Rachel Charman really does need to go back to school:
“Speaking on Radio 4 on Sunday, Mr Margolyes told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs:”
I completely empathise with Miriam. Just as I was coming to terms with my sexual identity and tentatively coming out to my close friends, my own dad suffered a stroke. He was in a coma for a month, and ten years later he still has difficulty finishing his sentences, has no control over his left hand and walks with a pronounced limp. When I plucked up the courage to come out to my mum six years ago, she made me swear to keep it to myself and not to tell the rest of the family, least of all my dad for this very reason.
It has always left me in a moral double bind of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” as I’m compelled to live a double life for fear of giving him a second fatal stroke. In a more enlightened world, it shouldn’t matter, but I guess it’s not a perfect world.
I feel so sorry for any LGBT person who suffers this pressure of ‘If you tell **** they’ll die’. On the other hand I’m not sure if I believe that telling anyone you’re gay will kill them. It may be a tool for keeping people in the closet because some people believe it’s wrong to be gay (so a British Gas employee told me on the phone yesterday – I only wanted to change my tariff!)
I hear you Charlene, and in principle I agree, but in practice, if it was your mum or dad, would you take that gamble and live with the consequences?
You can, of course, never predict what is going to happen. This should not be a reason for people not to come out if they wish to. When I came out to my parents it was awful but a year down the line, things are getting back to normal and even though are relationship has been extremely strained I have not regretted for one second doing it. These are the people who you love most in the world, they and you deserve the right to be honest whatever the consequences.
This is a sad story, and one of unnecessary guilt. But you have to be selfish and put your dignity first sometimes. It’s always a shock, and never what family members want to hear. But that shock has to be dealt with some time or other. Otherwise, if you think your closest family members to be unworthy or incapable of knowing the real you, how can they be seriously called family?
That other people are unable to deal with such information, and choose to ignore all the information on the matter from the expoerts, is not the fault of the person coming out.
I can understand that when a close family member is gravely ill, or too old, it’s better to leave the matter. But in any other situation, I would say, it’s much better to be honest, and be seen to be unashamed of who you are.
Don’t live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.
Alex- I appreciate the sentiments, but the guilt and shame you feel from coming out in ordinary circumstances is compounded no end if the moment you say those three little words your parent has a good chance of having a stroke or heart attack.
I feel guilty enough from the first time it happened – I’d just had an arguement with my dad after returning from university which on any other day wouldn’t have been a big issue, and that was followed by his first stroke just 1 hour later.
Under any other circumstances I figured long ago that there is never a magic day when the clouds will part, the birds sing in the trees and a golden shaft of sunlight hits you and the planets all align and it’s all guaranteed to be ok. Coming out to family feels like crap whenever you choose to do it so you may as well bite the bullet and get it over with. That was what I told myself before I came out to my mum.
However, playing russian roulette with close relatives is where I have to draw the line.
If you have to lie to make your mother happy; she is a control freak; the same with your father.
However, if you are comfortable with who you are, there is no reason for you to tell others, unless you choose to.
Parents have no say over the sexuality of their child; they need to realize that being gay, bi or transgender is not a shame on them, nor do they have to accept it; it is their right to not be comfortable with it.
If you have to have your parents okay to be who you are; then you need counseling to realize the only person whose business your sexuality is- is you.
I heard the Margoyles interview and I thought it was very interesting – especially when she suggested that it could be self-indulgent to tell other people something about oneself that would cause them pain.
It’s a good point, I think, but I would hope that social attitudes have changed a bit in the UK since 1967 (when, after all, male homosexuality was still illegal). I would hope that most young people in this country would not now have to fear causing their parents (literally) mortal shock, but of course the decision of whether and when to ‘come out’ to one’s family remains a very personal and private matter, and it is wrong to suggest there is any obligation or duty to do so.
Terry – Yep, my mum can be something of a control freak, yes I did have councilling, and while the emotional scripting runs deep, I’ve got to a stage where I’ve been in a relationship for five years now and I’m happy with my man. However to make that work I live 400 miles away from my parents, only visit them at Easter and Christmas and pretend to be the last sad batchelor in the family for every get-together. It’s a real spirit crusher when I’m expected to get presents for my brother and sister’s spouses and return to my partner for New year’s day with nothing. Fortunately he’s Malaysian and they don’t celebrate Xmas anyhow (he has a similarly duplicitous relationship with his family who are traditional muslims)!
With these credentials for lying through my teeth to my own family I should be capable of getting a job in MI5 by now!
So I’m not as f**ked up as I used to be, though there’s still room for improvement.
However much I sympathise with Margolyes coming out and her mother’s trauma, I’m wondering… I was ostracised by my father when I came out at 26. I lost 10 years of my life as a teenager at the time you learn to cope with your feelings, that killed me inside. Coming out to what had been presented to me as a way to hell and perversion was my salvation as human being. Can I blame my parents? No, they were brainwashed, the same way I was by them and society to hate who I was. Can I blame myself for coming out to them? NO WAY! I can understand you need to be careful, I have to wear gloves when talking to my youngest sister nowadays so as not to let her hear what she does not want to hear… But that does not mean I will ever blame myself for being honest about… It’s my right as a human being, if others can’t cope, am I to blame? My parents never fully recovered from my coming out, I never fully recovered from my lost teenager days and from my parent’s attitude – neither from the risks I face every day for being gay. But life goes on. Coming out is a personal day to day decision, rather do it my self that let others do it for me.
