“Your Life’s Going to Get a Lot Harder”

I came out to my parents just months after I came out to myself, and on the whole it went as well as I could expect. We hugged at the end of the conversation, etc. One of the few things my dad said to me was that he was worried that my life was going to get a lot harder now.

(This despite the fact that I was a PhD student in a humanities department, which is like one rung below Bathhouse Custodian on the ladder of Easy, Accepting Places For Gay Folks.)

I’ve heard variations on the phrase in the coming-out stories of many friends and students. And I wanted to write a little PSA about the idea, because it’s got some very tricky problems.

I imagine the idea comes from love. Your child has just presented themselves as different in a fundamental way, as identifying differently not just from you, the straight person who raised them, but from the majority of the culture you had up to now numbered your kid among. It is easier to be part of the majority than it is to be part of the minority, because the majority has all kinds of perks built-in to the culture (the culture they got to build) that make things easier for them. The lack of a tradition of beating and sometimes killing men and women for holding hands in public, say. We decided as a culture not to do that, so straight people have a fundamentally easier time in many places being who they are.

I am now worried that the world is going to hurt you, physically or otherwise. This is not a good thing for a newly gay kid to hear at this very scary and vulnerable moment. First, they have for sure thought this a million times. It has in fact been a chief obstacle keeping them in the closet as long as they have been. That your kid is coming out to you now means that they have overcome this obstacle, or have found a way to fight it, or have refused to let it beat them. Your worry, though real, is an untimely reminder of what they already know and feel.

Also, it’s wrong. Life does not become more difficult for the newly out, it becomes easier. Nine million times easier. Take my word for it: the burden of the closet is painful, heavy. Sickening in an ill-making way. I probably shouldn’t speak for whole swaths of people here, but I can say that lying to myself and others about who I wanted to sleep with so that people would accept me was so much harder than being honest with everyone and handling whatever grief I might get for it.

An out person is a person made stronger by self-acceptance and self-knowing. That strength makes up so much of what they’ll need to handle whatever life throws at them now.

So reconsider your worry. It is real and comes from a good place, but it sends a message that we’ve made some sort of mistake here, or some poor choice with bad consequences, when the opposite is always, always true.

One thought on ““Your Life’s Going to Get a Lot Harder””

  1. I’m very thankful for paragraphs six and seven of this, not just because of the encouragement they give to those thinking of coming out, but also because of the new insight they gave me as a straight person who’s never had to face that choice.

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