Your sexuality is your business
Growing up I wasn’t aware of the fact that I might be gay. That realisation came when I was about 15 years-old.
Yes, I’d always liked to read and cook, and I wasn’t even vaguely interested in sports. But, neither were any of my brothers, or even my dad, and he’d been a semi-professional rugby player. Besides, in our house my father did most of the cooking, and we’d always been surrounded by books.
My family are liberal, well-informed, “worldly” types. My parents have gay and lesbian friends, and I’d never noticed a difference between them and other family friends.
For this reason I knew my parents and extended family would be fine with my homosexuality – whenever they found out.
In my mind it wasn’t a conversation that needed to happen. My brothers might one day bring a girlfriend home when the time was right. I might bring a boyfriend home when a relationship got to that point.
“Having the talk”
As my parents are very forward, my brothers and I had endured the safe sex talk many times with them, but the idea of having a chat about my sexuality was mortifying. Although, no more so than I imagined it would be for a straight person.
No one wants to sit their parents down and initiate a conversation about who they are sexually attracted to. The expectation to do so is unfair. You can’t help being gay, and neither can you help other people’s assumptions that you are straight. Surely that’s their own issue?
Coming out to parents
By the time I did get around to telling my parents I was twenty. I had been living away from home for two years. Friends who had never even met my parents thought I had a duty to have the talk and “come out” to my family. Eventually, I was persuaded that it was unfair to keep it from them, and so I did sit my parents down and “come out”.
My father just patted me on the head and said it’s OK. My mother’s response was a little more dramatic. Firstly she got upset that I hadn’t wanted to talk about everything as a teenager. Her next worry was that the number of grandchildren in her future was possibly dwindling.
Telling a parent
I reminded her that no-one wants to talk about these things with their parents. I wondered why people forgot what it was like being the child in a family.
There is no way she would discuss anything like this with her mother. This is despite the fact that Granny is also very open-minded and accepting.
Regarding the matter of grandchildren, I have three brothers, and besides, it’s the 21st century. My family know gay couples with kids, who’s to say I won’t have any? Her reaction seemed vaguely hysterical to me, though I didn’t say this to her at the time.
Afterwards I felt that I hadn’t needed to have the talk with my parents. All this seemed to do was give them a taste for discussing my private life with me which was not a desirable outcome.
I do realise how fortunate I am to come from a family that can accept me. Other people are not so lucky. But at the same time – your sexuality is your own business. I don’t regret coming out that way to my parents, but I think it’s important to respect your own wishes when it comes to what you tell others. I’ve learned to stand by what I think is important. After all, it’s your life, not theirs.