Question: My Parents Are Pretending I Didn't Come Out
After coming out, the last thing most teens want is for parents to tell them it is just a phase or simply to avoid the topic altogether. Here is one teen's experience.
A teen writes:
"So, back in late September, I came out to my parents, and it was really awkward. I won't really go into details, but it was almost by accident and I didn't want it to go the way it did. I sort of came out one at a time, and by the end of it all, the basic message I got from them both was "Entertain the notion that this is just a phase". This PISSED ME OFF beyond belief, but that's not the point. After this long, neither of them talks about it at all anymore, and they just act like nothing's happened. I don't know if they still think it's just a phase or what. Are they just pretending I'm really straight or do they just not care enough to bring it up ever?"
There are a lot of reasons that your parents might be reacting in this way. Parents may be in denial, truly believe that teens are too young to know their sexual orientation, or simply don't want a child to be gay and hope that acting as if it isn't possible will have the desired effect. And it is true, a lot of parents just think that this is a phase.
Here are a few reasons why:
- People think that teens who say they aren't straight or cisgender teens are too young to really know their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Some people hope that teens are just going through a stage, often because they are afraid or homophobic.
- Someone might be legitimately confused about what it means to be gay or transgender and might not understand that a person is actually stating their identity.
Though any teen can be told that his or her identity is just a stage, bisexual teens often hear this more than others. As one bisexual teen explains:
"Basically people who are bi-curious are what cause people to think of bisexuality as a transition stage, not as something where you just don't care if your partner is male or female. But bisexuality is not a just a transition stage. It's just where you don't care about gender, so long as you love the person."
Being told that you are probably just going through a stage when you are certain of your sexual orientation can be really frustrating. And of course, no one asks a straight teen if he or she might actually be gay. (For that matter, no one really talks about the development of straight teens' sexual orientation at all...).
But while this dismissive statement can come from homophobia, it can also simply be an assumption born of the fact that many people simply don't realize that awareness of sexual orientation can develop in early childhood.
If you think the person asking if you are going through a stage is sincerely trying to understand where you are at emotionally, try to be patient and explain that you are certain of who you are. It can take people a long time to accept a GLBT friend or relative for who they really are and waiting for that to happen can stink. In the meantime, try to find friends and family-members who won't give you the third degree. You can also talk about this with other teens on the GLBT Teens Community Forum.
Being told you are going through a phase, or having this part of your life ignored by your folks can be really frustrating. So what can you do? One option is to accept the fact that you know who you are, even if your parents don't understand. You may also consider coming out to another adult who you trust, and who you think your parents respect, and ask that person to talk to your parents.
And what if you are questioning your sexual orientation and it turns out at some point down the road that your parents were right and you aren't, in fact, gay? So what! Having an open conversation with them about where you are right now is a lot more than what happens in a lot of families!