterm partners if they *cared* about this (they never had any interactions with my mother, and didn’t have to change their behavior in the slightest), and was universally assured that protecting myself and my child was the most important thing.
I made a decision many years ago — after an incredibly toxic situation in which a good relationship I had with a good person was ruined by someone else’s demand that we keep it secret, and yet a fourth party’s using that secrecy to blackmail us with — that I was never again going to accept being anyone’s secret. Anybody who wants to date me has to be willing to own our relationship publicly, even if it’s scary. That’s *my* price of admission.
But I would never try to tell anyone else that it’s wrong or uncool of them to choose to keep their relationships to themselves. Many people have entirely sensible reasons for needing to do so; and even for those who may not, it’s their own call and not mine. All it means if they have “my partners need to be willing to accept that I won’t be telling certain people/ anyone at all about our relationship” as an entrance criterion and I have “my partners need to be comfortable letting anyone and everyone know we’re together” as an entrance criterion is that they and I shouldn’t be dating each other. It doesn’t mean either of us is wrong.
Now, getting involved with someone and then trying to pressure them into being more secret OR less secret than you know them to be comfortable with *is* wrong and uncool. But that’s got nothing to do with this situation as the LW explained it. Any given couple gets to make their own decision together about how open they want to be. If they disagree and can’t find a compromise, they have a problem, but it’s still their own problem, not anyone else’s to dictate how they have to resolve it. And there’s no induction anywhere in this letter that this couple even had any disagreement. Looked to me as if they’d made a joint strategic decision not to tell the homophobic parents until their daughter was out from under their roof, and now they’re making a joint strategic decision to tell them after getting married. This is a thing healthy couples DO; they make major decisions together, in whatever way suits the two of them.
LW, congratulations on your recent marriage! May your life together be long, happy, and filled with love.
“Obviously if coming out would have put you in any sort of risk then it was good you didn’t.”
Maybe just leave it there next time, and add a congratulations?
“Shoved” may have nothing to do with it; LW and her wife can make, and have made, their own choices, and the flipside of the idea that being out is politically valuable is that it carries risks, for a lot of people. Respect for autonomy means I don’t get to tell a stranger that they’re living their lives wrong, because they made different choices than I have, or than I imagine I would have in their place.
I’m out to my family, which is a combination of it being relatively low-risk and my having been willing to take that risk in order to have a more honest relationship. My girlfriend isn’t out to her mother, in part because the chances of it going well seemed much lower. (She tested the waters again a couple of weeks ago.) One consequence of that is that we see my mother as often as geography allows, and I’ve never met her mother. I don’t need my girlfriend to be out to her family. What matters to me is to not have to pretend to be “just friends” in person, and not visiting satisfies that.
I totally get why that might concern you, yeah. It was something I had considered at length after I figured myself out in college, and basically I had decided not to date anyone because it wouldn’t be fair to them to have to keep our relationship a secret to so many people…until I met her. We’d been friends for about a year and were really close, so she knew how shitty my family situation was. And she wasn’t able to be totally out either – her old job was full of super conservative people so she didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone except a manager she considered a friend. It was sort of funny – for the month we were married but lived apart, I had to take off my wedding ring when I got home from work, and she couldn’t wear hers to work at all.
Also, funny story…we didn’t tell her dad either until late November because we worried how he might react! He’s had a history of being kind of shitty to her about various things, including her romantic life (she’s bisexual) so we honestly had no idea. He ended up being fine, although we’re still dealing with him being, well, himself in some aspects (he can be difficult and he and my wife’s personalities clash), but at least he was willing to help us be together which IMO is the important thing for now. So! It was sort of a mutual closeting on both ends, if you’d call it closeting at all (and it’s totally fair if you would, it was a weird situation). We got around having her have to deal with my parents by having me mostly go visit her, and when she did come see me, we got hotel rooms. (Somehow my parents didn’t question either of those things, I guess driving 4 hours to see friends every other month seems normal to some people?) She hasn’t spent more than a few minutes with either of my parents, although from what I’ve told them they like her and think she’s a good “friend” for me.
