Navigation Bar Blue

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Coming Out To My Mother

It's taken me a while to write this post due to the complicated emotions I didn't want to thread through. About two weeks ago, I finally did something I never thought I'd do in my entire life, which is telling my mother that I'm gay. I have been contemplating this move for a very very long time due to the major impact it will have on everything and the life changing aspects it will bring. Movies, blogs and real-life stories have all shown that coming out to homophobic parents before achieving stability and independence is not a wise move to temper with. 

Being abroad has not only given me the space I needed to grow, but also the distance I needed to carefully question my readiness and consider the possibility of being honest. For the past year, I've been in a deep emotional black hole due to the many issues that came simultaneously if not consecutively. This also includes me recently coming to terms with myself. All that I was going through and the thought of wanting to be honest with my family has been eating me from the inside.

Throughout our intercontinental phone conversations, I have been dropping subtle hints over the course of the past few months. I told my mother that apart from the many problems that were depressing me, I was struggling with something else on my own that I just wasn't ready to tell her. That sentence obviously spurred a string of incessant guesses from the concerned parent, in which I calmly denied on a few occasions when it hit the bull's eye. However, there came a point where I would intentionally allow a long uncomfortable silence to fill in the correct guesses as I thought this strategy of gradual hinting would yield the anticipated suspicion on her part, thus one day lessening the shock and cushioning off the blow should I decide to come out.

My mother has always been my main concern. I imagined every worse case scenario if I'd came out to her, from her slapping me and throwing me out of the house, to the possibility of her endangering her own life due to the inability to accept. Therefore in the spirit of not wanting to cause her pain, I never gave in to my vulnerability and firmly swallowed my urge to speak out. However at this point, I had a selfish choice to make because I didn't see how I could move on with my life knowing that my next of kin was somewhat of an estranged stranger who didn't understand me for who I am. Coming-out to my family would not only help me face and better accept my sexuality, but would also help prepare them for the possibility of one day sharing my life with Matt Bomer a nice guy. Hence, despite the months of awkward built-up and subject avoidance, the final blow happened over the course of 3 days. It began with her casually working her way into the conversation while talking one afternoon.

She: [casually]
"Are you in a gay relationship?"

Me: [smile]
"Huh? Okay, I don't understand Mom." 
"Why do you keep asking me that?!"

"Remember when you told me how you couldn't tell me about 'a certain problem' for it might get in the way of the two of us?" 
"I had two sure-fire guesses after much thought and I think I may be right."
"One, either you became a religiously obsessive convert. Or two, you are involved in a gay relationship."

Me: [looks at her blankly]

"Hmm I don't know... I was looking for something the other day near the drawer and I saw condoms in your toiletry bag."
"And on another occasion while you were showering upstairs, I was walking past your laptop and I happened to steal a glance out of curiosity, and there was this draft on the screen about some gay bar or gay sauna that you went to..."
"I was reading some lines of it and then I got scared so I stopped immediately."

Me: [In My Head]
Huh? Wait a second... What's going oon...
Oh my god. Fucking shit! 
Noo way, she didn't...
What the fuck! She knows!

And the draft for my blog...!
How could I have been so careless?! 
Aargh, so much for privacy!

"So are you in a gay relationship?"

Me: [sighed calmly]
"No Mom. I'm not in a gay relationship..."
"But... ..." 
"I wish I was though..." (Took a risk there!)

"What?! You wish you were...?"
"You know very well that I wouldn't support that right?"

Me: [calmly looking at her in the eye]

"Well, I don't know what's going on. I won't support it... but I'm just gonna leave you alone." 
"Whatever it is, just make sure that that's what you really want!"

Feeling awkward, I pretended like the whole conversation never happened and casually walked out to the outdoor deck. While sitting alone on the bench, I couldn't understand why I started smiling uncontrollably which was slowly turning into a silent giggle. Was I feeling embarrassingly awkward for being busted? Or was I to a certain extend happy with the fact that she now "roughly" knows? Apparently that night without my knowing, she privately broke down in front of my 19 year old brother at the thought of me being gay. Although I find it hard to believe that they didn't see this coming, but he ended up consoling my mother that everything will be okay and that he wouldn't judge me.

Growing up in a conservative society where the lack of awareness and understanding has catapulted gay people into a very negative image, my mother thinks that being gay is a trend. A trait that commonly manifests itself among effeminate men and transsexuals, particularly in the fashion and hair dressing industries. These are without a doubt shallow ignorant perceptions that stem from stereotypical association. I feel that it's now my responsibility to educate and convince her how homosexuality really works in order to dispel all forms of homophobia and preconceived notions of being gay. Coming out when I'm still unattached would also further reinforce the genuineness of my case.

