Why Silence Isn't Golden

 

Q:

Hi Dr. Darcy,

I've been with my girlfriend for almost 8 years now and I'm out to my parents and some of my cousins, but not all.  They're a pretty harsh crowd as crazy Italians [can be] so I don't know how they'll react.  They don't usually say much, but if she's ever around (because she's butchy) they give a lot of looks of "disgust".  It's extremely frustrating and discouraging but I want her to be involved and I don't care about their personal judgment. Sadly, my parents are hesitant because they're not exactly proud of my lifestyle.  I feel like I'm in the middle and battling what's right.  As a lesbian, it always feels like you're "drawing attention" to yourself by coming out, or introducing your girlfriends.  I want it to be as "normal" as possible.  I suggested coming out to my aunts and cousins separately instead of in a group… but my mother thinks that's unnecessary and to wait until they ask.

I don't know what the most respectful approach is while at the same time least stressful for myself.

A:

Homophobic straight people want us to feel like we’re engaging in attention-seeking behaviors when we come out to extended family, when we hold our girlfriend’s hand, or when we insist on introducing her by the title girlfriend instead of pretending that she’s our roommate. They view it as attention-seeking because the presupposition is that we’re all straight, we’re all the same, and if you identify as gay, you’re the other. They’re looking at the world through a heteronormative lens; if you were straight, it wouldn’t be attention-seeking to introduce your boyfriend to your cousins as your boyfriend. In fact, if you brought a boyfriend to a family gathering and didn’t verbalize the title, he’d probably think you were ambivalent about the relationship.

Years ago, my wife Steph and I vacationed in Cannes. The people at our fancy resort were such douchebags to us that I was on the phone trying to get us the hell out of there within the first 24 hours (maybe things have changed - this was 2006). In a last ditch effort to save the remainder of our holiday, we drove our rental car to Barcelona. Our 11-hour road trip through the countryside of France made for a fun story, until I shared it with my stepmother who responded by saying, Why was it necessary for you to hold hands? I wouldn’t hold a man’s hand in public. The point is that she can hold a man’s hand in public without raising an eyebrow. The fact that she’s a WASP and would sooner, I don’t know – curse in public – is irrelevant. She has the choice because she’s a member of the majority.   

You’re confusing being respectful to your parents with enabling them to keep your relationship closeted. You’d like their permission to come out to your extended family – and I don’t think that’s going to happen. You deserve to live your truth, and that means letting people know who the woman in your life is.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m amazed your girlfriend has tolerated this for 8 years. It’s my belief that we should only date people who are on the same point of the coming-out-spectrum as we are. I would have told her that I thought you ladies were incompatible. Prove me wrong. Show her the wait was worth it.

Gender and Orientation: Female, Gay.