Editor’s note: Due to the vulnerability of this piece, one source chose to remain anonymous for their protection.
Coming out to an unsupportive family is a uniquely queer experience. Many queer people feel disrespected or betrayed after being rejected by their own families for sharing their true selves.
This betrayal, paired with the obligations of a young adult and a growing mind, can lead to a damaging situation that young queer people struggle to cope with.
Coming out as transgender in eighth-grade, 18-year-old Clark student Vincent Pettis has had his fair share of disapproval. He recalls not wanting to come out as transgender because of the environment he was in, but did due to pressure from his family.
“It was traumatic,” said Pettis on coming out to his mother. “I had to sit right next to her and listen to her grieve for me when I was alive.”
Pettis said that his experience made him reevaluate his relationship with his mother. Over time, he has learned that she doesn’t care for her son, only for the daughter he never was.
Pettis’s experience has made him realize that he deserves to be accepted and that he does not want to settle for people who cannot see who he truly is.
“You can only create a welcoming environment if your parents or friends are willing to listen,” said Pettis. “If they do not want to then they are not worth being known or cared about by you. Parents should respect their kids much like kids have to respect their parents and to not be rude and inconsiderate.”
A former Clark student, who chose to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves from their unsupportive family, identifies as non-binary and asexual. They also faced turmoil when coming out to their family.
“I came out as [asexual] on my own terms. I was young, eighth-grade or so, and just told my parents one day and they didn’t seem to care much,” they said. “Though, they still talk about me finding a partner – which is irritating.”
“Me coming out of nonbinary, however, was not on my own terms,” they said. “My mom didn’t talk to me until I ‘took it back.’”
They admit that they usually ignore their families unaccepting attitudes. Specifically their homophobic grandmother because she is “not going to change her way of thinking, and she’s not going to change mine.”
They began to become closed off due to the invalidation of their identity by their family and the people around them.
“Its made me incredibly self-conscious,” they said. “It’s hard to make friends outside the internet and with differing views because they don’t see your gender as something valid.”
They emphasize the understanding that not everyone is going to be supportive. They encourage those who are in unaccepting households to find friends who will support them and to set boundaries with those who will not.
Seventeen-year-old artist Jaedyn Hero has found this support in an online community.
Hero recently came out as bisexual and nonbianary to their family and said that their parents seemed to acknowledge their sexuality at first. However, shortly after coming out, their parents started to push heterocentric ideas on them.
Hero’s brother also struggled to accept Hero’s identity. They recall that their brother still used their dead name and pronouns, identifiers that Hero no longer uses, despite being asked not to.
Hero has been able to find validation by anonymously sharing their experience in online communities.
“I can keep it as anonymous as possible,” Hero said. “Being able to share struggles versus sharing personal information is a fine line to tread, but to me it’s worth it.”
Being young and trying to find a way in the world can be extremely difficult. Gathering from these experiences, I have compiled a list of tips that can help ease that overwhelming feeling.
Tip #1: Educate
Some people don’t know much about the queer community, so making the effort to educate them can be helpful. Find books or websites that might explain how you are feeling and how they can help. Keep in mind that sharing resources will only work if they are willing to listen and fully respect what you are saying.
Tip #2: Take a break and set boundaries
If education doesn’t work, whether this happens over text, over the phone or in person, take some time to reflect on the role that person plays in your life. Setting boundaries can be difficult when you are close to a person. However, if this person is not respectful of your sexuality, gender identity, gender expression or pronouns, it might be better to consider distancing yourself from that person.
Tip #3: Confide in others
As mentioned previously, there is nothing wrong with wanting to keep things to yourself. However, having a safe outlet can make things lighter and easier to work through, especially if it’s with someone who has similar experiences as you. Dealing with difficult situations alone can make people feel isolated from the rest of society, which can lead to unhealthy relationships and coping mechanisms.
If you or someone you know is part of the LGBTQ+ community and is experiencing any mental health issues or is in need of support, please visit the following sites for help: