I was asleep when my mum woke me up softly. Tears were running down her face. She looked confused. “Come to the living room, please. I don’t want to wake your brother up”.
There is no right time for people to learn you are LGBT. There is no wrong time, either. People are rarely prepared for the truth. Most of the times, they already know it, but they prefer to live by the rules of play pretend.
I knew something was wrong. Did my dad die? Did my parents get a divorce? I knew something was wrong. I was feeling I was the problem, but I didn’t know anything else. I grabbed my feet to move from the bed. I was just 16 years of age, skinny and athletic but suddenly I felt heavy, disjointed and scared.
This is the saddest story I’ve ever told. And it will be the saddest one hopefully forever. To many, it might sound as if my parents were monsters or merely dumb. But they are great. And they did everything they could, but it wasn’t enough.
I got in the living room, and my mum was seated already in the couch crying. She passed a paper to me and asked “What is this? I found it in your pocket.”
It was a love note. A cute, silly and quite horny love note from a classmate of mine. He was saying he loved me. Or that he wanted to ride me. Honestly, I don’t recall. And it is not important. It was a homoerotic poem of love from a 17-year-old to a 16-year-old boy.
My parents were never particularly religious. My parents were never particularly homophobic, either. On the contrast, they were always teaching us to help and support the weak and the different. My mum and dad were my equality and humility champions. But we were living in a tiny village, and they were thinking “accordingly”.
I took the paper in my hands and read a few words. I said, “Oh, that’s the problem?” “WHO writes for you these things? WHY he thinks he has the right to do so?” my mum said. Her eyes were filled with hatred. Her lips were closed shut, and the words would barely escape her mouth. She looked more like a person you see acting on TV. This didn’t look like my mum.
Don’t worry, I said. This guy is just a guy that likes me. I have nothing with him. I am gay, but I am not into him.
In my mind, this all made sense. My parents would definitely love me for who I am, I thought. It was not as if a school teacher was sending me the note or a neighbour. It was just a classmate. And come on! I am listening to Cher and Britney Spears all day. My mum even bought me their CDs! Of course, they know I am gay, and they are OK!
But no. My mum acted as if I bombed the house down. Have you seen videos from Syria where people cry over the dead bodies of kids? People without hope, beaten unfairly by powers they don’t understand. People that the injustice and the hopelessness tie their throats and stop their breath. This was what my mum looked like. But I was alive. I was doing great. Our house was not bombed, but she was sobbing her screams in tears.
“We will fight it together. Please don’t say anything to your dad. You will kill him. He will have a heart attack. We will fight it together.“
I was shocked. I said “Mum, it’s me. I don’t have cancer. There is nothing to fight.”
My dad was just coming home from work. We heard the door, and after my mum’s order I run to bed, and she went to take a shower. It was my longest sleep ever. I think I wished to die about a hundred times. The sweat dripping off me was smelling electric shaping a pool that looked like my shadow on the bed. I lost half of myself on that bed that night. I knew my mum was not there to keep a secret. I believe my dad learnt everything within five minutes.
You see, for my parents, gay people only existed in stories you whisper. They were society failures that no one really knows. In their brain, we were a lot of things you think of, but are too mean to share. Unless this someone happened to be their son. Unless the only way to “straight” him was to scare the gay away. And that’s what I think they were about to do.
My dad came to bed in the morning. Woke me up and said: “Morning my boy. Can you come to the living room? Your mum and I want to talk to you”.
To the day, I am not sure if my dad said: “my boy” to show support or to remind me I was a boy. At the time, I got it the wrong way. And my dad kept using it a lot, and it was getting hard to hear. But today I can see that there could have been a positive side to this.
I went to the living room, and they kept asking me things that were too uncomfortable to discuss or hear from your parents. I was 16, but I had fought the gay away for a few years. I learnt there was only myself I was suppressing. They were not half as ready as I was for what was coming.
But who graduated from a parenting school? Who is certified to be a good parent? Noone, but I hope my story will give you some tips and many things you should not do, if you are about to come out or if someone you love does.
They asked me if I ever had sex with a girl. I replied that if I didn’t, they would ask me how do I know I am gay. If I did, they would say that just because I didn’t like it, it doesn’t mean that I won’t like it with the next one.
They said that gay people lurk in public toilets and just want to have sex. I said it’s not true. I said gay people are horny, but most of us are. They said gay people only think about sex, and I said I don’t only think about sex.