I wonder if this genius also believes that the sun came up this morning because the rooster crowed.
Newsflash Ms. Margolyes, just because A preceded B doesn’t mean that A caused B.
I can understand that people suffers strokes and other illness in countries where they still haven’t come to terms with homosexuality. That’s why information is important, we are not monsters, we are not criminals, we are not pedophiles or cannibals, we aren’t Satan’s followers trying to entice people towards hell. So why we have be silent or else?
There are ways and ways of coming out. If our parents aren’t mature enough to deal with what we are, we should provide information beforehand as the most. But living as the disgraced phantom of the opera in the dark of the sewers, never again.
Zeke- you are right in one important respect… if my dad wasn’t pre-disposed to having a stroke in the first place it wouldn’t be an issue telling him. I can’t help my dad’s medical history, or my sexuality.
However, even dropping hints as Lexxvs suggests is a high risk game, and the self loathing from being in the closet could easily be re-inforced if your parent drops dead on the spot once you broach the subject. That to me seems like an own goal.
as some one who came out to his parents at 16 to a very homophobic father. I never thouht once about how it would effect them. This was my life . And as time has passed it proved to be the right thing to do as they have since made their own chocies with out once taking in to account my feelings. Also my father now sticks up for me when hes on the golf club, and the subject of gay people is mentioned.
“But you have to be selfish and put your dignity first sometimes.”
Yes. That just about sums up gay people. Self-centred.
It isn’t necessary to shout your sexuality from the rooftops.
It might be good for you to tell everyone, but the effect can be devastating to some people as a result. I am out with everyone except my parents because I know the negative effect it would have on them. They don’t *need* to know, and I frankly don’t *need* to tell them.
Sometimes it really is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Rob – while I sympathise with your call for selflessness I wouldn’t go so far as to give a “one size fits all diagnosis”. For many gay people it’s a psychological necessity to come out as staying in the closet can lead to low self-esteem, depression and worse. This can be far more damaging to an individual and by extention their family than clearing the air.
Good reasons to stay in the closet could include lack of financial independence (which can usually be overcome), expressed threats of physical harm from your immediate family, and what Miriam went through.
Bad reasons are “they might not like to hear it”, which counts for 90% of the families of gay people in my close circle. Sometimes you can’t hide the truth, cause the truth is all there is. I know that’s rich coming from myself, but my mum used to be a dyed in the wool conservative and made it abundantly clear how dead against gay rights she was all through my adolescence. She’s mellowed a bit since then, though not to the point where she’s comfortable talking about it. But I can safely say if I hadn’t come out to her I wouldn’t be typing this now, I’d have topped myself. I had to do come out to move on and get my life back on track. My dad however is more problematic.
We can all offer advice but in situations like this, it boils down to what was good for me may not be good for you. This is a very individual situation with its own individual circumstances. The comments presented here should be used to guide a person’s actions but not be the deciding factor. That being said, I do not believe that telling a family member you are gay will in itself cause that family member to have a stroke. It may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back as they say but definitely not the cause. Strokes are caused by an accummulation of circumstances. Someone who suffers a stroke upon being told their child is gay could just as easily suffer a stroke upon being overly excited by their favorite football team winning an important game. Bottom line here is that everyone has to decide for themselves what is best for them and for their family members.
this has got to be the best headline of the week.
As a bi parent of a gay son I was horrified at this story. I am as proud of my son now as I was before he came out to his dad and I. I accept that not everyone is able to cope with their child coming out but, as somebody who became involved with a parent support group, would remind everybody that information and support are available to parents. Contact details can be found on the internet. We have been asked in the past why parents need support and I think that this highlights why there is a need. Sadly society is still working it’s way to the light with regard to sexuality issues but support groups are slowly chipping away. So, if you feel there may be issues when you come out arm yourselves with information from websites such as Fflag or your own local support group.
What pathetic, self-pitying nonsense, Rob Neal – light only coes from heat. Where on earth you get the odd idea that I suggested ‘shouting your sexuality from the rooftops’ I do not know.
It’s about having self-respect, being honest, standing up for who you are, and not being trampled on. Why ruin your life, tiptoeing around bigoted attitudes? If you can’t be honest to your friends and family – to repeat: if they cannot deal with it, they are NOT worth bothering with – then it’s a recipe for a very sad life, and you won’t be respected for it in the long run.
Being selfish is a damn good thing now and then – I strongly recommend it.
chronic stress can cause a stroke. Coming out does not constitute chronic stress, so it is not related to stroke, especially not an hour after or 3 days later.The person who had a stroke right after your coming out might have had been stressed for a very long period of time, smoked a lot, had an unhealthy diet or had an embolism. Those are the main causes of strokes, along with old age. you can’t blame coming out for strokes