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footsieinthegarden

Coming Out as an Adult

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footsieinthegarden

I’m hoping to get some advice on coming out to my parents as an adult. I’ve done a lot of Googling, and most resources seem to focus on teenagers/college students. I’m 27, financially independent, own my own home, and live about three hours from my parents. About a year ago I finally got up the courage to come out to my now ex-husband, and six months ago our divorce was finalized. There were lots of other reasons that marriage was unhappy, and I don’t think my parents suspect sexuality had anything to do with it. I have been exploring a romantic relationship with a very dear ace friend (we’ve known each other for about a decade) and while we’ve been taking it really slowly as I process all my personal upheaval and she does her pharmacy residency about five hours away. I feel like we’re approaching the point at which we might become “official.” Her parents know and are both very supportive, and there’s absolutely zero pressure or obligation from her to come out to my parents before I’m ready. 
 

I’m pretty sure my parents will be shocked and need time to process, but I don’t think they’ll be angry. Even if they are, I don’t rely on them financially or have to see them, so that’s not an issue. I’ve been trying to occasionally bring up queer topics or queer people and neither of them say anything bad, but I think they’re not very knowledgeable and just don’t know how to discuss it. As a teen I was questioning whether I might be trans and my parents found out and did not handle it well at all. I realize this time I have all the power and control over the situation and can write my own narrative, but in my head, I’m still that petrified, humiliated 15yo. Even on my own terms, coming out to them is intimidating. 
 

Upon reflection, I think my biggest fear is that my parents will be accepting but when they find out I’ve come out to friends and some trusted coworkers, and that I would expect there to a be discussion with the extended family, they will lose it. (On my dad’s side, I have a great uncle who was gay and a cousin who is trans, so I know they will virtue signal even though they don’t personally like me. My mom’s side is very homophobic/racist/etc, so I’m sure they’ll cut me off, but since I never see or talk to them now, it’s a purely intellectual exercise. I think it would be way harder for my mom than me.) I know none of this is their decision, but the thought of that much parental disappointment is very triggering for me. 
 

I have a general outline of how I’d want this to go. I would have a chat with my minister beforehand to prepare and get some in-person counseling. He is gay and was incredibly supportive when I came out to him. (I also see a great therapist, but I think appointments with her will be more useful for processing all my past trauma with my parents than practical advice for this.) I would like to invite just my mom to visit and come out to her in a semi-public place, like a restaurant, with her having the option to leave or come back to my house for further discussion. It would be (grossly) manipulative, but I think if I go in hard on my sort of girlfriend’s mom being thrilled, my mom would not want to lose mom points and would probably not hold me as responsible for her own emotional processing. Whatever happens, that night I would go out to the local queer bar with my queer circle of friends for some affirmation. 
 

Does anyone have any thoughts or advice or comments? I realize there is no “right” way to handle this, but I’d appreciate some insight. 

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Catpaws

I can offer general support instead of advice, because I haven't actually come out to anyone other than a few good internet friends yet, so this road is still waiting for me, too. I just hate seeing your topic languish unanswered for the whole weekend.

 

That said, I think you've got a really great set of strategies so far. Your minister sounds incredibly supportive and someone who can be there to help navigate the process and provide emotional support, and I'm glad you've got your friend support network ready to go post-event.

 

I also think meeting your mom in a public place is a good idea. It gives you both the opportunity to stay or leave, and it's a place that doesn't have any emotional resonance for either of you. I wouldn't be surprised if she needs time to mentally process, so to speak, but it sounds like you're already prepared for the fact that she may not react completely favorably in the moment, or need that processing time.

 

The sense of still being that young adult looking for parental approval resonates with me. However, you're an adult who's in charge of her own life, and while parents are always important in that life, you deserve to have a life that makes you happy. If they need a while to come to terms with how that life looks that's different from their own expectations, or even if they never do come to terms with it, that's on them. You're doing a lot of really courageous work to keep them in the loop and part of that life in the face of a possible negative outcome; celebrate that strength and bravery. Be kind to yourself through all this.

 

I wish you the best of luck, and all the support an internet stranger can give! :cake:

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Someone Else

What happens if you just don't bring it up with them, and just live your life?  

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Skycaptain

Take things slowly. You're lucky enough to have people who have had to come out as noncishet in your circle of acquaintances, talk to them, especially your Minister. 

So far as family goes, there may well come a time where it can't be deferred. Be prepared, though to be the "one who can't be talked about," or the "other child". 

Some of us are lucky, and parents either accept, or knew before we came out, others have to accept that they may be disowned. Ultimately only you know your parents, and only you can decide if you can accept the consequences 

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footsieinthegarden

I appreciate the responses so far. :) 

 

I suppose I should’ve added that I’m an only child, which affects the family dynamic a lot! I’m very close with my parents, and I feel like that’s only been improving since my divorce, and I want to be able to share this big thing with them. I think it also means that while they’ll need processing time, they’ll also know they have to come to terms with it. 
 

