Tag Archives: Queer

Coming out to a Catholic Family

I realised I was gay when I was about eleven. Well, it wasn’t so much that I realised, I already knew – but I finally admitted it to myself around then. I didn’t tell a single person until I left secondary school at the age of 15. School would have been completely unbearable if anyone had found out. It was bad enough as it was. I was also convinced my parents would disown me when they found out. My mum is Catholic and I’d heard her say that being gay was a sin, that it was evil.

I used to self-harm a lot and I smoked a lot of cannabis

I was really, really unhappy as a teenager. It was hard keeping a secret and living in my own head for so many years. I used to self-harm a lot and I smoked a lot of cannabis. I still worked hard at school and eventually I found some good friends who made things easier. I told one of them I was gay when I was 16.

One of them had read my diary

I went to a sixth form college to do my A Levels. Around about then, my sister told me my mum was downstairs crying because she thought I might be gay. Great. It turned out one of them had read my diary and found out I was seeing someone (I’d met and started dating my first girlfriend by this point) and doing God knows what else (Drugs? Smoking? Sex?). It was awful – I knew they knew and we just didn’t talk about it. I moved out as soon as I could, after my last A Level exam. I moved about an hour away from where my girlfriend was studying and I got a series of rubbish jobs that paid enough for rent and eventually for a bit more too. That was when I was 17, and my parents and I didn’t talk about me being gay until I was 21. I brought it up. My parents just didn’t talk about that stuff, I don’t know why. But I had to break the ice. And actually, it was okay. I found it excruciating at first, I still do sometimes. But they didn’t disown me. It turned out my dad really didn’t care and my mum got used to it, I think. She’s met a few girlfriends and liked most of them. I think she’s had to change her mind about what being gay means but we have a great relationship now.

Don’t assume the worst will happen

A few years later I had to come out to my parents again as transgender. It was hard, but I had more resources to talk to them about it. I’ve really had to be the one to push the boundaries and that’s been uncomfortable, but it wasn’t the disaster I always thought it was going to be. So I guess I’d say don’t assume the worst will happen, but make sure you have a plan for if it does. There are loads more organisations that can help now, that you can reach out to. I almost couldn’t imagine being happy when I was a teenager, I was convinced I’d end up killing myself. But actually I am happy – things got so much better, I got through it. I’m doing okay.

It’s easier once you’ve come out

I didn’t really care for crushes in primary school. Everyone seemed to care about that sort of thing, I just held the opinion that it was stupid. Then in year 6, I began to hold this girl in really high opinion. She was pretty, kind and could sing (this obviously mattered to ten-year-old me). But I just thought it was a deserved appreciation, because of course girls couldn’t get crushes on girls. I never really knew LGBF sexualities were as common as I now know they are. I would say I actually started questioning when I hit high school. I go to an all girls school so I realised that these people were attractive to me. I was suddenly aware that sexualities other than gay and straight existed (mainly thanks to extensive exposure to internet).

I was 13 when I actually started using bisexual to describe myself to myself. It was also around then I began to believe that my parents’ attitudes to LGBT people weren’t exactly positive. I started to talk about sexualities and gay rights more. I read as much as I could, learnt as much as I could. I guess that I’ve probably changed some of my parents opinions.

I started self harming as a distraction

But sometimes my parents would actively say things against gay people (nothing big, just small things that I spun out of control in my head) or my brother would tell me he thought homosexuality was wrong and he thinks it’d be weird to have a gay sister. Having been surrounded by fairly accepting peers at school, I realised that a lot of people still were against it. I started to become sad and worried. I started self harming as a distraction, and that continued for a few months.

Then I saw that my family’s attitudes were changing – they said they’d be fine with their children being gay, as long as they were happy. They spoke out against bigotry in the news. I realised that I had been so insecure about my sexuality and their reaction I failed to notice that damn, they were pretty open minded. I got myself off self harming, and told my best friend that I had realised that I liked girls and I thought I was bisexual. I was happier than I had been in ages.

