How I Came Out to My Evangelical Christian Parents And You Can, Too

I was raised as an Evangelical Christian – specifically, a straight Evangelical Christian, who was destined to be courted by similarly spiritual boys and marry one of them as soon as possible. I was maybe a little less enthusiastic about this than other girls my age, but I didn’t think much of it. After what felt like a lifetime of Sunday school, church solos, and purity pledges, I finally had the “duh” realization that there was a reason my husbands-in-training all looked the same to me. Duh. I like ladies. Duh. My newfound liberation was a huge relief, but also tainted by the guilt/dread/TERROR of what came next: telling my Doctor of Ministry father and my children’s minister mother.

If you’re thinking about coming out to Evangelical parents, you’re probably thinking of pretending there’s a nuclear holocaust and hiding in your basement with a ten-year supply of Twinkies. But hey girl, I’ve been to the outside, and bring you good news: I survived. And I come to you now with lessons learned for your benefit.


Feel them out.

A few holiday gatherings in which my uncle practically spat at the TV when Obama came on and at which my sister-in-law confided to me in outrage “Can you believe that equal sign bumper sticker actually supports gay marriage?” were a bit… traumatic, to say the least. As a closeted baby gay, I took their politics personally and cried for days in my emotional Twinkie basement. But after I crawled back out with twenty extra pounds of food baby, I realized there was a silver lining. Compared to my extended family, my parents were actually open-minded.

My mom asked me about my opinion on DADT and admitted that she supported its repeal (albeit with separate housing for gays, but hey, baby steps here). I had a great conversation with my parents about how Christ would welcome illegal immigrants. And yeah, I received a lecture when I came out as Unitarian, but it wasn’t a forced exorcism.

Years earlier, Mom and Dad had stopped paying for my brother’s college tuition when he *gasp* MOVED IN WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND, but it was a decision they later admitted to regretting because it had harmed their relationship with him. My parents were past the point of trying to proselytize their adult children and just wanted a relationship with us. I wanted a relationship with them too – one that was honest. And you know, my parents’ faith had gotten them through many situations much worse than this one… you know, like, when my brother had to have a brain tumor removed … twice. I had to give them enough credit to know they’d survive.


Pick a date.

My parents had plans to visit me in Brooklyn. I was going to host them in my one-room studio. They were a temporarily captive audience for a few days. And THEN THEY WOULD GO HOME. This seemed like perfect timing to me because we’d all have space to process whatever happened once the weekend was over. And frankly, I’d given them university-quality lectures on Romans 1:26-28 so many times (…in my head) that I just wanted to get it over with.

They were arriving on Friday. I decided to tell them on Saturday night. Saturday night rolled around, and I literally had to tell myself, “Okay, when we get back to the apartment, they’re going to want to be boring and play cards, and after your third turn in the third round YOU ARE GOING TO TELL THEM.” It was ridiculous, but I knew I wasn’t going to open my mouth otherwise.


See the situation through their eyes.

Leading up to the Night Of No Return, I was terrified, yes, but most of what I felt was guilt. I was worried my parents would be disappointed because the prayers they’d been offering up for my future husband ever since they found out I was a girl were going to come back empty. And my parents had always explained away homosexuality as being a result of bad parenting, or as my dad puts it, “father hunger.” I knew they would automatically blame themselves for my “deviant lifestyle.” And I felt guilty because, well, despite their, um, quirks, my parents are actually quite awesome.

It took me until a few hours before the Great Revelation that I realized they probably already knew. Though I had had several boyfriends, my parents had always expressed confusion and worry because I hadn’t seemed all that into them. And there was the time I asked my dad to make a copy of the article where Jennifer Knapp came out to Christianity Today. …And of course there was the time in high school when they saw I’d been drawing hearts around girls’ names in my diary. My parents had to be smart enough to realize that a little something was up.

After my third turn in the third round of double rummy, I said there was something I needed to tell them. They put down their cards.

“I think you’re great parents, and you’ve given me a wonderful life. Part of that life is being gay.”


“You know,” my dad began, “we’re not at all surprised.”



Don’t expect miracles.

this is probably not going to happen

Kirk Cameron does not star in this movie. No halo of God’s approval is going to appear behind your head when you tell your parents you’re gay. This is not Touched By An Angel.

I’ll admit that things turned out much better than I’d expected. My parents didn’t start crying, storm out, or offer to find me a therapist who would “cure” me. They said they still loved me. They even asked to see a picture of my girlfriend. I felt like the Twinkie food baby had melted off my body. I was light and loopy as a helium balloon.

But I can’t say I came out unscathed.

Mom: “You know, I don’t know how everyone else is going to take this.” Meaning she had no plans to defend me to our crazy relatives.

Dad: “I’m not pleased with your decision. You know that. You may not feel like you chose to be this way, but some point you chose to pursue a same-sex relationship.”

I wish I processed things faster. Shock kept me from saying what I really meant at the time, or that God would have deemed that the appropriate moment to open my mouth for me. But Gabriel did not come down to defend me from my parents. This was my moment to shine by learning to have an honest relationship with my parents, even when we disagreed.

(Sidenote: My favorite part was when my dad decided to ask, “Uh, so is this why you’re Unitarian?” Classic.)


