Queer Advice: Should I Tell my Dying Grandma That I’m Gay
Q: My Grandma is dying of cancer. I’ve “come out” to my immediate family and friends, but not to her. She makes openly homophobic comments, and I’ve always had a difficult relationship with her.
My family, and my Grandma, are very Christian – I’m not. My parents have been gradually more supportive and understanding, both of my lack of faith and my sexuality, but I’m not sure how my Gran would react – I don’t plan on telling her that I’m atheist, that’s just context – the real question is about coming out to her as gay.
I’ve been meaning to come out to her for a while, especially since she was diagnosed. My mom suggests that I should, and my parents have offered to tell her for me, but I think I want to tell her myself. There’s always been hostility between my grandma and I, we disagree on a lot of things, but I’d hate for her to die, and go on to live the rest of my life wondering whether she’d have hated me if she knew, or not.
I’ve rejected some gestures of goodwill from her in our more recent meetings because of my upset over the things she’s said, but it seems cruel to me that she might die never knowing why I dislike her.
Should I tell my grandma I’m gay?
A: This is a very difficult question, and an agonizing one for you, I’m sure. Ask yourself: What action that I take today will I be least likely to regret ten years from now? If the answer is coming out to her, then I’d suggest that’s the one you take.
One strategy that’s been useful for people faced with coming out to family members who may not be supportive is using the written word. You can draft and redraft a letter to her, even asking your parents to proof it for you if you wish. I’d suggest a gentle approach, acknowledging that this information may be difficult for her to digest and accept, but expressing your hope that she will love and support you. Because you seem to have some angst about your reactions to some of her earlier statements, you may want to address these exchanges directly, explaining that because of your identity, these things were hard for you to hear.
You can hand her the letter and ask her to read it while you wait; you can read it to her; or you can give it to her and allow her to read it privately, meeting with her later to talk about it.
Or, if a letter just doesn’t seem like the right approach with her, you can sit down with her face to face. Either way, you are most likely to be received positively (or at least not negatively) if you ask for her support and tell her how important it is to you, and if you refrain from assuming the worst or from being defiant or accusatory. Good luck.
Lisa Griffin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina. With nearly 30 years of clinical experience, Dr. Griffin specializes in gender identity and sexual orientation issues, working primarily with gender-variant, transgender, and queer people (children, adolescents, and adults) and their families.
Not surprisingly, many of the island’s religious fundamentalists were not delighted by the ad.March 7, 2016
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