It became common knowledge and it was fine

At 14 I came out to my class. I say come out, it was completely unplanned and just sort of happened. How it played out was more than a bit weird. A group of classmates around me were talking about how me and my best friend should “totally get together”. A friend of mine (who knew) then said “aren’t you bisexual?” It could have gone either way really. I could have denied it, or I could use this to come out. So I said, “yes”. And that was that. It spread, it became common knowledge and it was fine.

I told my mum soon after, although she didn’t quite believe me. She thought I was too young to have any idea. A few months later I said I was serious, and she told me it wasn’t what she wanted for me, but she wasn’t going to make a fuss because it would be stupid to push me away for something so (comparatively) small. She has since become more accepting than I could ever have hoped.

I try to talk as openly about it as I can

For my dad, I couldn’t pluck up the courage to say anything. I just asked my mum to tell him so he could deal with it without me being involved. He did, and while I don’t think he particularly likes it deep down, he hasn’t said anything negative about LGBT people for a while apart from a slip of the tongue. My brother knows too, mostly because I try to talk as openly about it as I can.

At 15, I started use ‘queer’ now as a label, simply not knowing anymore (I don’t use that now due to issues to do with it being a reclaimed slur). I often felt that I may be gay, as men didn’t actually seem that appealing, but then I’d just end up confused. Now, in my opinion, you can use whatever label you want, or none at all – and if you come out as one thing, you can come out again as another if you realise something later on. I also dated someone at my school now, who was pretty, kind and could sing (which I don’t think matters as much to me anymore), and although we’ve broken up now I am still good friends with her. I’m openly LGB at school. People who know don’t care. I think a lot of things I picked up in what my parents said were minute things that I highlighted and was just the result of paranoia. I don’t worry about it anymore. I’m 16, love girls and am just going with it.

Starting testosterone

My mum came with me, not because I felt that I needed her there, but because I thought it would be useful for her. She has a lot of questions, as I do, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to ask them. The appointment went well, the ideal outcome as far as I’m concerned: I’m walking through reception with a prescription for Testim gel clutched in my hand. These little tubes of magic will allow the world to see me in the same light as I see myself.

These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me.

A friend of mine told me not long ago that I never seem happy when I get what I want, but things are never really that straight forward are they? These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me. Don’t get me wrong I want that change so badly I could burst, but gains come with losses, and the great landscape of the unknown lies right out in front of me, and I certainly don’t have a map. I know how the world needs me to be as a ‘woman’. How people want me to behave and how habitually I take up those roles. But I don’t know how to be a man, and I certainly don’t know how to be a good man.

The future is laid out with far more questions than answers, and there aren’t that many people to ask anyway. I have many caring supportive people beside me, but I still feel like I’m going at this alone. As much as I may feel like a thirteen year old, I’m not. I’m a thirty two year old with a job, responsibilities, and friends who are miles away from puberty. Yet I’m about to have mood swings, acne, and god knows what else.

Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control?

It’s the anger I fear, how my emotions may change. Will I turn into my father? Will I become someone I have tried so hard to separate myself from? Can I really do this? Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control? I’m overcome with the need to hide away, to take myself away from the world, to feel safe.

Its takes a few days to cash in my prescription: Testim gel is not the most commonly requested product, and it has to be ordered in. When I arrive at the pharmacy to pick up my little tubes of magic I’m yet again accompanied by tears. ‘Happy tears’, I tell the person who asks me if I have used said product before. ‘I’ve been waiting a long long time for that little box’ I continue ‘Today is a good day’. They pass me my box as I am consumed by more and more tears. I walk through the shopping centre with pride, joy, and a sense of adventure. I can face the challenges that are coming, I have more strength than I realise, I just need to harness it. As I continue to walk through the shopping centre I realise how close I’m holding my box to my chest. ‘My box….my little tubes of magic…my future.’

I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone.

I have to wait till the next morning to apply it, that’s the instructions I have been given. I feel giddy and high, I can feel my heart beat strong in my chest. I attend for uni classes and various people there know how much of a significant day this is for me. We break for coffee and my friends mark this turning point with me. ‘I have a man bag for you’ my friend tells me. ‘Full of manly things’. I am honoured with Mens Health magazine, Yorkie chocolate, Lynx body spray, tobacco sauce. I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone. I have comrades and companions who are ready to get on this ship with me. Who will sail alongside me, guide me through the dark storms and help me find my way again if I have navigated off course along the way.

