Coming out is a big deal in the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
First, we have to come out to themselves by recognizing and dealing with our sexuality or gender identity. That is a very difficult process in itself--and one we usually experienced alone.
Next, LGBT people have to decide when to come out to others--family, friends, co-workers, community, etc.
For most, the scariest coming out of all is when it's time to tell Mom and Dad. LGBT children fear parental rejection most of all. Some will put off coming out until very late in life, just to avoid the possibility of losing their parents' love.
Even in adulthood, the parent/child relationship is incredibly important.
Parent's responses to children's coming out have been studied by researchers over several decades, and the results are stunning.
The fact is a parent's reaction to a child's coming out can have a massive impact on their lifelong well being.
(Not coming out can impact mental health, too. It's hard work to maintain the deception and worry all the time about what parents know or might find out.)
If Parents Are Supportive and Accepting, You Will . . .
Be more accepting of himself or herself
Be less self-critical and less likely to self-harm
Have healthier friendships and more of them
Be more resilient when he or she faces difficulties or discrimination
Experience improved mental health
Be healthier physically
- Engage in healthier relationships and behaviors
If Parents Are Rejecting or Unaccepting, You Are More Likely To. . .
Experience anxiety and depression
Consider or attempt suicide
Use illegal drugs
Engage in risky sexual behavior
Make bad relationship decisions
Experience social and work difficulties
Rejection Can Take Different Forms
- Blatant rejection can include getting kicked out of the house, physical or verbal aggression, blaming, or very hurtful statements of disgust, condemnation, or outright rejection.
This what most people worry about the most before they come out.
- Subtle rejection can look like withdrawal or attempts to ignore the subject. Parents might blame you for causing them sorrow, distress, or pain.
It's not a "get out of my face" kind of rejection, but these kind of responses are clearly stressful and likely made you feel bad if you experienced them.
If You Had a Bad Coming Out Experience, There Are Ways To Cope
The fact is, you don't know for sure how your parents will react when you come out. Many LGBT people are surprised by how supportive Mom and Dad are, while others thought it would be a non-event, but their predictions were wrong, too, unfortunately.
In the event coming out didn't go well, there ways to be resilient and cope. You can avoid the negative items listed above.
- Develop social support. There are people in your community who will support you and who can be there when things get tough. It is always good to have someone to talk with or a good listener in your life.
- Interact with the LGBT community. Engaging with other LGBT people will remind you that you are normal and that other people have experienced what you've been through. You're not alone and other people have been through this.
- Work on Self-Acceptance. The first two items help you learn to be self-accepting, but you may also need the help of a therapist or spiritual guide who is accepting and trained in LGBT issues.
This post is based on a research paper by Carasthatis, Cohen, Kazcmarek, and Chang