(And thanks to everyone who already commented in my defense. I definitely get what Ruler of cats was saying, but I appreciate the different perspectives.)
Sorry didn’t mean to come off as harsh or bitting in anyway and I appreciate you coming back to tell us more even though you didn’t have too. I was jumping to conclusions and assumptions based on my own experiences
I did a similar elopement before coming out to my mom (my dad is great, they’re divorced and don’t talk). Eventually it just hit me that I was being so disrespectful (not saying you are, it’s just how I felt) to my marriage and my wife by putting my mother’s side of the family’s feelings over hers. I asked my brother to tell my mom, which was a shitty position to put him in, but she would have written off any announcement as a joke or plot against her (she’s a highly functioning schizophrenic) so someone had to convince her that it was true. It went very poorly and we have no relationship outside of a couple of texts a year. But honestly it was such a relief to finally admit and process that her love for me has always been conditional and it’s okay to walk away from that. It was a hard few months, my aunt actually suggested I sent an announcement like the Captian suggests but I just couldn’t bring myself to make the effort. I’m 3 years removed from it and, while I would happily take her back into my life were she to decide to accept me for who I am and respect my wife, I can’t say that I have any regrets. For what it’s worth, my aunts/uncles/cousins all took it fine and my grandparents (who my mom lives with) have been making sporadic efforts to reach out in emails. Good luck! Hope for the best but get your team you together and be kind to yourself.
Depending how nosy and involved you think your extended family will be, you might consider making a wedding website. They are pretty common these days. Don’t address any homophobia on it, but include the sweet gussied up story about your relationship, beautiful wedding photos, some story of the ceremony that addresses that it was an elopement. That way you get to frame the story of your relationship without actually having to talk to your family while they freak out. Telling a story about your elopement will confirm to your family that they weren’t specifically disinvited and everyone will get to feel included-ish because they’ll get the story and the pictures. You can also use this as a way of introducing your wife to your family in a really glowing way if they don’t already know her.
I love the advice about mailing the information to avoid drama, and mailing the parents’ announcement a day or two early. I think the letter writer SHOULD put some sort of return address on there — the PO Box idea is very good! — because some of the people who get the announcement will do the properly socially observant thing and SEND THEM A PRESENT!!!
LW, congratulations! Hurray!
The Captain has got excellent advice, as do some of the commenters. I have nothing to add, just my good wishes to you and your wife.
Congratulations on your marriage, LW! I am happy for you and wish you joy, success & love for many, many years to come.
I agreed with Captain’s response before I read it. Telling the truth a little bit at a time won’t help and might make it worse if you keep withholding parts of your life. If you start with only a little bit, don’t you end up lying about your relationship with your wife until you get to telling the whole story. Pull it off the big band aid all at once: “I’m a lesbian. I’m in a relationship with . We got married last December.”
This is one of the best answers I’ve ever seen posted on this site, and I typically agree 100% with what you post. I particularly loved
>>>If you hate and fear people because of their identity, and your kid has that identity and feels that they have to hide it in order to live safely in their home with you, you have zero moral high ground about “being lied to.”<<<
Congratulations on your marriage, LW. All of the best to you and your bride, for years to come. I agree that a wedding announcement is the best way to go about things.
This is excellent advice–I actually use the “share potentially fraught info served up on a happy/done deal platter” method for pretty much every interaction with my parents. It really works well (my mother is super controlling and will try to control every event in my life if there is so much a sliver of doubt or indecision).
I grew up in a religious household, heard about “the gays”, how wrong it was to “choose” a “lifestyle” like that. I couldn’t leave home, due to a chronic health condition, and once I’d realised I was gay I got more and more anxious about telling my parents,. I was dropping boulder-sized hints to my family and best friend, NADA! It eventually slipped out during the tiniest of arguments with my mother, she was halfway downstairs and I shouted, from my bedroom “Yeah? Well I’m GAY!”
