How I’ve Come to Terms with Dealing with Homophobic Parents and Strangers

Coming Out Q&A

Dealing with homophobic parents and people was something that I always felt like I would have to get used to for the rest of my life. While public opinion has generally shifted positively toward LGBT people, there will always be people who won’t agree with your lifestyle. 

So what is the best way to deal with that? Over the years, I’ve reflected more on this and have been able to develop my own principles to help deal with people who are less accepting of my sexuality. 

Hopefully, these are helpful to you or anyone you know who might also be dealing with homophobia.

1. Slowly, but surely

Coming out to your mom

Even six years after coming out to my mom, I know she still wishes that I wasn’t a lesbian and in a relationship with a woman. That’s not to say that she hasn’t come a long way towards accepting my relationship with Chia and adapted to a new normal, which I’m really thankful for. 

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that this might be the best scenario that I can ever hope for and I’m ok with that because I know how much my mom has had to sacrifice and change her mind to love me and my partner. 

A must-watch Netflix documentary about a gay man’s coming out journey to his traditional Asian parents called “All In My Family” beautifully captures this sentiment. 

One of the quotes from the movie is:

“When you were young, you think that the truth is more important than anything else, but as you get older, you realize that while living your truth is important, there are also other things that are important like other people’s feelings, as long you don’t have to live in a lie and you’re not being denied to live the life you want”.

This really resonated with me not just because we have similar family backgrounds, but because I understand that it’s not a one-way street of acceptance when you come out. Part of being mature about coming out also means compromising with the ones you love. I know that my parents and family members might not be perfect, but that they’ll eventually still find ways to express their love towards me on their own time and in their own way.

“Slowly, but surely” is my mantra now when it comes to dealing with people who are less accepting of LGBT relationships.

2. Find common ground

how to deal with homophobia

Another thing that I’ve gotten more patient about as I’ve gotten older is how important it is to understand where the other person might be coming from and to address their questions and concerns with equal understanding and compassion (as hard as this might be to do in the moment). 

I’ve found that the best way to change someone’s mind in favor of you is to find commonality and show how you two are similar rather than highlighting your differences. At the end of the day, you’re both humans who want the same thing – a chance to love and be loved.

At the end of the day, you’re both humans who want the same thing – a chance to love and be loved.

When people are able to make genuine connections and build relationships with each other despite different sexual orientations and beliefs, then they become mutually more receptive and tolerant. 

3. You can either curl up or stand up

Standing up to homophobia

In middle school, my two best friends at the time stopped being my friends cold turkey one day and told everyone (except me) that it was because I dressed like a tomboy and they thought that I was gay and had crushes on them. 

Let’s be clear–just because someone is a lesbian, does not mean that they have a crush on every girl they meet and spend time with. We have standards too.

That said, while these comments were really hurtful at the time, I don’t blame them for being naive and saying these things. I never allowed it to affect who I was, my self-esteem, or how I wanted to live my life. When people are unaccepting or mean to you, you can either curl up into the fetal position or stand up bravely.

Sure, you can still grieve and spend a day locked up in your room to cry (I definitely did that and it’s normal to feel sad), but the important thing is to not dwell on this for too long, but to get back up and move on to bigger and better things.

If anything, this incident actually motivated me to become the best that I could be and pursue excellence in all the areas of my life. I made it a lifelong goal of mine to be the best at everything I did so no one could never use the fact that I’m gay against me.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that I’ve always believed in the saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” 

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. 

If you don’t let these things consume you, you also give these people less fuel to ridicule you with.

4. Be smart about it

Dealing with homophobia quote

Growing up, I’ve had to deal with a lot of comments from my family and others about the way I looked or acted. 

I was a tomboy up until middle school, so I wore a lot of boys’ clothes during my early childhood. My mom would always tell me that I looked like a boy and that she wished I would just wear dresses.

And whenever my uncle saw me, he would always ask when I would get a boyfriend.

My aunt, on the other hand, would often say to me, “Don’t be too smart or you won’t find a husband.”

My initial reactions at the time were to defend myself against these comments, but as I got older, I’ve learned to weigh the pros and cons (i.e. the time, energy, and effectiveness) of doing so as well.

Depending on the day, sometimes I would just nod my head and acknowledge them because this was the fastest, most efficient way to get them to stop bothering me. 

If there’s value in engaging in a more thoughtful conversation and the possibility of opening up their minds, then I might decide to engage in a 1-on-1 conversation, but this certainly is an ongoing investment because no one changes their mind overnight.

Regardless, I’m still able to find ways to enjoy quality time with my mom, make jokes with my uncle, and devour my aunt’s amazing cooking.

The most important thing is that if you like who you are, then they can’t change that. 

There was also another incident that happened one summer while I was on a train in Paris with my ex and as we were holding hands, a group of immature teenagers nearby started laughing and making homophobic jokes in French about us. It felt like a never-ending train ride and the longer we stood there, the more upset my ex and I were both getting.

I could feel the tension building to a point where I thought my ex would say or do something that we could not undo and cause even more of a scene. At that moment, I stepped in to calm her down. We were outnumbered in a foreign country and it just wasn't worth it.

At the end of the day, even when others are acting dumb, you have to be smart about it. The most important thing is that if you like who you are, then they can’t change that. 

5. Stay positive and optimistic

This too shall pass quote

It can be easy to get caught up in the negativity of feeling like you’re discriminated against all the time, especially when you’re young and don’t have as much freedom or autonomy to escape or you’re just inundated with negativity from the news.

But I never forget that things have gotten a lot better for LGBT people in recent decades and more people now than ever before are able to marry and love who they want.

When I look back to being bullied in middle school, the silver lining of it all was that a majority of my friends still stayed my friends. They weren’t deterred by rumors that I was a lesbian. It was definitely a positive sign that the times were already changing for LGBT people back then and that at the end of the day, my true friends were able to see that I was still me and a good person that they still wanted to hang out with.

It’s important to acknowledge progress and maintain hope and optimism for the future despite experiencing some challenges in life. 

Whenever Chia and I watch a lesbian movie about a couple from way back then such as Pat and Terry or Anne Lister, I think about all that I’m grateful for in my life today and know that things truly do and have gotten better.

6. Focus on financial independence

Depending on where you are in life, achieving financial independence might be closer for some than others. When I was young and closeted, I dreamed about and worked towards the day that I would have a decent, stable income and my own home so I could live freely and be who I wanted to be.

If you’re young and still living with your parents or in college and not quite financially independent yet, you can start by focusing on things that you can control instead that will help you become independent one day (i.e., doing well in school, acquiring new knowledge and skills, surrounding yourself with good influences, and setting yourself up for success later on in your career and life). 

Start by focusing on things that you can control that will help you become independent and live freely one day.

Now that Chia and I are fully in our adulthood and have stable incomes, a place to live, and don’t need to depend on our parents, families or guardians for our basic needs, it’s easier for us to freely live our lives without fear that we’ll be ousted from someone else’s home.

As Beyonce would say, “Best revenge is your papers.”

Conclusion

There’s no-one-size-fits-all answer when dealing with homophobic parents or people because everyone is different and it also depends on a lot of other factors in your life. But in general, these 6 principles have helped me over the years deal with this and live a happy lesbian life.

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