Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I have a problem. I live in a small southern town, where being gay isn't always accepted, and where a lot of churches still believe that it is immoral to be homosexual, or to not fit into either the category of straight male or straight female.
I am absolutely positive that this is wrong, but my mom thinks that being gay is a choice, and a sinful, immoral choice. She firmly thinks that gay marriage should not be legal, and that any relationship not between a male and a female is wrong.
This is where things get tricky. I really want to join the Gay Straight Alliance Club at my high school (I'm a freshman), but my mom works at my high school and would find out, and even if she didn't, I feel like it would be wrong to lie to her. I've tried to tell her that I support gay rights, but every time I mention it to her in a calm, rational way, she gets very angry and starts to yell and talk about how we're going to start going to church more and "it says directly in the bible that homosexuality is a sin." I think she thinks that I'm just confused and just need to go to church more and my opinions will be changed. I just feel very ashamed for being a supposed "ally", but not even being able to "come out" to my mom about my beliefs. Pretty much all of my friends and everyone I talk to on a regular basis knows my feelings towards this, except my mom and some other judgmental relatives who treat being gay like a disease or handicap. I guess these are my questions:
1) Is it okay to not be completely open with my mom about this?
2) Is it wrong for me to struggle with just coming out as an ally, when so many people actually have to come out as gay and face way worse discrimination?
3) What do I do if my mom starts yelling at me and saying how disappointed she is that my "relationship with god has become so distant".
4) How do I deal with the fact that my mom, someone I'm supposed to look up to, thinks it's okay to discriminate against an entire group of people for something that is just a part of them?
5) How do I join the GSA without my mom freaking out at me?
It just makes me really sad, especially since my best friend joined the GSA at her own high school, and her mom was very supportive, and even offered to listen and try to help if she had any questions about her own sexuality. I just wish my mom was more of a listener, and less of a "OMG YOURE NOT LIKE US JESUS DOESN'T AGREE WITH THIS STOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING I'M THE LIFE POLICE WAIT IS THAT YOUR BUSINESS LET ME GET IN IT" kind of person. Sorry if this letter comes across as whiny, or self absorbed or whatever. I'm just really confused about this thing called "becoming an adult" and "forming a belief system that isn't identical to your parents" and "telling your parents that your beliefs aren't an exact copy of theirs". Please help.
Ah, yes: the tragedy of discovering that your parents are people, and not necessarily the people you wish they were. (Personally, I wanted my parents to be the King and Queen of Genovia, and not only did they refuse to ascend to the throne, they tried to tell me that Genovia doesn't actually exist and that "The Princess Diaries" isn't real. UGH MOM AND DAD YOU ARE THE WORST. )
But since I will never be a Princess of Genovia, and you will never be the child of socially progressive people who believe in tolerance, let's start here: you can stop worrying about coming out as an ally. You're out, okay? You did it! You've done it several times, in fact! It's just that your mother, homo hater that she is, hasn't responded to your statements with the understanding or respect that you'd hoped for—which is unfortunate, yes, but still does not negate the fact that the statement has been made. The integrity of your position doesn't depend upon her reaction to it.
And that's before we even get to the part where you never actually had to disclose any of this in the first place.
Because this thing called "telling your parents that your beliefs aren't an exact copy of theirs"? That's not actually a thing. No one ends up with a value system identical to their parents'. NOBODY. This is true for every human being. It's even true for your mother. Things you've witnessed, books you've read, people you know, experiences you've had: all of them combine to form the lens through which you see the world, and no two lenses are alike. That's just part of being a person; it's not some remarkable, shameful development requiring full disclosure. What goes on inside your head is your business, end of story. And for people whose parents fancy themselves the Thought Police, it may also be something best left undiscussed. Choosing not to be open about your beliefs with people who would condemn you for them isn't dishonest or immoral; you don't owe anyone the opportunity to bully you, not even your parents.
For you, this means that yes, you're allowed to feel your feelings without making them public at home. You're allowed to join the GSA without announcing as much to your mother. And thought you can't stop her from freaking out if she finds out about it, you're allowed to respond to her bigoted remarks by saying, "I love you, mom, but I don't agree with you," and refusing to engage further. (Though of course, you're also allowed to question or counter her when you feel you have something to say. For instance: many people, including many religious leaders, believe that persecuting and condemning gay people is in direct opposition to the message of love and tolerance that Christ preached—and if accused of having a distant relationship with God, those people would likely reply that supporting gay rights makes them feel closer to God than ever.)
And yes, you're allowed to love your mom for her good points while still abhorring her bigotry—but you're also allowed to think less of her for it, the same way you would with any person whose beliefs you consider misguided and cruel. You're allowed to realize that the people you're "supposed" to look up to aren't always admirable, and that the people who raised you are still just people with their own flaws, prejudices, and faults. That's part of the human experience, too: we all start out putting our parents on pedestals, and we all eventually discover that they don't belong up there.