Estranged: How I Fell In Love With A Girl And Lost My Family

Prologue // Author’s Note:

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It has taken me five years to write this essay.

I didn’t realize how important writing our stories was until I started talking about my story — about being estranged from my family, about marriage, about disappointment. As queer people, we share all of the great and wonderful things that happen in our community. We also need to share the stories of what happens when things don’t pan out, when things are devastating, when things are difficult. There is so much power in sharing our stories. Because as the phrase goes, we are not alone, but sometimes we need to feel those words rather than be told them.

When I came out to my parents, the rejection hit me so badly I could barely get out of bed most mornings in college. I ended up going to an emergency therapist one day because I needed to talk to somebody. When I sat down in the therapist’s office, I sobbed the entire time, and the therapist, who had a tiny rainbow flag hanging in her office, told me softly that things would be okay, that I wasn’t the only person. There were others, she said, who came into her office with the same story. Her eyes were filled with tears.

November 2007, right after I came out to my parents.

When I went to the first A-Camp this past April, I shared a bit of my story in the Women of Color panel. I talked about my family and their reaction, their rejection. I talked about when I was afraid of anyone in my family knowing I was gay and being closeted. I talked about feeling unable to be myself when I was at home.

What happened next I never anticipated: People started coming up to me at A-Camp, telling me that they shared the same story too. Homophobic parents. Families who didn’t understand or try to understand. The fear of coming out. The hurt and devastation of being disowned or estranged. These were people with my story, too.

To anyone who is going through this today: You are brave. Braver than you will ever know. And you can make it through this. It seems unbearably insurmountable at first, I know. But fighting for yourself, for the freedom to love yourself and let others love you, is so incredibly difficult and important.

I made it through this and it was the most difficult thing I will ever do. And you will make it through, too.

 

 

Estranged.

It’s taken me five years to use the word.

Get up, brush my teeth, put on jeans. Go to work. Come home. Eat dinner. Estranged.

I am estranged from my family.

It sounds weird coming from my own mouth. I repeated it slowly, over and over again, the first time my partner, Jessie, said it. It was a week or two ago, when I was angry and frustrated about some little thing. Maybe it was about misplacing the DVDs I had to return to the library, or about something that happened at work, or about feeling conflicted about writing enough or too little.

It’s the sort of anger that saturates everything, jumping to and from every heartache and hurt I’ve ever felt in quick succession. It might jump onto how I was frustrated that I didn’t have the energy to make dinner for us tonight, or angry about the time at work a patron made me cry after insulting me to my face. Or resentment at my father for not telling me my grandfather was dying before my grandfather passed away four years ago. I relive it all in microscopic detail: The anger. The lack of control. The flailing feeling in me, even though my arms feel leaden, dead weight.

April 2008, me on the left, Jessie on the right.

I want to punch everything and stomp on it and set it on fire and stomp on it again. I want to have yelled at the patron who wouldn’t look me in the eye as she insulted me. I want to have known that my grandfather was dying so that I could have visited him one last time in New York instead of hearing the news over the phone, bewildered and overwhelmed. I want to have had the energy to make dinner and take care of everyone and wear an apron, smiling, spatula coated with oil, flipping over some kind of delicious thing to give to my partner. I want to do everything differently.

“You are in a lot of pain right now,” Jessie says, breaking through the haze of could-bes, the things I could have done right, the places I failed. She speaks slowly, as if talking to a small child. “You are dealing with being estranged from your family.”

My shoulders unclench. I feel the hunch of my back loosening. I haven’t looked at Jessie for a few hours, my anger getting on her, too; she has been difficult to look at. Maybe because my face could be reflected in hers: pained, painful, devastated.

I look at her. I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I had never used the word estranged in my head to explain my relationship with my parents. I didn’t use the word after I came out to my mother five years ago and she screamed at me and told me that she wouldn’t help me pay for my college tuition if I was gay. I told her I was straight so I could continue going to school.

June 2008, right before shaving my head in Maine.

I didn’t use the word after I told my mother and father I was moving to New York with Jessie after being closeted to them through college. They told me they wouldn’t support me and made me spend the last of my savings on college expenses they promised they would help me with. I moved, moneyless and jobless and unsupported, to upstate New York, where Jessie was going to graduate school.

I didn’t use the word six months ago, after I called my mom, my hand clenched tightly to Jessie’s, telling them I was getting married, and the only thing I could hear was silence on the other line, then my mom’s voice: You are making a horrible mistake. I called my father soon after to tell him the good news. He didn’t pick up. I left a message, telling him to call me back. He never did.

I don’t know why I didn’t use the word, that “e” word. I think it’s because I believed somewhere in my heart that everything was actually okay, and that they did love me, and that maybe they would come around, as many optimistic people have told me over the years. “When they see you happy, they’ll accept it,” someone told me once at a tarot-reading party where I ended up crying after someone read my cards, vague as can be, but somehow cutting straight through my heart: a deer, antlers heavy, a message, breaking with something.

When there are tears about something unchangeable, people can only be optimistic. It’s the only thing that is left. “When you tell them you’re getting married, it will get better,” someone told me that day, with tears in her eyes.

I’ve been seeing college acquaintances get married on Facebook. There are always white dresses, green lawns, blue skies. There is champagne, cake, dancing. There are flowers, an endless sea of white folding chairs, elaborate receptions and slow dances and kisses in front of the cake. There are loved ones smiling, teeth bleached out in the flash of the camera. There are brides walking down the aisle on the arm of their smiling fathers. There are candid, loving kisses from mothers.