Be prepared to follow up.

Things are back to the way they were before I came out. I chatter on about work and mention places I went with my girlfriend as if she’s just another one of my New York friends who’s faceless to my parents. The only difference is that now when my dad asks how I’m doing, he asks how I’m doing “all things considered.”

We’re the type of family to let things go unspoken. Normally I’d be happy just knowing they know, and they’d never bring IT up except when they’re praying together before bed. I’m going to break that cycle.

I’d like to think that coming out to my Evangelical parents was one of the hardest things I will ever do in my life. The point of coming out to them was to have an honest relationship with them, and the worst is over. Speaking my mind to them has gotta be all downhill from here (or uphill, if you’re Ethan Tremblay.)

The next time I talk to my dad, I’m going to tell him I don’t have cancer. I’m in love. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my own skin. The cheesy love songs even make sense. It might be hard for him to hear because he’s been told the life of a homosexual is a miserable and unfulfilling one, but for the first time in my life, I am honestly, genuinely, thoroughly happy.

And when he brings up the Bible, I’ll know what to say to him. I do have that prepared lecture on Romans 1:26-28, but I probably won’t use it (He’d probably be bored with it anyway, having a doctorate and all). But since he’ll be absolutely clueless as to the reference, I’ll allow myself to quote Bette Porter:

“I am His creation. And I am proud.”

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Jana has written 1 article for us.


  1. This is extremely helpful to me.

    My parents are SUPER CATHOLIC–they just told my brother that they will not come to his wedding unless it is in a Catholic church. My bro is agnostic and his fiancee is Jewish, so it’s not gonna happen.

    Since that shit hit the fan, my mom has called me three times and emailed me once and I haven’t responded. I’m not yet sure what to do because I’m not sure I can have a dialogue without being like “SCREW YOU AND WHAT YOU DID TO MY BROTHER AND I’M GAY, DISOWN ME TOO THEN. I DARE YOU.”

    /angry feelings

    I’m glad it went (sort of) well for you.

    • Ugh, I feel the same way. My dad’s always considered me the “good” one, because my brother’s a rock-star type who has sex with girls (to whom he’s NOT EVEN MARRIED) and tattoos and untraditional piercings. Sometimes, when I talk to my dad, he’ll rant and rant about my brother and his lifestyle and his attitude.

      And I wanna be like, “Hey, guess what! Joe’s not the only one who has sex with girls!”

      But I’m conflict-averse . . .


        OMG SIN. My parents rant about my siblings all the time. Two of my brothers are “living in sin” and apparently my parents composed some sort of “we disapprove of you” letter to both of them.

        And people wonder sometimes why I’m not out. This will probably be the straw that breaks the back of my dysfunctional family.

  2. hooray!!! Yes, coming out to my moderate Southern Baptist parents was. . . difficult, but in the end, it was my own guilt and fear that made it hard. My mom doesn’t agree “with the choice i’ve made” but she see’s i’m happy and doing better than many medical professionals thought i ever would (i have bipolar disorder. being in the closet complicated matters there. :P).

    My advice is, after you tell the ‘rents, give it time. It took me 4 years to even be able to say to myself that i’m a big ol’ gay, and then another year to be ok with it. you have to give people time, especially parents.

  3. Mine did not go as well as this, ladies. (3 hour Scriptural study on the gays during which I was not permitted to speak; a hysterical mother who kept asking didn’t I want to get married?; and verbal abuse that makes me cringe to think about, much less type.) But a year and nine months later, we just had a very enjoyable Christmas. (The girlfriend has been swept under the rug but is emerging a little more with Dad and Brother. I’ll push it more as time goes on, but as it is now, I just wanted to salvage my relationship with my parents.)

    What’s getting us through was our absolute certainty that we love each other and we want to remain “family.” The good news? We have like 15-20 years for everybody’s little hearts to mend! Try to keep time in perspective. Much like the It Gets Better videos or whatnot.

    • My girlfriend’s coming out situation was nowhere near as bad as yours, but there were definitely some tearful phone calls with her mother and heated arguments with her father. However, the months and years went by and now her dad has done a complete 180 and her mom… well, she’s trying very hard, which I think is the most we can ask.

      Time heals many wounds.

    • I have very conservative strict controlling Christian parents. I have to tell them my best friend is gay and I am afraid they wont let me hang out with her any more. what do I do?

  4. Thank you for this! I have come out to everyone in my life (my boss, my co-workers, my sister, my friends, etc.) except my super Middle Eastern, Muslim parents. Shew, and it’s gonna have to happen soon. Stress. But these stories o’ bravery help me A LOT.

    • some of my guy friends in Egypt came out to their parents and it wasn’t fun…one got kicked out (much bigger thing in Egypt then in the US/West) and they other got electro shock therapy and went back into the closet…(I may be called in as the white=slut to prove his is straight…)…none of these guy friends know a lesbian or bi girl (before me) but they all theorize it would be easier for a girl to come out..

      Best of luck.

