The Real Sin

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

I came out to my parents as a lesbian about 18 months ago, their response that day and ever since has been amazing, better than I could have imagined. They truly are my biggest supporters and welcomed my girlfriend at the time into our home the same as they used to welcome my boyfriends, maybe better even.

The problem is, I was raised in the church, which is part of the reason I was so worried about coming out to them. That church was my home for the first 21 years of my life, so needless to say they weren't too happy when they found out that I had come out. Their negative response was not unexpected, they told me all the things I'd been hearing and telling myself for years.

The problem is, I still believe them. I can talk about the lgbtq+ community in general and give 100% support, but when I have to acept myself, I don't. I've suffered from depression and low- self-esteem for years. Now I have the support of family and friends, I'm living in Spain working towards an MA, and in general I should be the happiest girl ever. But I still feel empty, and wrong. How do I get past this?

ANSWER

We all internalize the opinions and beliefs of those who we were exposed to as children. To your parents’ credit (and to your surprise), their personal principles and values were not mirror images of the church’s. The problem is that because many parents can be flexible in what they take away from religious teachings, they presume that their children will be able to do the same. This is an unrealistic expectation. Children do not have the same capacity. When we send children to religious school or to religious services, we have to be prepared for them to follow that doctrine to the ‘T’ even if we don’t. And if there are aspects of that doctrine that parents’ disagree with, it is their responsibility to communicate that to their children.

All of this is to say that you internalized what you were taught, which is completely understandable. And so you’re struggling with internalized homophobia.  Most LGBT’s have or had a modicum of homophobia to work through. It’s almost impossible to grow up in our society without believing some of the horseshit that we’re taught about what constitutes right and wrong. I can’t even tell you how many clients I’ve seen who’s coming out process is unnecessarily complicated because of their religious upbringing. As far as I’m concerned, the real sin is raising your kid in a religion that teaches hate as a fundamental part of Godliness.

There’s no quick fix for what you’ve got. Patience and self-compassion are the cure. Continue to think about and write about your internal conflict of supporting LGBT rights but having a hard time accepting that you’re a member of the club. Therapy would help speed up this resolution for sure. And rest assured that you will work this out. We all do.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Lesbian/Genderqueer