Sometimes I get angry about weddings. It’s that same kind of anger — explosive, saturating — that gets all over everything. I feel angry that straight couples can get married without fighting as hard as I have. I feel angry that people my age, barely out of college, can spend so much money on a resort wedding because their parents have helped them foot the bill. I feel furious that couples can spend so much money on a honeymoon to Europe when I can’t even begin to think about setting aside a few thousand dollars for my own wedding, let alone a trip after.

I breathe.

My wedding will be in my backyard. There will be a rag-tag assortment of lawn chairs we get friends to bring, and I’ll help arrange them in rows. Jessie will make her own dress, and maybe she will tailor my shirt and vest. We’ll drink beer from a cooler filled with ice that sits on the back step. We will say our vows under a giant fir tree. Friends and family will sleep on the couch of the house we live in now. I will make everyone breakfast in the morning. Scrambled eggs from the farmer’s market. French toast.

July 2011, three months before Jessie and I got engaged.

Jessie’s parents will be there. They will be smiling, her father with his long white hair in a ponytail, her mother who looks almost exactly like her, her brother in baggy shorts and shirts that skim his torso. Our close friends will be there, from Michigan, Connecticut, New York, Oregon. There will be handkerchiefs embroidered with anchors for party favors. There might be dancing to the song “Rock Lobster.” There will be talking and shouting and laughing and standing out in the grass without shoes, drinking and hugging.

There will be four empty chairs reserved for my family. My mother, my father, and my two brothers.

This is what I imagine from time to time, when I am sitting on the couch or in bed or at work: I’m driving home from the airport in October. My brothers, one 20, the other 16, sit in the back of the car, hugging backpacks decked with flight tags. I will be sitting in the passenger seat because my eyes are tearing up so badly I can’t see the road. I turn my neck to look at them, both jet-lagged and tired, in the back seat. I tell them, over and over: “I can’t believe you came. I am so glad you are here for my wedding.”

One brother is in college, and he has told me that he will be here no matter what. The other lives at home with my parents, and I’m not sure how I will get him here because he is a minor and I don’t know if my parents will let him travel to see me for the wedding. In my mind he flickers to and from view: Sometimes he’s sitting in the back seat, sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes I imagine myself turning around to the back of the car and seeing Timothy, the middle brother, sitting alone. I tell him that I am happy he is here, aware of the empty seat next to him.

Of the four chairs, two will be empty: My mother’s and father’s. I am not sure if three will be.

Last month I called my mom to tell her the final date of our wedding. When there was silence on the line I told her, firmly, “I really want you to be there. It would mean a lot to me. You could say something at the wedding, maybe. You don’t have to. It’s important that you come.”

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer people to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.


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Profile photo of Whitney

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. She is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, where she studies video games and new media. She is also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out her blog at whitneypow.com and follow her on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 51 articles for us.

117 Comments

  1. Thumb up 15

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    thank you so much.

    Early this morning, my estrangement from my parents hit me. And then your article went up.

    I have read this article, sobbing, and I am sending you all the love and understanding in the world.

    Congratulations to you and Jessie. <3

  2. Thumb up 19

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    My wedding will be in my backyard. There will be a rag-tag assortment of lawn chairs we get friends to bring, and I’ll help arrange them in rows. Jessie will make her own dress, and maybe she will tailor my shirt and vest. We’ll drink beer from a cooler filled with ice that sits on the back step. We will say our vows under a giant fir tree. Friends and family will sleep on the couch of the house we live in now. I will make everyone breakfast in the morning. Scrambled eggs from the farmer’s market. French toast.

    whitney, this is beautiful. you are so strong.

  3. Thumb up 6

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    Thank you for sharing. Though I have my moms support I did not have my fathers. He did not show up to my wedding. And you know what? It only stung for a moment. Then I looked around at all of the amazing people who were there, supporting and loving me. I felt bad for my dad at that moment. He was missing something truly magical and special. It was his loss.

    By the way, your wedding sounds beautiful. Congratulations!

  4. Thumb up 9

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    I have tears in my eyes reading your story. You have so much strength and sharing your story will help others in the same situation. Thank you so much for sharing. I like to think that with getting married you will aquire a family who love and support you. I know it doesn’t replace your blood family or totally heal the wounds but perhaps their love and support will help you along in your new journey as a spouse. I wish you and your fiancé tons and tons of love and happy years together.

  5. Thumb up 7

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    Your wedding sounds absolutely beautiful. The most memorable wedding I’ve ever been to was on the tightest of budgets so that all we COULD do was celebrate the fact that we, as guests, loved that couple beyond anything else. Flowers don’t matter, friends do.

    Congratulations.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    Thank you for your story, it really hit me deep. Thank you!
    I think it’s important to talk about these things, that coming out sometimes means
    that you are being astranged from your family. Thanks!

    And I think that your wedding sounds romantic. Hugs!

  7. Thumb up 5

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    As one of those straight people who has recently gotten married (and so glad you could be there to celebrate with us, Whit!), the privilege we were exercising in doing so weighed on us. It was important to us that the officiant make a mention that we were being married in NY state, which recognizes the right of marriage between two adults of any gender combination – not sure what we would have done if that were not the case. And yet, that is still insufficient, some words of acknowledgement by people who benefit from a privilege does not really accomplish much except to make a wish for marriage equality known and to assuage our own guilt – especially in light of the fact that while our marriage would be recognized no matter where we go in the country, no matter what NY state says, the marriage of two same-gender loving people would not be.