      • hey, thanks. yeah, luck will be needed.

        and, yikes, that completely breaks my heart for your friends =( i’ll be thinking of them. best of luck there. i am not expecting it to go well. thankfully we’ve all lived in the states for 25 years, and i’ve been out of their house for years and years. i live halfway across the country actually. although, i am basically expecting to be “disowned,” which is pretty common in the fam. i guess we will see how it all goes. just at least i have my sister behind me, which is really good. and i have my integrity and my truth – nothing beats that.

  5. Amazing article. I grew up in a church too, even had Jennifer Knapp’s Kansas cd back in 1999 when I was all of 13. I haven’t set a date yet but I plan to come out to my parents sometime this year.

  6. jana you’re so brave! setting a date and a specific time is really good advice because sometimes it’s just so hard to get it out.

  7. “Uh, so is this why you’re Unitarian?” made me laugh out loud. Classic, indeed.
    Thanks for this post and congratulations, hope everything goes well with your extended family too.

    PS: I’m totally stealing the deadline-setting aspect for coming out, though it’ll be a different one for me as I don’t play cards…

  8. I think that your experience is typical of evangelicals. I have had conversations with people that state that they have a good relationship with their gay or lesbian relatives but still feel that they are going to hell. They still do not get that sexual orientation is not a choice but a given. I love Suzanne Westhoffer’s comment that being GLBT is not a choice but you are chosen.

  9. thank you for writing this. I think sometimes the people you’re most worried about coming out to surprise you by taking it relatively well. right? I mean, that’s not always the case obviously but I wanna come out to my extended family this month and I’m trying to stay positive!

  10. This is so incredibly helpful, and I hope the next conversation with your parents goes well. I was raised in a similar background – Evangelical parents, lots of time invested in church, female friends at said church who thought I was weird for not having crushes on the guys.

    I’m out to my friends, sister, and such, but not yet the parents or extended family, though I I feel like I pretty much live in a glass closet. My father thought I liked the ladies a couple years before I figured it out (unfortunately, he freaked out and called a minister friend for advice on how to pray the gay away), but it was based on awesome generalizations like how I didn’t wear makeup. Somehow, his suspicion faded by the time I had a Le Tigre poster on my wall.

    I think my mother will handle it better, since she’s more progressive and actually has gay friends. I’m still totally waiting until I move back out of state, though, as cowardly as that may sound.

  11. I shoulda softened them up with a game of rummy. I *knew* I did something wrong. I came out on the 4th of July (got fireworks!) and then went with a friend to my first gay bar! Whoo hoo!

    Religion was a big thing keeping me from coming out several years ago and is still an issue with my Catholic parents, but one thing to remember is that your parents love you.

    I went to my first Pride parade this year, unfortunately after having a fight with my mother that this would negatively impact me at work if anyone found out that I was gay (everyone knows, no one cares), and so I found myself heading directly to the PFLAG table.

    They have a really good booklet on Religion & Spirituality. It generalizes a bit, so it can fit all of us in (Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish, etc.) but I was comforted to have something to actually hand my mother (she’s big on the rulebooks -even mailed me the catechism of the Catholic Church). *cringe*

    I was so happy to see all the churches that marched in the parade though…maybe I’ll find a spiritual community in one of those.

  12. I am so using that quote.
    Congrats! Happy-ending coming out stories always make me a tiny bit hopeful. Thanks for a great article <3

  13. Thank you for posting this! My parents were both evangelical while I was growing up, but my mom divorced my dad and took a run for the hippie train (yay!). So I already came out to her.

    I’m trying to decide if an e-mail come-out to my dad while I’m here in the Philippines would be a good idea. (I won’t be going home until November 2012.) What do you guys think?

    • I think an email come-out is actually a good idea, especially since you’ll be gone for so long. You can say your peace, and he will have all the time to sit with it, digest it, and you won’t have to be face to face with the initial reaction (possible freak out).
      That’s how I am going to come out to my parents – in a letter. Wish you all the luck in the world!

      • I’ve been thinking about an email too — there’s this whole other language barrier that I worry about (I could totally see my dear Korean mother responding to me telling her “I like girls” with “I rike guls too!”). I just don’t know if they’ll *get* it if I try to have that conversation over the phone.

        • Have to reply to my own post because this txt convo I just had with my sister is gold:

          Me: I just drafted an email to [our parents] coming out to them. I want to send it. Am I going to give them heart attacks?

          Sis: Maybe… Should u wait to do it in person?

          Me: No, I’m just gonna cry and they’re not going to understand what I mean.

          Sis: And u think they’ll understand thru email?

          Me: Well, they can use a dictionary

          Sis: What? Did u include pictures and wiki links?

          The first thing that came to my mind when she said “include pictures” was NSFW Sunday posts. I think that would *guarantee* a heart attack.

        • “I rike guls too” is the best thing I’ve heard today.

          I’m home with an upset stomach and now it’s worse from laughing so hard. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

        • AHAHA. <3

          Maybe we should have an e-mail coming out day. We could have a support group and everything. If I'm gonna be getting horrible heartbreaking e-mail replies, it'd be nice to counter them with nice gay e-mails full of love. Y'know?

          • Part of me likes this idea. If I decide email is the right way to go about this coming out process, I’m in.

            I might do regular mail tho. My sister just sent my parents one of those “I need to express my FEELINGS” letters and she’s not even gay, just bitter about the crazy.

