A challenge that often goes unnoticed for LGBTQ+ people? Navigating the often stressful parts of coming out to friends, family, peers and strangers. It’s something that heterosexual people never need to put much thought into in day-to-day interactions, which can often mean even the most loving allies in our circles don’t always get the anxiety that comes with it.
A dad on Reddit had to have his come-to-Jesus moment about his LGBTQ+ daughter when he asked Reddit’s infamous r/AITA subreddit whether he was wrong for telling his daughter “she can’t expect [him] to do the hard things for her just because she doesn’t want to do them.” Now this type of response feels natural when it comes to things like making doctors appointments, turning down family or work obligations or navigating adult conflicts that are low-stakes — but Reddit did take issue as the daughter was trying to get her dad’s thoughts on whether his half-brother (who he recently connected with) was a safe person to mention that part of her identity around.
His daughter, he says, is excited by the idea of connecting with new relatives and getting to know them but they already encountered them assuming she was heterosexual and it left her with some additional questions.
“We’ve met up a few times and it’s always gone well. Everyone gets along with each other. At dinner a little while ago, James joked that Eva’s ‘boyfriends’ would have to answer to me, her uncle, and her male cousins if they broke her heart. Eva just laughed a little and said that she wasn’t concerned about boys so they wouldn’t have to worry about that,” the OP wrote. “Later when they were gone, she asked me if I knew how James and his family felt about the LGBTQ community. I told her that I wasn’t sure because it had never come up, so then she asked me if I could find out for her. I said that she should just talk to them about it directly since she was the one with the question, but then she said that she didn’t want to ask because she didn’t know James as well as I did and it would probably be easier for me to bring it up instead.”
If you’ve never had to come out, that can maybe feel like an unnecessary ask — which is what the OP said was his initial reaction.
“I ended up telling her that she can’t expect me to do hard things for her just because she doesn’t want to do them, and if she wants to tell my brother/his family that she’s gay or even find out their opinions on LGBTQ people, then she should do that herself,” he wrote. “I thought she had let it go, but she’s been giving me the cold shoulder for a bit.”
His ex-wife and daughter both tried to express that the ask was less about not wanting the discomfort of coming out and more about wanting to know (via someone she felt safe with) whether it was safe to be herself around these new family members.
And several redditors were quick to give him the DL on why helping his daughter with this wouldn’t in any way be enabling her to avoid something hard — it would be assisting her in staying safe and feeling secure.
“My mother forcibly outed me to my uncle knowing his thoughts and insisting it would go fine. It didn’t go fine. OP needs to understand this isn’t a ‘hard thing’ it is a safety thing,” user r/seliphra said. “Queer people are in real danger from homophobes, and OP’s family could genuinely become violent. Not necessarily in front of OP either. It is absolutely critical that OP be the one to sniff this out and subtly, to protect this child.”
Another poster r/BottomWithCakes added, wisely, that coming out isn’t just a simple one-time thing — it happens over and over again in an LGBTQ+ person’s life. Not only that, but each time it calls for vulnerability and care, requiring an individual think clearly and carefully (if they are able to) about whether it’s actually a safe move before opening up about something so intimate.
“They’ve never experienced seeing the switch flip on someone’s face when they find out and they’re homophobic. You can, so often, see it in their expression, hear it in the next words they say to you. It’s a privilege they don’t even realize they enjoy. Gay people don’t just “come out” and that’s the end. Every single new person you meet for the rest of your life is a new risk assessment. A whole new coming out. A new decision on whether you should even do it. A new finding the right moment, a new decision on how to do it.”
Thankfully it does seem that this story ends happily with this father learning and understanding what his daughter was actually asking him to do.
“I love my daughter, and I’m proud of her. Even in wanting her to find out about my brother’s views on her own, I never would have left her to handle that without me at least in the room,” he said. “Reading the comments, I realize that I wasn’t teaching her how to be independent and do things on her own, I was likely making her feel completely unsupported. I saw this as a facing her anxieties thing, instead of truly thinking about it as a safety issue. I should have tried to see it from her point of view, I recognize that, and I will do more to learn in the future. I’m going to apologize to her, and ask how she wants to go about this.”
Here’s hoping it goes well and that this is the beginning of a new trusting and communicative phase of their relationship!
Before you go, check out the mental health apps we’re obsessed with for giving our brains a little extra TLC:
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