Coming out to your family can be a hugely difficult experience for young people. Even if they feel pretty confident that they’ll get a positive reaction, they can’t guarantee this. They worry that the relationship with their family could change forever because of this one fact.
As February is LGBT History month we’ve decided to share a young person’s story with you (originally published on our sister site TheSprout) about coming out to his family, specifically his strict Muslim grandparents.
Granny… I’m Gay
When I first came out to my immediate family and friends, I felt on top of the world. The relief and joy it brought was remarkable but then I thought, “what about my grandparents?”
My grandparents are strict Muslims, they understand that their children and grandchildren are much more Western and untraditional, and they still love us all dearly. But what if something huge comes along, something that could explode your world? Something that might upset some of the closest relationships you’ve ever had? How do I tell them I’m gay?
How will they react?
I love them so much, and they love me back too. The bond I share with them is amazing and unbreakable. But I began to question this, and two questions kept playing over and over in my head – How would they react? Will they still love me?
I spent night after night crying, looking at every web page that came up after I typed ‘Islam’ and ‘gay’ into Google, trying to look for that imaginary article that said everything would be fine, but obviously I didn’t find that.
I have always been gay; my first sexual attraction was towards a boy, it was very clear in my head. I tried to change (seriously!) but this made me very, very upset and depressed. I would argue with myself and I even tried to harm myself once. After that I asked a teacher for help. Going through this is proof enough that being gay is not a choice; it’s not something I can change.
I tormented myself for months over what could happen if I came out to my grandparents, sitting there, and thinking of every possible scenario: “I’m gay” – “We no longer love you, never talk to us again“. I began to believe that this would happen, and that hurt. The hurt of ‘what if’ became too much and I decided to brave up and tell them, and deal with whatever the consequences were. I already felt that our relationship was becoming distant, and that felt like a dagger through my heart.
I rang them on my mobile phone. As it rang I could hear my heart beat loudly and quickly and I was sweating. Granny picked up the phone:
“Granny I have to tell you something really important. I’m gay.”
She thought I was pulling her leg at first.
“No seriously, I’m gay”.
Then it went quiet.
“Granny? Do you still love me?”
She replied that she was very shocked, but that she couldn’t control her heart and would always love me. That made me cry, and she began to cry too. She hates the idea of me being gay, but she loves me and that made my heart feel warm.
When she passed the phone to my granddad I was really scared. I was worried he’d get angry, but he reacted in the same way (except a little more shocked). What did hurt, even though I knew it was coming, was he asked if I was seeing a doctor, and how would I have children? I had to do a lot of explaining to assure him that I knew I was gay, but he still thinks I don’t really know myself. The last thing he said was “I’m going to pray”… and then he hung up.
So I guess that was a kind of positive reaction considering they are very traditional Muslims, but obviously there were negatives too. This has been an emotional vent for me and I guess what I’m saying is you should be free to be who you are. You shouldn’t let anyone stop you, and no matter how awful things might seem, there is a brighter side – maybe not amazingly bright, but bright all the same.
If you’re ever faced with this situation in your family then be aware of how you react to the news. Remember that it’s taken weeks, months, and years to pluck up the courage, being in turmoil all that time. It hasn’t been easy for them and your reaction is obviously important. If you’re struggling and want further information then Stonewall is a great place to get it.