I have improved in my oversharing with them. Now I wait until something is settled before sharing. I didn’t tell them I was exploring becoming a UU until after I had officially joined (which sounds very dramatic, but all I had to do was write my name down in a book!). That might be a helpful example to look to for how this might go. My mom was surprised and knew nothing about it but wanted to be educated and understand why it was important to me. I shared I had been nervous to tell her and she later asked why and was very concerned she had done something to make me feel like I couldn’t. When I brought up I wanted to attend Christmas Eve service, she first said she didn’t want me to because it would be less time together on the holiday (fair) but a few days later she said they had discussed and not only wanted me to go but wanted to come with since it was obviously important to me. I suspect this pattern might repeat again. 
 

I did consider just coming out as bi, but if I’m going to do this really hard emotional thing, I want to do it...truthfully. I have a feeling my mom will eventually show support by buying me pride stuff and it would be very awkward to get bi stuff. Which sounds like a very First World Problem but it made me reflect on the overall situation. And if I was going to be in a straight-passing relationship, I probably wouldn’t come out, but since I will have to if I openly date another woman, I would rather just go all in. 
 

I guess concretely - does anyone have any helpful explanatory materials I could give my mom? I know there’s tons out there, but again, something geared more to our relationship as parent/adult child would be nice. 

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Blue Phoenix Ace

Hi! It sounds like the more difficult part of this to come out about is homoromanticism, not so much the asexuality. I've got experience coming out as asexual, but I'm aromantic, so that part was easy for me.

 

In my experience, I had bottled up a lot of anxiety in the six months between discovering my asexuality and coming out. I was very worried about what people might think of me. Most of all, I was worried people would doubt what I was saying, since asexuality is not well known. If people doubt me, they might try to change me through intrusive methods. I wanted acceptance, not intrusion. Also, admitting a lack of sex in your life is a sure resignation of your "man card", which might have lead to people not taking me seriously. I thought that perhaps some friendships might be lost, or certain family members might constantly express their disappointment at me.

 

I decided to first come out to a friend in person. I invited him over to my house for lunch and explained it to him. I chose this friend because I knew I could trust him to keep it a secret, and because he has a very sincere heart. He understood what I was telling him and expressed his support. It was a very liberating experience to open up to someone close to me about it.

 

I stewed for a couple of months after that, but eventually decided the best way to come out was on Facebook. I was just gonna "drop the bomb", "rip off the bandaid", "dive off that bridge" and go for it, no turning back. I typed up a fairly lengthy post, explaining asexuality, how I figured this out about myself, and my reasons for coming out. My finger hovered over the send button for a few minutes, and finally I just clicked the damn thing, turned off my computer, and tried to go to sleep. The next day I didn't look at Facebook, but the second day I logged in and it was overwhelming support. I was shocked that not one person said anything negative.

I also called my mother and talked through it. She was fine. I think with the posting on Facebook, she was able to digest it all before we had to talk.

That's my experience anyway. As for what you've written, I have some specific replies:

 

On 11/22/2019 at 2:11 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

I realize this time I have all the power and control over the situation and can write my own narrative, but in my head, I’m still that petrified, humiliated 15yo.

I was too. Afterwards, you won't be.

 

On 11/22/2019 at 2:11 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

Upon reflection, I think my biggest fear is that my parents will be accepting but when they find out I’ve come out to friends and some trusted coworkers, and that I would expect there to a be discussion with the extended family, they will lose it.

They won't be mad that you told someone else first. Why should they get "first coming out" rights? I'd expect most people to come out to a peer well before their parents. There doesn't need to be a discussion with any extended family that you don't want to discuss it with.

 

On 11/22/2019 at 2:11 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

I know none of this is their decision, but the thought of that much parental disappointment is very triggering for me. 

I was certain my parents would be disappointed but they weren't. Anxiety has a way of inventing worst case scenarios. Your situation may be different, but it's better to live in truth than to worry about disappointing people.

 

On 11/22/2019 at 2:11 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

I would like to invite just my mom to visit and come out to her in a semi-public place, like a restaurant, with her having the option to leave or come back to my house for further discussion. It would be (grossly) manipulative, but I think if I go in hard on my sort of girlfriend’s mom being thrilled, my mom would not want to lose mom points and would probably not hold me as responsible for her own emotional processing.

I don't think meeting in a restaurant to come out is a good idea. A park is better because you can have a discussion without tons of people around watching and making you even more nervous. You still have the benefit of going back home whenever. Since your heart will likely be about to leap out of your throat, eating is probably... off the table.(Nice pun) Don't use any manipulative tactics either. Trying to mix in guilt and/or jealousy for the mix of emotions she'll be having is just going to make things worse. Try to keep the discussion on you and her.

 

On 11/25/2019 at 9:44 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

I suppose I should’ve added that I’m an only child, which affects the family dynamic a lot!

If you're worried that you "owe your parents grandchildren", then try to stop worrying about that. It's not your duty to do that.

 

On 11/25/2019 at 9:44 PM, footsieinthegarden said:

I did consider just coming out as bi, but if I’m going to do this really hard emotional thing, I want to do it...truthfully.