Whoops! I nervously crept downstairs and asked “Did you hear what I said? That I’m gay?” I’d keyed myself up for a fight, or being kicked out, so I was shaking really badly, and she just turned and said “Tell me something I don’t know”. I just ran back up to my room! I sat at my computer desk and shook for about two hours.
It wasn’t mentioned again until one Sunday lunch where my parents were talking about their upcoming cruise, I mentioned money and my mother jokingly said “We used the money from your wedding fund, now that you don’t need it”. I literally did a apit-take, because my dad and brother were at the table, and I didn’t know that they knew!
Seventeen years later here I am, istill n my first relationship, and our twelfth anniversary is next month! My still religious parents adore my partner, and treat her as their own. Actually, I think they like her more than me! I hope that one day you can tell a similar story one day.
I’m so glad that things worked out for you and your partner! Hooray!
Aww thanks! I’m still astounded that we’re together, she’s a wonderful woman and I love her more every day.
Aw. ❤ I'm so glad that worked out for you! Thanks for telling your story, it's encouraging and I hope that mine will turn out similarly too. And congratulations and best of luck to you and your partner!
That is an awesome story. And man, I can relate to that first part. EVERY time I try to keep something back, every time I decide very rationally and logically that I won’t talk about it until [I understand the lay of the land/I have control over the circumstances/significant event has passed/etc], it comes out in a way I would never have planned for. It just… builds and builds till it colors every conversation, every interaction. And finally I can’t help but say it.
It usually doesn’t end quite as well as yours did. 😛 (Though I can also empathize with the shaking hands and the feeling of ‘holy fuck did that just happen’). It sounds like you all got over it. Happy endings are really nice to read. 🙂
Nothing to add to this advice; just chiming in to join the chorus of “congratulations!”
I very much like CA’s advice! I came out to my parents in my teens (in the 90’s) thinking—erroneously it so happened—that they would be supportive and accepting. I am greatful that they were not violent, they did not kick me out, they continued to love me and provide me with material things and a post-secondary education but it was So. Fucking. Miserable.
I wish I’d had some idea what a boundary was, how to enforce such a thing and that a good one to start with is Your Feelings Are Your Problem, Talk Amongst Yourselves But Not To Me About Your Homophobic Heartbreak. I think it would have spared me a lot of trauma (and subsequent terrible and self destructive choices) had they dealt with their angry, disappointed, grossed-out feelings with people other than me.
My parents had a lot of shame about me being queer and it kept them from discussing it with friends and extended family in fears that everyone would laugh at them. (My mother actually said that this was her comeuppance for having been boastful about my academic success.) I suspect that coming out to everyone else for them and sparing them the handwringing may have been helpful. As it was, each family member who found out enjoined me to keep it from out putatively more fainthearted or conservative family members who (in their estimation) would not take it as “well.” (Needless to say, the people who supposedly had to be protected from the horrors of my orientation all coped swimmingly.)
LW I think you did a smart thing in waiting to come out to your family. There can be a lot of emotional vulnerability of coming to terms with your sexuality and you deserve to protect yourself during that time.
I think coming out is important socially and politically but folks we do not need to build a movement on the backs of young people whose families have rejected them. We don’t need to shame people for waiting until they have attained some emotional maturity, decent self-esteem and financial self-sufficiency to come out.
“I think coming out is important socially and politically but folks we do not need to build a movement on the backs of young people whose families have rejected them. We don’t need to shame people for waiting until they have attained some emotional maturity, decent self-esteem and financial self-sufficiency to come out.”
THIS. In capital letters bigger than I can type here.
Congratulations, LW! May you both live long and prosper! ❤
I have no advice (I think the Captain’s is pretty damn on point, and I can’t add anything to it), but just wanted to say Congratulations on your Marriage, Almost Out and your wife!
