Coming Out to Parents
An 18 year old female who “recently” defines herself as bisexual asks if she should tell her family after finding some support with a few friends whom she told.
My take on this is to WAIT before informing your parents and here’s why: I believe it is important to sit with your own feelings for awhile until you are comfortable and sure of yourself. For a variety of reasons the feeling and ideas you have during the teen years are often fluid and shifting. Some persons experiencing attraction to both men and women will continue to have this experience into adulthood and for them the term bisexual is probably appropriate. For others, however, this duality of feeling may gradually settle on a same sex interest. Parents have a tendency to freeze frame a comment or idea and then define you by it because at this stage of your life you only have a few roles that define you, i.e. daughter or son and student. Ideally coming out to parents should be a defining moment more for you than for them. (More on coming out in a minute)
You asked about meeting others of like mind. Talking to others who might have similar feelings is a good next step during the period when you are sorting through your own feelings and getting clarity about yourself. The internet has many sites for teens and young adults to read about or share coming out stories and useful information. Check out the links on this GLYS Website (under Resources) or visit www.gaybuffalo.org for starters. Many colleges and universities have GBLT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) organizations on campus to provide information and safe settings for networking and support.
After you have sat with your own feelings and gotten some support in the form of information or contact of some form with others like yourself and you feel more confident and less “scared” then consider if and how to inform parents. You might think about attending a local PFLAG meeting (Parents and friends of gays and lesbians [see Resources on this Website] )to give yourself some further support as well as ideas of how to go about it. PFLAG also has a written pamphlet of Do’s and Don’ts about coming out to parents that is very helpful.
Three things I think are especially important on the topic of coming out to parents. First, What are your expectations of what will happen? What do you hope from them and does your experience of your parents suggest that they will come close to your expectations? Second, Consider what your relationship with your parents has been in the past. If it has been tense or conflicted this new information about you will not make it better. Third, from your perspective, coming out to parents may be at a later stage in your process of self acceptance and thus feel like a relief and an accomplishment. To your parents, even if they suspected, the news may be taken as a loss of fantasies they had for your life and raise considerable anxiety about the future. Be prepared for this and for them to go through their particular process which may be very dissimilar to yours.