    Anyway, I cannot begin to know what it is like to be in your position, but I do feel for you and hope that your parents can find way to reconcile with you (b/c clearly they are in the wrong – there is not one step more you need to take than you already have). If not, then I hope that you can find sufficient love and support from your friends and siblings. Know that you have mine.

    – OOO

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      This means a lot to me, Osvaldo. And as I mentioned in a message to you earlier, it meant so much to me and Jessie that your officiant mentioned NY state and recognizing marriage rights between queer people, too.

  8. Thumb up 6

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    Whitney, thanks for sharing. My parents had the same reaction when I came out to them and announced I was getting married a few months later. I didn’t invite them to the wedding because I sensed that they would not come. It really sucks that we have to choose our spouse or our parents sometimes. You’re very brave for following you heart. I think it’s the right choice to be who you are rather than be someone that other people want you to be. I’m very thankful and happy to have chosen to marry despite the rejection from my parents. My wife is a wonderful, fun and funny, smart person…way better than any husband that I’ve heard straight women complain about. If you’re choosing to marry Jessie despite all this, Jessie is one special woman. I wish you many decades of happiness together.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    One of the first girls I had a flirtation with was so shocked I hadn’t told my family and was trying not to think about it. She told me over and over again that I should just come out, that I had to, because surely it would be okay. “It’s your family, after all.”

    Three years later, it’s still not okay. I’m in contact with them, but everything has this tense haze hanging over it. It hurts all the time. I don’t think of it as much, but it’s still there. It’ll probably stay there.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Thumb up 0

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      Whitney – thank you for sharing your story. I found the link at savage love. My experience is closer to Alicia’s than yours.

      “Thick haze” is a perfect description of the fog that descended over my relationship with my family after I came out to them in 1999. I took it as a good sign that my partner was allowed to join my at holidays but now I know it was just tolerated so that I would be there. Through all the ignored partner birthdays and all the Christmas cards addressed only to me, I though surely it was gradually getting better. Even after my mother told me to my face that she didn’t think we should have kids, and that if she had it to do over again she wouldn’t have had me.

      This year she told me that she did not think we should be able to have a civil union, much less an actual marriage. That was on Mother’s Day, and it was the last time I spoke to her. We are married now (we live in Washington state) after 8 years together. My immediate family (parents, fundie Christian brother and his wife and their kids) were not informed, much less invited. We are fortunate to have tons of supportive, loving friends and relatives who make up our real family. It sounds like Whitney has the same, and I hope you do too Alicia. All the best to both of you.

  10. Thumb up 9

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    Thank you for sharing. I think as much as we gravitate towards our “chosen family” that there still is a lot of pain and loss involved when our blood family rejects us or cuts us out. Unfortunately there’s no way to completely eliminate that pain, but my advice is to lean on your chosen family. Soak in their love and try as hard as you can to have that mute the pain from the family that you were born to.

    Congratulations to you and Jessie!

  11. Thumb up 21

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    This story resonates so much with me. It inspired me to be honest about these feelings. I wrote my comment in poem form

    Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself When I Look in the Mirror

    You are strong
    You are so strong
    This is what you are facing
    Don’t live ashamed
    Don’t put your head down when she tells you that people
    Ask questions she can’t answer
    Be brave
    Wear the shirt
    Roll your sleeves up if you need to

    It will take work
    These people, they love you
    This is how they deal
    You can walk away
    They will always love you
    It’s just—that they need time to be strong too

    Wear those shoes
    Let no one ever tell you
    That you can’t do anything
    Cut your hair
    Cut it shorter than you thought you had the courage to
    Shear the sides off
    Run your fingers through it
    A woman will love you back

    Remember
    That you are so fuck strong
    You are granite
    People have eyes for chisels
    You are granite
    Remember

    This is what you are facing.

    • Thumb up 3

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      “It will take work
      These people, they love you
      This is how they deal
      You can walk away
      They will always love you
      It’s just—that they need time to be strong too”

      This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing this.

      Love. It is all about love. Giving love and receiving love and giving out too much love even when you know you won’t be getting it back in return immediately. Love. Love. Love.

      • Thumb up 0

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        Love is all we need <3 welcome. It needed to be said, I think. I admire your strength to write this. This story of rejection is so common, yet so commonly white washed because we seem (those of us will severe family issues) to want to forget that part of our lives. It hurts too much.

  12. Thumb up 4

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    Thank you for writing this article. I wish I couldn’t relate to it so much, but I can. I guess in my case, it’s too early to tell whether it will end in estrangement (though one year isn’t so short really, is it?), but the mere possibility chokes me sometimes. I miss my family, I miss not having to pay attention to what I say and whom I mention. And sometimes, it makes me incredibly angry to keep hearing from others that, surely, it will be okay, it probably just takes time.

    So thank you for this incredible piece of writing. All the best to you and Jessie!

    • Thumb up 1

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      I miss my family, too. And when I was not talking about Jessie or about being gay at home, it felt like I was hiding an important part of myself. And it is okay to get angry when you hear people tell you it will get better.

      Remember to take care of yourself. Know when you’re sad. There’s a part of you, too, that needs to learn how to be safe with or without family, and we’re doing it together, right now.

      Sending you all the love.

