Eric Marcus

What Do I Tell My Mother? Part 2

Filed By Eric Marcus | September 07, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual, coming out of the closet, GLBT, PFLAG, what if someone I know is gay

Last week, in Part 1 of my correspondence with the young woman who was about to leave for college I asked a few questions regarding her mother. Below is the young woman's response, as well as the rest of our recent correspondence.

I'm so impressed with how thoughtful this young woman is and, as always, moved by how young people continue to struggle with and overcome their fears about how to live their lives honestly and openly.

Thanks a million for the email, Eric. Seeing your name in my inbox practically made my laugh skip a beat.

While your advice is practical and down-to-earth, I figured I may as well answer your question. Probably when I'm finished ranting, it'll sound like I'm full of excuses.

I used to be a lot closer to my mother when I was younger. There was one point when I felt like I could receive all my answers from her. But one day, I guess my philosophy developed differently. I've accepted that children grow in their own ideals and hopes, but there was a time where my relationship with mom was thunderous, or at least strenuous. I used to live for her approval. Now, I don't as much, but my greatest wish is to break from her protective bubble. I was relieved when I admitted to myself that I liked girls a lot, but then I became terrified.

Earlier today, I called the GLBT Toll free hot line. Of course, I was home alone, so my answers felt more real. To some degree, I still don't want to disappoint my mother, but I'm tired of pretending I'm a firm heterosexual. I talked to her hypothetically the night before about sexuality, and her reaction broke me. So I know right now, she's not ready for my discovery. On the other hand, if I do wait too long, she'll feel hurt and betrayed. I know she wants the best for me, but I actually feel like I'm finally admitting something I've suppressed for years.

Hence, the pickle (o terrible cliché). To be honest, I'm nervous about talking to my peers about it. I spent five weeks on campus [during orientation], and my last night there was spent talking to one of the counselors under the stars. I had some vague feeling that he was gay (intuition), and I was shocked to know I was right. But more than that, he felt like the most understanding of the group, so I came out to him. I still see that evening as hope.

The only reason I'm afraid of telling my mother is because of her expressed views on gays. I don't know about bisexuals, but I have a bad feeling... and I can't bring myself to ask.

It's like I told my friend, I can't see everything as black and white anymore. I mean, my colorblind view was broken when one of my first friends asked me if I was white (worst day of my life). It's all shades of gray.

But thank you, thank, thank you, thank you, thank you----

I know I'm not alone. It's just that I don't know where I should start. I'm overwhelmed with excitement for the future.

If my mother wasn't home, I'd be in tears of happiness. I'm almost free.

Best wishes,

College Bound and Bi

Dear College Bound,

You've already started! You've called the GLBT hotline. You came out to one of the counselors at school. And it sounds like you've already talked to some of your friends.

As far as your mother goes, you've been speaking with her generally, not about yourself. And what you've learned is that she's going to have to make some adjustments in how she thinks about sexuality. But you can't assume that once she knows that she's talking about her daughter and not some hypothetical that she won't come around. As my late mother used to say (she became an expert on gay issues and was very involved with PFLAG), if we don't give our parents the chance to change, they can't change. So at some point you'll need to talk to your mother.

But that can wait. I suggest talking to that very nice counselor once you get to school about how to deal with your mom. And you should think about contacting a local chapter of PFLAG, going to a meeting, and asking for advice on how to talk to your mom. The PFLAG parents are wonderfully embracing. You could also call and just ask to talk by phone to one of the parents for advice.

One step at a time. There's no rush with any of this. You're at a very exciting and scary moment in your life. How could you not be anxious and nervous and happy all rolled into one? Good luck at school!

All best,


Hey Eric,

I took your advice and talked to my mother about it. Her reaction wasn't extreme, just similar to my sister's: random fidgeting and twitching. Homosexuals seem common in my family, and that's what she told me. She never really imagined that one of her daughters would be like that. In fact, she asked me the same question that your mother did: "How do you know?"

It was weird, considering that I told her once already in passing. She shrugged, and life went on. I kept telling her that I'm me, and I just can't be one thing anymore, I'm several. So...

I still have a long ways to go. My courage is building slowly.

-- College Bound and Bi

Dear College Bound,

What you did takes a lot of courage! Congratulations for talking with your mom! I'm glad that she didn't do more than fidget and twitch (parents have been known to cry, gnash their teeth, throw a tantrum, faint, etc.). Have you thought about giving her your copy of What If Someone I Know Is Gay? It could help answer a lot of her questions and the new edition includes a chapter for parents that your mom really needs to read.

All of this takes time. You may need to talk with your mom about the same things several times before she really understands. It's taken you a long time to sort these feelings out and it's going to take your mom some time, too. As difficult as it may be, you need to be patient with her (even if that's not your first instinct). I'm sure your mom has your best interests at heart.

Again, congratulations!

All best,


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 7, 2008 9:09 AM

Eric, just wonderful. I don't know if I was lucky or not, but my mother asked me! By that point I had already come out on campus and coming out at home was "Christmas 1972."

Tough, and with tears involved, we agreed to disagree but no one ever told my about my dad's Gay uncle until years later.

College will be an eye-opening experience for her. She'll meet a ton of non-judgmental friends and mentors. I predict her life will get a lot easier to handle there.