HEY, KELLY: My best friend, a guy I’ve known since kindergarten (and was like part of my family), just announced he’s gay. I kind of always thought he might be. We’re juniors now and he’s really interested in a guy at school, so he decided to come out and say he’s gay.
I’m really proud of him because I know how hard it is for him telling something so big, especially considering his parents are really religious and he was pretty scared about how they would handle it. Here’s the crazy thing, it wasn’t his parents who handled it badly, it was my mine. My parents are acting like it’s a total big deal and telling my relatives about it like it’s some terrible gossip. They say, “Jamie’s gay friend” instead of his name. My mom asked me the other day what she should say to him the next time she sees him so things aren’t awkward, and I said, “Just be normal.” She said, “But it’s not normal.”
I used to think my parents were good people who accepted everyone, and I was so wrong. They seem so lame with their thoughts. To be honest, they are embarrassing me with how stupid they are with this whole thing. They raised me and my sisters to be nice to all people and they are being hypocrites.
I’m so mad at them for how they’ve reacted. I can’t believe they judge people like this, especially someone I love as much as I do my friend. I would be mortified if he knew she said that and I would be so mad at them if he stopped being my best friend because of them.
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Please help me. I can’t get over this because its upsetting me so much. How do I handle this?
DEAR JAMIE: You sound like an amazing friend. You are disappointed in your parents’ reaction because you are defending your friend and want this difficult process for him to be smooth. Regardless of how your parents respond, your reaction is probably most important to him and you are hitting a home run with the support and love you are showing him.
Try to change your approach with your parents. Calling them lame and stupid won’t help you get your feelings across. If you want them to become more aware, your best bet is to talk with them in a way that relays your concerns rather than insults them.
Go talk with your parents. Tell them your observations: You seem judgmental, it feels gossipy when you tell our family members something that isn’t your business to tell, you are treating him differently, it seems like you have forgotten how much he means to me as a friend, and I would prefer you use his name instead of “Jamie’s gay friend.” Stick to the facts and talk about why this hurts you.
Maybe you tell them you feel disappointed because they raised you to be open-minded and accepting of all people and yet you feel like they are not practicing what they preach. The goal of the conversation isn’t to get into a massive argument with them, it is to make them aware of your feelings and and your concerns about their reaction. The first step toward change is always awareness.
I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they might just be adjusting to the news and need some time to digest it. I’m not saying their behavior is acceptable or right, just that they are finding their way with it. If they felt really close to your best friend and considered him part of the family, they might be reacting like some parents do when their own kids tell them they are gay. Some parents respond in a way that is loving and supportive. Some parents need more time to accept and process the news.
Your mom asking how to talk with him so things aren’t awkward says she is trying to not make it a big deal, which is a good sign that she is wanting to make him feel welcome and accepted by your family. Tell your parents that if they can’t be kind and accepting toward your friend, perhaps you don’t bring him around your parents until they can be.
Try to not focus on your parents and be more focused on encouraging your friend through this process. Be honest with him: “My parents are struggling with this but I’m hopeful they will come around,” then let it go. Your attitude with him matters most. You can’t control or change your parents, and calling them names doesn’t help. I’m sure your friend would say as long as you continue to respect and him and treat him the same, it’s all good.
Your friend revealed something very personal about himself to the world, and your reaction of love and compassion for how hard it must have been for him was perfect. Regardless of how your parents handle it, as his best friend you have shown him unconditional support and I’m guessing this will just strengthen your friendship.