            Is regular mail classier? I don’t know man. I just don’t know.

          • I’ve done both, in the past (not for coming out, obvs, just for all the other issues I have with my dad). The problem is, if you send a letter, it doesn’t stop you from getting an angry e-mail/phonecall in reply.

            I think I’d go with the one that feels better for you. When I wrote a letter, it was because my feelings were sooo painful that I didn’t want to think about getting a reply immediately. I wanted to have a few days to get myself together.

            It takes a few WEEKS from the Philippines, though, so I dunno about that.

  14. So I guess I just have a question for you all who are gay and have continued practicing your faith. I’m a former Lutheran and currently an atheist (I didn’t lose faith cuz of my homosexygayness though, my congregation was actually very liberal)

    Is the church/synagogue/mosque/temple you go to now liberal? Do the people who attend the same house of worship know you are gay? Do they judge you for it? Or have you kept attending your parents’ religious services? and if so why?

    I’m not trying to be a rable-rousing a-hole so much as I’m curious because my girlfriend is a Christian. I guess I just don’t understand religious gays cuz I’m pretty sure most religions find us abhorrent at worst and confused at best.

    • I attend an Episcopalian Church in Philadelphia.
      It’s so gay, I cannot even tell you how homofab this church is….

      The rector (priest) has been there over 20 years–totally out–his partner runs the food thing during coffee hour. This congregation is about 90% LGBT….there is something so enormously affirming about having LGBT church members in their 80’s and to have 12 kids of queer parents in Sunday school—and the best effing Christmas pageant ever…

      I wasn’t raised Christian and probably wouldn’t describe myself as such now but I must say….church is one of my favorite places to be, such a lovely body of believers.

      My Cherokee grandmother used to say, “you know you found the right spot if you walk out feeling like you’re in God’s breast pocket”….

    • alexandra > Even though I have spiritual beliefs I don’t follow any organized religion so I can’t answer your questions, but I’d like to comment on your last paragraph :

      there’s a HUGE difference between religion itself and what some people who think they have authority on the matter say it is. No one can say “religion is about this or that” whether they’re your parents or your priest or the pope, because it’s a strictly personal thing.

      For some people it’s an excuse to rationalize their fears and willful ignorance by quoting some centuries old book by which we should live our lives (well the parts they agree with actually, everything else is conveniently swept under the rug).
      For some others it’s a journey of the mind which purpose is to live a productive and loving life and become better human beings.

      My grandmother is Catholic, and yet she has gay friends and support gay rights. She’s also friends with priests, imams, rabbis and bhuddists, and sometimes invite them all to her place where they peacefully talk about religion and spirituality over a freshly baked pie. She’s fucking awesome and made me realize that religion is not about hate but about love.

      • “there’s a HUGE difference between religion itself and what some people who think they have authority on the matter say it is. No one can say “religion is about this or that” whether they’re your parents or your priest or the pope, because it’s a strictly personal thing.”

        THIS. Thank you.

  15. Excellent piece!

    And no, not every parent is going to carry around a sign stating “I love my gay daughter”. Some of them might even hit you, spit at you and tell you they’ll never talk to you again. And some of them just might not talk to you again.

    For the LGBTQ who did have the courage to stop living a lie to their parents, no matter the consequences, I say, “L’chaim!”

  16. wow i love reading all the coming out storys. i came out to my mom when i was 12 or 13 and i had made a big deal out of it in my head we had just started going to church and she was really in to it ( i was to but felt uncomfortable not being out) but she was great the first thing she said to me was she trusted my jugment and knew i had a good head and new what was right for me it was really cool and slowly my family was let in on it but i never really came out it was just like yeah i like her shes hot when the guys were talking about chicks and i was with them so every one found out that way but a few years later a older relitive came out to me and slowly to the family and he told me had i not been gay and came out he never would have had the balls to come out so that was really cool. i wish more people would take teh news like my mom and be cool with it .. tho she still hounds me about grandkids im like im 21 give me time but shes like ok but soon :)

  17. “The next time I talk to my dad, I’m going to tell him I don’t have cancer. I’m in love.”


  18. Jana, thank you for your honest and heartfelt essay. It’s a tough thing to do, seemingly pitting love for a child against love for God, but it’s so much easier knowing that there are people who have already been there and have your back.

    My mum’s side is Fundamentalist Christian, but I came out to her over four years ago, on Thanksgiving break during my freshman year of college. She’d already known, probably before I figured it out. (My sister told her in middle school that “she didn’t think I was going to bring home a boyfriend. Ever.”)

    Her biggest concern was that my grandparents couldn’t know, although I’m pretty sure at least my grandmother has figured it out. She watches Ellen.

    There was never any shouting or arguments, but the worst of it all is the silence. Once, after talking with my mum for an hour about my sister’s relationship with her long-term boyfriend, I casually mentioned I had gone on a date. We spent the rest of the car ride without saying a word.

    The whole family knows I’m gay, but nobody ever says anything. They don’t tease me about dating the way they do my other cousins. They don’t ask about college or what I do in my spare time. From where I’m standing, it’s like they’re afraid I’ll tell the truth, and once it’s spoken, they’ll have to start dealing with it.

