Coming Out on Facebook
Coming Out on Facebook
by Dannielle Owens-Reid & Kristin Russo, co-founders of My Kid Is Gay
"When I was 19, I started dating a girl for the first time. Having that conversation with various friends and family members was absolutely TERRIFYING. Having to build up the courage and force myself to speak the words was making me feel crazy, and the relief of finally getting it out there in each individual conversation was temporary — only a few moments would pass before I realized I had to do it all over again with someone else. So, I changed my relationship status to ‘in a relationship with Mary Margaret.’ I figured since it was a girl name, people would get the hint. I think it did upset a few people, but it was much easier for me to explain to those people that it was a difficult conversation for me to start. It was also much easier for me when those people started the conversation on their own terms and I could answer their specific questions." - Dannielle, 28
First things first: your concerns aren’t coming out of nowhere, and they certainly deserve to be spoken about — both here on the internet and in your home, with your daughter and your husband. However, at it’s core, this moment for your daughter is about her identity, how she chooses to express it, and how you can best support her in those choices.
There are two issues being addressed here: your concern about upsetting close friends and family, and your husbands concern about future employment. So, let’s look at them each separately.
On Upsetting Close Friends & Family
It is unreasonable (and probably impossible) for you daughter to have face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) conversations with each and every person in her extended family. That moment of saying, out loud, how you identify to another human being is almost always uncomfortable. Try to think about how you would feel sitting down each member of your family to say, “I just needed to tell you that I am sexually attracted to men.” It’s just weird. Writing a letter, or posting a status, however, gives a very welcome amount of reactionary space between the human coming out, and the people receiving the information. You don’t have to experience as much of that slight, weird pause in response where both parties are trying to make each other comfortable and aren’t quite sure how to do so!
That said — if there are particular people whom you feel very strongly about telling personally, you should start by creating a list. Sit down with your daughter and ask her if it is okay for you to call those few people on the day she decides to come out publicly on Facebook. If your sister and your best friend are on that list, you can call them and explain that your daughter has come out to you and that she is taking a very brave step today and coming out publicly to all of her friends and family by sharing that part of herself on Facebook. You can, of course, express your own concerns and doubts about her choices and, since these are people close to you, they may also help you feel a little less out to sea.
It is important to highlight the fact that this method of coming out still takes a load of courage from your daughter, and isn’t just a easy ‘cop out.’ Her coming out, in any manner, is a reflection of the fact that she is feeling secure enough and strong enough in herself to share that self completely with the world. If there are people in your lives who do, in fact, take this personally, that’s on them. You will probably be surprised, however, by the amount of support she will see for taking such a wonderful step in her life.
On Future Employment Concerns / Talking About “Sex”
Your daughter coming out to friends and family via Facebook is not a conversation about sex. If you or your husband have Facebook, and your profile shows that you are married to each other, that is the same, exact exchange of information that is being conveyed by her coming out. Coming out is not a person screaming from the mountain-tops that they like to have sex with particular human beings. Sure, sex is a part of attraction and relationships for some people, but what she is saying is that she identifies as something other than heterosexual. Unfortunately, if she didn’t announce that, there would be a lot of people who would assume otherwise. Disclosing a part of your identity is not the same thing as talking about sex anymore than your wedding band is a beacon for the fact that you might get naked with another person from time to time. Relationships and identities are much, much more complex than that.
If your husband’s concern is less about the “sex” element, and more about your daughter being discriminated against in the workplace because of her identity, that’s a very different conversation. It is, sadly, a valid concern in many areas. In this case, the focus must turn back again to your daughter. Your responsibility as a parent is to ensure that she is operating with all of the facts. So long as she knows that, in many states you can still be fired for your sexuality or gender identity, that decision again falls to her. It may be that your daughter wouldn’t ever want to be employed by someone who would judge her or discriminate against her based on her sexuality or gender identity. It may be that she would never want to have a job where she had to keep a part of her life a secret, and constantly worry that she might be “found out.”
Many of us are well aware of what it means to be publicly out, and we make that choice knowing that it would be detrimental to our well being to have to hide ourselves. Allow your daughter the space to express herself in the way that makes her most comfortable. Talk to her about your concerns, but let her know that this decision falls to her, and that you will support her in those decisions. When she feels that support, she will be a lot more able to hear out your own concerns, and have a conversation with you about why she is choosing to come out in her own, personal way.