As an avid supporter of the LGBTQ community, I had always had a soft spot for gay men or women who reached out to me to get mental help. Although many of them – especially the gay guys – were universally known to be the lives of various parties, it did not always reflect how they felt deep inside.
“I Do Not Want To Be Disowned” – Sam
Sam came from a family of real cowboys in Texas. He grew up shepherding cows and tackling horses on their farm with his brothers. His father, a typical macho man, told them early that there were no “flimsy guys” in the clan.
Unfortunately, Sam was only 16 years old when he doubted his gender preference. He had been sending flowers to cute girls at school, but he had also been taking an interest in some guys, albeit secretly. Sam went back and forth in his head for years until John, one of his schoolmates, kissed him under the bleachers out of the blue.
That’s when Sam knew that he preferred men over women. He went on to date John, but only his closest friends knew about it. If they wanted to go on a date, they had to sneak to the next city or go to one of his friends’ houses, where the parents were more open-minded.
Sam vividly remembered the day he found the courage to tell his dad about John. They were already in college at the time – about to have careers of their own – so Sam thought he should come out of the closet. However, his dad merely ordered him to straighten up if Sam wanted to see his family again.
That statement made Sam chicken out. He did not split with John, but he decided to keep their relationship a secret. John agreed with it, but Sam came to me because his boyfriend wanted to settle down, and he could not decide if they should get married without his family’s blessing.
“I Do Not Want My Parents To Look At Me Differently” – Oswald
Unlike Sam, Oswald had known he liked boys ever since he was eight years old. He was often seen in the company of girls, but that’s mere because he loved doing their makeups and braiding their hair. No one questioned his behavior in their city because the community was apparently embracing all types of equality at the time.
The thing was, young Oswald was in the car when his parents saw a couple of guys holding hands on the street. His mom was like, “Oh, look at those two best friends!” But his dad was quick to say, “No, honey, those are two gay dudes. Thank God I was not their dad; I would not have to endure the humiliation.”
Oswald’s father’s comment shocked him. He never heard his dad speak against gay people in the past, so he assumed he would be okay if it were his turn to come out. However, due to what happened, Oswald felt scared to at least hint that he was gay.
Oswald had been carrying his secret for many years now. He practically led a double life in which he cross-dressed with his friends and stayed prim and proper in front of his parents. But he was getting tired of the double life, so he came to me for advice.
What Can You Do In Such Situations?
One harsh reality that might never go away was that people would always have opinions about a delicate matter like gender acceptance and equality. Some would be cool with gay people; others would not want to be associated with them. Sadly, the disapproval often seemed like discrimination, but that’s not always the case.
When I met Sam and Oswald separately, I said, “I understand your fears. I also know that you may not want to try coming out because of your experience. The possibility of getting disowned would always be there as well. However, the traditional idea of the family seems to be overrated at this point.
“I am not telling you to go ahead and have a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to telling the truth to your parents. But you will eventually have to make a stand and decide on what’s best for you. If coming out will make you happy, go for it. If your loved ones cannot accept you for who you are, so be it. Just focus on your happiness and try making your family realize that you are still you in the future.”
Of course, all challenging tasks are easier said than done. I helped Sam and Oswald build up their courage and confidence since they could not – and should not – hide forever. I also taught them coping mechanisms ahead as a way of preparing them for the worst.
Luckily, the funny thing about aging was that people tend to become more accepting of others. Sam went to the farm to formally introduce John to his family. He told me that his dad did not talk much, but he did not chase them away either, so that’s a start.
As for Oswald, it turned out that he did not have to worry about anything at all. Though his parents were surprised, they said that they would always have his back.
I know that there are many more Sams and Oswalds out there. If you are reading this now, I hope you have learned a thing or two from the stories above.