Coming out is a privilege.
It has been a little over a year ago that I came out to my parents. I didn’t really know how to go about it or if I really needed to in the first place. I knew I was queer when I turned 22, it felt good, I finally managed to get a piece of myself that I never knew I missed. I was very strategic about telling people, I questioned myself if I wanted to, if it mattered, and if it did, who to tell. I often asked myself, why there was a need to ‘come out’ and why it was called that? Straight people did not have to do it, so why should I?
The more I dived into my masculinity and the more I felt that I wanted to socially transition into my masculine self, the more I felt that I wanted to tell my friends. I wanted them to see me, the whole me. I wanted them to celebrate with me, this black queer divine self I was becoming.
The first person I told was a female friend of mine, who in the past had a relationship with a woman. Her response was amazing, she was excited for me and wanted me to go out and meet other women. That went a bit to fast for me. Although I was excited that she did make it easy for me to come out, I wasn’t ready because it was life-changing information, I still had to get used to. I just wanted to live in this feeling of happiness. After her, I started to feel like I wanted to tell my other friends, I also started to think about telling my parents or family, who I thought I would tell and who I didn’t care about telling.
Throughout the years I told more and more friends, the overall response was quite good. There were people who were quite confused, but they kept it to themselves. Also, they were not my closest friends, so it didn’t bother me that much. Looking back now, I was very strategic about telling people about my Queerness, I took my time and did some research.
I was around 25 years old when I felt the urge to tell my parents, during this time at my Uni, we had specific meetings with our teachers about the next steps in our lives. Our conversations went very deep, as, after all, it was a social work degree I was going for. I remember telling my teacher that I wanted to come out to my parents, I felt the urge to do it. His response was quite surprising, ‘Why do you want to do that’, he asked. I did not have an easy relationship with my parents, and he felt that I needed to establish myself further.
He knew for some reason that I wasn’t really ready, I was still angry with my parents and had a lot to go through. He wanted me to get out and explore, live on my own, establish my being. He saw something that I did not see yet. In hindsight, he was totally right, it was the best advice that I received. Note: He was white, male, and straight.
I waited and I moved to London, to pursue my M.A. Before moving to London, I did not know anything about my Queer self. London opened my eyes. The freedom in which people walked around openly and honestly. I was quite open about who I was, after all, it was not the country I grew up in, no one knew me, so I could be who I wanted to be. As I was new to the city and had to make friends, it was easy to tell people about my Queerness, also, I worked in the Arts industry, which is quite open.
Throughout the years I felt more and more confident, the urge of telling my parents I was Queer started coming up again. I discussed it with my friends, some of them really made me think and questioned about why I was ready now, they helped me think it through. But they couldn’t really support me, as they were all straight.
When I turned 26, I told a family member and it went mad wrong. In their eyes, I was Bi, in their eyes they thought I was still at the beginning of my Queerness. I assured them that I knew who I was, but the only response I got was, ‘No, you are not, you are Bi’. It took me by surprise and it hurt me deeply. I questioned a lot about their response, were they hoping that I was Bi because that would give them the assurance that I could still date a man? I think around six months later, I told them again, their answer did not really change.
I spiraled into a deep dark hole after that, I questioned my queerness again, because, well, they told me I wasn’t. It was the first time I really started the negative self-talk, I started to become quite homophobic towards my Queerness. To deal with this, I turned to other queer Black/ POC people I met, when I told them I hadn’t come out to my parents, their response shocked me. They replied with this questioning, privileged attitude that was not at all supportive and I felt my homophobia growing. During this period in my life, I was angry, hurt, and very alone. I really had to digest the fact that other Queer Black people did not understand where I came from, did they not know that 'coming out' is not a privilege everyone has? Did they not understand that 'coming out' can be dangerous, especially for people that look like us?
I blocked that family member out of my life, they tried to talk to me, but I never really picked up the phone. I felt my homophobia taking over, yet I knew that I was Queer, and I also knew that I still wanted to tell my parents. I needed to go into therapy. I was tired of walking around with this feeling of shame, pain, anger and I wanted so badly to go back to that feeling when I came out to myself, that feeling of being proud that I knew myself and loved myself in a way I never thought was possible.
It was important to me to have a therapist who was Black and Female and I found one, although she was not Queer, I felt she was comfortable talking about the issues I had. I still had to deal with the anger I had towards my parents, I held on for so long and now I also had to deal with the anger towards the other family member and my raging homophobia.
I remember the conversations I had with the therapist regarding telling my parents. She also went into the ‘why’, why did I think it was important to me, the only reason I gave was: ‘because they need to let go of the person who they think I should be’.
‘What if they cannot let that image go, even after you tell them’, she asked. I went blank, I didn’t know the answer, but did feel my negative self-talk and homophobia rising again. It made me realize that if I choose to come out or not, it wouldn't make me less Queer. I was Queer from the moment I was born, stating this or not wouldn't change that. I had to think long and hard about telling my parents after this conversation.
After reflecting, I still wanted my parents to know, I wanted them to know me fully, I wanted them to know because I wanted the possibility of bringing my future partner home to meet them, I wanted my parents next to me at my future wedding. But I did have to deal with a possibility that that might not happen. My therapist wanted me to get to a point in my life where whatever my parents would tell me, I would be good with myself. Even if I couldn't bring my partner over, I would not dive into this self-hating hole I fell in the first time I told a family member.
It was a crazy ride, I cried a lot, dealt with my anger, and finally found self-acceptance. Three days before I told my parents I had a conversation with my therapist again, she went over how my parents could react. My 'coming out' would automatically send my parents into a reflective state, whether I liked it or not, whatever their answer, I had to be good with who I was.
Telling my parents went surprisingly smoother than I thought, my mom responded she had her suspicions when I was around 12 years old. She told me that she actually sat down with my father to get him ready for this possibility … Her reaction shocked me. My dad on the other hand thought that I was going to tell them I was in a relationship with a guy. So, I guess my mom's conversation with him never stuck. I knew that I also had to go back to my other family member and had to have a difficult conversation, they never really understood why I cut them out of my life for a period of time. I guess they never knew how deep it upset me. My parents haven't really brought it up after, I did ask about it, my mom doesn't really get it, the whole gay, same-sex situation, but well, it is what it is and I am good with that answer. I know that I will have to spark the conversation with them a bit later, just to see if they have any questions or concerns, as I know that this can be tough, but for now, it's good.
Have I come out to my other family members? No. Do I care? No. The only people I cared about telling was my parents and my friends. The rest can find it out on social media or just by asking me. People might not agree with this, but that is just the way I feel about it. The whole process was very difficult though, I realize that I am very lucky with the way my parents reacted. I am also grateful that I had to go through the tough path of dealing with my homophobia because, if it wasn’t for those hard moments, I might have never have created this blog in the first place.
To the people who are considering telling their families or friends about their Queerness, I can only advise this, you do not have to. I did it because I wanted it, I did it after I was fully oke with myself, I did it on my time and made sure I got support.
If you are Black/ POC and Queer, please make sure that you take care of yourself first, I know that urging feeling, but only because you don’t tell the world you are Queer, doesn’t mean you are less Queer. This is what the LGBTQ+ and ‘very’ white community have put on as the general norm. The world is different for people who are Black or POC. Again, you are not less Queer only because you don’t come out. Celebrate yourself fully and openly in spaces that are safe, if you cannot find them, create them, either digitally or physically.