  13. Thumb up 13

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    Estrangement hurts. My siblings are okay. My parents aren’t–they haven’t even come to my last two brothers’ weddings because neither of them got married in a Catholic church. They would never come to mine. It’s actually exactly a year today since my aunt decided it was a great idea to out me to my parents, even tho we were already on rough terms (the hyper Catholic refusing to wed thing).

    Anyway, point is, you’re not alone. ALL QUEERS CAN BE EACH OTHER’S FAMILY.

  14. Thumb up 5

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    This story gave me ALL THE TEARS.

    Thank you for sharing this. It was beautiful and inspiring. I am very lucky to come from a very accepting family, and your story reminded me that I need to be more grateful for that every day.

  15. Thumb up 24

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    Hi Whitney,
    I want to share my story too, I hope you get a chance to read it. I’m from a country where being gay is a crime. My lover’s religion condemns homosexuality, the penalty is jail, mind washing camp and jail. My parents know that I am a lesbian, they found out unfortunately and they are homophobic. I came out to my sister, who turned out to be homophobic – just to me. Though my parents and sister used to accept homosexuals and transgendered people, when they found out about me, all that acceptance went out the window, they begin hating them. My mum openly criticizes and insults homosexual characters on television and “It’s abnormal, freakish and disgusting” she keeps telling me. She told me she must have sinned to have me and rather I die than be with my lover. My dad will not even look at me or talk to me normally and my sister does not speak to me. I had to end my relationship with my lover because my mother threatened to put us in jail. I have had friends become enemies. I am not accepted in my family, my ex-friends, my community, the society I live in, and my country. I am estranged from all of them. I have fought with this, within myself I have gone through many battles. I have the scars to prove it. I am, like you are, ESTRANGED from my family. I still haven’t accepted that fact. The thing is, I still live at home, and I am estranged from my family. It’s harder every day. It is never ending. Your story to me was like a breath of fresh air. I know that somebody out there is marrying the girl she loves, living free life and has loving people around her. Somebody with the same story as mine. There is hope. I understand your pain and ache of wanting your family to be there for you, I feel it too. Thank you for sharing your story, in its simplicity it helped me today. I don’t feel so alone anymore. Thank you. I wish you all the best and Congratulations! Have a happily married life. Please do share more stories. I am looking forward to it.
    With lots of Love.
    Sincerely,
    Your friend.

    • Thumb up 9

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      Sometimes people can be so cruel, and circumstances can be so shitty, but I am consistently amazed by the true courage that others like you find to grit things out in spite of everything. My heart goes out to you, to Whitney, and to everyone who shares a story like yours. You are such incredibly strong, beautiful people.

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          I wanted to send you this privately but I cant.
          I am very much amazed at your strength. Holding up in a family and society that don’t acknowledge you!! And at the same time trying to walk holding a high head, holding up with dignity. I admire you (seriously). I hope that you can find light in the dark tunnel. Elise put into words many of my thoughts.
          Recive a really big hug from your new Italo-Mexican friend in Italy!!

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            hey there! Here’s a huge HUG back from your friend in Asia! It’s good to know that I have the support of people from around the world, reminds me that I am not alone. I hope too that one day that I can get married to the love of my life, be surrounded by friends and love, just like Whitney. You can message me through my Tumblr, i have pasted the link. Thank you my friend for taking the time to read my story and replying. Thank you for listening in a way. You made my day. xoxo

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      You are so incredibly brave and strong. The things you are going through are things no one should ever have to go through. I am sorry that you are surrounded by your family but can’t connect with them. I’m sorry your family has been so cruel to you. I’m sorry that the world can’t be better for you and for all of us.

      I’m sending you all the love. You are incredible for living with this each day and you are in my thoughts. We can do this together.

  16. Thumb up 12

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    Thank you for this. Some days I feel like the rejection is swallowing me whole, stifling me. I have my partner’s family who love me like their own, but I will NEVER have my mother and father. Sometimes I find myself being irrationally jealous of fellow LGBT people who have supportive families. I will have two empty chairs at my wedding, too…

    But you know what, your beautiful first person essay and all the comments in response make me feel like I belong somewhere. We can do this!! And being true to ourselves through adversity from those who are supposed to love us unconditionally makes one brave, kickass group of misfits :)

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      My partner’s parents and brother are amazing, and I’m so lucky I have them. I’m so lucky that Jessie and I have had one family be so incredible and supportive and loving throughout all of this.

      It’s okay to be jealous of people (even LGBT people) with supportive families. Sometimes I get jealous, too. It’s okay to be emotional, to be upset, to be sad. These feelings are something we have to let ourselves experience in order to get to the next step.

      Sending you all the love.

  17. Thumb up 7

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    Whitney, thank you so much for this essay. Strength is not found in having never felt all the emotions you describe. Strength is reflected in feeling all of it and still persevering, still moving forward, still loving with all your heart. Congrats to you and Jessie, your wedding sounds beautiful.

    My story is different, but the result is still the same. Parents who aren’t supportive and a broken relationship. But to quote Madonna: power is being told you are not loved and not being destroyed by it. Turns out I am full of power.

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      Yes yes yes. In order to move forward we have to be honest with ourselves, and that means being heartbroken and sad and disappointed. These emotions aren’t bad things. They’re stepping stones on the way to the next place we have to be in our lives.

      You are full of power and strength. Love love love.

  18. Thumb up 5

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    Such a good essay.

