Being Out in an Unaccepting Family

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In a therapists’ group I belong to, someone asked what to say to a teenager who had recently come out to their family, but the family was unable to accept the information. I can only speak for myself:

The world is a tough place. It would be nice if we all “got it” that everyone is just trying to get through their day and feel love and support, and wouldn’t it be nice if we all provided that love and support to one another? But it’s not so. For most people, you can turn a blind eye and walk away. but for some people, you have to learn to work within their system. For a teenager, living at home, this is certainly the case. It’s unfortunate that the parents don’t understand that being heterosexual is not the default for everyone, but it just isn’t; we get what we get, and that’s fine. It would be nice to hear “that’s fine” from everyone, but they won’t all say that, because they don’t get it. Trying to change everyone’s mind, or educate everyone is an option. It’s an exhaustive option that will likely be life-long. It’s also likely to lead to a number of arguments with the family that may make living at home less tolerable, and may even end up in being kicked out, as it has for many people who came before you. Another option is to shrug and allow those ignorant people to believe whatever they like, and to go about your life. This option requires less effort on the part of the teenager, and does not challenge the belief structure of the family at this stage of life.

Just because you are not “raising a fuss”, you still need to work with the teen on how to interact with intolerant people. Someone’s reaction of you is about them and not about you. Certainly loads of people need this skill in the face of racism, hated, prejudice over disability and all sorts of things, not just sexuality. Sometimes people will reject you for who you are and you can still have love for them, but it may change how you view them or interact with them, and that can be managed.

I would say, “Look, you didn’t choose this trait any more than you choose your shoe size. And your parents don’t get it. I hope someday they do, but today isn’t that day. So let’s change the way you’re interacting so that you can work with the system that exists.”

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on TwitterFacebook, and Google+. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.

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