Follow Dan

Facebook    Twitter    Instagram    YouTube
Savage Lovecast
Dan Savage's Hump
It Gets Better Project

Savage Love Podcast

Got a question for Dan Savage?
Call the Savage Love Podcast at 206-201-2720
or email Dan at mail@savagelove.net.

Savage Love Archives

More in the Archives »

More from Dan Savage

More in the Archives »

Books by Dan Savage

Want a Second Opinion?

Contact Dan Savage

Savage on YouTube

Loading...

How to Cope in the Closet

March 13, 2008

Joe Newton

I'm in my final year of high school and I decided to come out as a lesbian—a very foolish move as I live in a small town that's not exactly brimming with tolerant people. But I know there are other closeted people at my school and I figured if none of us ever take the first step, it won't ever get any better around here. But the response from my peers was worse than I expected. It's nothing too terrible, no physical violence, and in the beginning I could cope. But it's been a while now and I guess I need some advice. It just isn't getting better and I'm getting tired of it. I have to park two streets away so people don't write shit on my car, someone's hacked my user account and deleted important coursework, I'm either told I'm dressing like a dyke or trying to be a girl depending on what I choose to wear on any given day. I'm avoiding classes that I don't have friends in because even if nothing is said (though it often is), the atmosphere is horrible. And none of this is that big a deal compared to what others have to go through, I know, but I'm sort of at the end of my tether.

Reporting it to staff is useless because they just tell me there isn't any proof and do fuck all. I've got some teachers looking out for me, but they can't really do anything, either. I have some supportive friends, thank God, but it's all just becoming a bit too much, and I need some advice on how to cope through the last few months until I can get out of this shithole town.

Tired And Losing It

Here's what you need to do, TALI: Look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself that this is the nadir, the bottom, the worst it's ever going to get. Once you get out of high school and out of your shithole hometown and get your ass off to college—to a big state school or private secular university—you won't be the only out queer anymore. Hell, you'll be surrounded by out fags and dykes and bisexuals. I can't promise you that you'll never encounter a bigot again, of course, or that all the fags and dykes you meet over the course of your life will be good people. But you will never again feel as vulnerable or persecuted or alone as you do right now.

And while you're talking to yourself in the mornings, TALI, tell yourself this, too: "Fuck my school, fuck my classmates, and fuck this town." The shits conspiring to make you miserable, TALI, are unlikely to have lives anywhere near as interesting as the one on which you're about to embark. Your classmates are making you miserable now because they know, deep down in their little black hearts, that their lives are going to be duller than day-old douche water compared to yours. Their lives aren't going to be dull because they're straight, TALI, but because the value they place on conformity—that's the reason they feel they have a right to abuse you now—is a prison they've constructed around themselves.

Right now they're making you feel like an outcast, TALI, and the malice stings. But what exactly are they casting you out of? Your high school? Their asshole cliques? That shit town? You haven't been cast out, TALI; you've been liberated. Freed. Sprung.


I'm a 16-year-old gay boy. I grew up in an evangelical Christian home. Being the intelligent chap I am, I forgot to clear the history off the computer after looking at pornography one day last October. I got yelled at until I cried that night, and again the next morning, and every day for two weeks. I wasn't allowed to use the computer for a year, and I was forced to attend church nightly. The electronics embargo has ended, so I can watch porn again at least, but I've been forced into the closet by my parents. They both ask me every night whether or not I have a girlfriend, whether or not there are any cute girls in my grade, stuff like that. My mom tears up every time I say that I don't have a girlfriend. My dad sends me links to antigay articles that describe homosexuality as unnatural and an abomination. Once I made the mistake of sending an article back to him countering his points about homosexuality and he stormed into my room and broke both my cell phone and MP3 player in half.

What the hell should I do about my parents? Will I ever be able to come out? Or will I have to lie to my parents and wait for them to die?

Christian Parents Angrily Chastise

Your parents—your vicious, clueless parents—are abusing their authority and their power, CPAC, which can make it tempting to fantasize about their deaths. Hell, I'm tempted to come over and kill them myself. But your only option right now, I'm sorry to say, is to lie to them. Tell your asshole parents what their assholes ears want to asshole hear: "It was just a phase, Mom and Dad, I was just curious, I'm totally straight, Jesus is the only dude I'll ever get on my knees for, blah blah blah." Get yourself a fag hag, delete gay web-browsing histories, create and refrain from deleting straight web-browsing histories, and bide your freakin' time.

In two short years you'll be an adult, CPAC, and you'll be able to come out to your mom and dad—and, even better, you'll be able to tell them to suck it. Demand an apology for the emotional and spiritual violence they inflicted on you, CPAC, and if one isn't forthcoming, refuse to see your parents or have anything to do with them until they apologize. They're currently using all the leverage they have as parents to make sure you're miserable—aka closeted—for the rest of your life. Once you're an adult, CPAC, you'll have to use the only leverage you have—your presence in their lives—to make them into the loving, respectful, supportive parents you deserve, deserved all along, and that it's not too late for them to become.