    I was prepared for a fight, but nobody told me there could be silence. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than shouting.

    • The branch of my partner’s family who lives near us plays this game, too. They’ll make a huuuuuge fuss over some distant cousin’s brand new boyfriend but treat me like I’m just my partner’s roommate or something.

      We don’t spend much time with these people.

  19. wow. i’m so happy that you were able to come out and still maintain a dialogue with your parents. this was great to read.

    i am mostly out to everyone except my parents and the elder adults of my family. however, my parents, and especially my mother, are extremely catholic. like, pray-outside-abortion-clinics-for-hours-in-the-freezing-cold catholic.

    i can only hope they harbor some suspicions about me.

  20. “I think you’re great parents, and you’ve given me a wonderful life. Part of that life is being gay.”

    That is such a good coming out sentence (I know it’s more than one sentence). I’m glad it’s out there on the internet, as well as your story. Also the quote from Bette. Yes.

    • Seriously that’s so perfect. I wish I had read this before coming out to my mom in a horrifyingly awkward way “so… Like hahahha I just thought I should tellyou I think I like girls hahaha…. (silence) Anyway what’s for dinner?”

  21. I’m not much of a talker. Confrontation leaves me in a cold sweat, and always has. SOOO, I didn’t really “come out” so to speak, at least not in the verbal, confrontational kind of way. I just moved in with my girlfriend, raised her kids, and brought said family with me to any family gatherings we had the time and money for(6 hour drive one way). My parents have treated the girls like grandkids and I believe that after 15 years most of my extended family has caught on, as well.

    Most of my family is Methodist, though, and none of them really pushed the super-religious, gays-go-to-hell agenda. And, as stated above, I’m not much of a talker, so much so that my girlfriend is usually the one who tells me that I need to call my parents. Uusually with “when is the last time you talked to them?” Eh, I just don’t have that much to say.

  22. this made me cry. coming out to my parents who are both ministers was painful the first, second, third, and fourth times and still is. but i have hope. and i am so happy being myself, even if they believe i’m missing out.

  23. <3 THIS article.

    I just came out to my evangelical protestant parents last night. I thought it was going to be the worst thing ever. I couldn't have been more wrong.

    My mom only cried when she said she was sad to think that they were part of what was holding me back from being my true self.

    My dad said he didn't, and probably wouldn't ever, understand, but that he still loves and supports me.

    We all know this is going to take a lot more processing time, but we are off to a good, healthy-ish start. The extended family is going to make things ugly, but at least we can get through it together.

    But I'm so happy that I can finally share this inner peace I've found since coming out to myself, by coming out to others who understand. Yay!

  24. I am a devout Christian myself, through the way my family raised me, and eventually through myself. I love my God.

    I can relate to this and can identify with this so much so I can’t put my feelings into words at the moment.

    For now, thank you for this Jana.

    • “I am a devout Christian myself, through the way my family raised me, and eventually through myself. I love my God.”

      I can’t even tell you how much that resonated with me… lately I’ve felt like the only queer Christian in the universe, like maybe I have to choose between one or the other, so thank you so much for the reminder that there are others out there.

      • yes, that feeling of being the only one. i am here dizzy.

        i just spent a couple of minutes trying to put my thoughts into writing, alas, still too many feelings about this. autostraddle posts are such mental workouts

        • Yeah, they really are… it’s a big thing with the topics Autostraddle. Hard enough to know the self, let alone reach out to others.

          Anyway it’s enough to know you’re here :)

      • You two aren’t alone, although admittedly, I have many feelings/thoughts that are unresolved (in regards to theology), even 11 years after coming out.

        • Thanks for letting us know you’re here :)

          I’m starting to make peace with my uncertainties and conflicts… accepting that Christianity is a way and not a set of beliefs to cling to, and that questions and doubts are part of a faith that’s mature and responsive.

          The thing I really struggle with is, I feel like I have a Christian self and a queer self, and the two won’t integrate. Because Christians I know are straight people who even though relatively accepting are still heteronormative. And the queers I know are athiests who see religion as inherently opposed to other forms of sexual expression and find my religious beliefs ridiculous. Intellectually I know it’s a false dichotomy but it’s one that I find psychologically very difficult to shake.

          Oversharing? Maybe. But if you can’t overshare on Autostraddle, where can you ;)

  25. Bette Porter quotations all the way! That should help when I come out to my mom. Whenever I decide that’s going to happen. Most likely when we’re not living in the same house. I’m not sure. Sometimes, I think I might not be giving her enough credit.

    On a brighter note, I came out to my dad! He’s the non-religious one. He’s okay with it. He’s not exactly happy about it and may have suggested that it’s just a phase, but I can work with that. There wasn’t fire and brimstone, so I’m happy.

  26. Hindus have interesting reactions…on the one hand, sexual identity and sexuality are irrelevant. Even identifying oneself as a physical body is an illusion, so…
    My partner’s elderly Indian parents were not thrilled when she came out/got divorced/took up with me. I am a charmer so her mom and I got along well after the shock wore off.

