Queer Corner: When Your Family at Home is Frightful



Eugene Riordan

Thanksgiving break just came and went, and if you’re anything like me, it went far too quickly and you can’t wait for the next one. Whether you’re with your family, your friends or just going on adventures, winter break should be a time for relaxation and recharging your batteries for the next semester (and also be enough time for you to seriously miss the Jug). What it shouldn’t be, though, is a time of anxiety and awkwardness.

Most people at college lead double lives. I’m guessing most of you don’t tell your families exactly what the Jug is, and what you did there all semester. Remember those movies that you watched with your friends, that weren’t actually movies? We all most likely hide part of our college lives from our home lives, and the two just don’t intersect on some levels.

For a queer person, however, those feelings are amplified. Consciously or not, it feels like you’re avoiding an important part of your life if you’re closeted at home. If you can be out and about your sexuality at college, going home to a place that’s supposed to be where you can truly be yourself is hard when you can’t be out, open and happy. For me, interacting with my parents while I wasn’t out to them felt like there was always an elephant in the room, that I was somehow lying to them or deceiving them.

Coming out to your parents is probably one of the scariest things that most queer people face. We are scared that we’ll be rejected or be disowned: we fear the worst. A lot of closeted students (or those that have come out only to their friends) don’t have good reactions to queer people in their home lives, and it makes them nervous. We aren’t told that things will automatically go well, and for those people where it does, they are lucky, and in the minority. Is this true in all cases?

One friend told me she got into a fight with her father, throwing Bible verses at each other, after coming out to him. One’s mom told him, “What else is new?” and finished cooking dinner. One’s father threatened that he wouldn’t pay for his tuition anymore. One’s parents joined Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) the next day.

It’s harder if you don’t have any outlets, or friends that know about your identity when you’re home. It can feel isolating. I know a few friends that told their friends about their identity, and then lost a couple of them. While friend dynamics change all of the time (especially if you don’t see them for ages), it can be frustrating if people you trust enough to share your sexual identity with dislike you solely for that reason.

I’m not trying to say that only queer people have problematic family lives; everyone’s lives are completely different and unique, and many queer students are out and happy with their families. Living a double life is neither good nor healthy (unless you’re a spy, and even then it kinda sucks). It can be self-destructive, confusing and nerve-wracking. Trying to reconcile these two worlds can be tough and rather complicated.

The thing to always remember, regardless of sexuality or whatever, is that you are never alone in your endeavors. There are 3,000 people on this campus that are all in different places in their lives, but each having a different experience and story to offer. You might be surprised to find that many people share similar strands of stories, and would be able to empathize with you. The people you live with, peers in your classes (bond over that obnoxious assignment you had last week, and see where it goes), your Link (or if you’ve outgrown them, borrow another), your RA/CC/AM, your professors, staff members, leaders in your groups: if you have a problem or an issue, or just want to talk something out, you can find the right person. You might make a new friend in the process, or deepen a friendship.

So good luck with these last few weeks of classes, and remember not to stress too much. If you are worried about going home and being out, talk to someone who has been there before (I would be personally happy to get you in touch with someone). If you just need someone to tell that your Aunt Cindy sent you a fruit cake again, then make sure you have their number and are allowed to pester them at your leisure. Winter break should be a good time, not a stressful one. Stay classy, Colgate.