Four months ago, my mom walked in on me messing around with my boyfriend in our garage. I'm also a boy, age 15, and I hadn't gotten around to coming out to my parents yet. I felt bad that my mom had to find out by seeing what she saw. I stayed in my room crying until my father came home. They called me down to the kitchen and told me they loved me and that they were very, very sorry if they had ever done or said anything that made me feel like I couldn't be open with them about who I am.

My boyfriend is 17. He came out to his parents at Christmas, and our parents met for the first time last night. We don't have a question. We just wanted to thank you and thank all the other gay people who came out back when it was much tougher to do so. Our parents wouldn't have reacted the way they did if it weren't for all you guys that already came out.

We're Out Now

Thanks for the sweet note, WON. It's too bad that all teenagers, gay and straight, don't have parents as loving and supportive as yours. recommended


Download Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at www.thestranger.com/savage.

mail@savagelove.net

 

Commenting was not available when this article was originally published.

Comments (5) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
1
A shout out to WON: Your parents are awesome, hang on to them for dear life.

My mother gave me the "I'll love you no matter what, you can share anything with me" speech a minute before I came out to her about being bi. A second later she was crying and trying to make me straight. She forbade me to see my girlfriend (although apparently I'm still 'allowed' to talk to her. Probably due to the fact that she knows she can't control whom I talk to online or at school). I have to skip classes and sneak behind my mom's back to see her, and it hurts me, because I don't want to. I'm fully dependent on my parents as they're paying for my college tuition, and all I really want is for her to stop being a hypocrite and love me for the way I am. Why should I have to choose?

So, here's a long-winded way of saying, you're lucky to have amazing parents, thank them every day for being as loving as they are.

:)

A
Posted by discopants on December 7, 2008 at 12:05 PM · Report this
2
This is about TALI-

I am a bisexual college girl. In high school, I was in a somewhat similar situation, although I took the wimpy route and didn't come out in high school. I was also from a small town, and the few out kids we had were frequently harassed.

I am thrilled to report that I am now attending a private, religiously affiliated university where I have found a generally open atmosphere. It's not so much about the schools religious ties or lack thereof, but the attitude of those on the campus. I've found both a GSA and an organization exclusively for LGBT students. It's common to see both students and professors wearing "Gay? Fine by me" t-shirts.

Now, while it sounds like I am, I'm not trying to tout my specific school. I'm simply saying to anyone who feels oppressed in high school: it does get better. There is a significantly higher percentage of out LGBTs in college than I had ever dreamed of in high school. I've found that in college, people usually don't worry as much about what you prefer sexually, unless they're interested...
Posted by Rain927 on January 26, 2009 at 9:06 PM · Report this
3
To WON, I am proud of you and of your parents. Mine have just pulled strange shit on me: it is okay if I come out as a lesbian, but it is "weird" to be bi. (My mother's word). According to Murphy's Law, I am, of course, bi. (I have a boyfriend at the moment, though, so I have no problem with staying in the closet to them. It is a nice closet, with a college fridge and lots of fur coats.)

I am also happy that you no longer have to fool around in the garage as that sounds kind of unsexy as far as locations go.
Posted by Probably Crazy on January 28, 2009 at 8:40 PM · Report this
4
CPAC, the most important part of Dan's advice is to get yourself a fag hag. I realized that dudes turned my crank, and I was scared as hell. I wen through a major emotional depressive trip and was wondering if I was even going to make it through the end of the year. So one day, as I'm sitting in the back of my class moping as usual and doodling, a girl comes and sits by me and strikes up a conversation. Her gaydar was impeccable, and I was freaked out at first, but she helped me come to terms with it and gave me her time, her attention, and soon we were stuck together like glue.

My parents finally found out through the social grapevine and an ex-friend, but they didn't react as harshly as I thought they would. And my friend was there for me the whole time.

Long story short, get a really good female friend or two and turn to them for everything. Your parents are doing the opposite of parenting. Get someone who won't emotionally abuse you, and someone who will stay up all night baking cookies and watching LOGO with you.
Posted by MC_crackin on July 29, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Report this
5
It Gets Better - the early years. Stories like this are very inspirational. The good and the bad both, it gives some reason to be grateful and others reason to believe in a light at the end of the tunnel.

I like the shirts that say Straight but not Narrow, I wish more gay teens knew that they have allies everywhere and I wish that more of those allies would speak up a little bit more.
Posted by Love Savage, Dan on August 12, 2011 at 5:42 PM · Report this

Add a comment