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Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

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BEFORE COMING OUT TO YOUR PARENTS
- What to Consider Before Coming Out

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Questions you need to consider before coming out
   Are you sure about your sexual orientation?
   Are you comfortable with your gay sexuality?
   Do you have support?
   Are you knowledgeable about homosexuality?
   What's the emotional climate at home?
   Can you be patient?
   What's your motive for coming out now?
   Do you have available resources?
   Are you financially dependent on your parents?
   What is your general relationship with your parents?
   What is their moral societal view?
   Is this your decision?

Parents and children switch roles

The Issue: Separation and loss

Stages of Understanding: 
   Shock
   Denial
   Guilt
   Feelings Expressed
   Personal Decision Making
   True Acceptance

Epilogue

Recommended Books

Introduction
Thank you to Tom Sauerman

The purpose of this section is to inform gay and lesbian young adults about the process most parents go through when their child's sexual orientation is disclosed. The stages to be explained are: shock, denial, guilt, expression of feelings, personal decision-making and true acceptance.

The process assumes that you have wrestled with the issue of whether or not to come out to your parents and that your decision is affirmative. The approach and suggestions offered here are based on the assumption you suspect one or both of your parents will be understanding, if not supportive, given adequate time. This may not be helpful if you have serious reservations about their ability to cope and you suspect they could sever their relationship with you.

A caution: Each family is unique. Although most are likely to follow the stages outlined here, allow some latitude for your parents' culture. Few parents are 'model' cases that perfectly fit the following description.

 

Questions You Need To Consider Before Coming Out

Are you sure about your sexual orientation?
Don't raise the issue unless you're able to respond with confidence to the question, "Are you sure?" Confusion on your part will increase your parents' confusion and decrease their confidence in your judgment.

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Are you comfortable with your gay sexuality?
If you're wrestling with guilt and periods of depression, you'll be better off waiting to tell your parents. Coming out to them may require tremendous energy on your part - it will require a reserve of positive self-image.

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Do you have support?
In the event your parents' reaction devastates you, there should be someone or a group that you can confidently turn to for emotional support and strength. Maintaining your sense of self-worth is critical.

Even when parents react supportively, it may be that the child will discover the parents' need for support is greater than his or hers. This need not frighten a person. Many times, as the experience matures, it unites the family in a way only a few ever know.

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Are you knowledgeable about homosexuality?
Your parents will probably respond based on a lifetime of information from a homophobic society. If you've done some serious reading on the subject, you'll be able to assist them by sharing reliable information and research.

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What's the emotional climate at home?
If you have the choice of when to tell, consider the timing. Choose a time when they're not dealing with such matters as the death of a close friend, pending surgery or the loss of a job.

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Can you be patient?
Your parents will require time to deal with this information if they haven't considered it prior to your sharing. The process may last from six months to two years.

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What's your motive for coming out now?
Hopefully, it's because you love them and are uncomfortable with the distance you feel. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexuality as a weapon.

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Do you have available resources?
Homosexuality is a subject most non-gay people know little about. Have available at least one of the following: a book addressed to parents, a contact for the local or national PFLAG or the name of a non-gay counsellor who can deal fairly well with the issue.

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Are you financially dependent on your parents?
If you suspect they are capable of withdrawing college finances or forcing you out of the house, you may choose to wait until they do not have this weapon to hold over you.

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What is your general relationship with your parents?
If you've gotten along well and have always known their love - and shared your love for them in return - chances are they'll be able to deal with the issue in a positive way.

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What is their moral societal view?
If they tend to see social issues in clear terms of good/bad or holy-sinful, you may anticipate that they will have serious problems dealing with your sexuality. If, however, they've evidenced a degree of flexibility when dealing with other changing societal manners, you may be able to anticipate a willingness to work this through with you.

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Is this your decision?
Not everyone should come out to his or her parents. Don't be pressured into it if you're not sure you'll be better off by doing so - no matter what their response.

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[Before Coming Out to your Parents] [Be Yourself] [Our Daughters and Sons] [About Our Children]
[Definitions Used]

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Last updated: 08/17/2002
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