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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: A Hopeful Thank-You Note

Posted by on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 3:38 PM

I'm a gay teen struggling through high school. I'm currently a junior and still in the closet, but I've grown more confident by the day. Your "It Gets Better" Project has really inspired me, and just hearing so many people say it does get better has really improved my self-esteem.

I come from a conservative Christian family so, of course, my biggest deterrent for coming out has been the fear my that parents will reject me based on the Scripture. After watching your very pragmatic debate with Brian Brown, I've come to realize that (as you put it) there is a lot of bullshit in the Bible. The most striking example to me was slavery. The Bible was used for centuries to defend slavery, a now obviously morally reprehensible action, and nobody questioned it. It's ridiculous that people decide to single out the very few (maybe 6 or 7) verses on homosexuality and decide that those statements prove God's hatred of homosexuality. You inspired me to do much research on the Bible and what it really says about homosexuality. And now more than ever I believe God doesn't care if I'm gay or straight, he loves me either way.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks! You've really helped me, both spiritually and mentally, in a number of ways. And even if I do come out and face ridicule, I know that it will get better. Seeing you and your partner happily married with a child shows me I can one day have a family, even if it's not a "traditional" one.

Thanks.

Coming Out Soon

My response after the jump...

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Thank you for the nice note, COS, and my heart goes out to you. I was in your shoes once: ready to come out, terrified of how my religious—if not too terribly conservative—parents would react. They wound up reacting better than I had expected. Sometimes our families surprise us. But please don't come out until you feel you're ready and don't come out unless you have a solid back-up plan, i.e., some supportive friends on your side and someplace to stay if your parents throw you out of the house.

And even if your parents do react badly when you come out—even if they react in an unloving and un-Christian way—don't give up on them. There are so many examples at the "It Gets Better" Project of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans adults whose families rejected them when they first came out or transitioned but who eventually came around. Don't lose hope during what could be the worst of it, COS. So many LGBT people know unconditional love from family members who reacted badly when they first came out.

And please, COS, if you think there's a real chance that your family will retaliate against you for coming out—if you think they'll throw you out of the house or deny you financial support for college that they otherwise would've provided—wait to come out to them until you're in a safe place or you've cashed that first paycheck.

Have you heard of Matthew Vine? I think you would benefit greatly from watching the hour-long speech he gave about Christianity, the Bible, and homosexuality. The New York Times recently profiled Matthew. I think you'll find great comfort in his words, COS, and you should ask your parents to watch his video when you come out.

I'm glad the "It Gets Better" Project helped you, COS, and know that I'm out here rooting for you. Know that we all are. Good luck.

 

Comments (38) RSS

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1
Obviously I don't know HOW religious or conservative COS's family is, but he also shouldn't come out if he thinks they might send him to one of these terrifying gay-reeducation camps for teens. Some of these are overseas or in states with legal loopholes that keep religious-run facilities from being regulated in the same way hospitals or boarding schools would be. This is a very scary documentary:
http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2012/02/doc…
Posted by Fangdoc on January 9, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
2
Very sweet letter. I am troubled by the suggestion to lie to your parents until you have back-up plan. Don't get me wrong, I have a ton of sympathy for a child stuck in a bad situation, and know they need to do whatever needs to be done to survive.

However, you are suggesting that parents can't be trusted to be responsible to their own children if those children are gay, trans, or fill in the blank. But people have children, and they are responsible for them. The solution to poor patenting isn't to convince children that if they disagree with their parents that they must be in the right and should delude their parents (parents generally make better decisions than children). The solution is for society to work together to make parents better.
Posted by beccoid on January 9, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Report this
3
Parts of the Bible that say that introspection and altruism are good: Good.

The Book of Numbers: Bloodier than anything on HBO.
Posted by DRF on January 9, 2013 at 4:03 PM · Report this
pfffter 4
@2 I have a ton of sympathy for someone who has their head stuck up their own ass. Are you kidding me? As someone who grew up in one of those conservative Christian households, you better believe he should keep it to himself until he knows he will be safe.

