I can unabashedly say that, at any given point in time, I’m that guy whose most-recent text message exchange is probably with his incredibly supportive mom, Margie. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Conversations with my mama range from her detailing her latest deals at Kohl’s (you can never start too early for Christmas 2018) to her sharing with me that her Weather Channel app says New York City is depressingly cold at the moment. Why, yes, Mom—I know.
But chats with my mom always include the same thing: please say ‘hi’ to your boyfriend for us. Dad constantly asks about his well-being, too, which is wonderfully uplifting for a queer kid from the Texas-Mexico border who worried he’d never see that kind of gesture—one that tacitly indicates his parents’ approval and acceptance. That happened only after I made the conscious choice to happily welcome them into my life as an ‘out’ individual in a relationship.
You’re essentially challenging them on their decision to raise you under straight-specific gender norms. I guarantee you that once you say “gay,” your parents will probably hear, “ahhhh, my kid does butt stuff!” for all of eternity.
Y’all, I’m from a place where you’re more likely to find someone getting their life from Scripture’s Virgin (Mary) than my people’s Virgin (Madonna). And it’s because I’m from a predominately Mexican-American hometown rife with both machismo and Catholicism that I felt I needed to initially hide my authentic self from Mom and Dad—at least until I knew where I stood with them. I mean, if even a part of them thought I was going to hell for liking Jesus my Savior and Jesús my Neighbor, then I’d be, as we like to say back home, fucked.
Which is why I partially agreed with a recent viral tweet that read: “ur parents not knowing anything about you is queer culture.” Because it’s true in a variety of ways. When you’re first starting to come to terms with your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, especially in your 20s, the last people you usually want to involve in your highly emotional and wildly complicated journey are the parentals. It is hella awkward at first since you’re essentially challenging them on their decision to raise you under straight-specific gender norms. (I guarantee you that once you say “gay,” your parents will probably hear, “ahhhh, my kid does butt stuff!” for all of eternity.) I doubt any parent rears their child in the hopes they’ll become queer. Mine definitely didn’t expect me to be a phallus fanatic, but alas, here we are.
Consciously or not, parents mold their kids within the constructs of a heteronormative society, meaning they have certain expectations as to how our futures are “meant” to pan out by using past generations as guides. You know, the husband, wife and 2.3 kids living in a gorgeous house with a white picket fence? Somehow that’s supposed to be everyone’s destiny. Challenging that view for our parents and ourselves is no small task. That’s why the path toward full self-acceptance as an LGBT person is typically best handled alone—just too many nuances to navigate with others. Eventually, you can start bringing in the ‘rents when you’re good and ready.
But that’s only if you want to. I know a lot of proud queer people who steer clear from talking about anything LGBT-related with their folks, and that’s their prerogative. Because depending on one’s respective upbringing and their cultural background, there are a lot of other factors weighing in on how they approach sharing any or all of themselves with parents. Straight-minded loved ones armed with a whole lot of questions can easily be deemed annoying or invasive. Most LGBT people wrestle internally with this idea of gauging just how open they can be with family and friends, especially if there’s a presumed lack of support from either of those parties. At the end of the day, LGBT people must first stay true to their queer self and wholly embrace what they need to survive.
Once your self-discovery is complete and you’re able to thrive in your queerness, I think it’s very beneficial to tell your parents about who you are and why you’re the same child they raised…just with a bit more glitter. This, of course, is dependent on your comfort level post-coming out. If your parents are one membership due away from becoming PFLAG officers, then why not speak to the joys of LGBT life or talk to them about your fears living under a homophobic and transphobic Donald Trump regime or tell them about the difficulties of online dating when suitors want everything but your type. Inform them of the issues that matter to you and the future you want to have. My parents know a healthy amount about me and my LGBT identity, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Again, that’s my own personal experience.
My LGBT brethren should think about the ways in which they can enrich the relationship they have with their parents to a mutually-agreed upon degree since, if we’re spilling the tea, your parents might be just fine not knowing all of your queer details. But at a time when LGBT Americans are desperately trying to figure out who their allies are, maybe it’s as simple as looking toward home. Just make sure they love Madonna first.