    All but one sibling were fine about it. Dad never said a word to me until years later after mom died. My partner got sick in India & I flew there after having just got back from there, to bring her home. This completely changed his mind about me. He realized I was going to take care of and love his daughter, and she was happy at last.
    When he was dying in hospital he wanted me to be there, and insisted I feed him in front of the stubborn brother, to make a point. He was 90 when he died.
    Our Guru, also an old Indian man, gets a kick out of us, always says “stay together, never separate, support each other, meditate”.

    • I think that’s more a (South) Asian thing rather than a Hindu thing. My parents are Bangladeshi Muslims and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to talk about anything to do with sexuality. I’ve tried coming out to them but they vaguely acknowledge it – it’s mostly because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of me being *sexual* to begin with. Even my boyfriend, whom they adore and occasionally ask about marriage, is still just my “friend”. Aiyish -_-

      (stuff like this is why I go “o_O O RLY” when people go on about how South Asians must all be erotic beings because of the Kama Sutra. It was basically the Vice Guide for Hipsters of their time.)

    • Thank you for writing this! That first part is exactly why I am having a hard time coming out to my would be spiritual master (I say “would be” as I’m fairly new to everything, but I am almost certain that he will be my guru). Being gay and being in a Woman’s body is all just a temporary material circumstance – so I feel like I should be more focused on my spiritual path, and those things shouldn’t matter! O__o

      Surprisingly enough, coming out to my Mom was very easy. She isn’t extremely religious now, but came from a religious background – and sometimes you hear the remnants of that in the way she reacts to things. So her reaction to my coming out was pretty much a toss up… Luckily it pretty much amounted to, “Wow, I’ve never known a gay person before!” I think she thought it was really cool?! HAHAHA
      My telling her I’ve decided to follow Krishna Consciousness (read as: Hare Krishna), turned out much less spectacularly as she was basically shocked and worried that I’ve been hanging out with “that cult!”

      • That’s awesome about your mom!! But…I’m gonna take a some of her reaction and say:

        Wowwww, I’ve never known a Hare Krishna before!!! OOoOOooOoo :D

  27. I’m still not out to my Mormon parents. And I’ve heard so much homophobic hatred from my super conservative mom that I’ve been pretty much terrified of ever telling her. But over the past year, I’ve matured enough to the point that I believe that I can do anything if I’ve got enough nerve. And things like this article really do help me to realize that I’m not an island. :)

    • You can do it! I was raised super conservative Mormon and I came out without anyone having to bleed or even cry! My (super conservative) Mom left the church when my Dad refused to defend me to the rest of the ward. You are not an island!

  28. You should congratulate yourself on doing what you did. It’s not easy, and it would be much simpler (but SO self-destructive in the long run) to just let things go unsaid.

    Sometimes families just don’t accept things – and unfortunately that is life. Sometimes they’ll *kinda* accept it (where it’s not spoken about but lurking in the background).

    I can vouch for the fact that the screaming/crying/sending to therapists can stop, and that some sort of equilibrium can be found (albeit a not ideal one).

    For all your patience and effort, it may be that your parents will never 100% change their minds. Part of coming out is accepting when it’s okay to say ‘this is as good as it gets, for them’, and accept their faults. Your parents have had their lifestyle, and the culture of religion and its associated homophobia, for longer than you’ve been alive! Part of the blame is on them, and part of the blame is on this oppressive aspect of religion (or *some* religions, at least).

    One of the things however, that I sort of regret (though it had a silver lining) was the urge to be the ‘perfect’ daughter, after I came out. I worked my ass off, studied my ass off, and all the while thinking ‘I’ll be the best daughter ever, I’ll show them!”. Whilst it’s good for your career, it’s not necessarily good for your happiness!

    Also – another note: guys, it’s alright to NOT come out. Okay? If you think your parents will throw you out of the home, or cause you harm, then it’s okay NOT to tell them. Your wellbeing is the important thing here – sure, part of your wellbeing is being honest with people – but only if its feasible – NOT at the expense of having your full life turned upside down. As much as you shouldn’t be pressured by them to have a hetero life, you also shouldn’t be pressured to come out of the closet when you’re not ready/it’s not the right time.

  29. Thanks for this, Jana. I left my evangelical church this past year but my roommates are still friends from that group. I just came out to one of them this morning, which went really really well. Like, to the point where my roommate basically told me she was bi.

    This gives me hope for telling my parents (my dad is a pastor) and not having it end in disaster and disownment.

  30. I have two young sons and am an Evangelical Christian. I can promise you that I don’t give a big rat’s behind who they bring home to me to meet as long as that person loves them in they way that they deserve. I can love a son in law as much as a daughter in law (probably better even!)
    My family recently changed churches over this and a few other topics (many political) and I was so comforted by seeing a transgender member sitting in one of the pews. I felt like I’d found a loving church home!
    The Christian church gets up in arms over this because they see it as “safe” to. They don’t deal with it in their daily lives and they feel confident that they won’t ever, They claim to love all souls but they’ve demonized homosexuality because it’s easy to demonize. I find the Biblical support for homosexuality being wrong almost as strong as the support for me having to have long hair. I rock my pixie and I’ll rock my sons’ partners. I pray that by then, they can have the spouses they choose.

  31. I came out to my sisters about six months ago, who have been wonderful, and then my mother sort of demanded that I tell her what was “going on.” I did, despite the fact that I wasn’t sure I was ready. I don’t regret telling her, she wasn’t all that suprised and was pretty supportive.

