Reflections on coming out and family

11 Mar

As a queer Latina I juggle intertwining, complex and often competing identities. One of my most defining identities is that of daughter. My mother is one of the most amazing women I know. Although she would never refer to herself as the “f” word, I firmly believe that I am the independent, strong, determined, educated and fierce feminist I am, thanks to her example. Growing up in a single-parent household meant that for most of my life, my mother was my best friend. That all changed, however, when I came out to her.

Although realizing that I was queer meant finally figuring out another important part of my identity (and one that made me incredibly happy), it was a part of me that my mother refused to accept and in most cases even acknowledge. In her eyes I couldn’t be both a good daughter and gay. Inevitably, I lost my best friend and in many ways a part of me.

The journey has been a painful one and one that I am still healing from. I have had to distance myself from friends and family that could not accept all of me. Throughout this journey, however, I am happy to say that I have been blessed. I found a community of crunk feminist sisters who not only accept and love all of me, but challenge me to learn, teach, grow and forgive everyday.

In an effort to find some humor in all of the sadness that oftentimes comes from coming out to family, I decided to compile a list of some of the most memorable conversations between my mother and myself. I shared this for the first time at a QWOC+ (Queer Women of Color and friends) event titled: “Queer Multiculturalism: A Discussion about Coming Out to Different Cultures and Communities of Color.” I share this again with this community because you showed me that although you can’t choose your family, you can always choose to have more than one.

Top Ten interactions with my mom: chronological order may have happened within minutes, days, weeks, months, years

Numbered items are my mother’s words, items in parenthesis, my responses

10. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

(I’m the first to go away to college. Why don’t you ever ask me about what I’m learning in college and where the heck is my care package? My white friends get care packages every weekend!)

9. If you don’t find a boyfriend soon, how will you ever get married?

(Mom, seriously its after midnight – I have a paper to write.)

8. When are you going to have kids?

(I don’t know mom, I’m at an all women’s college, might be tough.)

7. What do you mean you don’t want to have kids! You’re already a graduate student! How much more do you need to study? What else is there to learn? Are there men in your classes?

(Mom, seriously stop oppressing me.)

6. Why is your friend’s hair so short and why is she always here?

(Yeah about that….mami, I’m gay.)

5. How could you do this to me?

(Mami, look at me…I’m glowing! I’m so happy! I’ve never felt this way about anyone else in my entire life! It took me 22 years to figure it out but everything in my life finally makes sense now.)

4. I’d rather see you pregnant with a drug addict’s baby than see you with a lesbian woman.

(I was not expecting that one. None of the ‘coming out to your parents’ books mentioned that as a possible reaction.)

3. Don’t tell your younger sister or she’ll think she is gay too.

[Rolling my eyes]-(Yeah mom, its contagious. You better watch out.)

2. Your sister is gay and it’s ALL your fault!

(That’s impossible, she’s gayer than I am.)

1. You are my daughter and I love you but why do you always have to bring up the fact that you’re gay.

(Because, you keep asking me about my boyfriend).

4 Responses to “Reflections on coming out and family”

  1. Alguien :) March 11, 2010 at 7:01 PM #

    I came out to Mami in college after a year of dating women. Lucky for her I’m bisexual and ended up marrying a man. Now 10 years later she gets to pretend like it never happened or it isn’t a truth about me. Of course, she always pretended like it never happened. Aren’t Mamis the greatest?

  2. afalkon March 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM #

    It’s so sad to me to think about how ‘coming out’ is such a dramatic event in our parents lives. Do they not understand that coming out is hard enough for us, and yes we know that we will never ‘get married’ [unless of course, we finally legalize it] and never ‘have babies’ [though again, you can? Mothers are so strange sometimes]. I am straight, but most of my friends aren’t, and the stories of being thrown out, being beat, etc, etc are heart wrenching. I don’t understand the fact that your children aren’t your children when they come out.

  3. Lillian March 14, 2010 at 6:37 PM #

    My Mami asked all of those wonderful questions until finally, like you I felt compelled to tell her. Thankfully, she is very accepting, but I see the pain in her eyes when she knows that I am working on a Gender and Sexuality concentration (coincidentally also in a women’s college) and she knows that she can’t tell my abuelita because she doesn’t want my family to reject me.
    I respect her fears and I haven’t come out to my grandparents or my uncle (her brother) but I feel so trapped. At least I have her and my brother (who is not queer, but sometimes I suspect he’s a lesbian with all the drama he creates:))

    P.S. I get #1 aaaaall of the time!

  4. vero March 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM #

    numbers 3, 2, 1 – got those/keep getting them from my mami. it hasn’t been that long since i told her – a little over a year – and i wonder if it’s ever going to be different. and as an immgrant, there is this whole other piece – how do i tell la familia back home? i don’t think i can stand someone asking me “tienes novio, mija?” one more time.

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