Fast forward to the following night, I found myself sitting on the couch next to hers. This time, no stuttering, no anxiety attack, no nervous shaking. In fact, I felt extremely calm and was definitely in the right state of mind to open up. We were talking and just before I knew it, the words "I'm struggling with my sexuality" conveniently flowed out of my mouth.

"What do you mean by 'struggling' with your sexuality?"

"Well... Initially I wasn't sure about my sexual identity, but now I think I know. I'm gay."

She: [watery eyes]
"What... you're gay?" 
"How can you be gay?!"

"I am gay because I am sexually attracted to guys."  

Although it was nice to finally get it out, but it truly felt like the opening of Pandora's Box as I didn't know if that would have been my biggest regret in life. I proceeded to tell her about my conversation with R, and explained that this is no longer just about me any more, but other people too. I told her that my journey has been hard and that even until this very day, I still couldn't accept that "being gay" has happened to me, although I'm trying. I understand now why it took me so long to reach this point because previously, I just wasn't mature enough to handle it. But now I am. Above all, I also had to reassure her that nothing's going to change as being gay is just a subset of me and will not define who I am in life. I am a real person first before my sexuality. However, the hurt she was feeling was obviously making her impervious to everything I was saying.

"How long have you known? When did you first discover this?"

"Right around 14... That was when I started looking at guys differently and kept everything to myself because I was afraid of this unexplainable feeling."
"I thought it was just a phase but without realising, time passed and I grew up struggling with it for almost 10 years now." 
"Imagine suppressing yourself for almost a decade! It's not easy."

"How could you have kept this from me?"
"We could have gotten professional help if you brought this up earlier." 
"I've read articles of people who go through this and successfully got out of it after therapy."

Me: [shakes head]
"You mean straight camp?"
"Nope Mom. You don't understand! It doesn't work that way."
"You can't change biology." 
"It's not possible to alter a person's sexuality. It's not a sickness to be cured."

My mother has obviously fallen victim to ignorance, fear and the lack of exposure. Like a wise man, I therefore had to spend the next hour patiently laying every brick of insight that would form the foundation to her understanding while killing off every underlying misconception. The discussion then came to a point of frustration...

"Mom, just take a moment and look at me." 
"Look at me in the eye and imagine yourself in my position, in my shoes." 
"How do you think I feel? THINK! About how I'm feeling..."
"Do you think I like being this way? Why the fuck would I choose a difficult life like this for myself?"
"Look I know you're hurt, but at the end of the day, I am the unfortunate one who has to go through this and it sucks!"

"Oh why is this happening to me? Why my son?! I feel so hurt... I can't support it."
"What do you want me to do by telling me?" 
"You have already decided you didn't want help."

"Look Mom, I am not asking for your support because that wouldn't be fair on your part, but rather your compassionate understanding of the situation... MY situation."

The next few days were hard for us, for me in particular because I felt horribly worthless after having triggered this tsunami of sorrow. Everyday, I felt so ashamed of myself and wanted to disappear from life. I remember staying in bed all day and hoped that by constantly falling asleep from exhaustive thinking will make it all go away. During those moments, I really wished that I could exist as another person but not me. I wanted a reset button for my life as I thought about what it genuinely felt like to be an outsider looking at myself and feeling lucky for themselves that they're not the one plagued with such sorrow and the burden of being gay during their lifetime.

But nevertheless, I'm going to acknowledge that I have been given this life, and therefore will have to carry it right through till the day I die, regardless of the circumstances. It is at moments like these that I really miss being a kid, where constant naiveness and innocence fuels your eternal optimism and shields you from growing into your own problems. 

Thankfully in the end, my faith and instincts proved me right as my mother softened and came around after a few days, even while it was hard for her to accept. With reason being that she loves me too much and that her heart aches in the wake of the challenging journey and emotional hardship I'm actually going through.

"I am really sorry if I hurt you in the middle of everything. It's really hard to accept and it will take some time. But just remember that I didn't mean to hurt you or make you unhappy."

As I reflect on the tough week, I am proud of the courage I've shown and the milestone I've reached in 6 months. I certainly took a very dangerous risk by coming-out to my family without knowing if it will all be okay, but faith and determination certainly kept me going. The outcome could have turned out much worse, which is the reason why I am currently grateful for the comforting conclusion that materialised. Never would I have imagined myself writing this post so early at this stage as I expected it all to come much later. But at least now, it's a huge load taken off my chest and I can let the passage of time do its job.