Let me be clear: although I wish my conservative parents understood my sexuality, I still think they're wonderful. In fact, their continued acceptance of my "heathen" ways never ceases to amaze me. I remember the old days, when getting caught with a Beatles album would result in immediate confiscation and extensive silent treatment. Now, when I go home for a visit, it's not uncommon for my mom and I to smoke a bowl and listen to Led Zeppelin. And despite the fact that my dad has spent hours behind a pulpit, he's been mostly supportive of the fact that I blog primarily about marijuana, feminism, and my vagina. On the rare occasions that I've tried to be open with my parents about my queerness, though, it's been pretty disappointing.
The night before I moved to NYC, I tried to joke with my dad about it. He commented about me not having any "overnight guys" if I ever had to crash with him in the future. When I responded with, "or girls..." his reply of, "no, not my baby?" broke my heart. I pride myself on living honestly, but my dad's response to my slight admission of queerness made me want to lie to him for the first time in years. I haven't brought up my sexuality in front of my parents since then, and I don't plan to anytime soon.
Still, I have to give my parents credit. Our conflicting worldviews haven't really come between us. When I stopped attending church in college, my folks' protests were minimal. When I told them that I'd asked my now-ex boyfriend to move in with me, they didn't freak out. When I came out as agnostic, they encouraged me to find an "agnostic church" so I could fellowship with like-minded individuals. They know I like weed, and it's caused zero fights.
That said, I don't feel like I can be totally honest with them about being queer. Here's what I wish my parents understood about my sexuality.
1. It's Not Really New
Just because it took me a while to admit to myself that I'm not strictly attracted to men doesn't mean my attraction to women is a new thing. When I was seven, I remember telling my mom, in the middle of a Wal-Mart Super Center, "I hope I marry a man when I grow up." Even at seven years old, a part of me knew my sexuality was more flexible than it was "supposed" to be, and that scared me.
One of my first sexual crushes was on Princess Jasmine. Growing up, I couldn't get enough of both Denzel Washington and Keira Knightly. My first wet dream was about Lady Gaga. And though I typically sleep with men, before a man ever brought me to orgasm, a woman did.
2. It's Not A Phase
The one time I tried to talk to my mom about what it was like to be with a woman, I got the feeling that she just didn't "buy" that my attraction to women isn't just a phase. She kept saying things like, "but, you didn't used to feel this way," or "where did this come from?" and "but, didn't this stuff used to gross you out?"
I mean, she's not wrong about the things I used to say. I used to think I was 100 percent heterosexual, and I frequently said so. But my attraction to women didn't just pop up overnight, and I really don't think it's just going to disappear someday, either. Just knowing my parents might think my attraction to both men and women is a phase makes me reluctant to bring it up around them at all anymore, though. I've had a hard enough time accepting my own feelings, so the last thing I feel like doing now is defending them to my folks.
3. I'm Not "Faking It" To Seem Hip
In fact, this isn't just something I wish my parents could understand — it's something I hope my gay and lesbian friends can understand, too. In my experience, when a girl who primarily sleeps with men and has never actually dated a woman claims to be queer, most people assume she's just pretending. I worry that, no matter what I say, my parents will assume that I'm only pretending to be queer because I have lots of queer friends. Or, that I'm pretending to be queer for my career. After all, I blog primarily for a feminist, politically liberal, and LGBT-friendly audience.
I'm not faking my attraction to women because I think it will make me more interesting to my readers, and I'm not just trying to be cool. I'm attracted to some women because they're sexy and strong and kind and smart. I'm attracted to some men for the same reasons.
I frequently get caught checking out gorgeous women at my gym, and then I worry about being a creeper. When Drake and Rihanna released their video for "Work," I watched it about nine times in a row. I would be truly delighted to have an adult slumber party with both of them, and I'm not admitting this because I hope it will help me appear "hip" or "on-trend."
4. I'm Still Figuring It Out Myself
For a while, I called myself bisexual, but that didn't really feel right. Yes, I'm 100 percent sure that I am sexually attracted to both men and women, but I don't think it's a 50/50 thing. Then again, maybe I just haven't experimented with my feelings enough yet to know.
Like I said, I have slept with more men than women. I've never actually dated a woman, either. I'm 25 now, and I didn't act on my attraction to women until I was 21. Shortly after that super hot experience, I met the guy I would spend nearly four years dating, monogamously. I'm not very experienced with women, and even with men, I'm still figuring out what I like in bed. I don't have my sexuality totally figured out yet — and truthfully, I think that might be half the fun.
I wish my parents could understand my need for sexual exploration. I wish they could see just how much figuring out and playing with my sexuality is pushing me to get to know myself in new ways. But they raised me to believe that sex is only OK within the confines of heterosexual marriage, so I just don't see them coming to that understanding.
5. My Past Homophobia Doesn't Disprove My Current Sexuality
I grew up in the Christian church, and I did the whole youth group thing in junior high and the beginning of high school, too. So when I was much younger and absolutely immersed in church culture, I said and felt some pretty homophobic things that I'm not proud of. It literally makes my stomach hurt to write this, but back in junior high, I once equated legalizing same-sex marriage to legalizing inter-species marriage. Another time, I said I could never have girl-on-girl sex because I could "never eat a pussy." I was the worst.
On top of that, despite numerous friends and family members questioning my sexuality while I was growing up, (just because I was an occasionally cross-dressing "tomboy" with affectionate, female friendships), I didn't even begin to accept the fact that I was attracted men and women until after I'd moved out of my parents' house.
The last time I tried to talk to my mom about my sexual attraction to women, she brought up some of the things I said about sexuality in the past — as if something I said over 10 years ago could make my current feelings and words void. I wanted so badly to explain to her that I was overly-defensive back then for a reason; that people sometimes change. That just because I used to say "I'm straight as a ruler," doesn't mean I was never attracted to women growing up. Instead, I just dropped the subject altogether, and I haven't brought up my sexuality to my mom since.
6. I Don't Need Their Approval — Just Acceptance
I would never expect my parents to abandon what they've believed about sexuality for their entire lives. I don't need them to tell me that it's OK for me to be attracted to both men and women, and I don't think I could change their minds about the morality of being queer, even if I wanted to. (Which I don't, really, because the thought of trying to change a conservative's mind about sexuality sounds exhausting.) As someone who used to be conservative myself, I know from experience that a mind-shift of that magnitude can only come from within.
That said, I wish I had even the slightest bit of reassurance that my parents would be accepting of my sexuality if I were to come out to them for real. They're accepting of me in every other way, and I just hate that this is the one thing I don't feel comfortable being honest with them about. I have faith in my parents' ability to grow, though. I mean, they've already come so far, and they obviously love me a lot.
Images: Elizabeth Enochs, Giphy/(6)