    I don’t know, I really think its something thats missing from the current ‘It gets better’ narrative is sometimes it kind of doesn’t, which is hard. I mean it gets to me every now and again and I get so angry and upset that just things aren’t how they were supposed to be. My parents aren’t the people I thought they were.

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      When I was going through some of the most difficult parts of this story, I kept hoping that they were better people. I kept hoping they would surprise me one day — “we love you no matter what and we want to be at your wedding.” I still hope they’re going to come to my wedding. I don’t know if this will happen, but I know right now that I am stronger than I ever have been, and I will live through this, whether they come around or not.

      Sending you all the love.

  19. Thumb up 9

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    whitney, this is a touching story and, like others, you have brought tears to my eyes. i just wanted to say — if you look over and see empty chairs at your wedding, know that we’ll be there, in spirit, sitting and celebrating and watching you and jessie get married. ;)

    becky

  20. Thumb up 11

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    Rarely do I comment on here, but I felt that I had to. You, young lady, are a wonderful writer. One of my favorite writers on here is Riese, when she writes essays about her life. You are now my second favorite writer on here. Not that the others aren’t good too, but you and Riese have a way of stinging peoples’ hearts without even trying.
    I’m sorry you’ve had a rough go of it. You’re right that it’s important to talk about the bad stuff too. What many heterosexuals have to understand is that even though homosexuals are more visble now then ever before, we have all still had to endure endless amounts of worry, anxiety, and what-ifs, just because of how we were born. There are invisible scars that never go away, even if we have a smile on our face.
    Thank you for your article. I hope to read more from you soon.
    Congratulations on your wedding. Your soon-to-be wife is gorgeous, as are you!

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      Thank you thank you thank you for reading, and I’m glad what I wrote touched your heart. It’s been a long time getting to a place of complete honesty in my writing, and I feel like I’m there now. I’d like to continue writing first-person essays. I feel like I can do it now.

      Thank you for all of your support.

  21. Thumb up 2

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    Whitney, this is beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. You are incredibly strong. It hit very close to home for me, having lost the support of my parents at 16. Sharing our stories is so important, both for our own healing and to help give strength to those who are going through it now.

    Huge congratulations to you and Jessie!

  22. Thumb up 3

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    You are beautiful and this was beautifully written. It is also a reminder of how important it is to live your life on your terms and no one else’s. I have yet to tell my parents not because of the fear of nonacceptance but because I fear that the devastation and heartbreak would be so severe it would affect my mom’s health. What I fear would be even more devastating is if one of us left this Earth without her truly/fully knowing me. Thank you for sharing. Your wedding sounds awesome. Congratulations.

  23. Thumb up 1

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    Wow. This is such a beautiful and sad piece. It’s sad that this is the story of so many queer people in this world.

    I want you to know that you have my love and support. I guess that’s all I can do for you, as a total stranger, and it may not be much, but maybe it will make you smile for a moment. You and your partner are a beautiful couple. Your parents may never come around, but you have the love that you and Jessie share, and the love from your friends and other supportive people around you, and the love from a bunch of strangers on Autostraddle, and that’s never going away.

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    Thank you for sharing. As someone who had one of those right-out-of-college straight weddings before realizing I was gay, I can tell you that yours sounds so much better. You’re very brave to be honest with yourself and your family. Not everyone gets to that point. Keep on living, loving, and writing just as you are!

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    I literally cried through this entire thing. My partner… is estranged. We keep clinging to the notion that she isn’t. That it will get better. But the only moments she has a family are the moments where I am invisible. Where she puts on a smile and pretends it doesn’t break her heart to deny my existence. They threaten her, with money, with the sickness of loved ones. They tell lies about me, try to convince her I am cheating on her, manipulative, abusive. They know nothing about me, nor do they care to. The strides people take to hold onto something they are pushing away. I cried through this whole thing. Because I don’t know if we’ll make it as long as you have.

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    Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I am glad you have found someone to share love with, to be a family with. I hope you will always find the strength the be yourself and know there are people who will love and like you just the way you are.

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    it’s actually amazing the grace and forgiveness you grant them by even inviting them to your wedding. i would not invite them. i would not get married. i would feel alone and make a birds nest in the closet and lay in it and cry until my wedding date had come and gone. you are so strong. it is astonishing. you are so loved- thank you for sharing this. no matter what happens, you are loved, and we are grateful.

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    I knew from the title that this was going to make me cry, and it did. I don’t know what to say. So I will say the cliches because they seem to be all I have left. I am sorry, I honour your strength and courage and your eloquence. I am so happy that you have found a partner and so sad that the people close to you cannot see what a pillar of strength and beauty and truth and freedom and love that you are. Most of all I can thank you, because this story will resonate with me for a very long time, and it makes me want to go hug everyone in my family.

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    Thank you for sharing your story.

    My partner was you 17yrs ago and I was Jesse. Gay marriage barely existed as a concept 17yrs ago in mainstream, but we created a ceremony any way. And then we ditched it because my partner was too sad and too dejected by her family. And she would say that that was a mistake. That we should have gone ahead with the ceremony for ourselves.

    I think it is great, important and honest to go ahead and get married. And try to find as much joy in the day as possible – knowing that you are living a life that is filled with honesty and integrity.

    It is true that not all families change but after five years of sporadic contact, my partner cut off all contact with her parents for 12yrs. Just last year, her mom made contact. There wasn’t a huge Lifetime movie scene of tears and shameful confession/apology by her mom, but there was a clear recognition of our marriage, our family, our being equal parents of our children. And that has been enough.