Wow, I wasn’t expecting an answer so quickly! Thank you, Captain! Your advice is scary but I can see that it’s probably the best way to handle this, and I honestly wouldn’t have thought of the wedding announcements on my own. Both sides of my family are huge and spread-out and I don’t talk to very many of them often, but I can figure out a way to get their addresses, I’m sure.
I do have a small but happy update on this: my favorite aunt had made some vague but supportive-sounding remarks when I last saw her, so I finally told her over text and she was really happy for me! She lives in a few states away with my last surviving grandmother, but she has said she fully supports me and my wife and she can’t wait to meet her when she’s in town next. My aunt also seemed to think that my grandmother would be more accepting than I thought (I wasn’t honestly sure how she would be, since that side of my family is Chinese and my grandmother is very traditional about some things), so that was encouraging. Even with the distance, it’s nice to know I have someone on my side.
I am definitely going to see about doing those announcements, although (due to various circumstances) I am still moving all of my things out of my parents’ house and I’m about an hour away from them so i can only do that on weekends. I hope to have all of my stuff out of there by the end of February, so maybe I’ll work on sending them out in March? (Although my cousin is having a baby shower in April so I don’t want it to seem like I’m stealing her thunder. I’ll figure out a good time.) It really helps to have a game plan for it and not just be floundering around anxiously.
Anyway, Captain and commentariat, thank you so much for all your advice, support, and good wishes. I realize this is a really weird situation, and sometimes when I think about it I can’t believe how much my life has changed over the last few years. It means the world to have so many people who are rooting for me. ❤
This was lovely to read! I’m so happy about your aunt 🙂
For addresses, if you’re worried about what to ask- you can frame it as an adulting leveling-up move. “I want to have an up to date address book for family” is a reasonable request for someone to make in their mid-twenties, and will score points with older fashioned family members. Actually getting them takes some work but isn’t as bad as it can seem. If you have a family member (that you like, of course) who commonly hosts family reunions or holiday get together that’s a great place to start getting addresses. My aunt had the addresses for relatives I didn’t even know existed. Otherwise, reach out to relatives you like/want to send announcements to by phone or email and let them know you’re putting together your own family address book.
Congratulations on the wedding!
It’s an especially good and appropriate adulting move for someone who is moving out of her parents’ home, since it’s no longer expected (and maybe not appropriate) for the cards LW’s parents send out to be signed with her name as well as theirs.
Baby showers are nice ‘n all but I should think a month would be enough time to recover – timing is of course what you are comfortable with but I don’t think announcements March, baby shower April sounds bad.
Caveat – I’ve not thought of baby showers as a big deal, I didn’t do them myself. So you and your cousin’s mileage may vary.
And yeah, I think a month before the baby shower is time enough unless cousin is a big old drama llama – in which case there will probably be drama anyway. Remember, the longer after the shower, the closer to the birth; pregnancies are kind of an ongoing big deal.
If cousin is nice, on the other hand, announcing before the shower could be a way for your wife to start getting in good: send a thoughtful present and sign it from both of you.
(In case that’s new territory for you – some useful presents? Machine-washable, tumble-dryer-safe onesies and vests that can be worn on ordinary days. Babies leak and need fresh clothes two or three times a day; the fancy stuff never gets worn, but I am still grateful to my friends for that practical three-pack I used all the time. Poppers all the way down on the onesies, so you don’t have to pull anything over a wobbling baby head; sleeveless vests so the arm holes are nice and big. Also an inflatable travel pillow for feeds outside the house; babies are heavy and need propping up. Or, if you can afford it, these are a lifesaver: https://www.amazon.com/MBaby-Booster-Travel-Folding-Portable/dp/B01M3P25AT/ref=sr_1_10_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1486970745&sr=8-10&keywords=High+chair+diaper+bag – not sure about the brand, rule of thumb is the more space inside the better, but you get the idea. Or some tokens for Audible so she can listen to something during please-fall-asleep night feeds. Maybe a can of dry shampoo for the days when she doesn’t have time to wash it.)
