Untold but not unimportant: the stories of closeted teens with supportive parents

by | May 31, 2024 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

When children come out as LGBTQ+ to their parents at a later age, or never, a common question parents have is ‘why didn’t they tell me?’. Another is ‘am I a failure?’ 

Homophobia and transphobia are still pretty common. It’s important to note that you need to, as a parent, be as supportive of your children as possible, as evidenced by this graph.

Source: The Trevor Project

Often, it is the parents’ fault that their child doesn’t come out, whether that’s a fear of rejection, a safety issue, or something else.

However, that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, it’s down to something completely different.

And stats can be great, but nothing, and nobody, can explain the reasons for this as well as those young people themselves.

I spoke to three young people that grew up with supportive parents, but for some reason or another, haven’t come out, or didn’t come out until they reached adulthood.

Here are their stories.

The first person I spoke to is twenty years old, living at home with his mum and dad, and hasn’t come out as gay to his parents.

“I haven’t ‘come out’ because I don’t know how to do it. 

“Straight people don’t generally feel the need to clarify who they’re sexually attracted to, unless they’re desperately trying to convince someone they’re not queer, so why should I?

“It doesn’t need to be a big deal. I don’t want to make a song and a dance of it, you know? I don’t want people to think of me as ‘the gay one’.

“I don’t want them to think of me and immediately think ‘gay’. It’s such a small part of who I am. Including my parents.”

This seems to be a key problem for a lot of people. Many people that are, in some way, part of the queer community would love to just be seen as normal by society, but, currently, it’s seen as being different to the ‘norm’.

“I don’t think my parents would be bothered, honestly. They’ve never shown themselves to be against the whole LGBT thing. The thing is, I don’t know what the best way to go about things is. 

“Do I just drop it into conversation? Make it out to be a big announcement?

“I don’t know.

“I’ve been putting it off for so long that I’ve almost made it an even bigger deal than it needs to be. 

“I think it’ll be a surprise, especially now. So what do I do?”

The next person doesn’t quite know what she is yet.

“I haven’t ‘come out’ because I’m not 100% certain what I am.

“I think I’m bisexual, and to friends at college, that’s what I say. The thing is, I don’t think they’ll still be my friends when I go to university next year, so telling them this doesn’t really tie me down to anything.

“It’s so easy to tell them ‘oh yeah, I’m bisexual’. So what? It’s not a big deal to me, or them. We’ve only recently met (I go to a college a long way from home, and my secondary school) so they don’t have any preconceptions of me, and it can’t really be a shock to them (again, we’ve only recently met). 

“Telling my family, on the other hand, feels silly at the moment. If I tell them I’m bisexual, but then, further down the line, realise I’m straight, I’d feel really silly for ever saying anything. A faker. A fraudulent queer. Equally, if I realise I’m a lesbian, I’ll think to myself: ‘why didn’t I just wait until I was certain to say anything’?

“That mindset might be silly, but it definitely isn’t down to my parents.”

The final person I spoke to told a beautiful story. She’s a transgender girl named ‘Mia’, and although she had trans ally parents, didn’t come out until she left for university.

She’s 21 now, but her memories of coming out are still as vivid as ever.

“I didn’t ‘come out’ until I was eighteen because I hated myself.

“I want to preface this with the fact that my parents are super ‘woke’. They’re both amazing allies, and have been for years. They went to pro-trans parades before I even knew what that meant.

“The thing is, I really struggled with mental health for years. It wasn’t all down to my identity – it was depression, anxiety… and I kept it bottled up. I told nobody at all. 

“My parents were advocates of being open. My dad struggles with mental health, too. I suppose part of me didn’t want to worry them, because they’d been through it in some way before, but also, I didn’t ever want to admit to myself that I was struggling.

“I was awesome at school. I got the highest possible marks all the way through primary and secondary. I never even asked my parents for help with homework, because I didn’t need to. I wanted to power through. Do it myself.

“As soon as I started struggling, at about fifteen, with my mental health, I decided it had to stay quiet. I didn’t want people to know I wasn’t perfect. I’d go to school and act like I was the happiest person alive. 

“One day, I was asked ‘how are you so happy all the time?’, and I laughed and shrugged it off, but that night, I’d self-harmed because I was so angry at myself for wanting to be a girl.

“It was university that caused me to finally actually come out. It was almost a ‘blank slate’, with a new place and new people around me. My flatmates were super queer – I had another trans girl and two gay guys there. They made me feel confident and comfortable enough to just go ‘f**k it, I’ve had enough’. 

“I told my parents via video call, and they reacted exactly as I hoped they would. They called me my new name, Mia, at the end of the call, which made me wish I’d told them sooner.

“In a way, I’m angry at myself for not telling them sooner. It would have made my life so much easier and happier, looking back. But either way, the feeling of them being so supportive, and the feeling that I was finally… “

She pauses, in tears. Her hands whizz round like windmills either side of her as she tries to find a word to accurately describe her experience. Finally…

“… free.”