    Congratulations on your marriage and your ability to live your life authentically.

    Josie

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    I can do nothing but echo everyone else: Thank you for this, all of it.

    I’m going to translate this piece into Spanish, if that’s okay. I just want to send it to a family member back home, try to make them feel less lonely. I’ll work hard to do justice to your writing.

    This is amazing. You are amazing.

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    i love you very much, whitney. you are a strong person and it’s really beautiful and this is by far one of the best things ever written ever in time.

    i love you very much, whitney. i am here if you need someone. can i come to your wedding? it sounds cute. what do people wear to weddings?

    i love you very much, whitney.

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    I am too tired/emotional to respond properly, but this was really wonderful, whitney. Congratulations on your engagement!!!
    I’ve been estranged from my parents for 7ish years and trying to reconnect always left me worse off. We were estranged years before I came out and when the information reached my mother four years ago, we met up for coffee. I saw her car in the puzzling lot and she had a Sarah Palin sticker. Turns out she just wanted to pat herself on the back for “always [knowing] that there was something wrong with [me]“-fuck that. I never saw her again.
    On the bright side, the queer community is infinitely more supportive, diverse and fun!

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    Here’s a big cyber hug from me here in the Philippines to you Whitney! HUUUG!! Didya get it? I hope so ^^

    I know where you’re coming from, honest to goodness, and it may be easy to say but girl, stay strong! <3

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    This is such a moving essay, thanks for sharing. Congrats to you and Jessie. I was in a smililar situation with my extended family, and all except one of them came to my wedding after five years of estrangement. I’m holding out hope that your parents will come around.

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    It’s better to be loved for who we are, than to be loved for who we are not. Still hurts like hell, though, when people you love can’t love the person you are, but only the facade they’d rather see.

    ((hugs)) to you all.

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    I normally just read all the awesome Autostraddle articles, but this one inspired commenting.

    I am an Asian American gay man and I know how you feel. It was just a few months that my parents disconnected themselves from me over the phone not because I am gay, but because of the man who I fell in love with.

    We had our committment ceremony two months ago. My parents and my sister were not there. Still, the ceremony was beautiful and surrounded with love. We didn’t spend a lot of money either. We had it at our small church surrounded by friends and family.

    I know how it feels reading Facebook entries and getting bitterly jealous of friends who have lavish weddings with the support of their family and also seeing pictures of your siblings enjoying their life and knowing that you cannot even reach them in person. It feels like being a troll under a bridge.

    I can’t say that I am 100 percent better about the estrangement, but I have a good support system and a partner who loves me a lot. I’ll say that I am on my way out.

    I hope that you have a wonderful ceremony. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    Thank you, everyone. You are all a part of my created family, the one that I’ve been putting together, piece by piece. I will have you all in my hearts on my wedding day. And thank you for reading this essay. It took me a long time to write it, and I’m so happy I get to share it with you all.

    For anyone who wants to look, here’s Jessie and my wedding website:

    http://www.adventuresingaymarriage.com/

    Please click around and leave a message! We want to hear from you. Your love and support mean everything to us.

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    I can’t believe there are so many of us. It’s sad and heartening all at the same time. Estrangement is a strangely elegant word for such a terrible thing.

    Can we make a club or something, you guys? I’ve got no family anymore and my girlfriend will lose hers if they ever find out she’s queer, but we don’t have the big-gay-handmade-family thing. So how do you make a family when you’re nerdy and shy?

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    Hi Whitney,
    Thank you so, so much for posting this. My heart goes out to you and I can’t even begin to say how much I admire your strength and your integrity.
    My mother has been bitterly cold to me since I came out to her a couple of years ago –although since I don’t come from a background where homophobia is acceptable, she would never frame it that way. Seeing you build your own family gives me hope that I’ll be able to build my own.

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    This is such a powerful post. My eyes watered just after I started reading due to the heartfelt feelings and sadness. I know that estranged feelings are so hard to deal with, it’s a pain that transcends you and you feel that no one understands your pain, but many others are living it too.

    Thank-you Whitney, your post shows what a beautiful person you are inside out. Congrats, good luck and lots of courage for the wedding. You and jessie make a very cute couple.

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    I am in Christian ministry and have heard so many stores like yours and so thankful for your transparency and courage to write this. I know it took you five years to pen these words but the time it took, cultivated it into such beauty. Hoping that the church can hear stories like yours and extend the compassion that is afforded to these places of pain and estragement.

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    I’m watching my partner struggle with the same thing. She came out to them about 11 years ago, went back in the closet, and never came out again (when it comes to family). We have been living together for about a year when a few weeks ago her mom called and decided she wanted to visit. Her mom doesn’t even know she dating someone, let alone living with them. I don’t know what we’re going to do but your article, in addition to making me cry, gives me hope that maybe we’ll make it through. Thank you.

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    I admire your story. I think you are brave and strong and lovely.

    I have been lucky enough to receive hardly any resistance from my loved ones about… anything really. I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who love and support me no matter what. My girlfriend has been less fortunate in these matters but still hasn’t received reactions from her family as severe as this.

    Even so, this essay brought tears to my eyes every single time I read it. You, your story and your writing are beautiful. I wish you and your partner all of luck and love in the world. You two are amazing. Be proud to be an outstanding example of strength, courage and love for not only the LGBTQ community but for everyone.

    Best Wishes.