The questions kept getting worse and worse. They even suggested I could have sex from the ass with girls. They said I could make a family and have a double life when I really needed it.
At the time, I knew it was just a phase. Not for me, of course, but for them. I was born gay and had wet gay dreams since I was 5. I could naturally remember all guys’ names while constantly forgetting all girls’ names in a heartbeat. As a kid, I would stare handsome boys and copy the jokes the girls said. I was naturally feeling more comfortable with girls than boys. And even if all these don’t make me or anyone else gay, I was gay as fuck. And I knew it was OK. My friend had told me. And so did the internet.
My biggest fear was that they might kick me out of the house. I knew so many people that their parents did. I lied that if they want me to leave the house I would. I said I had a place to go. I had nowhere to go. I just thought that this would make them more eager to protect me than punish me. I probably did things worse.
In my 16 years, I was lucky and smart enough to know that my coming out would be the day I had to start raising my parents. I knew I would never be able to cut them out. I loved them too much. The only way was to change them into the people I wanted them to be. And to a part, I succeeded.
I realised I could not let them ask me more questions that one day they would regret. The discussion was becoming way too toxic. I was crying, but I was pushing myself to do it. I just wanted this embarrassing moment to stop. And I did something that to the day I think it’s hilarious.
I invited my lawyer! Yes, I did have a lawyer. She was in fact not a lawyer yet, but she was studying to be one. She was also one of the friends I had trusted with my sexuality and all my shenanigans. And she came in a heartbeat, and I owe her a lot for this.
And the discussion became easier. And my parents could hear that many of the things were said should not have been told. They didn’t become allies that moment, but the discussion moved to safer waters.
It became clear to me now that they were worried and wanted to protect me. They were scared of how the world would treat me, of how my sexuality will affect my life. Of course, they also saw all their dreams and hopes falling apart. They now were afraid they would never raise grandchildren or that I will not have any of the gifts their life was full of.
Everything around was suffocatingly homophobic. But I was a 16-year-old boy with a will strong enough to shape the world. I didn’t think for a second everything would be OK, but I felt that this was my life and I would fight for it. I wasn’t there to live it on no one else’s terms.
The days didn’t get better soon enough. My phone was taken from me, and so was my internet access. My being out was being monitored, and it was so frustrating. My mother cried for weeks without stop. She wouldn’t pick up the phone, have friends or family over. She would stay in the living room sobbing as if we lost every hope. “You killed me” she was saying, “My life is gone, I have no happiness left to see”.
These words hurt like burning knives in my skin. But I knew she needed this. I cried the gay away for endless nights the years before. And that was for me. How could my mother be more prepared? How can our parents that created us not have expectations and fears? I don’t blame her for a second. I needed my time, and she needed hers.
And the time passed, and the wounds healed, and the people learnt. Today my parents are closer to be LGBT champions than homophobes. It took them 10 years to fully embrace me, but it worth the wait.
I will never forget the thing my dad told me 9 years after my coming out. “I am not happy you now have a boyfriend. I am happy you are happy, but I had different aspirations for you. But now, the only thing I know is that your boyfriend will be just like a new son to me.”
As Panti in her book “A woman in the making” said, if you want to come out to your parents don’t do it in person. Send them a letter. You will miss the storm and the worst of their reactions. You will see a much calmer version of them.
If you are young and you have reasons to believe your parents may take it very badly, don’t come out to them. Sometimes, it’s better to wait and do it when you are financially and emotionally independent.
Have faith in yourself. Be proud of who you are and what you have to bring. Take a deep breath and find the power to stand on your own feet as fast as you can.
A good friend can mean the world. The families we choose are great but putting a bit of effort for the people that raised you may worth it as well.
Ideally, everyone should have been an LGBT ally by now. People that are not, don’t always deserve our wrath. We all learn. I was homophobic back then and am definitely sure I still hold homophobic, racist, sexist or judgemental opinions that are hard to shake off.
We need laws to protect us but most of all we need communication. Honest, transparent and love-filled communication with the people that hold different opinions from us. I went through a sad experience, but I never blocked myself from my parents. I never stopped talking to them or hid away. I slowly and progressively participated in opening their minds.
In situations where coming out is hard therapy can do miracles. It did for my mum for sure in only a few sessions.
Not all coming outs are the same. Something that worked for me might not work for you. Trust your gut and champion your own path.
October 11th is the National Coming Out Day. Share your coming out story. Let it be read by the people who may need it the most.
Two more stories from my childhood