    The problem is that now just my dad doesn’t know. I’m back living with my parents (who are married), and while I don’t anticipate a terrible reaction from my dad, I do feel really uncomfortable. I wanted to tell my parents together, to avoid this one-on-one situation with my dad, but now it’s too late, and I feel this, like, tension as time passes – as though in addition to the actual “I’m a lesbian” conversation, the fact that everyone knows but him will hurt his feelings. And avoidance of this conflict is compounding the problem. Yuck. Thoughts, Advice?

  32. I came out in phases to my family with my evangelical minister father being the last I told. Overall they were supportive with my mother saying, “It’s not god’s plan for your life, but I love you and want you to be happy.” My dad didn’t really have much to say. He basically acts like it didn’t happen. I think the real test will come when I bring a special lady home.

  33. My mother, my only parent, is a Puerto Rican transplant from the upper class of San Juan. She was raised Roman Catholic, attended high school with the current governor’s wife, even had her marriage blessed by the pope – which incidentally ended in infidelity on my father’s behalf. She has been treated for depression for as long as I can remember, (and please bear with me for I am being brutally honest) because I begin to think to myself – How do I go about coming out to a woman, no – mi Mama, with so much else going on, anxiety, fear and tradition all colliding when I tell her I am a lesbian. She asks me, eloquently so, if it’s finite.


    I can’t say that we have made much progress since there, and it has been months. But there are the little things, and if you take the time to notice them you will see that the basis is there… We watched The Kid’s Are Alright, over the holidays when I was home. Together. We talked about the Oscars the other night, should Annette get it? No, Natalie – TOTALLY. I see progress…and boy does it feel good.

    Be conscious of these moment’s following you’re official coming out – because you may not see the signs right away, but slowly your parental figure is figuring out that this crazy thing you just blurted out is really something that has been in you all along, and he+she/she/he will begin to realize it has been apart of you for as long as you live. So cherish these moments, I suppose, is what I’m trying to say. But most importantly DO NOT hesitate (….too long…..) when coming out. You’re family deserves to know, and they WILL love you for it in the end.

  34. I never really got to come out to my very, very, very Christian parents, although I planned it over & over again in my head. In the end, my dad went into my room to get a load of laundry & saw on my computer some (errr, graphic) things that I said to my girlfriend.

    The shit hit the fan; he was furious. I went out with him & we discussed it, & I wrote a letter to my mum & officially told her (couldn’t do it face to face), which to this day she has never mentioned. Later, I went out with both of them & they told me that they strongly disapproved, & could not support me in this “lifestyle”; they then told me that unless I were to break up with my girlfriend (apparently gay is okay as long as it’s not acted on), I had to move out. I did.

    This was a year ago. We still don’t really discuss it (though, incidentally, our relationship is loads better since I’ve moved out). My mom has met my girlfriend several times now, & she’s civil, though standoffish, which I guess is something. But any progress that has happened has been very, very little, & it’s hard. But it is worth it. I am glad they know, even if it wasn’t on my terms.

  35. Pingback: A Crash Course in Coming Out to Evangelical Parents

  36. I’m coming out to my very own evangelical parents tomorrow. Can I just get some love/good vibes from people on this thread sent my way? They have always said “we love you no matter what for all you are”–just hoping that holds true.

    • <3333333333333333333. You can do this, bb, & I, for one, am super proud of you. Let us know how it goes.

    • love and good vibes to the power of infinity PearlGirl!

      autostraddlers are here for you, hoping it goes well, and here for you to come back to if you need to talk :)

  37. I’d actually like to know a little bit about that lecture on the Romans bit. Not for my parents (they don’t care) or for some of the people I used to go to church with (I don’t especially care about their thoughts anymore), but more, I think for my own…peace, I guess. I mean, I know how I personally feel about being a super-gay Lutheran (pretty great, actually), but I also can’t really deny that having a bit of theology to back up my own thoughts would make me feel better. So.

  38. When I came out as bi for the very first time ever to my best friend, we thought of funny ways to tell my mom (I don’t have contact with my dad). My friend thought I should offer to make dinner for my mom and make hot dogs and bagels, sit down at the table, and say pointedly, “I like BOTH of these things.”

    What can I say? We’re immature. :)

  39. I’m very lucky in that my parents and step-parents are all very liberal and pro-gay rights.

    However, most of my extended family is very conservative, so this article really resonated with me. My gramma, for instance, ignores me every time I mention teh ghey, and either misunderstood me or, again, ignored me when I told her I had a girlfriend. This makes me sad because in most ways I am pretty open with my gramma.

  40. Hey Jana – was really great to see you today at the BK food conference! I want to be your social network friend but I’m unsure how to find you so find me!

  41. I love this! I came out to my evangelical parents too! And, I’m excited to learn that Jennifer Knapp is a lesbian! I remember tearing her photo out of Brio and taping it up on my wall. (anybody else grow up on Brio?)