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    Whitney,
    i just cried after reading this.
    thank you for thinking hard about this essay before putting it out there to the public eye. it was so beautiful and intentional, every word.
    initially, my gf posted this up on our tumblr (www.taghili.tumblr.com) and left it there for me to read whenever i had the time. i had just returned from her bro’s (heterosexual) wedding where she had to ignore me in order to maintain appearances esp within her cultural community. the same thoughts you had about marriage occurred to me during this event.
    both my gf and i are women of color and we have talked about getting married… i started crying when i read the part in the story where u said you would turn around to ur brothers to thank them for coming… i wonder if that’ll happen with my wedding. my family means so much to me and i still don’t know whether or not my parents will receive me, what they will think of me… i never knew how much this actually bugged me and made me emotional until now.
    your story made me connect with my own and i need to think about this some more.. maybe it’ll also take 5 years.
    much love to you whitney and congratulations!

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    This is so beautiful and I’m happy I read it but it really hit me. The staying in the closet at home so that you could finish my education. The ultimate rejection that I know is coming. I guess it’s why I take issue with the emphasis on coming out because some people say, “you never know, your parents may surprise you” but for some of us that’s not the case. For some of us coming out to our parents means saying goodbye to any sort of contact or support from them. It’s not going to be a positive experience. But right now it’s like life is separated into my actual life and the image of my life I present for my parents.

    I liked reading this though even though it was heartbreaking because you show how you can’t not live your life, and not let yourself be happy because of the rejection and estrangement from your family. Thank you so so much for sharing your story.

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    Whitney, thank you for writing this. I have known and loved so many people in your shoes. Your wedding is going to be so beautiful, and you are so brave. Congratulations to you and Jessie!

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    Your parents are being just plain shameful in this.

    But your grandchildren*? Someday you’ll tell them about this; they’ll be amazed and proud, and they’ll be inspired to stand strong beside the ones they love.

    * – not commanding you to have kids, or anything. They could be grandniece/phews as well.

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    Thank you for sharing, Whitney — congratulations to you and Jessie on the wedding! I’m Asian American, and I haven’t yet come out to my parents (or my siblings). There’s a lot of fear and dread, especially because I feel like I have come to rely on my family for so much, that to risk losing them is scarier than the status quo of just shutting up and lying. Growing up, my parents would express their hope/dreams that I’d not only marry an Asian man — but hit the jackpot and marry an Ivy League-educated doctor or lawyer (insert some other professional respected by the Asian community). These are people whom you love — who love/are supposed to love you. My biggest fear is that coming out will shatter their hopes, dreams, and aspirations — everything that they’ve worked towards in pursuit of every immigrant’s American Dream. Maybe there’s an element of social harmony and authenticity here–to be Asian, in my parents’ eyes, is to not make trouble, not stand out, not break “Asian” traditions of heterosexual marriage in favor of supposedly “American” sexual rebellion. Most important of all– to not be someone that they can’t boast to neighbors and friends about.

    Your article really spoke to me, about hoping that your parents would surprise you, would move beyond prejudice and towards loving you for the person you are. You’re truly brave — I wish you all the best. Thank you.

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    This is my first time commenting here, I guess you just inspired me with your beautiful writing. I just wanted to say that
    this really had me I tears, and to express my wishes that you and your family find some peace eventually.
    Untill then best wishes for you and your lucky bride to be, your wedding sounds like a sweet bohemian event and I hope both your brothers turn up if not your parents.

    And may I just say that this site is the most lovely peaceful space that I have come across in the vastness of the internets as of yet, filled with talented, insightful writers and supportive comments. So thanks to this site and its contributors for that.

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    Thank you so so so much. I am sixteen, and currently out to absolutely everyone in the world except for my parents, because two years ago, my mother found out and threatened to throw me out if I didn’t “do something about it”.
    Lately, I was feeling really depressed. I realized that the good times were going to end as soon as I was out, and that I wasn’t going to be part of the family anymore. With the birth of my niece, and my grandma’s health getting worse, this realization hit me in the bad way.

    Reading this, while sobbing of course, has made me realize that it’s probably never going to be okay, and that yes I’m going to lose this family, but life goes on. I have another family there for me.

    Thank you so much.

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    Whitney you are so brave to share this! Thank you! I just want to encourage you and your fiance that you can both still have an amazing wedding at a low budget! Google ideas! YOU BOTH DESERVE A BEAUTIFUL JOYOUS WEDDING!

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    When I saw the title of this post, I avoided it because confronting that part of my reality has always been so difficult. I am currently visiting my parents, one of whom actively tries to understand and support me, the other who tries to ignore every inkling of my non-heteronormative identity. And I let him. This post made me teary, and then scrolling down to take in the comments of love and support; I never quite understood the concept of `family`really, until I was embraced by the queer community, and that feeling, that we can all just know one another, and love one another. I am truly happy for you, and admire your strength. Love to all the queers in our family

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    Sorry to have read this so late, but I wanted to say that this is so beautiful and amazing and inspiring. I was in public while I read it, and had to fight so hard to not break down sobbing. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    When I invited my dad to my wedding (next year probably), he said he’d be happy to give me away. A week later he declared that my love was an abomination and that he wouldn’t even show up unless it was a straight wedding. A month later he disowned me. It’s been over 3 months and we still aren’t talking except when I call to demand that he send my stuff (a part of my hunting gun he lied about not having) to my mom’s house. My Mom’s side still intends to attend my wedding, but they assume that it will somehow be straight despite that I’m a MtF Transsexual and we’re having a Lesbian wedding. My Big bro says that unless I like guys that I’m not a real girl. He says I’m just pretending, but I’m not. My mom and her husband treat me like I’m a crazy, immoral, and defective. They got a book about raising those with mental retardation and are trying to force me to conform to the book’s theory of success in life. They make me sleep on a separate floor from the rest of the family, wash my clothes separately, and are always insulting me.

