I came out to my parents. It isn't going well.
June 16, 2011 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I recently came out to my parents. How can I not let their opinions about my sexuality lower my self esteem and mess with my sex-drive?

It took me a long time not to feel like I was gross and perverted for being attracted to other women. I came out to my parents last week, and now every other conversation involves them telling me about how wrong and disgusting and gross they find my choices. They've also been saying that I'm only dating a woman and because I can't find a man, I shouldn't lower myself like that, I shouldn't be so desperate, they didn't raise me this way, and things along that line. They've also been making inappropriate comments about my sex life such as sarcastically asking, "So, what's it like to be with a woman?" and following up with a hateful comment like, "We all know she's a bull-dyke, don't try to pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about."

My parents and I have a strained relationship to begin with, so I thought their reaction wouldn't phase me. But now that it's starting to seem time for the girlfriend and I to have sex, it's difficult for me to think about it without thinking of my parents' comments and feeling down on myself. I've slept with women before and I never felt bad about it, but now that I'm out and they're commenting on it I feel uneasy. I think the open comments about my sex life bother me the most because we're not at all the type of family that talks about that and previously it remained unspoken. I feel so uncomfortable with how every time I go out with her they basically say "we know you're having sex with another woman and it's disgusting." I live with them and moving out isn't an option. I'm not doing anything like having sex in the house; I don't even have her over just to hang out.

Help? I want to go back to being happy I met someone I'm really into and excited about sexy things and I really, really don't want to go back to teenage-me who felt like she was the worst person in the world for liking other women.
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Confront them and tell them they're being assholes and that you want them to stop bullying you about something very private that you were unwise enough to trust them with. You've got to fight back. Trying to not let it bother you is doomed to failure and is just a recipe for depression and a ruined sex life. I can't believe they'd be such dicks about something so important.
posted by facetious at 7:52 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well, you're going to get a whole bunch of people telling you that you're freaking awesome for liking girls and working to have a sex life that turns you on. So, let me be the first.

As for dealing with your parents, I'd just answer them straight and coarse every time.

Them: "So, what's it like to be with a woman?"

You, with false confidence until it's real confidence: "Well, first off, it's a lot squishier than fucking a dude. Also, it's a lot more fluid. There's less of a drive to do some specific act and then go get some popcorn. So, you know, I'll eat her pussy for a little while, then she'll do me. Of course we usually finger each other while we're kissing; or at least play with it a little bit, you know? We also really like fisting. Wait, you don't know what fisting is? Here, I have some videos saved on my laptop. Lemme run and grab that and I'll show you."

They're making you uncomfortable. Fucking make them uncomfortable. Make their faces turn purple in embarrassment at the result of their questions.
posted by Netzapper at 7:54 PM on June 16, 2011 [26 favorites]

Yep, let me be #2 to congratulate you on being true to who you are.

I'm really sorry to hear that your parents are so ridiculously evil in this regard. I second Netzappers suggestion to just fire back at them. I might even suggest going a bit further and asking them how their sex life is. Pointedly.

I'd also seriously consider picking up some PFLAG materials and leaving them about the house.

Also - confide in your girlfriend. Don't make it her problem, but do let her know that this is going on.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:58 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Could you shed a little light on why moving out isn't an option? Because that would be a goal worth working towards.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

"I guess I shouldn't have trusted you to be in my life. Sucks to be you." and walk out. You apparently don't have parents, you have 11-year-olds who are older than you.
posted by notsnot at 8:01 PM on June 16, 2011 [37 favorites]

Congratulations on being an adult who is honest with herself. You are doing great and I wish you only the best. You should look for a job and a roommate and move out. Seriously. Sounds like you're an adult, and adults make choices to live civilized lives. You can do it. You need your own territory from which to deal with your parents, in your time, on your terms, until (if) they ever grow up.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2011

"When you make these kinds of comments, you are judging me. You are judging your daughter, who loves you, and it's wrong. My purpose in life is to be MYSELF, not who you want me to be. If you cannot love me for who I am, you have failed at being parents, and I will no longer tolerate abusive, hateful comments like the ones you've been making to me. I deserve to have parents who love me and will support me. Get over yourselves."

And stick to it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

PS: Congratulations on coming out. You are amazing and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:11 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you have other relatives who can run interference for you? A sibling or an aunt or something who will stand up for you, who could tell your parents that they support your choices?