Yes, society should work together to rid itself of homophobic religious nutjobs. Since that's not going to happen anytime soon, maybe you can make a better suggestion that's not a complete and utter pollyanna pipe dream.
Posted by pfffter on January 9, 2013 at 4:07 PM · Report this
SoapMacTavish 5
@ 2
What 4 said....
Posted by SoapMacTavish on January 9, 2013 at 4:17 PM · Report this
6
@2, what 5 said...
Posted by DisorganizedReligion on January 9, 2013 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Alanmt 7
Hey COS,

Best of luck with your coming out, when you decide to do it!

I thought I would share my perspective on biblical interpretation and homosexuality. Take it, leave it, think about it; it's all good. But when I look for a message from God in the New Testament on homosexuality, I reread Peter's dream. Peter dreamt that God lowered a cloth to him on which were many animals which it was forbidden to eat under Levitical law.Three times God tells him to eat, and three times he refuses, referencing the levitical purity laws. And God tells him not to call anything impure that God has made. The dream has two clear meanings - first that the Levitical eating laws do not apply and, second, as is revealed shortly thereafter, that worship is not confined to the Jewish people, but to all people.

I submit that the Levitical proscription on homosexuality is just as effectively set aside by Peter's dream as the other Levitical purity law prescriptions. Since reasonable, thoughtful people now understand that being gay is a trait, an inherency, then we are just as much God's people, deserving of his love and grace. Let no man call unclean or wrong or sinful, what God himself has made.

Also, I would second Dan on being patient with your parents, however badly they react. (Patient, but firm - give them time and opportunity to change their minds, but do not let them cause you misery or change how you live your life) My own father was devastated when I came out of the closet eight years ago, after my first marriage ended, and as I was engaged to marry my male fiance in Canada. Eventually, he got over it. It took time for him to adjust, and for his love for me to win out over long-ingrained prejudices. He passed away two weeks ago. One of the last things he did when he was conscious was to gesture over to me, sitting beside his hospital bed, and announce with obvious pride to the nurses "That's my son!" If he could change his mind, maybe yours can to. :)

GL&GB
More...
Posted by Alanmt on January 9, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
8
@2, teen homeless shelters are full to overflowing with kids who were kicked out of the house by their religious parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They make up a huge percentage of all homeless teens. There are also way too many teens who are still at home, being physically, emotionally or mentally abused because their parents are told that this will make them straight. And then there are the forced "ex gay" programs that these kids get sent to.

The hope is that the parents are mature, accepting and educated enough to make good decisions about how to deal with their child's sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the stakes are way too high for Dan's advice to just be "tell your parents, all will be well." Each teen has to decide this for him/herself. And yes, if need be, lie your ass off until you are in a safer situation, and/or you are over 18 years old.
Posted by SeattleKim on January 9, 2013 at 4:27 PM · Report this
9
@2 It's not a gay teen's job to re-educate his or her parents. That's our job. Gay teens should just be taking care of their own mental and physical health.
Posted by EricaP on January 9, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
rob! 10
@Dan, really, because his mom was so integral to coming out—in yesterday's news:
PFLAG Founder Jeanne Manford Passes Away At 92

Jeanne Manford, who founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) in 1972, passed away at her home n Daly City, California. She was 92.

“She is known to thousands of people as the mother of the straight ally movement, but to me — she was my mother,” said daughter Suzanne Swan. “She was someone who would always do the right thing, the good thing. She supported all people, and that meant so much to us growing up.”

