Live your truth.
Recently I started a Series of 10 tips for GLBT Folks to Deal with Friends and Family. Tip # 1 stresses the importance of giving your friends and family the opportunity to accept you. This is speaking directly to the concept of sharing who you are - and revealing your truth. Today's tip, closely related to Tip #1, encourages you to take one step further by living your truth.
To reveal your truth is an event - to live your truth is a process. Living our truth - regardless of the subject of our truth, can be difficult because there is ongoing risk involved. When you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, everyday brings new opportunities to live your truth. Should I sign my nephews card from both of us or just me? Am I going to leave my partner for a week to attend our annual family vacation with my siblings and their spouses, or do I tell my family I am not going if my partner isn't welcome? Do I mention to mom that I just got back from electrolysis? When I call the electrician to fix our light, do I tell him or her that I won't be there but "my partner" will, or do I just say "my roommate" will be there?
Sometimes family and friends are uncomfortable with the truth, and to cope, they simply deny what you have told them. - Even when it's been told directly to them, or even when all of the facts lead to the same conclusion, denial can be a strong coping response for any painful issue. How we respond to their denial, or other response such as rejection, determines whether or not we are living our truth. When we give our friends and family the opportunity to accept us and they opt to either reject us or deny that we have shared this information at all, we are faced with a new set of choices about how to proceed from there.
Ten years ago a woman, I'll call Jen, came out to her family. Her family was upset and very shaken by this news, and clearly disappointed that Jen is a lesbian. It was a year before Jen met someone. After dating a couple of months, Jen asked Sarah to move in with her. So they set up house, and started a life together. When Christmas rolled around Jen asked her family if she could bring Sarah along to their annual celebration. Her family responded with, "No, we'd like to keep our family holidays to just family."
Having told her family that she was a lesbian, and knowing how upset they were, Jen was not surprised by their reaction. Still she was hurt by their rejection of her partner, whom her family referred to as a "roommate" or "friend." Jen responded by attending their usual Christmas celebration without Sarah, whom spent the day alone because her own family had rejected her years ago for being gay, and no longer spoke to her.
Jen's family took vacations, had gatherings, and many other opportunities to get together over the years, none of which Sarah was included. After a decade of this, Sarah grew weary with their relationship, feeling like she was not a priority, and tired of being abandoned so that Jen could repeatedly accommodate her family at the cost of their relationship. Jen had convinced herself that she owed it to her family to not continue to cause them any MORE pain - after all, isn't she disappointing them enough just by being gay?
When Sarah left, Jen was broken hearted and decided to confide in her sister about how upset she was about Sarah moving out and her sister responded by saying, "don't let it get you down, you will find another roommate to share expenses with." To which this Jen said, "What? You know I am gay, don't you?" And her sister replied with, "You didn't tell her that, did you? Maybe that's why she's moving out!"
While she gave her family an opportunity to know and accept who she is, Jen stopped living her truth when she discovered that they were not going to take her up on the invitation to accept her. Her family quickly went into denial - moving forward as if she had never revealed this information at all. While this was a disappointing response, she had the choice to live her truth at that point, or to accommodate her family's comfort level. Because they were uncomfortable, she never brought her partner around. Her family was never challenged to see her truth in action.
Your truth doesn't stop existing just because someone else is unable, or unwilling, to accept it. Living your truth does not require that you "come out" to your parents. Sometimes living your truth is about just not lying or deceiving. It's about being direct and honest about what you are doing and who you are spending time with, about with whom you live, and with whom you are friends. If this information causes your family to suspect you are gay or lesbian, then they have the opportunity to inquire directly, or to continue denying. And you can continue living with integrity and truth.
Avoid confusing them with messages that you are dating members of the other sex, if you are not, or switching pronouns to suggest that your partner of the same sex is actually of the other sex. Whether or not you ever plan to tell your loved ones directly that you are gay or lesbian or transgender, be as truthful about the rest of your life as you can.
Revealing our truth is step one, living it is step two.