06
Apr
10

pushing someone out of the closet.

Today I’m asking guest blogger and high school friend Pete Henne to add his commentary on the question and the issue in general.

It's Pete!!

Pete Henne, wonderful guest blogger.

A quick bio on Pete (culled from his Facebook page):

Pete grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and went to high school in Albuquerque, after which he spent a year at UNM for college. He ended up in Oregon again eventually, and studied architecture and environmental studies. He currently lives in Washington, DC, where he enjoys beer snobbery, photography, rock climbing, politics and public policy, and (sometimes) job hunting. Some day, Pete may share his story about coming out with us.

Shall we begin?

Reader G. S. writes:

My sister is gay, and my siblings and I all know it, as do most of my cousins. However, my parents and our aunts and uncles don’t know, and are continually nagging her about getting married, having a boyfriend, all that stuff. Most of the time the family just says, ‘Oh, she’s young, she’s just sowing wild oats.’ They think she hasn’t brought a guy home because she hasn’t found one yet. But she’s 24. It’s not a phase. It’s really hard for me to bite my tongue and not tell them why she’s never going to bring a boy home. My parents are open-minded people and they’d probably deal very well with my sister coming out; she just won’t do it. What should I do?

Dear G.S.:

It’s wonderful that your sister is out with you and your cousins. (Unless you’re just assuming she’s gay, which is another post entirely.) However, you have to respect her needs here.

out of the closet and into the fire

Don't open that closet door! Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know many a friend who is out in their own community, but not with their parents, and for several (horrible) reasons, including the fear of being disowned, the fear of causing discomfort, and the fear of being chastised for such a personal choice. These are terrible reasons, not just because a gay person should never be ashamed of who he or she is, but because they are valid fears — some parents just aren’t ready to accept their child’s sexual orientation. Accepting that a child is sexual at all can be hard, and if the parent has prejudices against homosexuality for religious or stigmatic reasons, well, the child’s fears are completely understandable.

However, even if your parents are as open-minded as you say, and even if you suspect that your sister’s coming out would be welcomed with opened arms, it is never acceptable to out a loved one. (Whether or not it’s okay to out a hated one is also another post.) Your sister may have her own reasons for not coming out to them. Or she may have her own plans.

So you should keep your big mouth shut. By all means, support her. And support gay rights politically. And talk with your parents about homosexuality in general, if you can do so without letting the cat out of the bag. But let your sister do her thing on her own time.

Pete says:

I can understand the motivation to just want your sister to live honestly with all the people around her. That feeling is love. But if you truly love your sister, you will talk with her and hopefully give her the confidence to do it.

Your relationship with your sister will be better for it. Both of your relationships with your parents will be better for it. The “main event” will be that much easier for it (hell, be there, ready to offer support and/or stiff drinks). It’s really win-win for all involved.

Not to sound like a health class documentary, but coming out is a very special moment in every queer’s life. It is not something that can, or should, be forced. You are literally sharing your inner truth with the people who you think should know.

In fact, Coming Out is especially important for us queers. Besides the underlying reason for doing it, it is the ONE thing that binds us all together. We literally get together and compare Coming Out notes (well, at least with close gay friends and, god willing, love interests). Where, when, why how, other salient details. Its a source of bonding for us that should not involve the phrase, “Well, my asshole brother/sister couldn’t keep their mouth shut.”

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3 Responses to “pushing someone out of the closet.”


  1. 1 DC
    April 6, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I certainly agree that assuming that your sister is gay is a different issue entirely. Your family thinking that she hasn’t brought a guy home because she’s just sowing wild oats is, I think, a perfectly valid conclusion. Speaking from personal experience, I’m 28 and haven’t introduced my family to any of the guys I’ve been involved with in any way, for various reasons. If you are simply making assumptions from the fact that your sister hasn’t brought a boy home, be aware that there is more than one possible explanation.

  2. 2 jess
    April 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    do people actaully LIKE politics and social policy?????


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