Dear Dr. Darcy:
For as long as I can remember my family’s been trying to get me to open up to them. I’ve always been someone who tends to keep to herself. One day they started in on me again about wanting to know the ‘real me’, so I came out to them. Ever since then, whenever there’s someone gay on TV or in the neighborhood, they talk about why gay people have to flaunt it and it’s obvious that it upsets them. I thought coming out was supposed to be a burden lifted off my back but that’s not been the case with me. How do you learn to be yourself while someone has expectations of you?
Coming out is a process, not a one-time discussion. It often requires the involved parties to negotiate boundaries, expectations and compromises. You seem to have your own expectations, i.e. hoping to be unburdened by coming out. I’ve heard far more disturbing stories relating to coming out than not.
Having said that, I admire your courage to disclose your true self to your family and I think that it speaks positively to our community’s evolution that your generation has low tolerance for ignorant and passive-aggressive remarks about gays.
I think you should consider having some follow-up conversations with your family. Clearly they need some education regarding our hetero-normative society which leads straight people to feel entitled to point fingers when they see same-sex couples engage in behaviors which would go unnoticed in straight couples. Ask your family if they’ve ever hesitated before holding their significant other’s hand in public for fear that they might be harassed. Share with them some of the challenges you’ve faced as a lesbian, and tell them how you feel when you hear them make negative comments about gays.
I understand that you’d like to learn how to be yourself despite others expectations of you. Again, this is a process, not a chapter summary. You’ll spend much of your young adulthood trying on various suits of armor hoping to stumble upon a metal that will insulate you from the judgments and reactions of others. And then one day, having learned that no such armor exists, you’ll decide to abandon this losing battle; and you’ll learn the term ‘detachment,’ and you’ll study it, and life will become much simpler.