In the early 1970s, Manford’s son Morty was attacked at a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration. After the assault, Jeanne wrote a letter to the New York Post, proudly stating “I have a homosexual son and I love him...”
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on January 9, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
11
Mr Savage at his best. I could quibble a little about being prepared not to take on blame if they don't come around, but not this time.
Posted by vennominon on January 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 12
Hey COS- Listen to Dan, listen to your own mind and heart, and stay safe and well until you can come out.
Most of us queers have been where you are in one way or another. You'll do just fine, and high school (hell of hells) will end in just 1.4 years!
Oh- don't give @2's thoughts another think- he/she hasn't a clue of what we're talking here.
Posted by OutInBumF on January 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM · Report this
13
@ several numbers. You may be right. Maybe all religious parents and conservative parents are So Awful that the probability is very high that the kids would end up in a shelter if their child comes out. maybe this outweighs the psychological benefits of coming out (not being able to be yourself, having a real relationship with your parents, not having to be 1000 miles away before you can open your mouth to the people you're closest to, not learning to lie as a life strategy.) But frankly, I would bet the other way: that most parents are more reasonable than their teenage children would guess. I speak from experience: keeping large secrets because you think your family can't handle the truth does long-term damage.

But rather than having an argument based on emotionally- charged assumptions, let's look at the numbers: what percentage of kids who come out to their families are rejected? What percentage of kids who don't come out end up with major depression?
Posted by beccoid on January 9, 2013 at 4:41 PM · Report this
emma's bee 14
@beccoid. Your naivete on this topic is understandable, I guess, but I urge you to go listen to the Savage Lovecast around Thanksgiving 2011 and then 2012 to hear the heartbreaking story of a gay kid whose religious parents certainly don't know any better and have rejected him time and time again.

My parents sound like they were a lot like Dan's (uber-Catholic, midwestern), and I'm about his age, and there were a hell of a lot of things I never discussed with them about my personal life growing up (not sexual orientiation, but pertinenent to my private sex life), and I'm still glad I spared them to this day. Why do people think that kids should tell their parents everything, anyway?
Posted by emma's bee on January 9, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
kim in portland 15
Good luck, COS!

Continue studying on your own too. Critical thinking is a powerful gift. You might find the story of Mel White a former ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and friend of James Dobson until he came out as a gay man, and later founder of Soulforce an encouraging person to research.
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on January 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
kim in portland 16
Alanmt @ 7,

My condolences on the loss of your dad. And, how wonderful that you could hear how proud he was of you.

Take care.
k
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on January 9, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
17
@13, there is no way to know the statistics you ask for. What Dad is advocating is for the teen to have a back-up plan. Each teen needs to decide for him/herself if it is relatively safe to come out. But if they have somewhere to go, just in case, then it is much safer for them to come out, no matter what their parent's reaction. I agree with you that most parents will do what is right, eventually. But we cannot just tell all kids to come out regardless of their concerns for their parents reactions.

If it was me, I would skirt the issue until I had reasonable alternatives, just in case. And, if I was in college, and depending on the parents for help paying for it, I might just not tell them until after graduation, if I was worried about their reaction.
Posted by SeattleKim on January 9, 2013 at 5:07 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 18
beccoid, I agree, let's not have an argument based on emotionally-charged assumptions. Instead, why don't *you* do the research on your questions?