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    I was temporarily disowned from my mother and brother when I came out in 2009. They wouldn’t let me come home for Thanksgiving, and when I spoke to my mother on the phone, she threatened to hit me with a restraining order because she really did not want to talk to me.

    They allowed me to visit for Christmas that year, but it was cold and tense.

    In 2010, I was unemployed and my relationship with my mother was on the mend. My brother was overseas. My mother let me stay with her rent-free during the summer, when I was off school, but kicked me out of the house because I was “fat, lazy” and “good for nothing”. She e-mailed me from work and gave me two hours to pack up my belongings and leave before she returned from work that day. I stayed with friends and then moved to another city to be homeless and then was assaulted. I found housing after about two months.

    My lease was up in summer of 2011; after a botched dyke affair with my “future room mate” I ended up homeless again. I was homeless from May to October that year. My grandmother died and because I wasn’t able to access the e-mail from the shelter I didn’t find out the exact day she died. I think I found out about her death six days after it happened. Nobody told me. I went to the funeral and then went back to the shelter. I got a bad case of bronchitis, bad enough that I could have gotten pneumonia and died, and at that point, my mother let me live with her again.

    It was awful. My brother was back from the war by then, and he was so abusive to me that at times I feared for my life. He was physically violent towards me, putting me in a chokehold at one point, yelling at me for long periods of time for mistakes such as using my own spending money on postage stamps and for fixing the family computer. I was rarely allowed to leave the house because my brother didn’t approve of my friends (the majority of my friends are queer).

    At one point, my brother and I got into a shouting match over my mother’s alcoholism (she blamed the alcoholism on me, btw; my identity is what caused her drinking according to her). He chased me up the stairs and said if I thought she was an alcoholic that I could jump out of the window. He said my room was messy and that if I didn’t clean my room, he would personally come in, throw all my belongings in a dumpster, and light the dumpster on fire.

    I left that night, crashed on couches, and a few days later I used some of my inheritance money to buy a bus ticket and leave.

    I haven’t been back since. I know this is a really long comment – but I had to say something. I guess in a way I’m estranged from my family too. I still talk to my mother and some of the aunts, but it’s all very shallow. Sometimes my mother gives me money. I don’t think I will ever visit again – I wouldn’t feel safe – but I can’t explain this to the aunts. I got a Facebook message from a cousin asking if I would visit for Christmas this year and it’s brought up all this extra emotion about everything. If it weren’t for my boyfriend I don’t think I’d have any holiday plans at all.

    I think most people don’t understand – they assume that family is there to forgive you and to be kind to you and accept you as you are. It’s not the case, not with everybody’s family. The whole “it gets better” thing is especially grating because for me, it hasn’t gotten better.

    Anyway, thanks for posting, and thanks to anyone who has read this far.

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    Your wedding will be amazing. Backyard weddings are so beautiful.

    I love that picture from 2011, you guys are gorgeous because the love in that photo is so apparent.

    I think setting out chairs for your family is an incredible gesture of goodwill and faith and hope. I really hope they come through for you, but if they don’t, I hope you feel sustained by the love of your community.

    Wishing you all the best xx

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    Whitney,

    thanks for sharing your incredible story of hope and love. I was feeling sad and did a search about being estranged from one’s family and your blog came up.

    It’s helped me to feel stronger again.

    I do feel love for my family, but it seems they feel better as a group when I’m not there. The stronger I feel about all of me, the less invites I get to family occasions and the more my invites to them are sidestepped if not openly rejected.

    It hurts, but I love myself more than I did when I was dancing to their tune and not being my true self. I know we all have multiple identities (we choose to share different bits of ourselves with different people depending on the situation) and that’s all well and good.
    My siblings were the ones I thought would always be there for me as I have tried to be for them. Despite the two way disappointment I am glad to say that when I am aware of familial slights towards me the pain last less long than it used to: it still smarts a lot, but I have more to be happy about now that I am being truer to myself.
    When there is a LGBTI member of the family there always appears to be a ‘stranger’ in the midst: at first the LGBTI person may be a ‘stranger’ to themselves, then they somehow become strange to the people they have grown up with. (How strange that one factor of love can move one from the familiar to the unknown in the eyes of those close to them. It’s hard to understand how love can be such an alien concept to families.)
    So from being a stranger within yourself, you come out as all of you and sometimes, sadly, you become e-strange-d from your family.
    I feel anger, disappointment, frustration and confusion at times like this but I have to accept that some families just cannot begin to understand the simple direct fact that is love.
    My advice to anyone is to love your family (if you can) but make sure you love and honour yourself at all costs. You have to be true to you.

    Best always to you and Jessie.

    Here is a letter I wrote to my siblings … nobody replied.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/23/letter-to-siblings-gay-christian-family

    Marjorie x

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    I’m sitting in my office at work with tears all over my face. I’m so sorry for what your parents did. I’m going through a similar situation with my parents right now, so this really hits me hard. I hope that things will get easier for the both of us.

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