Advertisement

Dear Mark,

 

I saw your column online the other day and thought you would be a good person to talk to about my problem.  I’m 17 years old and a senior in high school.  I’ve known I was a lesbian since the 6th grade when I had my first crush.  I’ve kept it a secret since then from my parents but have started to tell some friends.  I guess I never really considered telling them.  I always kind of hoped they would never find out.  In my mind it would have been after I was done with college and on my own.


 

Mark is a Licensed Psychotherapist Answering your Questions About Issues Impacting our Daily Lives


This week Mark deals with the sensitive issue of coming out of the closet just in time for National Coming Out Day.

 

Dear Mark,

 

I saw your column online the other day and thought you would be a good person to talk to about my problem.  I’m 17 years old and a senior in high school.  I’ve known I was a lesbian since the 6th grade when I had my first crush.  I’ve kept it a secret since then from my parents but have started to tell some friends.  I guess I never really considered telling them.  I always kind of hoped they would never find out.  In my mind it would have been after I was done with college and on my own.

 

The problem is that I have fallen in love, really for the first time in my life.  We’ve been together 8 months.  She is a year older than me and is in college.  We are together every moment we can steal.  She has been out to her parents since the 10th grade.  They kind of freaked out on her at first but are now very supportive.  They live locally and she has even introduced me to them.  It feels so good to be accepted by them.  And it makes me really want to tell my parents.

 

They’re pretty cool people and I think they might be okay with it.  But, then again, they do go to church every weekend and I know the God thing is always a big issue with parents.  What should I do?

 

Signed,

To Come Out or Not to Come Out

 

Dear To Come Out,

 

No one can tell you what to do here.  What may be good for one person may not be good for the next.   First off…congratulations on your new relationship.  Loving someone so passionately and with such intensity is a wonderful thing.  It can also be the impetus that allows us to tell the people in our lives about our sexuality.  Love gives us the courage that we may not have had before we fell in love.

 

That being said, you have to think about all the implications of telling your parents.  I want you to think of the worst case scenario.  This is not to completely unglue you but I do want you to be prepared.  If you think about the worst thing that could happen, then, most often, you will be surprised at the actual outcome.  Your parents may in fact react negatively at first.  Parents report often times being caught off guard.  As time passes, many parents have guilt over their initial negative reaction.  Remember, you have had years to prepare and think about this moment.  You are hitting them with this information all at once.  They will need some time to catch up.  Try not to be upset if they don’t welcome you with open arms right at first.

 

One thing you can do is to educate yourself.  There are some great books out there.  I suggest you get them and have them ready to give to your parents.  One is called “Now that You Know” by Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward.   Also “The Family Heart” by Robb Forman Dew and “Straight Parents, Gay Children” by Robert A. Bernstein, Robert MacNeil, and Betty DeGeneres (yup…Ellen’s mom).   I would also recommend  you look up local chapter meeting of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) www.pflag.org.  It is a great resource and comfort for parents to meet and talk with other parents who have traveled the same journey they are on.   I wish you the best of luck.  Take a deep breath and remember this is the first page of a completely new chapter in your life.  There will be good and bad….but mostly good…because you will be living your life with honesty and integrity.  Let me know how it turns out.

 

Sincerely, Mark Rutherford LCSW

 

Dear Mark,

 

I’m a 53 year old black man.  I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I’m gay.  I’m having problems coming out of the closet. I have a son that’s 34 and I’m pretty sure he knows.  I had been married to his mother for many years and then we separated about 5 years ago.  I told her what was going on but we made the decision not to burden our son with the news.  However, it’s getting harder and harder to hide things from him as he has recently moved back into town.  I think I want to tell him.  Part of me is afraid of his reaction and part of me is just plain afraid to have the actual talk.  What should I do?

 

Signed, Father Troubles

 

Dear Father Troubles,

 

Having a heart to heart conversation like that with your son is somewhat of a double edged sword.  The reason I say this is because however you slice it, things will change between you and your son.  It could get better and, of course, there is the possibility it could get worse.  The good part is that you will no longer have to live your life in secret.  You will be able to let those who care about you know what is going on in your life.  Do not underestimate the power of truth here.  It is a valuable resource and one that you will look back on and turn to many times as this process unfolds.

 

You said your son most likely knows.  As a father myself, I understand this thought.  I can often intuit what my son is thinking.  Your guess is probably right.  If you have come to terms with your sexuality there is a piece of you that exudes that.  No matter what words you use, or don’t use, people who love you can pick up on things like body language and emotional energy.  If you go with this hypothesis, you could also assume that he may be looking forward to the time when you do let your guard down and tell him.  It could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in your relationship with him.  If he doesn’t want to know and would rather operate on the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, my advice is to give him time.  This policy really never works and, over time, as you grow as an individual and a gay person this will become more apparent.

It might be a good idea for you and your ex wife to sit him down and tell him together.  If you are still on good terms with her, a united front can sometimes make a difference when talking to a child.  This is just a thought.  However you choose to proceed, please remember how long it took you to come to terms with your sexuality.  Your son’s reaction may not be what you had hoped for but the love between a father and a son can be very powerful.  Give him some time to digest this news and keep your heart open to frank discussions about his feelings/fears/thoughts.  “Families Like Mine” by Abigail Garner is a great book written by straight children with gay parents.  It tells this dynamic from a fresh standpoint.  You may want to pick up a copy and give him some reading material.   Best of luck to you.

 

Take Care,

Mark

 

Mark Rutherford is a  licensed psychotherapist in private practice in West Palm Beach.  He can be reached at 561-835-6821 or at MDRutherford@aol.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here