  42. Ok, I so totally want to see the lecture on the Romans verse… because it seems like one that would most likely be used against being gay, not the other way around. I’m also trying to get a feel for how my parents would react to me coming out to them–I’ve been bringing up the topic, and dropping hints, but I’m just not sure. For one thing, what is the point, if I don’t have a girlfriend yet? For another thing, I’m living at home right now, and I hear what they have to say about my sister living with her boyfriend. I mean, they still love her, but all that disapproval would hurt me, I think. I guess I’m not yet sure what I think or want to do.

  43. My Christian grandmother passed away earlier this year. Although she was a firm believer, I know I could have come-out to her and she would have accepted me regardless, she loved me enough so that life changing announcements like that would never have hurt our relationship. Now I have to one day pluck up the courage to tell my parents, and I worry they’ll kick me out of the house. I wish I had told my grandmother. Now I will never know the support she would have given me. God give me the strength to live my life for myself, and not for my parents.

  44. Jana I went back and read this… I am stunned by how brave you are. Keep your head up. Look at how far we’ve come even since you wrote this! It’s amazing. *HUGS* and happy thoughts about new year’s in brooklyn… ;)

  45. thanks so much for this article, and for all of the thoughtful comments. i was raised in a conservative baptist church, and both of my parents are very active and public figures in the church. i’m bisexual, and have always known it, but it’s only been in the last few years that i’ve started telling people because while i still consider myself a christian, i have been pretty damaged and confused by my parents’ church and my religious college. i still don’t really know what to think, but it’s such a relief to know that there are others out there struggling with the same issues, while still knowing that we are who we are and our faith doesn’t change that.

    i’m married to a great guy, and he and most of my close friends know about my sexuality, but i haven’t come out to my parents or family yet…and i’m almost thirty. i need to tell them, but i’m dreading it, and every year that goes by i get more nervous. i really have no idea how they’ll react. you ladies are giving me courage.

    i’m brand new to autostraddle, and i’m pretty excited to be part of such a kickass community. ❤

  46. Great article. This would make for a good movie. I was in such suspense, wondering how they would take the news.

  47. Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m
    a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform
    like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are
    so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any tips? Bless you!

  48. I’m in the process of coming out to people I know. I’m a Christian, my parents are Christians, the majority of the people I know are Christians, and I am honestly kind of terrified. A lot of my friends know, and are completely cool with it, but I’ve reached the point where I have to figure out which is worse: being strangled by secrets or not knowing how my parents will respond. This article gave me a little bit of hope and encouragement. Thanks for posting it. :)

  49. Jana, I see you posted this several years ago (though it just popped up in my facebook feed today from Believe OutLoud). I hope your relationship with your parents has continued to grow and evolve in positive ways. Your story could be my own (very religious parents, visiting from out of town, set time and words, some idea of the fallout but also an inkling that they knew, though I became Quaker rather than Unitarian). That was in 1999.

    In the intervening 17 years, their acceptance has fluctuated and their objections popped up in the oddest places. And it stung to hear my mom say things like “I just wish you could find another way to be happy” after six years of being out to her. And there is no end of weirdness in a sibling trying to set rules for who was considered “family” for a family trip or who could be around for the family portion of Christmas. But we all hung on. I walked away from some tense situations so that I could come back later to say “do you understand that if you don’t want the person I love at Christmas you are setting up a situation where I would have to choose between love and love? And, while we’re at it, where does this leave your single heterosexual daughter if she finds a boyfriend?”

    I never knew it would be such… work. But then, I don’t think that I ever imagined that negotiating an adult relationship with your parents and siblings would be work either. And in the early days of listening to my dad break down in tears because he thought I would just live a life of serial monogamy (ummm), I never thought that they could define themselves as parents of a lesbian. They do now. And they do it in small ways that don’t seem important until you stack them up against society. Like my mom telling the mother of another lesbian that she was excited to look through her wedding pictures that the other mother was afraid to share (despite adoring her new daughter). In the biggest move of all, they left their conservative church of 25 years after the church excommunicated me. And they didn’t even tell me. All that was ever said was, three months later on Christmas Eve, “oh no, we go to the Presbyterian church now. I won’t go where my family isn’t welcome.” Twenty years ago, that calm comment seemed as distant as Mars. Further. The Andromeda Galaxy.

    All of this is to say, I don’t know where you are with your family right now, but I imagine the road is still bumpy. Hang on. It turns out we all grow as adults, including our parents. I hope your parents and you have grown together.

    (don’t feel compelled to leave this on your page– this was really just a note to you from the you 10 years from now.)

  50. Hi!
    My name is Fadak, I’m currently a 4th year student at the University of Toronto. A course I am taking this year is called ‘Analyzing Social Psychology’, in the class we have to write a 50+ page paper on a social concept/phenomenon.
    My topic is about coming out transgender in a religious family. I found your blog online and loved it. I would love to correspond with you more and talk about a few of the major life changing moments you hand and the struggle of coming from a religious family (like focus more on your parents reaction and your personal struggle with religion). So what I basically want is a chance to meet/talk/interview you and just talk about life. It would be totally casual and you’d be helping me out so much. If you’re interested or want to ask me some questions please email me.

  51. Pingback: Who are Evangelicals, and what do they believe? – Queer Grace

  52. Pingback: How do I come out when my family/church/therapist isn’t welcoming? – Queer Grace

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