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My girlfriend won't come out to her parents...again

I'm a lesbian who's been in a committed relationship with the same woman for four years. We've recently been talking about marriage and starting a family. My one concern—she hasn't told her family about our relationship. She came out to her parents a decade ago, but they've never really accepted it. I think they're convinced she'll "end up straight" and marry a man. Basically they're in denial. But I don't think that means she shouldn't confront them and be honest about being in a long-term relationship. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

—Tired of lies

Four years? I'm exhausted just thinking about all the lying those years must've taken. There are a few compelling reasons to stay closeted, even in 2012—threats of violence, homelessness, getting fired, not wanting to be associated with the likes of Rosie O'Donnell, etc. But a parent's refusal to believe you when you say "I'm gay" is not one of them. And her parents will stay that way if she chooses to continue lying about your relationship.

I can't tell your girlfriend what to do, but it seems pretty obvious to me that she should come out. Again. She already did most of the work. The hard part is, in many ways, over. Sometimes it takes a few more nails to hammer the point home. I remember one time I was at a party talking with some girl. Dating inevitably came up, and I said something about my girlfriend at the time. "I'm sorry," she said. "Do you mean boyfriend?" I had to repeat myself twice before she understood I wasn't gender dyslexic or merely a wayward hipster.

I don't think your girlfriend's parents will be terribly surprised by her second coming out. I imagine you live together? I imagine she talks about you an awful lot? I imagine you're a stellar "roommate" to their daughter. I also imagine that it will be somewhat awkward.

You're sharing that closet with her. It's not easy, I realize, to face the possibility that her family could reject her on the basis of who she fundamentally is, but it's a risk she must take. The alternative is to live a life of shame, fear and covering up, none of which form a solid foundation for creating a life together or "starting a family." (And how does she plan on explaining THAT to her parents, by the way?) You have to decide for yourself how long you're willing to be complicit in her lies. Tell her how important this issue is for you, that you want to share her whole life, not only a fraction of it. Tell her you will support her no matter the outcome. Tell her that she'll be OK (she will). But that the current conditions of your relationship are not sustainable in the long-term if she doesn't come out. Ask her to commit to taking the plunge and hold her accountable.

You can't force her to come out, but you can be clear about your own needs. In life there are seldom right or wrong answers, only honest ones. Here's hoping you and your girlfriend make it to the other side.

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