I'm sure it would be interesting & cause for good discussion. However, the practical reality is that there are enough parents who will willingly put their children in grave physical & emotional danger simply because they are LGBT for it to be a primary concern. I would tend to agree w/ you that society as a whole would be better off w/ more honesty, but I think it is highly irresponsible to counsel individuals based on ideals rather than immediate practicality. The former is the position that religious nutjobs operate from. The latter is where empathic, common sense people operate.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on January 9, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Report this
BEG 19
@beccoid -- this alone should give you pause:
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/07/12…
Posted by BEG http://twitter.com/#!/browneyedgirl65 on January 9, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Report this
20
The truth is we don't know this kid's parents. Maybe they're more reasonable than he thinks, maybe they're not. He's in a better position to weigh the risks and benefits of coming out than we are. If he thinks his parents will go batshit crazy, throw him out of the house, put him on complete social lockdown, or send him off to horrible "therapy," then whatever he misses out on over the next few years is worth keeping mum. He should find someone he trusts (ESPECIALLY to not break his confidence...maybe even someone BARRED from breaking his confidence like a progressive clergy member or counselor) and discuss it with them, think long and hard about how they're likely to react, maybe even nibble around the edges by casually dropping a mention of "some" gay kid he "heard" about coming out to his family and see how they react. But if the results of all that hot air and brainpower are that he still feels that his family would make the next few years of his life miserable or even dangerous if he comes out, then forgoing a high school relationship or bringing the college boyfriend home for Thanksgiving FAR outweighs the relative peace, safety, and security he'll have. Being mature sometimes means putting off the good for a while until we can really enjoy it. It's a terrible situation to be in, and I wish that parents who would do that to their kids didn't exist, but his situation will be FAR worse if he comes out to people who are responsible for his safety and security when they're likely to yank his safety net away.
Posted by Ms. D on January 9, 2013 at 5:43 PM · Report this
21
@13 "all religious parents and conservative parents are So Awful"

That's a straw man. What Dan said was: "if you think they'll throw you out of the house or deny you financial support for college that they otherwise would've provided—wait to come out to them until you're in a safe place."

Dan's not assuming all religious or conservative parents would do that. But he thinks COS has more information to guess how his own parents would react than any of the rest of us, and he bears all the risk if he guesses wrong -- so it's his decision to make, not ours. (COS can test the waters by discussing generic other teens who came out to their parents, and see how his parents react to that hypothetical situation. Isn't that what After School Specials are designed for?)
Posted by EricaP on January 9, 2013 at 5:43 PM · Report this
22
COS, I predict that by the time your children, should you have them, are grown, your family will be a new "traditional." Best wishes to you.
Posted by 14thblackbird on January 9, 2013 at 5:45 PM · Report this
mtnlion 23
@beccoid, sorry, you're wrong here. A person--any person--must protect themselves if a benign secret could threaten their well-being. It is the right thing to do for the child and for the parents, actually, because they won't be given the opportunity to throw their kid out on the streets and feel like a couple of assholes later on and fracture the relationship so severely.

If there's any clue that kicking him out could potentially be their reaction, he needs to keep that a secret until the threat is gone.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on January 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM · Report this
24
@ beccoid - My real relationship with my father started when I was 18, financially autonomous and 500 kilometers away from him. If he had learned that I was gay before that, he would have definitely thrown me out and cut off all support. Maybe I missed out on something during my teens, but I didn't end up on the streets - like some people I knew - and my father and I made up for it later, as adults and as equals.

So COS, take Dan's advice, it's absolutely spot on. And believe me, it does get a whole lot better.
Posted by Ricardo on January 9, 2013 at 6:10 PM · Report this
seandr 25
Not only will it get better, COS, but someday you'll come to see your homosexuality as a gift that compelled you to evolve as a person beyond the narrow confines of your upbringing.

For so many people, just going along with program without asking too many questions is easiest path, so they follow it without ever seeing all the wonderful possibilities they missed.
Posted by seandr on January 9, 2013 at 6:23 PM · Report this
dlauri 26
@beccoid: Bless your sweet stupid heart.

@Coming Out Soon: Listen to Dan, not beccoid. Have a backup plan and a support system. With luck you won't need them, but it's better to be prepared.
Posted by dlauri http://www.davidlauri.com on January 9, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Trinabeana 27
EricaP, I just want to tell you that I always love your comments. Here, @21, you said what I wanted to say, but wouldn't have been as eloquent.

COS, best of luck to you! I hope your family proves to be loving and supportive, when you feel ready to come out to them.
Posted by Trinabeana on January 9, 2013 at 7:39 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 28
@beccoid

We're not talking about parenting decisions or the ability of adults in general to make wise(r) decisions. This isn't about drinking, drug-taking, unprotected sex and a whole lot of other risky behaviours that youth engage in without sufficient thought of consequences. Nor is it about the idealized concept of teens having a close relationship with their parents.