‘It’ being her hair, not the baby. Oops.
Now I have a delightful mental image of a profoundly sleep deprived parent trying to wash a baby with dry shampoo and not being able to figure out why it’s going so poorly 🙂
Many congrats to you and your wife! Regarding the baby shower – the timing might actually be *perfect* for you to send the announcements in February! People will have a chance to read the news, chat about it, etc. and by the time the shower rolls around, everyone may be ready to focus on the new baby instead of fussing about you and your lovely spouse. 🙂 Best of luck, however the two of you decide to go forward!
I’m so glad you responded, LW! When I first read CA’s advice, my initial thought was “Yeah, but that sounds terrifying. I could never do that.” I actually thought maybe she should add a ‘bear with me for a minute’ before she mentioned the wedding invitations because you might read that and instantly start screaming “NO” in your head. 😛 But now I’m all excited because it’s such a good idea and you recognized that it may work for you!
I’m so happy for you. And thinking of what it’s going to feel like as you choose your wedding announcements and play with designs and such… I feel like every part of that will cement this New Reality in your head, the one that is Yours and not Theirs. Like, by the time you’ve selected fonts (ok, maybe you don’t care about fonts like SOME OF US) and designs and text and maybe cool stamps and stuff, the idea that This Is A Happy Occasion And Not A Mournful One will be more firmly planted in your head, allowing you to treat whatever negative Feelingz your parents might throw at you as what they are: Inconsiderate and inappropriate.
And it sounds like your aunt has already put you on that path! And at least one family member has your back. That is really freaking cool. I’m so happy for you, LW. I can’t imagine what important and significant and life-altering things you’re experiencing right now. 🙂
I think you should start assembling your address list from your supportive aunt’s current address book. You also can design and order the announcements with your wife now, maybe you guys will have the kinds of tastes that take a while to nail down and that is a limit on when you can start sending stuff.
I’m a bit biased, since I drive an hour each way every day for work, but this is a long weekend and one full carload each day of this weekend will shift a whole lot of stuff. Pushing for it to happen this weekend because it’s a holiday weekend and you have the time now will explain why you’re rushing.
Dropping the announcements in the mail the first week of March will allow your extended family to have processed it all by the time of your cousin’s baby shower and they’ll be able to focus on the shower while still getting some personal chat in about it. I proposed to my wife a short time before a cousin’s wedding, it was just old enough news that no one felt we were taking away from the happy couple but it was new enough news that the family was glad they were getting together so soon to be able to congratulate us in person.
Good luck, and congrats again!
Congratulations on your marriage, LW, and good luck with your family.
“My second advice is to just skip ahead to telling them about being married to your wife. (They’ll infer the “lesbian” part on their own from that)”
Technically it might be true that they’d infer lesbian, but someone who is aware of and trying not to perpetuate bisexual erasure would be like “I infer you are lesbian or bisexual/pansexual/etc”. So I’m a bit uncomfortable with the second sentence unless it was written with the idea in mind that they would infer lesbian specifically because of being homophobic and being less aware of bi/pan (as I assume the two are linked).
LW, congrats and I hope that your parents give you all the support that you and your wife deserve!
In this case it might be true, but you’re right that as it is written it ties into bi-erasure, and that is a problem.
I hope thoughtful people will ask the LW and her wife which words they use to describe their identities, if any.
Thank you for pointing this out!
I love the idea of sending the announcement to everyone, partly because there might be people in the LW’s family who will be way more supportive than she knows, and that would be awesome! Also, like, then it’s done and the anxiety about it can kind of ratchet down a few notches. At least for me, I find that when there’s something I’m super stressed out about, getting to the point where it’s out there in the world and I can’t actually affect it anymore is a huge relief.
May I also add sending out fancy stationary wedding announcements may result in the receiving of some wedding gifts! Obviously, this is not a reason to do so but it will mean you do have other extended family who are supportive of you and could be additional voices of reason to your parents should they not react in the normal congratulatory way.
