A Stranger in the Family


On Monday, I spent an hour talking to a very dear friend of mine who is still in the midst of his ‘coming out’ crisis. While I’m naturally not going to share his details (that’s private, personal and confidential), the conversation did get me thinking about my own experience which I am at liberty to share. At one point in our conversation, I even started crying  … more tears of joy (no, wrong word) … tears of relief and release than sadness. 


Those tears will be my starting point. Why? Because they recalled the memory of coming out and the empowerment it provides. More than anything I’ve ever done in my life, telling my folks (and sister) I was gay was the most difficult. And so, when it’s finally out, you feel this total sense of – I dunno – rebirth (corny word I know but it is apt). You finally admit a truth you’ve held hidden and in doing so, you truly feel reborn. It is a powerful, emotional and life-changing experience.


And that point, about it being powerful, emotional and life-changing also acknowledges how important it is for you to be ready to do it. I suspect not being ready and doing it could result in some costly psychologist’s bills.


So, point one: don’t do it until you’re ready, period. And don’t let anyone tell you different on that point.


So, how do you know you’re ready?…. believe me, you’ll know. There was, for me, what I can only describe as ‘a build up sense’. The secret had been kept in so long that I simply could not keep it in any longer. I was deeply depressed and unhappy. I was very short in my verbal interactions with my parents and sister (to the point of being mean) and actively tried to avoid communicating with them which then only led to guilt. Regret, tinged with guilt, dogged me everyday. Regret I couldn’t be who I was. Regret I couldn’t openly like/love who I really wanted to. Regret, that in avoiding who I was, meant I squandered some opportunities in my life and career through fear.


And so, the bubble burst. It burst first off with Tennis Star Suzie when she emailed me referencing a possible female liaison she could arrange for me. I emailed back thanking her (and cc-ing my closest group of friends – Gracie; WestJet Sue, T, and Deb Does Dallas) saying I appreciated the set-up but I was gay and that if anyone knew of a guy who was single and sane, I’d be game.


So, point two: tell your closest, closest friends first. They will frankly i) know already; ii) not particularly care or make an issue of it; iii) only want the best for you; and iv) perhaps most importantly, act as supports when you do tell your family.


And so, telling the folks. I had wanted to do this in person, naturally. But I truly (looking back at it all now) was in a precarious mental health state and needed to break the news as fast as humanly possibly. Geographic challenges were working against me however. My folks were down at our Florida home at the time and my sister was in London. So Ma Bell acted as our link via conference call. Imagine! hehe 


I spent two sleepless nights writing and re-writing what I wanted to say. I still have that epistle on a floppy disc but I password-protected it and can’t for the life of me remember it (otherwise I’d put it up too). I remember parts of what I conveyed (paraphrased here):

  • I’m gay;

  • being gay has nothing to do with you; it’s not your fault; it’s nothing you did or didn’t do; it’s not something your fed me or forgot to feed me … I was born this way and for as long as I can remember I have liked guys;

  • I’ve tried girls sure, and I appreciate good looking girls, and they’re fine and all but they are not what get me going sexually;

  • I will not hide anymore and if our family or friends ask about my relationships I’m going to tell them;

  • whether or not you want to tell them is up to you (as a side note here; coming out is strange in this aspect as it puts the coming out ball onto your parents court);

  • I will answer whatever general questions you may have about sex but I will not get into specifics;

  • when down the road I find someone I truly love, I will bring him home and I will expect you accept them into our family as you would anyone; and,

  • there are support groups in Toronto (PFLAG) available to help you.

So, point three: if you have the chance, write out what you want to say. In the moment you do it, you are in quite a place emotionally and having the paper is a godsend.


And with that I made the call. The call is a bit of a blur now. It was years ago but I remember my sister saying something like: ‘You got us on line for this?…. I’ve always known it’. My folks were great, supportive and loving. My mom saying, ‘Well, we’ve always wondered but it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re happy. That’s all we want.’


Thanks mom!


Whatever sadness or regret they may have felt (our family name will go to the grave with me) they shared privately between themselves. But that has always been their way.