What does a parenting decision have to do with the issue of coming out? Do parents have the right to override their children's expression of their authentic selves, whether the objection is a nonchalant yet dismissive "Oh, you're not really that way - it's just a phase you're going through" all the way to "You're no child of mine and you're going straight to hell"?

Speaking of the latter response, do you remember the grotesque It Gets Worse campaign (the hate-filled, disgusting mirror to Dan's) where fundies were encouraging gay kids to kill themselves? Why do you think Dan even started the IGBP if it weren't for the heartbreaking stories of kids who were committing suicide because they were LGBT and couldn't handle the loneliness, let alone being bullied and not having anyone to turn to for support ... ESPECIALLY THEIR FAMILIES.

You ask for statistics which someone above already provided. Well, I'll give you MY answer: When it comes to the possibility of mental anguish or physical danger to someone coming out as a minor/dependent (or exposed by accident), ONE is too many.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on January 9, 2013 at 7:50 PM · Report this
john t 29
I'm just here to pile on Beccoid. Queer kids — children who aren't ready to survive on their own — shouldn't have to bear the risk of getting kicked out of the house by their asshole parents. The odds of that happening might be low, numerically speaking, but the consequences are very high, and there is very little chance that a teenager with religious conservative parents is going to reap any benefits from having a more open and honest relationship with them. The second-worst-case scenario, staying at home but enduring tons of emotional abuse and/or pressure to go through "reparative therapy," is more likely and nearly as damaging to a young person's health and wellbeing as being homeless. Advising a child to take the risk of getting tossed out on the street or precipitating an abusive and miserable home life because you think honesty always trumps self-preservation is unethical and fucking stupid.
Posted by john t on January 9, 2013 at 8:04 PM · Report this
Fnarf 30
Hey, COS: you should read Slacktivist for Christian Evangelical liberalism and anti-literalism. Seriously, it's got the message you need to hear while you live through this. You're not alone. Fred Clark is on your side, and so are a bunch of other people. He's smarter and kinder than me, though, so I'll let him talk:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist…

Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 9, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Report this
31
There's only one verse about homosexuality in the Torah, and it's in there because the clan was trying to increase its numbers at that time. Ignore it. And don't read Paul.

Stay in the closet until you don't need financial support anymore. If you need to lie to your parents, lie. Your physical safety is what's important now.
Posted by sarah70 on January 9, 2013 at 10:57 PM · Report this
32
@ 2 Please read what Dan said, he said come out when it's safe, he did not say to live a lie forever.

I'm a mother of a gay son, and he is not any different then my 3 other straight sons. My husband & I would fight for all 4 of those boys, our love for them is unconditional, but sadly all parents don't feel that way.

My son's boyfriend's parents are very difficult, and in my opinion they are mentally abusive & do not understand (or want to) his being gay is not a choice. For the last 3 months of their Sr. year in High School, I worried about him constantly! When they found out he was gay, they greeted him with, " you know your going to hell" made him go to a therapist, who luckily was a good man & told him & his parents there was nothing wrong with being gay. These parents, didn't and still don't think its ok to be gay, and have not tried to evolve on this at all! I'm glad he's now in college & has some freedom, but while home for semester break, he's spent almost every day at our home, because my son is not welcome at his. We love this kid, and we've been so saddened to see first hand how parents can treat their own children.

COS, It does get better, but listen to Dan, stay safe, and if that means delaying when you come out, that's fine, you know your family better than anyone & hopefully when you do come out, they will support you!
Posted by 4boys4us on January 10, 2013 at 5:24 AM · Report this
smajor82 33
@2 - some parents can't be trusted to be responsible to their own children period.
Posted by smajor82 on January 10, 2013 at 6:03 AM · Report this
35
#28 said it perfectly. Even if statistics show that 99 44/100 percent of parents would be accepting of their children, it's not worth it if COS happens to have parents who fall in the other 56/100 percent.

