There are a lot of things I’ve said to my parents. “I have a tattoo” was a phrase that slipped through my teeth one Thanksgiving post-college, leading to an angrily served turkey and a postpie argument. “I got into college” was a sentence that led to much celebration and a permanent scratch on the wall from a Champagne cork. “I love you” is one that I don’t say often enough. “I’m gay. I like girls. I date girls.” These thoughts have yet to really come to the surface.
I was a late bloomer. Not physically, but in everything else. I avoided boys through most of high school, until a post-prom soiree in the back of a Prius with a boy on the track team. But sex was never really something that I thought of during my adolescence, which is to say that I thought my time would come later. I was awkward throughout high school; I was never going to be prom queen or remember where my yearbooks were after graduation.
But college came, and I was revived. I moved into my own place, got contacts, and never felt more alive, more confident. I went to parties and flirted with boys, like I always thought I wanted to. I thought I needed a dirty night in an even dirtier dorm room to finally enter adulthood, to achieve something and finally separate myself from who I was as a teenager. But I entered my 20s, and I still felt nothing. I had never fallen in love, never dated someone for more than a month. I had just never felt that spark. I thought something was wrong with me, because boys would come in and out of my life, and I wasn’t feeling anything. It wasn’t until my first girlfriend that that changed.
I loved her, but I still wasn’t sure what I should call myself. I loved her, but did that mean that I was capable of loving another woman? I was unsure of everything in that relationship, and that eventually got in the way.
I officially came out as bisexual to my friends after three years of briefly seeing both men and women. My sexuality was always figurative for so long, with me constantly thinking that I needed a firm answer on who I was before I made a commitment to someone else. I tried out labels like I tried on sweaters, with partner’s insisting or suggesting names for who I was. I was gay when I fell for a woman. A “college-lesbian” according to a rude man I had a a brief fling with. I was bi, and then I was straight, and then I was confused. I was a lot of things to a lot of people but never my to parents.
I am often asked if I have “officially” come out to my parents. And the formal answer to that is no, I haven’t.
My parent’s are liberal and supportive, they are strong pillars in my life that have supported me in everything I have ever done. My mom still sends me the occasional care package, and my father still insists on making me a birthday cake. I know that they just want me to be with someone who makes me happy, who loves me for everything I am. So my decision to not come out to them has nothing to do with how I think they would react. It does, however, have everything to do with my current relationship with them.
I think that our relationship is a little too private for me to have an official conversation about my sexuality with them. My romantic and sexual life is my business, and my parents are perfectly content for it to stay that way. Other daughters may tell their mothers about their virginity, about boyfriends or STDs, but this is decidedly not my relationship with my mother. I don’t think our relationship wants or needs that kind of proximity, that kind of openness. Our relationship requires distance and perhaps a little mystery. It needs air to breathe and is strained under suffocation or the threat of codependency. Our relationship requires that I be a separate entity, making my own decisions and living a separate life, sharing what I feel comfortable sharing when I feel comfortable. And I’ve never had a problem with this dynamic, and neither have they.
My mother never asks me if I’m seeing anyone, how my love life is, or if that boy who picked me up is more than a friend. And I appreciate this because she is perhaps the only person in my life who isn’t constantly pressuring me about my love life. My friends and I are open about sex, and it’s great most of the time. But sometimes they insert themselves into my sexual or romantic life in ways I don’t want or need. My friends want me to have a partner for double dates they worry I will be a perpetual bachelor. They want the gossip on whoever I hooked up with, or how this person was in bed. They gave me labels, called me bi before I even came out. They want to know every detail about every fight and every night out. It can be overwhelming, and I just can’t have that with my mother. I don’t think it would be healthy for our relationship, or for my relationships with my partners.
In my life, “coming out” isn’t exactly necessary. And I don’t think it will be until or unless I bring home a partner who needs me to have that conversation. I think that the process of finding and asserting sexuality is difficult enough as an internal process. But having that conversation with my parents would open floodgates I don’t think I’m ready for yet. I think that by announcing my sexuality to my parents, I would be inviting them or asking them to be a part of this moment in my life, which I view as incredibly personal and quite fragile.
Maybe when the time comes, when I feel like it is a relevant conversation to have, I will tell them. But I’m not going to do it yet. It doesn’t mean I’m scared, or unsure, or ashamed. It just means that right now, in this moment, it isn’t the time. And that’s OK.