Other things I can say: give them time. You’ve had a lifetime dealing with, thinking about, struggling with being gay. Once you spring it on your family, you simply cannot expect the next time you meet everything will be hunky-dory. When we finally did meet face-to-face after I told them it was awkward for sure. The white elephant that had wandered our home for years was gone and replaced with a smaller white goat. My sister was great at breaking this strangeness by constantly asking me while we watched tv “So, do you like him? … What about him?” … It was funny, which proves the old adage, laughter is good medicine for broken hearts and awkward situations. 


Being gay represents the tip of my right index finger. It’s just one piece of this bigger construct called “Brent”. And yet for all those years I thought it was the only part of me. That’s what burying it does. Burying it kills everything else about you. You lose all perspective.


I cannot imagine what would have happened had I remained in that dark, horrible place we call ‘the closet’. Why and how a person could live a lifetime in it is beyond me. It drains life, dignity, hope from you, killing you bit by bit. Coming out is scary, yes. But my gawd, the light on the other side is life-altering.


Today, I am so grateful. Grateful for my family and friends. Grateful for G. Grateful that my friends, family and work colleagues all know this particular aspect of me and don’t opt to use it as a definer of the person I am.


I am simply “Brent” not “gay Brent”.

Wednesday’s special moment: Running with only shorts & a t-shirt
Today’s special moment is brought to you by Toronto’s weather, which my Forecastfox extension tells me is mostly sunny and 17°C. Sweet! Eprops to the weather! For the first time this year I actually did my run this afternoon with only shorts and a tshirt! OMG, you’ve gotta love that … spring, here I come!

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11 Responses to A Stranger in the Family

  1. christao408 says:

    Very interesting to read this in comparison with my own story. Lots and lots and lots of parallels.

  2. willariah says:

    aww thank u for sharing this v. personal story with all of us.  my take on the issue is that sexuality comprises a different ratio of importance from person to person.  most of my friends respect and love me for who i am that our friendships can thrive without my having to make a point of my sexuality.  but that of course, isn’t to say that i won’t stop gabbering if we talk about hotties.  anyway.. hahaha  thanks again… i’m v. happy for you and hope others reading, like me, can find feel a sense of community in our coming-out experience.

  3. meoni says:

    first off, thanks for dropping by my site. hope to hear from more people from now on…regarding coming-out experiences, mine is one to be determined. and i’m nervious when and how it should happen. i agree that one should wait till the right time to do so. but then when is the right time? my situation is i have good relations with my parents and siblings. dont think there’ll be an emotional break point that i have but to tell them in order to maintain sound communication. having said that, since i plan to move out april next year it has to be between now and my departure, i guess.one thing that i dont agree with in what you wrote in your prep card before facing your family is, i quote “it’s not your fault”. i understand where it’s coming from – sort of a default part of the speech of coming out – but being gay should not be associated with any one’s act caused by a fault of his or hers. perhaps i misintepreted the motive behind… wow, i sound oh so serious. nah, i’m fun loving too, mates!anyway,  nice to hear that toronto’s weather is shiny and all – for i’ll be in toronto for the whole summer and will arrive next week. =D

  4. Anonymous says:

    You’re lucky to have such a great mom!

  5. abcyeung says:

    very interesting story. thanks for sharing…..I like the speech, specially you put “support groups in Toronto (PFLAG) available to help you” there.

  6. bennykan says:

    Thanks for sharing! I remember when I came out to my sister. She acts nonchanlantly and she said she already knew. I am like god why didn’t she tell me she knows already instead of waiting for me to break the news? She is absolutely cool about it as she already has a couple of gay friends. So she now has one more identity called “fag hag” :)

  7. wow. incredible story. i haven’t told my parents yet but my sister knows. everyone always tells me about their coming out stories and they seem really like tense and nerved-up and intense and stuff, but so far, no one has really given me a hard time and it hasn’t been too hard; i think it was a bit easier for me cus i dropped obvious hints =P

  8. enRoute says:

    What an emotion story, thank you for sharing. I think what’s important in life, no matter ur gay or not, is being happy. Life’s too short to worry about who you really are. =)

  9. thanks for sharing…kudos to you…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Coming out to my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I kind of regret coming out so soon to them.

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