By the way, a big hearty congratulations to you and your wife! I’m glad you both at least have her side of the family, they sound like good people.
Elopement cards, I love it!
Although I hope the LW doesn’t have the issue I had when sending out my wedding invites. My parents definitely are my address book. I’ve mailed so few relatives so few things that I had to basically send my parents an excel spreadsheet with the names of relatives I wanted to mail invites to, and they sent it back with addresses.
The alternative would have been…I don’t even know what. I don’t have my aunts and uncle’s phone numbers. I have one aunt’s email, but none of the others.
Are we just a really distant family? Am I a bad relative? Maybe, I just hope LW isn’t going to be in the same situation.
Oh good, LW is able to get the addresses. I just saw that.
Congratulations, LW and Wife!!
The Cap’s advice is great, but if I may, I’d like to direct you to everyoneisgay, too: http://everyoneisgay.com/category/religion/religious-families/
It’s a lovely advice site run by two ladies who love ladies. They have great advice about the process of coming out to religious families and of them accepting you ’cause Kristin, one of the authors, had to live through that with her mom. From what she writes, it took her mom lots of time and effort to accept her, and Kristin lots of work and tough conversations to make her understand, but things are ok now.
I hope that your family’s love for you is strong enough to unpack their prejudices and adjust their worldview and, in the mean time, I wish you lots of strenght and hapiness from the supportive people in your live.
(And, as another lesbian-with-religiously-homophobic-family, I get you. I’m so happy that you’ve found love and happiness, and I sincerely hope your family comes around)
Ooh, I had visited Everyone Is Gay before but completely forgot about it. Thank you!
Allow me to add my congratulations. I hope you and your wife have a wonderful life together. ❤
And if you decide to have kids and one of them is gay, well, you already know how NOT to react.
Congrats on your marriage, LW! I also grew up conservative, religious, and homophobic, and am now married to another woman, so I feel you. Just chiming in to say that it took my parents a LONG time to process their feelings and reactions (in appropriate and inappropriate ways) to my coming out, and we’ve had to renegotiate and rebuild our relationships accordingly. This might happen to you too (I hope it doesn’t!) if it does, it will be hard. But ultimately, it’s not as awful as being closeted was, and my parents and I have found ways to connect with each other that are more authentic. (I have a much better relationship with one parent now than the other, but things are slooowwwly improving on both fronts.)
Telling your whole family at once is s great idea. I waited until just before my wedding to tell the extended family – five years after I told my parents. I found out later that the severity of my parents reactions was due in part to having no one they wanted to talk to about it except each other… when their marriage was already rocky and they disagreed about how to respond. In some ways, telling the whole extended family at once might have helped.
Best of luck to you, LW. I hope you encounter a lot of kindness and that you find ways to tune out any hostility or homophobia.
Congratulations LW and I hope you and your wife have many happy years ahead of you.
One thing to remember. No matter how upset your parents may get or how much they guilt-trip you, they can’t actually make you not a lesbian. Which may be a useful thing to bring up if they try to fight with you about your sexuality/marriage. “Mom, what do you think you’re going to get out of this fight? You can’t actually stop me from being a lesbian.”
Just wanted to second others here who have suggested informing your parents first. As your parents, especially if they’re quite conservative and traditional, they would probably feel entitled to hear the news before others do. To be told at the same time as your third cousin twice removed, with a card received through the mail, would feel awfully dismissive. And the shock of being informed of your married status in (what would seem to them to be) such a cavalier fashion will be in ADDITION to the shock of finding out you’re gay.
To be clear, I’m not saying you have a duty to manage your parents’ feelings – you don’t! It’s their duty to be loving and supportive parents, and to express that loving support to you in an appropriate way. However, realistically speaking, if you want to maximise your chances of having a good relationship with them post-coming out, you have to put very careful thought into minimising the shock of the news. And that means delivering the news in as sensitive a way as you can deal with.