That's not a good idea, just tell her the truth. If you're biromantic, then yeah, go for it. But if you aren't, why taint your coming out experience with falsehood?

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footsieinthegarden

That’s a very good observation, that the romantic orientation is causing me more anxiety than the sexual one. I identify as panromantic, but being referred to as biromantic doesn’t cause any weird feelings. (Not trying to create any Discourse here, I know this can be a very touchy subject!) It would probably a lot easier for my parents to understand the concept as “I like men and women but don’t want sex with either.” (Which, again, I know isn’t totally accurate, but that’s what it would mean to them.) I wouldn’t mind saving the whole gender is spectrum and here are the differences in identifying bi vs pan discussions for later. This advice was really helpful in how I might reframe the whole thing.

 

I should clarify my parents will be upset I told other people not because they wanted to know first, but because they’ll be horrified I’ve told anyone at all. I know it comes from a place of love (what if something bad happens to you!) and ignorance (why do you even want to be out?!) but there’s going to be a huge disconnect there. I distinctly remember once in middle school telling my mom I had told my best friend I was sad and she just could not fathom why I would’ve done that. I know I don’t need to justify myself to my mom, but I can see myself becoming very defensive and I’m not really sure how to “rebut” her on this, in that I at least want her to understand choosing to be out (in specific, safe contexts) is important and validating for me, and is perfectly normal in the LGBT+ community. 
 

I think upon reflecting the goal of bringing up my sort of girlfriend’s mom’s support is to show my mom she could be supportive and the world won’t end, because someone else already is. Coming out to my ex was very messy and painful, and I guess I’m also looking to avoid having to focus on comforting her when I’m the one being intensely vulnerable. Not because I don’t care about her or her feelings or that I’m unwilling to discuss and educate her, I just don’t know if I can do all of that at one time. In my mind a restaurant is good because there’s a sort of timeline to being there, and it’s a comfort to me to know we couldn’t really just stay forever, and I think my mom will need to process before she’s ready for a real in-depth discussion. But if she is then, we could repair somewhere else to keep talking. 
 

I am probably overworrying. I know my mom was really thrown when I told her I was finally on medication for my anxiety/depression but didn’t criticize. About a month later she had a lot of questions and still doesn’t quite “get it” (she’ll occasionally still ask when I’ll be able to stop taking it and every time I gently remind her probably never) but I’d still consider that a very positive outcome.

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Catpaws

I wish I'd written Blue Phoenix's post, those are some really excellent points and suggestions in there.

 

Food for thought: how important is it that this happen face to face with your mother? Is it something that could be shared over the phone?

 

You'd mentioned in the first post that you'd like to invite your mom to visit for this. That implies that she lives far enough away that coming to see you is out of the ordinary, and may also involve staying somewhere other than her own home. Or is it more like a trip across town for dinner? Would the reason for her visit be "I have something to tell you", or would there be other reasons for her to come visit? If she asks for a reason for the visit, would it be awkward to try to explain? (These are hypothetical questions, no need to actually answer them)

 

Is it possible you could go visit her, instead? If you live any distance away from her familiar areas, it may complicate things a bit. I find people are a bit more apt to accept impactful news if they feel they're on their home ground, so to speak, and you visiting her might alleviate some of that pressure.

 

The more I think about it, I'm agreeing more and more with Blue Phoenix's suggestion of maybe not a restaurant. When going out to eat, there's something of a societal expectation that there will be a period of sitting down and waiting, courses will be served, courses will be eaten, maybe dessert and drinks will be ordered, and then waiting until the check comes, unless it's a place where you can pay at the counter. There's an element of safety about being in public, and an element of security in the familiar process of eating out, but it can also impose societal pressure to stay in an uncomfortable situation to avoid "making a scene", so to speak.

 

I have a fraught relationship with my mother (that has nothing to do with sexuality, which is one reason why I don't plan to tell her about this part of my life) and I made a point of meeting her at a coffee shop the last time I was in town instead of at her home or at a restaurant. It was the best idea I could have had, since there was no time limit on how long we could sit there and talk, and we'd already paid for our drinks. If she'd needed to get up and go, she could have, and I could have as well, without having to wait for the check. It took all the pressure off of both of us.

 

To be honest, I'd only bring up your girlfriend's mother if your mom directly asks for an example or someone who's been through the process as a parent.  It's possible she might take it the wrong way, even if it's meant to be a gesture of inclusion and example.

 

Also, one thing I've learned with my own mother, is that while it's absolutely true that when we're in a position of vulnerability there's this wish that the other person will recognize our vulnerability and acknowledge it, often times they can't or won't if they're caught up in their own emotions. Your mother might focus on her own needs, her own reactions, and her own vulnerabilities in that moment, and that's okay. She'll have her own processing to do, and hopefully it will go well.

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will123

I can't help you with any advice, but I hope whatever you decide, works out well. I'm 58 and out to a few close friends. They were great in accepting my identity (aro ace) when I told them. However I have no thoughts of telling my family. They are along the lines of your mother's family...

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