How coming out to my dad as queer strengthened our relationship
June is the proud month and Father's Day is June 21.
My father and I went for a walk when I came out to him. I started with a story telling him that a friend of mine had recently come out to test his answer before telling him I thought I might be gay.
After I said it, he was silent and occasionally asked me questions like, "How long have you had a crush on this girl?" and "Do you want to tell people?" Coconcing his silence was his soothing words that he loved me as well and would continue to support me.
Although he had several of his own close LGBTQ + friends, I was worried that my father would react negatively to my truth. One of the bullies at school had convinced me that most parents, even though they seemed to accept other people, felt different than when their own child came out. Just because my father's close friend was a lesbian didn't mean he would support me. I spent weeks feeling anxious before finally taking the courage to ask him to walk me in seventh grade that day. Taking long walks was one of our favorite things to do, and we went through several conversation topics before I finally said it: I had a crush on a girl and didn't think I was straight.
"The moment we come to loved ones is a memory and impact that spans adulthood," said Mary Borys, LCSW and member of the Alma Mental Health Community. I would come out dozens, if not hundreds, of other times in my life: to my friends, to the rest of our family, to employees, to jewelry sellers, to wedding sellers. But coming to my father at 13 was one of the first times and it was a big improvement over my previous experience (I told my friend Alicia in fifth grade and she spread the news to our classmates and stopped hanging around with me ). .
My father was not perfect. Over time, he has become a better ally of the LGBTQ + community.
At first he expressed doubts that I really knew who I was when I was 13. He was worried that I should wait before I got out to more people. But those were minor missteps compared to the steadfast support he offered me, which treated my first girlfriends as much as everyone else - we weren't allowed to close the door in my room, take photos of ourselves before we made an appointment, I gave Basic rules about kissing and staying outside for a long time. I never felt less loved because I fell in love with girls.
“If a parent or caregiver loves, supports and accepts LGBTQ + children and adolescents, it shows that they deserve to love, support and accept relationships,” says Borys. “Despite the advances, LGBTQ + adolescents still face difficulties. Knowing their individual value based on the relationship modeled by their caregivers is of paramount importance for their own views on self-esteem and appreciation, which in turn are important factors in a person's quality of life. "
I was beginning to feel more comfortable being honest with my father, who had taken on the task of raising me as a single parent after my mother died. It started with my coming out, but I soon asked him for advice on how to find my way around dating and what to do if my friends were drinking at 14. The best thing he did was respect me as an autonomous person, even when I was in middle and high school. When I told him I was in love, he believed me and didn't detract from my 13-year-old feelings. When I cried for heartache or stressed that I wasn't pretty enough to have a girlfriend, he was willing to listen.
Coming out as a queer brought my father and me closer together.
In high school, I retired to the closet because I was going to a new campus and was afraid that people would not like me. I'll never forget the look my father gave me when I told a group of friends for the night that "some people think I'm gay, but that's just a rumor." His gaze said at the same time: "I love you and your new friends too" and "What are you talking about? You are obviously not exactly so."
But my weirdness didn't deepen my relationship with my father - it was the fact that I could finally show up as my whole self and be seen who I am. When I experimented with every gender presentation and clothing style under the sun - the band t-shirts, the gothic pants with straps and chains, the rainbow leggings, the suit jackets, the lipstick and the heels - he was unshakable in his support . I cut my hair, I dyed it blue, I wore it long and beach blonde. I was still the person who would stay up late to beat him at Scrabble.
It is safe to know that you can be who you are without judgment. My father has seldom influenced me or given an unsolicited opinion. I spent my teenage years looking for what I was and he was happy to let me find out. When he told me that it was okay to make appointments with several people at the same time, as long as it was mutually agreed, I told him that I would either remain single or in a steady relationship, and he supported this. If he thought I needed advice on the health of a romantic or other relationship, he would share it. Since his guidance never felt compelled, I usually thought about his words and followed the parts that worked for me.
As I prepared to come out to my father, I imagined that this would create distance between us. How would he, a heterosexual single father, know how to deal with a strange teenager?
I didn't think he could empathize with the excruciating feeling that rose in my throat when I was spending time with people I wasn't out with, or how hesitant I was, my friend's hand because of the time in the Keep public A few people shouted, "Dykes!" from their pickup.
He didn't have the lived experience, but he did feel. He listened without imposing his own feelings or thoughts on what I was going through. We talked about LGBTQ + stories in shows we saw and he steadfastly opened our house as a safe place for friends kicked out by their parents after they came out.
During this first walk with my father, I was nervous because he was calm - even though I knew that he was an introvert who took the time to process it. When we got home, I nervously asked if he saw me differently.
He answered lightly: "I promise I will always love you, pumpkin." We still go for long walks together. These days, we wind our way through the Boston Public Garden or along the beach, which is not far from where my fiancee and I live. I am grateful to go for a walk with someone who sees me.
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