Coming Out on Social Media
Coming Out on Social Media
by Sarah Simon
Wow—this is a tough one. I see where you’re both coming from. Before I go into ways you can talk with your son about how you feel, I should say this: your feelings are valid and important. But also, consider what just happened—your son came out. That’s a huge, huge deal. And it’s so exciting and amazing for him! His life is opening up and starting, and he’s finally comfortable enough with himself to be who he is, no questions asked. And that means you get a pat on the back, too! He couldn’t have gotten to this place without having you as a parent, so good job and congratulations. So, first and foremost, I think you should hug him and tell him that you’re proud, and that he’s a brave and fantastic person.
I don’t know the details of your family, of your comfort with homosexuality, or your relationship with your son, so I can’t really speak to any of that directly. But here is what I can tell you: coming out is crazy hard. It’s hard to come out to people individually and in person and it’s hard to come out over social media. But the benefit of social media is that it all happens in one fell swoop. You don’t have to go around explaining yourself to everyone and their mother, because everybody already knows. And maybe, just maybe, that will take some of the pressure off of the situation, and make it a little less challenging. For our generation, social media is second nature—it’s a completely viable means of communication and also creates a sense of community. When something great happens, people can rally around their peers on Tumblr or Facebook and it feels like everyone is throwing a mini-virtual parade in your honor. And in cases of coming out, this support is much needed.
As for your son not consulting you before he posted it, I’m going to be honest with you—it’s really not your call. Of course, family should always take each others’ feelings into consideration. I get that. But your son needed to let this out and to start living in a way where he feels confident, safe, and happy. And if coming out in a public setting is what he needed to do, then supporting that decision is what’s best, in my opinion. If you knew he was gay for a while before he made the status, then maybe he was giving you a little bit of time to adjust before he went public—maybe he was giving himself a little bit of time to adjust, as well. But either way, coming out doesn’t just mean telling your parents. It means telling everyone who you want to know. So this publicity couldn’t have been too out of the blue, right?
One of my closest friends identifies as agender and I’ve known about their identity for a while before they publicly came out via Facebook. But one day I logged on and, to my surprise, I saw a status explaining their identity, preferred pronouns, and chosen name. It’s not like because we’re friends, or because I knew before other people did, I had some ownership over their identity or the way they decided to come out. This is all about the person who is putting themselves out there. Be ecstatic for your child and the huge step he’s taken! The fact that you did know before your son came out to everyone else shows that he cares about your feelings, he wants you to understand him, and he wants your love and support. And this is the perfect opportunity to prove him right and show him that he has it.
If you feel the need to address this issue with him, honesty is the best policy—talk to your son about how seeing the status without any warning made you feel. If I were you, I’d say: “Hey, ___, I love you and I’m so proud of you. You’re brave and strong and amazing and I’m so happy you took this huge step in your life. I was a little surprised to see you had come out over Facebook. In the future I’d really appreciate a heads up, because this is a process for me, too, and I want to make sure that I’m as equipped as possible so that I can be there for you.” I feel like that’s reasonable. But also, remember that your son is growing up and becoming who he was meant to be, and he shouldn’t have to apologize for that or ask permission to publicly be who he is. So as long as there are some “ground rules” of mutual respect in place for the future, I think you’re good.
And I’m not sure exactly where your upset feelings are coming from, but it’s okay to be honest and say that you’re still working through his coming out at this point, if that’s what the issue is, or that you feel like you’re in an uncomfortable situation with your friends, co-workers, family members—or whoever might see his post. Maybe you weren’t ready for your son to come out or to publicly boast his identity. Your feelings aren’t wrong and they don’t make you a bad parent. But the most important thing I can stress here is that at the end of the day, no matter how honest you are with him, your son is who is—he’s the same person he would be if he were straight, asexual, or anything else. And this really is about his process of growth and self-love. Give him unconditional love and unconditional respect. Trust that he’s doing what he needs to do in order to be happy and comfortable and safe, and let that be enough for you. Good luck with everything, and remember, your feelings are valid, but so are his.
Sarah Simon has been writing for My Kid Is Gay for two years. She is an ENFJ/ Sagittarius who usually can be found with body glitter on her face and English Bulldogs on her mind. Sarah is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied Queer Theory and Psychology. She is currently a candidate for her MA in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence. In between pots of very strong coffee, Sarah makes rad mix tapes for her friends, cooks fun vegetarian food, and cackles at the thought of destroying the patriarchy. Follow her on Instagram @glitterpawzz and on Twitter @misssaraheliz
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