A Guide to Coming Out to Christian Parents

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Coming out to your family can be overwhelming. You don’t know the response until you tell them… and then it’s too late. I hope this blog (written with a gay friend) will help. Jacob, this is for you.

Be honest

This is the most fundamental piece of advice, and also the most important. It is so easy to water down the truth of what you are saying out of fear, but this will never work out well in the long run. Instead, be honest and clear about the truth of your experience and feelings. If you have uncertainties, it is okay to be honest about those, too. You want to get them on the same page as you, so you can go through this together.

Tell a friend first

If you have a close, trusted friend who is outside of your family, think about telling them first. This gives you a sort of “practice run” with someone who you trust, making it easier the second or third time around. Of course, ask them to keep it completely confidential until you are ready to tell others.

Answer some of their questions before they ask them

While some may debate this one, I believe it is much easier to try to answer some of their questions before they have a chance to ask them. Rather than just saying, “I’m gay,” and then waiting for the crickets, tell them a bit more about your journey. Say things like, “I have been feeling this a long time,” or “I know I had a[n opposite sex] girlfriend/boyfriend, but I just did not have those feelings for them.” This kind of preemptive answering can also help alleviate some of the potentially awkward/hurtful questions they may otherwise ask.

Be forgiving

For most Christian parents, this is a whole new world for them, even newer than it is for you. Know that, in their confusion, they may say things that feel hurtful. While it is important to acknowledge that hurt, and even tell them (now or later) that what they said was very hurtful to you, it will not help your communication if you storm away because they asked something like “Have you tried just not being gay?” (Sure, I’ll get right on that — thanks, Mom and Dad.) Instead, take a moment to breathe, and remember that you have been preparing for a while, but this is a shock for them. Better yet, forgive them ahead of time. Remind yourself that there is a good chance they will say something wrong, and it doesn’t mean they no longer love you.

Give them time to hear God for themselves

Most Christian parents have internalized from church that homosexuality is a sin and a choice. Those beliefs can be so firmly stuck (from years of repetition) that only God can dislodge them! Give Him time. Offer resources (and here) to help them work through it. I’m not justifying their negative reaction in the least – their job is to love you without condition. But this might help you see how their reluctance here is not at all about you.

Ask for their prayer

This is an easy one, but it says a lot. It acknowledges that you are always their child, and that your coming out has not changed your relationship with God. One of the hardest things for my friends and family to understand was that my faith and my orientation were perfectly compatible; many assumed that I had chosen orientation over faith. Not so! Just be sure to acknowledge what you want prayer for specifically; ask for prayers for protection from bullying or violence, for God’s guidance as you come out to other people, for deeper growth and joy in your relationships. This helps them know that you do not view this as an “issue to overcome”, and in fact, it is even okay to specifically ask them not to pray for change. Instead, ask for them to pray for God’s clear will in your life, and for positive prayers that can help them understand your hopes and desires.

Be safe

Tragically, some of you may have parents who are very homophobic. I am so sorry for what you have had to go through. If you worry for your safety with your parents, you have a couple of options. First, find a family member or friend (or two) whom you trust completely – maybe an aunt/uncle or church mentor – and tell them first. When you’re ready to tell your parents, you can ask them to come along as a protective presence. (It definitely helps if this person is physically intimidating.) The other option is to tell your parents from a distance, by phone or email/letter. While it is usually better to have this conversation in person where communication will be easier, the exception is when you are afraid for your physical or emotional safety. Do not put yourself in harm’s way. Finally, if you are seriously concerned, I strongly recommend you wait until you are 18 and have the independence to leave if necessary.

Telling them does have to not mean telling everyone – unless it does

If you are not ready for other family or friends to know, tell them to keep it completely confidential. Ask them not to tell your brother or sister, Aunt Bertha, or even their “prayer partners”. Tell them that you will reveal this to people in your own timing, and that it is important to you to tell them personally.

If you truly do not trust them to keep it confidential, that is a different matter. In this case, think about people whom you may want to tell personally (siblings, grandparents, etc) and prepare to tell them all at the same time or within a short period (before or after) so that it comes from your lips and not your parents’.

Do not be afraid

The most often repeated divine imperative is “Do not be afraid.” Almost every time an angel appears in Scripture, it immediately begins with the same command: “Do not be afraid!” When faced with the unknown, our first instinct is fear. Why? Because it is something out of our control. We are afraid of things we may not be able change, but that could potentially change us. The truth is that you cannot control your parents’ response – but you can control yours. They could reject you, waver for a time, welcome you with open arms, or any of a hundred other responses. The fact that you cannot control their response provides you with an incredible opportunity: to cling to the truth of God’s love in the face of possible rejection. Yes, it will be a deep loss if they choose to reject you, and it will be healthy to grieve that loss. But assurance in God means that no matter what they do, they cannot take away His love for you or the truth of His involvement in your life. No. Matter. What. Do not be afraid, for He is your God.

