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Advice: My family won't accept who I am

Dear Anna,
I'm really struggling with relationships for a number of reasons. I've known I was a lesbian since I was 14. I am now in my 20s and things really haven't gotten any easier. My parents still do not accept it, and I find that I'm having a harder time accepting it than I used to. When I am in a relationship, my parents, some siblings, and various other relatives refuse to meet the girl, and I usually only tell some people. I honestly think half of the people I know think I'm straight. At this point, I'd rather be alone simply because the idea of fitting a relationship into my life seems overwhelmingly stressful. I feel like I'll never be able to be myself or be happy and I'm the only person standing in my way. I feel incredibly stupid because I can't seem to figure out how to change that. Any advice?--Completely Stuck

You’re not stupid and you’re not the “only person standing in your way.” Your intolerant and hurtful family members are the ones in your way, and to a lesser extent, a culture that encourages and participates in homophobia is also to blame. That doesn’t make it suck less, however, and for that I am sorry. Not being accepted by people we love is a particular kind of devastation, one that they don’t really prepare you for in Coming Out 101. Lots of queer people have fraught relationships with their families (and friends and coworkers and rednecks with reality TV shows). For this reason, we sometimes make our own families. A “chosen family” as they’re often called. Because you can’t change the clan you’re born into, but you can choose not to be around people who wish to tear you down for existing.

Coming out is a lifelong process. And it does get better, as Dan Savage says in his popular campaign. But a big part of the reason it gets better is because we make it better ourselves. It gets better when we surround ourselves with as many good friends and good people as possible. It gets better when we stop putting up with other people’s bigotry and start telling the truth about ourselves instead of pretending to be what others want us to be. Choose wholeness. Choose yourself. You might lose your family’s approval, but your emotional and spiritual well-being are far more important in the long run, I assure you. This isn’t to say you should banish your family from your life forever, but the more distance you can give yourself right now, the better. There are so many other people out there who will love and appreciate you as you are. I encourage you to seek them out. They might be in the form of a school group or online forum, a girlfriend, a kickass job, a queer-friendly church, or any number of straight allies.

Telling your truth means not letting other people define or erase you. It may not seem like it but you have a tremendous power. You are in charge of your own grand destiny. Other people may try to condemn you for it, but they can’t stop you from living or loving who you love.

And perhaps most importantly of all, you shouldn’t think about dating until you can love yourself first. No more negative self talk and downgrading. You are light and worth and truth and there is so much brilliance and goodness to come. Will you let it?

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