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Coming Out to My Kids and How It Changed My Parenting

I think I was born a perfectionist. I’ve spent my life trying to do things right. So when it came to parenting, I was all in and ready to give 110%. I read all the books and took all the advice. I was determined to be a great parent.

And from a certain point of view, I suppose I was. 

As a straight, Christian mom, the primary goal of my parenting was to help my children develop their own personal faith — a faith they wouldn’t abandon when they left home. This involved guiding my children’s thinking and opinions, taking them to church twice a week, doing Bible devotionals at home — although admittedly I wasn’t great at this one, and making sure they were well-behaved.

My biggest fear was messing up as a mom. I wanted to do everything perfectly. I was taught that my entire life’s purpose was to raise Christian children. And if I messed it up, I was putting not only my own salvation at risk, but my kids’ salvation as well. Mix that belief system with a dash or perfectionism, and you end up with a mom obsessed with doing everything right. 

I believed the Bible verse that says, "train a child in the way they should go and in the end they will not turn from it." So I took my kids to church no matter how tired I was, even in the years after I became a single mom. I based my entire parenting philosophy on bringing them up with Christian beliefs so that when they were older they wouldn't stray from the faith like so many do.

These same deeply held beliefs — intermingled with my intense fear of regret — kept me in the closet for 50 years. I believed you couldn't be both gay and Christian. And somewhere in my subconscious, in the deep shadows of my mind, I decided that avoiding hell was worth the cost of ignoring my inner voice.

The bible told me to "deny myself". And those same words were preached from the pulpit over and over again in the churches I attended. So that's exactly what I did. Any time the truth of my sexuality started to bubble to the surface, I'd shove it down and Christian harder. Until the day finally came when I couldn't ignore it anymore. It was January 2021, my holy shit I'm a lesbian day.

I had spent the pandemic inching away from my long-held religious beliefs. I saw what was happening in the world and I wasn't on board with the standard evangelical Christian response. And as I dared to ask the questions I'vd avoided my whole life, a small queer light started to dawn in my soul. And finally, I couldn't ignore it anymore.

Oddly, I wasn't upset. Or scared. I think I was ready to see the truth. I felt relief and overwhelming queer joy — literally dancing around my apartment the night I finally stopped hiding from myself. I felt free at last.

But oh my god. What about my kids?

My kids had watched me change and grow during the pandemic, and even for a couple of years before that. I’d loosened my grip on the religious bigotry that plagues so many Christians. We’d talked about their queer friends. And I was angry at the way they were almost universally treated by their religious parents.

But after spending 20 years teaching my kids that following the Bible was all that mattered, I wasn’t sure how they’d respond to finding out that their mom is a lesbian.

We all sat in a circle the day I told my kids my truth. I don't know that I've ever been that nervous. I knew they weren't homophobic. They all had gay friends after all. But would that kindness and understanding extend to a mom who had raised them with Christian values?

At first I could only stare at them, the words stuck in my throat. But finally I clumsily spit out three of the hardest words I’ve ever uttered to them:

"I'm a lesbian." 

And that was the moment when everything changed, not just for me but for my whole family.

After about ten seconds of silence, one of my daughters asked, “well, should we all come out now?”

And my kids went around the circle, one at a time, and came out to me too. Almost every one of them are queer. When I sat down in that circle, palms sweating and heart pounding, I thought I was going to shock them. I couldn't have been more wrong. They weren’t shocked. They were relieved.

I imagine every queer kid feels nervous about coming out to their parents, even if they know their parents are affirming. But I was a Christian. Yes, I accepted their queer friends. Yes, I got angry when I found out their parents didn’t. But still. 

One of my kids — a fellow perfectionist — had been struggling, trying to figure out how to come out to me. But that night I opened the door and made it easy. They didn’t have to plan. They didn’t have to find just the right moment. When I admitted my truth, I showed them it was safe for them to do the same. 

My perfectionistic kid spent that entire evening bounding around the house with a huge grin on their face. "Can I tell my friends?", they asked. They weren’t just happy. They weren’t just relieved. They were proud. Proud of having a mom who was willing to push through her indoctrination and come to terms with her truth and then share it openly. And yes, I let them tell all their friends.

That night represented a monumental shift in my little family. Coming out to my kids opened doors I didn't even realize were shut. 

We talk about everything now. No topic is off limits. The day I came out to them, our whole family dynamic shifted. I hadn’t realized that before that night, they felt they had to live up to some nebulous ideal they thought I expected. And when they fell short, they hid and pretended. 

I never want my kids to hide from me. I never want them to worry that I’m disappointed in them. As I’ve broken free of my religious belief system that says “this is good” and “this is bad”, I’ve done all I can to make sure my kids know that I just want them to be happy, kind humans who live in alignment with their identities.

I hadn't realized the pressure my religion had been putting on them. In my effort to raise them to be good Chrsitians, I'd been forcing them into the same closet I’d lived in for most of my life.

And it wasn't just their sexuality they felt compelled to hide. They were afraid of letting me down. So they didn't share their deepest thoughts. They didn't ask their questions or voice their doubts.

But that's all changed.

Coming out to my kids, scary as it was, became the moment of revolution in all our lives. Together we've started to question all the systems and prejudices we see in our culture. We talk about racism, politics, and social justice. And our home has become a safe place to deconstruct our religious beliefs.

Five-years-ago me would have been horrified by what's happening in my family now. I would have seen the abandonment of our beliefs and all the queerness in my home as the ultimate parenting fail. But now I see it for what it is. 

My kids are finally free. And so am I.


Written by an anonymous member of our community




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