I'm sorry that you feel gross. There's at least a possibility that after you've slept together the first time that will diminish, maybe - I'm sure there are all kinds of feelings cued to "first time with girlfriend as an out lesbian".

I sympathize with the "can't move out" part - sometimes I feel like the advice here is too much "save your money and get out, don't take money for college, it's your parents' house so you can't have sex there" etc etc when that's just not economic reality for many people, especially in this economy.

And wow, your parents are being so inappropriate. Have you just come back at them and said "Did your parents ask you about your sex lives?" Obviously they're being super hateful and homophobic, but also, bizarre and gross.

Also, do you have support from other queer women, especially older ones? Is there anyone you can talk to? Probably just wandering into a GLBTQI bookstore and talking to the woman at the counter would be possible, if you're desperate for advice and connection. Maybe your parents' power to make you feel gross would be weakened if you could talk more to women who have been being queer for a while and whose lives are fine and happy?

And also - sometimes it helps me to project into the future, like "in two years [or however long, even if it's a while] I will be out of here, this will just be a memory, they won't have the power to do this to me and I will live a happy life; I can tough it out to get to that point".
posted by Frowner at 8:11 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

"i don't need you to approve my choices, but i do request that you respect me. i find your comments hurtful and inappropriate. if i were dating a man you'd never discuss the intimate details just like i'd never ask how either of you are in bed. how can we move forward in a peaceful and respectful way?"

if they yell, or berate you, or call you gross -

"i'm sorry you feel that way and i understand that it's your opinion on the matter."

then get up an leave the room. i don't care if you're eating, watching your favorite show, whatever. refuse to stay in the room if they're being awful to you.

and, yeah, you need to move out. hopefully as you all grow out of parents/dependent child roles they will view you more as an adult.

as far as feeling sexy with your gal - listen to loud music and masturbate. remember the awesome times you've had with girls before. every time one of the shitty things your parents say pop back in your head, change the song, the wank material, everything, and start again. you have to create boundaries in all aspects of your life and your private masturbation fantasies are a great place to start.

also, does your girlfriend know what you're going through? you need a GBLT support system to just hang out with and have good, clean, gay fun with.
posted by nadawi at 8:13 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

"when that's just not economic reality for many people

i lived in an 1100 sq foot apartment with 13 people. it wasn't the best situation in the world, but it did allow me to spread my wings and learn so much about myself that i would have never learned in either of my parents' houses.

sometimes it means sacrificing a lot to move out, but you have to decide if you sacrifice more by staying or going. you can live on ramen. you can room with lots of people. you can get a job on a cruise ship in alaska. don't settle for being treated like shit in any of your relationships, especially the relationship from the people who are supposed to care for and support you.
posted by nadawi at 8:15 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

"What are you trying to accomplish when you say something so ugly to your own daughter? Do you think it will make me change my mind? Do you just want me out of your lives? I would like you to explain this."

Not really a solution, but at least it might make them think for a second.
posted by bunji at 8:20 PM on June 16, 2011 [15 favorites]

I second the calls to address your parents in a direct way but not to go out of your way to say things that will gratuitously offend them or make you look like you're losing your cool.

I understand it's tough to avoid just saying "Fuck you" and walking away, but (a) acting like the bigger person often makes people realized just how small they are and (b) the less ammunition you give their irrational behavior the shorter its duration will be (hopefully). I'm not suggesting that you compromise your identity, but I don't think explicit sex talk etc. is going to push them toward either quiet acceptance or real reconciliation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:23 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to hope that they're saying these awful things out of ignorance and rudeness rather than from hate. The first time, at least, I'd be milder about it: "You're my parents and I love you. So even if I didn't like something you were doing in your bedroom, I'd never say hurtful things that made you feel bad about yourself. Please don't do that to me, either."
posted by tyllwin at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Owch, that's hard. I would withdraw from them, not engage in conversation or anything after they say something even remotely negative. Spend time with your gf and friends who care about you, they are your real family. Either they will try to get closer to you because they miss you and they realize they love you no matter what, or they don't. It's their choice and their loss.
posted by Garm at 8:28 PM on June 16, 2011

I think the open comments about my sex life bother me the most because we're not at all the type of family that talks about that and previously it remained unspoken.

