Welcome to Your Other Dad Says, advice from a gay dad you don’t live with. I answer questions from young people about navigating life in a very modern world.
With The Prom airing on Netflix and gay dads filling Insta with adorable baby pics, some people think that coming out is not a big deal anymore. But the stakes can be extremely high: it can impact where you live, whether you can pay your bills, and how safe you are. Whoever you tell might respond beautifully or horribly and your relationship with them may change as a result. The only part you have control over is your own truth. As I tell this week’s questioners from TikTok, the trick is knowing when and how to share that truth.
“Dear Other Dad — How do I come out? Here’s my deal. My family supports LGBTQ issues and a few suspect already but like how do I tell them? Pls help. — EnyaS”
It’s great that you know who you are and are feeling ready to share that — and even better that you’re pretty sure your news will be received well. You could just come out and say your truth directly. But the fact that you haven’t suggests you feel a little awkwardness around it. That’s totally fair — straight kids don’t have to stop and announce their orientations. Meanwhile, you’re attempting a conversation you may have no role models for.
Because you want to get the ball rolling, I suggest the breadcrumb approach: leave a trail of clues for family to follow. Slap a pride flag on your backpack. Switch your iPhone cover photo to a queer celebrity your family would recognize. Order a life-sized standee of Ellen DeGeneres for your living room. (That last one’s a joke, but it would sure be a conversation starter!) The first time someone comments on the breadcrumb — “Why is your screensaver Ruby Rose?” — answer honestly. The breadcrumbs method allows for a natural conversation (one that it sounds like everyone wants to have).
On the other end of the spectrum, you could be less subtle and make an event of it. One aspiring baker I know made a rainbow cake from scratch, a labor of love since she needed six different color batters. When it was finished, she served her family cake as she came out to them, creating an instant celebration and making a fun memory for everyone. (Plus, who isn’t happier when you bake them a cake?)
“Dear Other Dad — I’m transgender and I’m really ready to come out. My mom supports trans people but my dad doesn’t believe in it, so what should I do? — SGA420”
It’s always hard when your understanding of yourself is ahead of others in your life. In this case, it helps that you know your mom is supportive around gender but it’s challenging that your dad is not. One thing to remember is that both positions might change. (More on that in a minute.)
Your first step is to make sure you have emotional support outside your house as well; you will benefit from having access to good listeners and advisors as you take this journey. If you don’t have other gender non-conforming friends or adults in your life, consider online communities.
When it’s time to have this conversation at home, ask yourself how your mom would react to knowing information that your dad does not, even if only briefly. Would she be able/willing to keep this private until you are ready to loop your dad in? If she’s a natural born over-sharer, telling her will likely mean telling him, no matter what she promises. But if you trust that she’d be comfortable keeping things quiet at first, starting the conversation with her could be really valuable emotionally for you, as well as a good way to practice what you want to say to your dad. Having an ally in the house already could be a real gift.
As far as your dad goes, take a look at his personality and beliefs to consider what his opposition to your news might look like. If he would be upset enough to ask you to leave home, for instance, then you need to think carefully about whether this is the moment. (See the next question for more on this.) If he would never go that far but would likely be disapproving or dismissive, mentally prepare for what that might feel like and how to make space in your life for that. This is one reason having outside support is so valuable: you may need to adjust to home life being uncomfortable at times for a while.
For both parents, understand that you can never predict with 100% accuracy how any human being will react to anything. Your mom might really want to be supportive and still freak out a little because this is new to her; your dad might be unhappy at the news and yet go into loyal dad mode even so. Allow for them to be human but also lay the groundwork I mentioned above to feel supported by people who aren’t your folks — just like you did by writing to me.
“Dear Other Dad — How do I come out to my homophobic, racist Mexican family? — ShrekyP”
It’s difficult enough to come out when your family is anti-gay; when you also know them to be prejudiced in other ways, it’s even harder, because it shows that their fear of otherness runs deep. That kind of fear can manifest itself in violent thought, language, or actions, so my first advice to you is to prioritize your safety.
As I told the previous writer, you need to consider what disapproval would look like in your family: Would the situation be merely unpleasant or actually dangerous? Do you risk losing privileges, being kicked out, or physically harmed? Sometimes people feel a burden to come out quickly, as if they are failing someone by waiting, but that’s false; it doesn’t change the truth of who you are or compromise your integrity to go slowly in coming out if you don’t feel safe yet.
Take inventory of your family or community: Is there anyone who seems a natural ally who could support you during this process? It would be terrific if someone from your own culture had your back because they can relate to the dynamic in ways an outsider might not. (There are resources online if you have no one local.) Non-Mexican support is valuable too, but you may need to catch them up on your culture. (Even the most “woke” person doesn’t know what they don’t know.)
I’m Cuban-American and learned the word “maricon” from my father long before I learned the words “gay” or “queer” from my friends. I can’t speak to the Mexican experience, but I have seen firsthand how cultures with Latin roots often entangle machismo and Catholic values (even for people who never go to church) in ways that gender the world and leave little room for queerness. It’s good to keep that in mind when you are tempted to feel like your family’s disapproval is about you personally; it’s not. The truth is that they likely have been steeped in cultures of prejudice their whole lives. Like a traditional birria, the flavor’s so intense because it’s been marinating so long.
If you feel safe coming out, know that the process to acceptance may be long. My dad was very mocking about my sexual orientation and we didn’t speak for a long time because I couldn’t deal with his attitude; today we have a fun and friendly relationship again, but it’s clear he still doesn’t get it. I no longer yearn for him to become some big ally — I won’t be writing a children’s book called A Pride Flag for Papi any time soon — but he also no longer says hurtful things to me.
Coming out may never be everything you imagine, but living honestly can be its own reward.
This post was previously published on Your Other Dad Says.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Pexels