I didn’t know how my conservative Christian family would react

At 14 I knew I was not like the other girls. I ran around and played sports and games with the boys but I was more attracted to girls. I didn’t even know the word lesbian until I was 15 when my mother demanded to know if I was one. Of course, I denied it.

‘The church was not friendly towards homosexuals’

We belonged to a very conservative church. Any socialising I did was through the church youth groups. The church was not friendly towards homosexuals, and was even protesting against the legalising it in New Zealand.

The dictionary at school was not much help, and in my little conservative suburban world, the chapters on homosexuality were cut from our text books (this was in the 1980s), and there was no one I could turn to.

‘I started to read a lot’

I kept my sexuality buried for a long time – but I started to read a lot, and became a good theology student. Through reading people like Bishop Shelbey Spong and Dominic Crossan (which are heavy theology reads), I came to understand that the debate wasn’t as simple as my church had made out.

I then moved out of home at 20, found a new congregation that were more positive towards difference. I continued to throw myself into my degree and theology, and I dealt with the grief of my grandmother passing away.

Then I fell for someone, head over heels in love. It didn’t work out – but it did confirm the feelings I had felt at 14. She didn’t make me feel dumb for loving her, so I felt I could start to come out.

‘Good things take time’

Coming out to myself had taken almost ten years, and it took me almost another ten years to come out as genderqueer.

Telling my friends was easy, they were all supportive and encouraging, both within the church and my secular friends. Most of them had thought I was gay for a long time and put my non-dating down to my shyness.

Coming out to my family was more problematic as my mother and brother still attend the church I grew up in. One afternoon (on my 25th Birthday after watching the rugby) I told my mum and dad that I was gay. My dad was so positive, he turned and said “that’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen you do”. My mother wasn’t quite so positive, and for the next couple of weeks my dad mediated the conversation and helped mum through understanding that it wasn’t me changing –  it was me showing who I was.

How does this end? My mother has told most of the church that I am gay. This hasn’t had any repercussions; she still holds a position of responsibility. The relationship with my dad became much stronger he has been an incredibly positive unconditional supporter.  I kept my faith for a long time. Moving to another country I still study theology in my spare time and occasionally try and find a congregation I fit in with.

Coming out doesn’t need to be a big deal

“Really?! I mean that’s cool and all, I just didn’t expect it. I’m glad you told me though.” That was the first reaction I got. I suppose it was a bit of a shock for them. I only asked them if I could tell them something and suddenly, whoomph, it’s all out there.

But they were supportive about it and that’s all that really mattered to me. My heart started beating REALLY fast after saying those words, and my palms got all sweaty but I was just nervous, I think. Not really scared.

It was a relief more than anything really. I could finally talk to someone about crushes and life that I might not have been able to talk about otherwise.

After that though, my sexuality – as well as my romantic attraction – changed definition and it was a LOT harder to, well, spit it out. So, now when I just say it I just slip it into normal conversation. Then if they ask, I’ll say it. For example:

FRIEND: WOW did you see that guy just then?
ME: yeah, what about him?
FRIEND: he was like, sooo hot!
ME: yeah he was attractive, I suppose, I’m more into girls myself really.

And then it was the whole “Oh really? Oh that’s cool”

And then the whole “So do you have a crush on anyone? Hmm?” (I go to an all girls school, which is… ‘nice’… if you get my drift.)

But really I suppose my point is, I never made a fuss about it. I never saw it as something to make a fuss about. It’s love, right? Or the lack thereof, in some people’s cases (asexuals/aromantics – in case you wanted to know).

And obviously, if you wanna tell your whole school and throw a huge party for it, go for it! I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t. Do whatever you want. Likewise if you only want to tell your best friend.

But don’t be afraid. There’s always someone – even if you don’t think there is – who cares about you and everything that comes along in the package of you. And most of the time more than one person at that.

But just be prepared to hear that “Really?!”