As for informing the extended family, it’s helpful to bear in mind that your parents may need other family members to turn to and talk to, so informing others soon after telling your parents may be a good idea. However, it’s also quite possible that hostile and homophobic relatives will start calling up your parents the moment they get the news. And your parents will suddenly find themselves having to defend themselves, defend you, explain your sexual orientation, the fact that you eloped and what exactly the hell is going on, to dozens of relatives all at the same time – while still reeling from the news themselves. So maybe it’s a better idea to give your parents time to process before letting the rest of the family know. And consider whether you should let your parents know that you are telling everyone just before you do release the news, so they have time to prepare for the marathon phone calls from ‘concerned’ relatives. I think this is one of those things that depend very much on family dynamics – and you are the best judge of that. And it also depends on what you feel like you can cope with, mentally and emotionally.
I wish there was a way that the whole thing could be choreographed to ensure a happy outcome for you, but there isn’t. So please, whichever method you choose, make sure you have Team You ready to lend you support. At some point or other, you’ll probably end up having a painful phone call or conversation with your parents, and you should have support to turn to as soon as that’s done. No matter what, prioritise your mental and emotional well-being. And whatever drama ensues, remember that *you* are not the cause of the drama – *your parents’ homophobia* is the cause of the drama.
Congratulations on your marriage, LW!
I definitely agree with CA about just announcing the full marriage up front. This isn’t because otherwise you’d be “lying” or “disrespecting” them somehow, but rather because it makes it that much harder for your parents to try to “negotiate” your relationship. Speaking from my own experience with homophobic parents (I came out as a lesbian around your age before I came out as transgender) they were utterly convinced that they were going to convert me back to the straight and narrow and that this was just some sort of temporary confusion in my brain (which may involve demons). Obviously, your relationship is NOT negotiable whether you’re married or not. But if they try to pull this shit on you, it’ll be much more stressful if you’re awkwardly sitting on the knowledge that you’re actually already married even though your parents think you’re just dating and you’re wondering how long you should wait and put them off before announcing you’re married without making it seem rushed, thus confirm their mistaken assumptions that you’re not thinking this through seriously etc etc. And while you are 100% justified in avoiding telling homophobic parents you are gay or even outright lying to them about it (100% JUSTIFIED) that doesn’t necessarily make your brain stop feeling guilty because brains are jerks. And when you pair that predisposition to feel guilty about it with parents saying “but you misrepresented yourself! If you had just told us the truth we would never have said those mean/homophobic/manipulative/whatever other bad behavior we did!”… well, it’s a perfect recipe for a miserable time (speaking from experience here). So, for your own sake and not your parents, it’s probably best to cut straight to the raw truth and give your jerk-brain as little chance to sabotage yourself as possible.
All the best to you!
Congratulations, LW! That is beautiful, fabulous news and I wish you and your wife great happiness.
Nothing substantive to add except that I thought this question and answer were absolutely wonderful and want to wish the Letter Writer and her wife a very long and happy marriage; congratulations to you both, and also to the Captain for being awesome.
Congratulations on your wedding! I loved eloping, the Best Woman’s turquoise mohawk was greatly appreciated by the audience. I hope your marriage is as happy and fulfilling as mine has been (15 years next month, and I still like him…).
Internet hugs on telling the fam. I like the captain’s advice, and the addition of mailing the parental’s a little before the rest. You deserve only happy and hugs for your happiness, and you should feel totally free to put up boundaries that shelter your happiness.
Can I just say, LW, you sound like a total badass. You protected yourself while living with your homophobic family, found love with what sounds like an amazing partner, bravely came out to your friendship group and got yourself married in the face of a lot of societal pushback about elopement and faaaaaaaaamily. You have taken amazing care of yourself so far and built a relationship to be proud of, and I hope you continue to feel good about yourself and treat yourself with kindness as you set about coming out to your family.
Relevant soundtrack: “Hail Mary Shy of Redemption,” by Eddie From Ohio.
Congrats LW, and good luck!
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