An alternative to the "dish it right back" approach is to take the high road, and quizzically note that you weren't raised to be so vulgar and coarse in your speech.
posted by desuetude at 8:36 PM on June 16, 2011 [20 favorites]

Oh, and as for sexytime, well, hell, rebellion is sexy. ;)
posted by desuetude at 8:38 PM on June 16, 2011

You mention the prior strain. I don't know what has happened in the past. But I think that seeing child-rearing go "wrong" is pretty upsetting from a parent's perspective and you could try to be a nicer person to them now than you may have been before. I'm sure they would really appreciate seeing your true character right now and it might allay this situation a great deal.

As far as your sex drive, you might have to accept that growing up isn't all upsides, at least immediately, but you would probably benefit in that area from meditating, exercising and other things that will relax you.
posted by michaelh at 8:38 PM on June 16, 2011

Nthing the comments to calmly ask them to respect you and your decision to come out.

And congratulations on having the courage to come out to them! I know you feel awful and judged right now (who wouldn't?) but please have confidence that this was the best decision in the long run. You got up the nerve, took the plunge and now the worst is over. You don't have to deal with the anxiety of hiding it from them or wondering what their reaction will be. The unknown is scary, now at least you know and you can move on from here.
posted by radioamy at 8:41 PM on June 16, 2011

"we know you're having sex with another woman and it's disgusting."

"I know mom's having sex with you. We're even."
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 PM on June 16, 2011 [15 favorites]

Conveniently enough, there is an entire organization devoted to helping them through their feelings about this - it's not your job. Point them to PFLAG, see if there's a local chapter where they can talk to people in person, and let you know that you recognize that this is challenging for them but that you look forward to having a loving and non-judgmental future relationship with them as they work through their feelings about your perfectly reasonable life choices.
posted by judith at 9:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Eww! I don't want to talk about sex with my own parents! I cannot believe you guys actually brought that up! Gross!"

"Well we think it's gross that you and another woman will--"

"Dad. Dad. You are seriously going to make me vomit. There is no way I am going to talk about what kind of sex I do or don't have with my own parents. I don't ask about you and mom, yuck!"

"But with your mother and I it is natural, as she is a woman and I--"

"Ack! Seriously now I am picturing things! Gross!!!!!!!!!" *run away*

They are the gross ones for trying to have this unnatural, disgusting conversation. You and the wonderful things you do in privacy with other women are beautiful. Have fun!
posted by salvia at 9:18 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

"You raised me to treat people with more respect than this. I'm disappointed in you."

(congratulations on coming out! you are awesome and i would very much like to high-five you.)
posted by palomar at 9:31 PM on June 16, 2011 [15 favorites]

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

"This conversation is over. I won't bother to discuss this until you can support and respect me." Calm and unruffled. And you walk.
posted by itstheclamsname at 9:39 PM on June 16, 2011 [23 favorites]

Palomar's got it. Be the adult they're both incapable of being. if they get more insistent, explain that you forgive them their immaturity, but won't discuss it any further.

Get out of there as soon as you can. Be in a healthy place. And congrats on your strength.
posted by anildash at 10:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You do realize your parents are being verbally abusive toward you, right? I mean, this is not just them saying honestly that they disapprove of your relationship with your partner because of religious or cultural reasons. This is them trash talking totally inappropriately about your intimate life and saying nasty and hurtful things about you and someone else you care about to try to make you hate yourself for an aspect of your being you have no control over and humiliate you, an adult, into subservience to their ideas on what type of person you should love. Not cool.

It's not your fault-- it's theirs-- and there is nothing wrong with you. You didn't choose to be queer; your parents are choosing to be assholes about it. If you really, really, really can't move then I would suggest, as others have, trying to shut their behavior down with high road comments about how you would not bring up their sex lives etc., and spending as little time as possible at home. Do something free or cheap and time-consuming in the evenings that your parents can't logically object to. Volunteer. Take a pottery class. Get a part-time job. Join a knitting club. Take up bowling. Bonus points if your sweetie can join you in whatever you use to fill your time.

Above all, do not let their toxicity destroy your sense of self-worth. Remember: it is not your fault that they are acting this way toward you. They are making the choice to ruin their relationship with you. Let them hurt themselves by ruining their relationship with their daughter if they insist upon it, but try your damnedest not to let them hurt you by making you think you are unworthy of love. You are worthy.