Let me urge you that this is not a foolproof formula for coming out. Some parents will respond viciously, and there is nothing you can do about that. The world as it is and as it should be are two different things, and that includes family. Please tread carefully. (If you have concerns, feel free to email me.)

This blog was written anonymously. Though the author is out to friends, family, and colleagues, possible career ramifications prevent using their name publicly.

18 thoughts on “A Guide to Coming Out to Christian Parents

  1. Thank you for this post 🙂 As the straight Christian mother of a beautiful gay son, I applaud you and your efforts to speak into a family’s faith without demeaning the teaching that the parents have literally spent all the child’s life to establish. It’s not often you find a resource that speaks to the faith without speaking down to the faith. When my son came out to me, I was desperate to find resources to educate myself. Having an opinion on the topic was all fine and dandy until we were talking about my son. Happily I found some wonderful resources, our son in healthy and happy and loved and I know that he doesn’t have to abandon the faith I instilled in him just because of his sexual attractions. Amen 🙂

    • Oh, well you’re welcome. Yes, my biggest concern is that people tie Jesus into all this behavior modification, which He never told us to do, didn’t and doesn’t do Himself. And it chases people from the very life He offers. That’s my real heartache. Thanks for your kind words, and so glad you and your son at are peace!

  2. I’m not a christian, but I did have to deal with my own feelings as my daughter was coping with hers as a bisexual teenager… and I am very sex positive and supportive of equality and human rights for LGBT. Even so, it was very difficult for me. I was torn… wanting my daughter to be straight, to protect her from all the hateful people out there, from the complications, for just *life.* But at the same time wanting to support her. Christian parents might not have the same feelings, but as difficult as it was for me, I can only imagine it would be orders of magnitude more difficult and heart wrenching for conservative christian parents. It is hard for you… it is tough for them too… just you growing up and becoming sexual with *anyone* is hard for them. Currently my bi- daughter is in a relationship with a boy… and they are moving towards the next “big step”: sex. And it is everything I can do not to be totally mental (like my mom was). Having your kids grow up is hard enough… when they have sex is difficult enough… coming out is a whole lot to manage… not that parents can’t be expected to handle it… just while expecting loving compassion, have some. “Be kind to your parents, though they don’t deserve it. Remember they’re grown ups, a difficult stage of life…” –an old song

  3. If you have Mormon parents, forget it. Tell them, and be prepared to disappear to somewhere safe that they can’t find you. Way too many Mormon boys who come out find themselves getting bagged and tagged like some sort of Taliban insurgent in the dead of night, and when the hood comes off they’re in a Church sponsored correctional facility somewhere out in the Utah desert… Complete with corrective rape, beatings, being held in isolation for weeks at a time, and many hours every day being reeducated by church missionaries.

    If you’re Mormon, and you’re planning on coming out, do it from somewhere safe, over the phone or by mail.

    • I appreciate this, Brynn. I know you’re right. The young woman who wrote this does have a more accepting family than most, but she has seen her share of terrible outcomes for youth. This is some helpful insight if you plan to come out, but I urge people to use wisdom and caution. Please, don’t put yourself in danger. Thank you for your helpful comment.

  4. It took more than 30 years for me to speak to my parents about who I am. My family had their speculations and plenty of conversations behind my back about it but never anything/anyone addressing me directly. I also grew up being taught (and then believing) that being gay is sinful. I wrestled with reconciling my faith with my sexuality for so long that it took it’s toll on me–mentally, spiritually and even physically. I have to say that my parents appreciated the fact that I FINALLY more than anything else so I agree 100% about being honest…the sooner the better. One important thing you can do for yourself, as well as for your family, is to EDUCATE YOURSELF! Do some serious studying about what is true (and not true) when it comes to being a person of faith and being gay. We have been taught a lot of misinformation, misconceptions, personal opinions and plain old lies about the scriptures when it comes to this subject. GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES–we (the LGBT community) are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image.

  5. Pingback: A Guide to Coming Out to Christian Parents « FreedHearts | PFLAG Atlanta

  6. I also want to say that I’m rooting for Jacob and all the brave ones that speak their truth. Stay connected to God and be fearless in your love and goodness. I think you are amazing!

  7. AMEN! about the “religious tape” playing in our head. I hope our fear doesn’t look unloving. I think God gives amazing grace to our kids. As a parent, I wish an angel had come to me and said, “Do not be afraid! I bring your precious child!”
    I do have sorrow that my amazing son kept quiet for so long. PLEASE KNOW that GOD LOVES YOU ALWAYS!

  8. This is very good advice. In addition, I would add that whether or not they verbalize it, all parents want answers to these questions:
    1. Is this our fault?
    2. Were you molested as a child and we don’t know about it?
    3. Are you happy?
    4. Are you healthy?
    5. Are you safe?

    It might be good to answer these questions pre-emptively as well when coming out to parents, even if they don’t ask.

    I think in particular, the last 3 questions are things that every parent worries about for every child, gay or straight. Are you happy? Are you healthy? Are you safe?
    Rob R.

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