I’m a half Brazilian sixteen year old cis lesbian who’s living out in the boonies of Alaska. I CAN’T STAND IT. I love this place, but I feel so tremendously isolated, and I don’t have any friends, it’s flooded with small minded white conservatives. I wouldn’t say I’m suffering, I have a decent family, a roof above my head, clean water and clean air. I pass as white. (Though I wish that didn’t have to be a privilege.) But I’m lonely. I’ve hardly even kissed a girl. I survive on cinema, and literature and decent television.
Thankfully I have a good imagination. Writing helps. (I want to be a screenwriter and a director someday.) My parents aren’t religious extremists, or even Republicans for that matter, but my Dad feels uncomfortable talking about those sorts of things and my Mamãe has a whole bunch of internalized homophobia because her mother used to call her a dyke when she was little. (Even though she wasn’t.) My Mamãe has said a lot of bitter things about queer people. And they hurt. But I can’t say anything. I don’t know how to say anything because she’ll say I’m not even like that. She always says that “People are lovable” But that she doesn’t “Believe in the gay.” WHAT THE HELL IS THAT EVEN SUPPOSED TO MEAN?
I guess in short my real question is how do I not explode? How do I approach all this? How the hell do I make it till I’m in film school over at San Fran?
I am sorry you feel so isolated and lonely, and I am sorry your parents have created an environment in which it does not feel like you can be your most authentic self. You deserve to have a fulfilling and happy life outside of your imagination — though I do think it’s a good thing you’ve figured out writing and art are effective coping mechanisms. Before I get into some of the harsh realities of your situation, I want to address something that really stands out in your letter and gently push back on it. You do not need to diminish your own pain.
Much of your letter includes reasons you’re lucky. You make a point to say you’re not suffering and your parents are not “religious extremists.” I do think the language we use to describe pain and harm should be specific and up to the individual. But I also think your impulse to insist you’re not suffering stems from insecurity and guilt. You do not need to feel guilty about the ways you’re hurting. Homophobia does not need to be overt or obvious or extreme in order to be harmful. I grew up with lots of mostly well meaning liberal family members who still managed to say things that kept me in the closet around them for years. It’s clear your parents’ words have affected you, and you do not need to couch those feelings at all. They are valid! You are valid.
I say all this because I think it’s important to grant yourself some kindness as you tackle the difficult decision of how to interact with your family before you’re able to leave for school. Please do not feel like you need to undercut your own feelings. In fact, it’s time to really, really listen to yourself. The bitter things your mother has said about queer people are not a reflection of you, but they’re obviously words that will hurt you. And you feel like you can’t say anything, and that’s a very, very tough position to be in.
You could try setting a boundary with your mother without outing yourself by responding to her homophobic statements with something like “I don’t appreciate when you talk that way about people.” But I also understand that might get tricky and could lead to her asking invasive questions about yourself. It sounds like you want to navigate all this without outing yourself, and I just want to say emphatically that that is absolutely okay. Coming out is not always the solution to these situations. Coming out won’t necessarily change how you feel around your parents. I am not trying to be cynical or dissuade you from making other choices, but I just do feel like the option of not coming out when it comes to homophobic family members does not get as much attention as coming out does. I often think about this sentiment from an Autostraddle essay from a few years back: “I’d heard about the relief that came with coming out from everybody. If TV was to be believed, I would feel free even as my parents stopped looking me in the eye.” Film/TV does often peddle the message that coming out is always a relief, is always an it-gets-better situation. But that’s not always true, and I think that message can sometimes be actively harmful. Your current situation is hurting you, and coming out won’t necessarily “fix” it.
I also highly recommend this previous You Need Help.
If you do decide you want to tell your parents, some of the most widely applicable coming out advice is to set clear boundaries, keep your expectations as realistic as possible, and prepare for any extreme scenarios. But all that widely applicable advice is kind of abstract and also, if we’re being realistic, harder to enact as a minor.
Regardless of what she knows or doesn’t know about you, you can’t really control the way your mother thinks or talks about gay people. All you can do is try to protect yourself as much as possible from it. You can leave the room if they start saying hurtful things—an imperfect and short-term solution but still something that can help mentally in the moment. Your mother has said she doesn’t “believe in the gay,” and I think you were being rhetorical by asking what it means, but I do hope you don’t dwell too much on the meaning of that sentiment and instead focus on the fact that you know who you are even if your parents don’t. You can keep turning to TV and film and your own writing. There’s a very long tradition of queer folks relying on art to escape homophobia and seize control of our lives/selves (I did it for many years!). I know you don’t feel like you have friends where you live, but you can try to find community online. I also did that—I was out on Tumblr way before I was out in “real life,” and I connecting with those long-distance friends had a profound impact on my life. Having other people to talk to can help so much. Exploring online queer spaces—and/or online film spaces—can help your world feel more expansive.
In the meantime, don’t be hard on yourself for struggling with any of this. Your queerness is valid, and your feelings are valid.