One day you will escape their house. I hope that day will come soon.
posted by BlueJae at 10:43 PM on June 16, 2011 [17 favorites]

itstheclamsname: "Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

"This conversation is over. I won't bother to discuss this until you can support and respect me." Calm and unruffled. And you walk.

I was just about to say pretty much this. If your parents are being disrespectful to you, politely say "Mom/Dad, this is who I am. Please respect that. When you say (what they just said) to me, it hurts. I don't want to fight." And walk. the fuck. away. Walk figuratively, or literally just walk out of their presence.

Make this a mantra: this is THEIR problem, not YOUR problem. If you walk, if you cut contact, make sure to leave the door open for them to contact you, but make fucking sure that they treat you with the respect you deserve.

The ball's in their court. You're at the other end, waiting to play, but they have to come around to you, not the other way around. And you know what? They probably will. Give them time. That's the job you have--to be patient. They probably spent two decades wondering about your kids/their grandkids and all that. Give them some time to mourn that loss (however unfair that may seem, those are wishes they had every right to have).
posted by zardoz at 10:51 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thirding itstheclamsname. I have boundary issues with my mom. Totally different topic, but it was affecting areas of my life I didn't even realize before I finally had enough and set some ground rules. In my case, it meant no talking about food, nutrition, diet, my clothes or going shopping together. She can't stop herself from making unintentionally cruel comments about my appearance, so I'm stopping it for her. At first she protested, and every once and a while she tests the limits to see if I"m still serious, but it has allowed us to have a relationship without reactivating all the issues I spent time in therapy working though.

I know this is way smaller than what you're going through, but I wanted to provide a "it worked for me" case for the idea of setting up guidelines for acceptable behavior. I'm sure she wouldn't treat a stranger in that manner, and you deserve more than that as her child. Once she learns what is and is not allowed, she'll be the one to make choices about how she's willing to behave and what she might give up for her prejudices. She's the one who is in the wrong, don't let anybody (even your own self-doubt) convince you otherwise.
posted by gilsonal at 12:00 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

You've had lots of great answers about how to respond to your parents and about moving out, but your question was how to keep your self-esteem intact in this situation.

Make sure you are spending as much time as possible around gay-positive people and media, to prevent feelings of isolation and to build up your certainty that you are fine being who you are. Talk through your feelings about your parents with a counsellor or friend, to help you deal with the emotions that this must be creating, when the people who raised you have turned on you. Find some affirmations that help you and use them when necessary, such as turning shame for yourself into pity for your hurt and ignorant parents. (I also like 'Let no one live rent-free inside my head'.) Try to create geographic boundaries, deciding that your parents' hate applies only on their property, but as you step outside it, it fades away and falls from your shoulders, leaving you free to dissolve into a squishy puddle when you see your girlfriend. Don't worry if you start hearing your parents' criticisms during sex, just decide whether you want to listen or whether you'd rather focus on whatever you are doing to each other. There's nothing like hormones and lust to drive away all other thoughts - that's why teenagers get pregnant! When it's over, focus on your girlfriend and skip home feeling like the sexiest woman on earth, pausing only to put your armour back on before stepping back onto their turf.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:58 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

You deal by ignoring them and starting to work on your plan to move out. A second job would help you ignore them and save money to escape too.
posted by yarly at 6:06 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Treat them the way you would any random person who asks you these questions. You can be snarky right back ("well, how do YOU have sex?"), you can overshare, you can ignore them until they change the subject, you can freak out about it "eww you're asking me about my SEX LIFE and you're my PARENTS"... I personally encourage you to deflect or change the subject. I doubt overshare or snark is going to get you very far with parents who are attempting to bully you out of your sexuality.

Oh and I suggest asking your girlfriend to encourage you when it comes to sex more so than usual. If she's saying "you're hot, you're awesome", it might be easier to switch off that voice that's quoting your parents. Coming out is always rough, do give yourself some time to recover from the horrendous behaviour your parents are exhibiting! A week is a rather quick turnaround to expect.

PS: You're awesome and your parents are jerks. Be kind to yourself and make sure you take care of yourself.
posted by buteo at 1:45 PM on June 17, 2011

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