On Being Out

On my path to becoming an atheist, I struggled with doubts for years. I was given the impression that voicing these doubts, questioning my religion, was something that is just not done. I kept my thoughts to myself for so long, because I was afraid to talk about it. Had I asked questions, would others have had answers for them? Would someone have helped me figure things out? Or would I have been seen as being weak or as though I was just not trying hard enough, not doing all the things a good Christian should do? How badly would my parents have reacted, had I started questioning out loud all the things they have taught me to believe since birth?

Religion is very important in my family. Parents have certain things that they want for their children: a good education, a good marriage (grandchildren), perhaps a particular career that is traditional within the family. Oh yea, and that they will all go to heaven when they die. How could I even hint otherwise about something so vital?

It really bothered me to think that I could not talk about my doubts, my questions, my thoughts, to struggle through an existential crisis, alone and ashamed. I’m tired of hiding. I’ve finally figured some things out. That I’m an atheist, that I’m queer. And I don’t want to hide any of it anymore. I’m not ashamed of who I am.

I was quite happy, the other day, when we were assigned groups in one of my classes to analyze a piece of writing by an atheist. It was a perfect opportunity to mention, off-hand, to one of my classmates that I am an atheist. It felt good. And another time, walking with a friend from one of my classes, I was sharing an anecdote about how I used to go to the library with my ex-girlfriend. It was uplifting, to casually mention having had a girlfriend to a someone I’d met outside of LGBT circles. I suppose he probably thinks I am a lesbian now, but ah well. I relish not hiding. I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure that everyone knows my sexual orientation or (lack of) religion, but I’m not going to hide either. And that feels great. Hiding things, keeping secrets, keeping track of who you’ve told what, suppressing the urge to mention certain topics- it’s too stressful. Pretending to be someone I’m not goes completely counter to my values. I want to be genuine.

And yet…

My family.

My conservative Christian parents.

Saying something like “so, I’m a queer atheist” would come across more like “so, I’m willfully immoral and I’m going to hell.” My parents have always told me that they will love me, no matter what. That they will be there for me, no matter what. And yet I’m terrified to tell them who I really am, because I kind of don’t want to find out if there are any exceptions to those things they said. I really don’t think they would disown me or threaten to withhold financial support to manipulate me, but I’m not really in a good place financially at the moment (college is not cheap), so I don’t want to find out right now.

I don’t know how long I can keep this up. It hurts, to keep quiet about things that matter so much to me. But I’m terrified to speak up. I keep thinking, I’ll just come out slowly, one little step at a time, gauging their reactions as I go, but my mom keeps saying things that scare me just enough to shut up for a little while more. I mean, she’s bothered by the fact that I occaisionally use minor swear words. She cuts me off with a religious statement that I literally cannot argue with when I disagree with her about politics. Every time the topic of gay marriage comes up, she makes these disgusted noises. She is not open-minded about these things. She’s not willing to have a discussion. If that’s how I see her react to little things, how could I ever hope to get her to accept something big?

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3 thoughts on “On Being Out

  1. May I offer some advice, as one with a similar upbringing and mindset? Don’t tell your parents until you’re out of college and on your feet. I was preached to everyday of my childhood about “unconditional love”. When I was 18 and really needed what they were offering, I recieved the opposite of love, unconditional or regular. I really think “unconditional” love is a lofty concept. Everything in this world depends on conditions. It is not within human nature to be unconditional. If it were, your fears of coming out to your rents would be unfounded, or likely would not exist.

    I tip my proverbial hat to you though, for having the integrity to be true to yourself 🙂

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    • Thanks for the advice. Even when I know that’s probably what would be smart to do anyway, it really helps to hear it from someone else, especially when there’s so many little things I’m unsure about.

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  2. hi, I am pretty much sure what you have been going through as i also feel the same most of the time ..infact you actually described me (i was thinking of myself while reading through). I Believe its good to have clarity on issues which are fundamental to us, doesn’t matter they are disturbing us these days. But at the same time we should also not hamper the minimum requirement to progress and keep on dejecting everything our parents have been following.Needless to say, they are our lenders of last resort.Even my parents keep on saying when i talk to them and say i m depressed , they want nothing out of me but me. So , if not following their beliefs , we can atleast keep pretending (this is just to make them feel you don’t disapprove of them completely).
    Besides ,I would like you to nail down what you have been doing, i am doing the same. Rather we can share a lot on this.I am reading a lot on philosophies these days and found that there are many a good writers who also felt the same even during those ages.

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