I don't even see where "lying" plays into this. What's wrong with good ol' not saying anything? That's what I did when I was growing up; I think my parents suspected--I think asking them if I could have ballet lessons when I was seven years old may have tipped them off--but that's not the same thing as rubbing their noses in it.

Of course, if it comes down to it, I support lying as opposed to putting one's home and life at risk.
Posted by Mike_in_Houston on January 10, 2013 at 8:15 AM · Report this
36
#28 said it perfectly. Even if statistics show that 99 44/100 percent of parents would be accepting of their children, it's not worth it if COS happens to have parents who fall in the other 56/100 percent.

I don't even see where "lying" plays into this. What's wrong with good ol' not saying anything? That's what I did when I was growing up; I think my parents suspected--I think asking them if I could have ballet lessons when I was seven years old may have tipped them off--but that's not the same thing as rubbing their noses in it.

Of course, if it comes down to it, I support lying as opposed to putting one's home and life at risk.
Posted by Mike_in_Houston on January 10, 2013 at 8:35 AM · Report this
37
re the Brian Brown debate (I know, slightly off-topic) - did anyone else feel that his argument came down to "I don't like gays and therefore that part of the bible is sacrosanct, even though other parts have been challenged or ignored over time. I don't like gays, therefore the bible supports me." I don't know that there is any way to change the minds of people like that.
Posted by abrock_ca on January 10, 2013 at 8:57 AM · Report this
38
Beccoid @2, et al -

I'm not gay and my parents weren't over-the-wall conservatives, in fact they were liberal democrats. But my parents still threw me out of the house at 18 when they discovered I wasn't a virgin [this was 35+ years ago]. I managed to land on my feet, but I've had self-esteem and depression issues all my life. It is terrible thing to discover that your parents' love is conditional. It was also hypocritical because my parents encouraged my brothers to screw around before marriage.

Don't think of it as lying to the parents. Parents have the right NOT to know what their kids are up to sexually, especialy if it would upset them. So right now the fact that COS is gay falls in the category of "Too Much Information". Only COS will know when it is finally time to make the reveal - probably about the time he has a steady boyfriend that he wants to be open about.
Posted by Schweighsr on January 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Megaera 39
I'm sorry to pile on, Beccoid, I know you've had a lot of people give you a hard time already, but I have a couple of points to make that haven't already been made.

Speaking *as a parent,* I believe that my (gay) 13 year old daughter is entitled to privacy. As it happens, she is very open with me, so I'm pretty clear on what she is (and is not) up to. But teens have a right to privacy about their romantic and private lives just as adults do: they are not *obligated* to tell us parents anything on that level, and it would be unreasonable for us to expect it, though I do welcome it when she chooses to share.

I also think it's self-deluding for any parent to believe that their teen tells them 'everything:' it's possible, but unlikely.

Also, while it may be alienating for a teen to live at home and not be out of the closet, it would be a whole lot more alienating to live at home with parents who disapprove of and are disappointed in you (and make sure you know it and feel it) not because you have done anything wrong, but for their own philosophical reasons. It has been distressing and alienating enough for me to come out to my parents as bi as an adult. I cannot imagine how painful and uncomfortable it would be for a teen who has nowhere else to go, even if said disapproving parents are not actually abusive.

Teens are at a time of life when they are developing independence and learning to go it alone, including making their own decisions. While I want my teen to benefit from my experiences, and hope that she will come to me or her dad to talk things through, I also recognise that I am not the same person as her, so I do not necessarily know what is best for her on a romantic level. I also think that she is more likely to come to either of us when she has a problem precisely *because* she knows that we respect her and her autonomy as an individual.
More...
Posted by Megaera on January 10, 2013 at 11:35 AM · Report this

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