International Coming Out Day: The jokes are widespread, but there is a reality behind it

My ex couldn't manage to come out to her parents while we were together, and it hurt.

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The Independent Online

Heard the one about the gay guy who came out to his parents only to find they’d already had a bet on when he’d get around to it?

Or the lesbian whose family were simply relieved she wasn’t a vegetarian or on drugs? Or the daughter whose mum flipped the conversation on its head and unveiled her own youthful same sex flings? Even my mother provided such an anecdote by once reciting lesbian love poetry at the tea table to the utter (silent) horror of my dad. In the world of stand up comedy, ‘coming out’ stories are becoming so prevalent they almost feel passé.

Yet scratch below the surface and this key moment of inter generational revelation is still excruciating and impossible for some. My ex of five years certainly couldn’t do it. I’m not sure I’v e ever found anything as bewildering as the deep ravine of pain I felt every time I waved her off to Wales at Christmas knowing I’d never be able to accompany her and meet the people dearest to her, see childhood photos of her and get an even greater sense of the woman  I adored. This enforced secrecy eventually eroded the relationship, only for my ex to finally break the silence after the break up. When she told me, I shared her relief but we both cried at the terrible cost our own love had had to pay.

When she told me, I shared her relief but we both cried at the terrible cost our own love had had to pay.

What a shame I couldn’t be stoic like writer Stella Duffy who waited over nine years to meet her partner’s parents and told me once in an interview about the utter joy she felt when she finally did. All the anger she might’ve felt simply disappeared. This level of patience eluded me and I would employ all manner of subterfuge to provoke ‘the conversation’ by booking holidays every year in Lesvos or other gay-sounding destinations. Fortunately my new partner has been resoundingly brilliant at showing me off and restoring my confidence. So there’s a happy ending.

Maybe the point is that whether we’re gay, bi or straight, we’re all pretty terrible at confiding in our folks. Many adults I know in their 30s and beyond still haven’t confessed that they smoke and think that sucking a mint just before visiting them will cover it up. I suffer various bizarre foodstuffs (pickled walnuts, anyone?) every time I visit my father as I haven’t the heart to tell him I don’t like the things he’s searched high and low to buy ready for my arrival. So maybe there are all kinds of things, big and small, that we all need to ‘come out’ to our parents about…and the more we do, the easier it’ll get for us to tell them who we really are and know and love them in return.

It’s International Coming Out Day today (though not really highlighted widely in the UK it was marked by the Lesbian And Gay Foundation in Manchester last year with a special day of support. So let's start the revolution then. After you...

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