Ask Margot-Do I Tell Her I May Be Gay?
He cares very much for the woman he’s dating…but he’s attracted to men. What path should he follow?
I’m a college student and am currently in the longest relationship that I’ve ever been in, about five months. My girlfriend is great and treats me like a king. We have so many things in common, and I love to spend time with her. The problem is that since high school, I have also been attracted to
men, but had to suppress my feelings due to religious beliefs and family embarrassment. I recently met a guy that I care for a lot, and he cares for me as well. I’m at the point where I don’t want to lie about my sexuality... but I haven’t a clue as to what step to take next. What do I tell my girlfriend?
|Just be clear that the ultimate decision about staying friends is all hers.|
– Concerned in Carolina
Regular readers of this column know I’m prone to cracking wise or injecting a little humor. Y’all also know I consider myself an authority on most issues related to romance and dating. But every once in a while, an issue comes down the pike that’s more than I can handle alone. Then I call in the reinforcements, my top-notch network of spiritual leaders. This is one of those occasions.
One thing I can say for sure, before I turn this over to the bona fide expert, is that you should proceed slowly, deliberately and carefully as you navigate your way through this situation. You shouldn’t deny your sexuality, but you don’t want to wade knee-deep into controversy and judgment, either, unless you have to and unless you are prepared.
That said, I asked my old friend, Boo Tyson, M. Div., to weigh in on your situation. I’ve known Boo since high school, and she’s a reliable and sensible source. The daughter of a prominent Methodist minister, she’s executive director of the nonprofit MAINstream Coalition in Prairie Village, KS. Here’s her sage advice:
“You may be swirling a bit—full of energy and courage to tell your truth, but perhaps not focused on a strategy or plan for yourself. So, take a deep breath, think about what you need and want, and consider how telling people may or may not impact those needs. I’m not advising that you not tell, but I am advising that you not feel rushed about it in all settings. My mother used to tell me, ‘You don’t have to tell everything you know,’ and I find that to be a useful bit of wisdom to remember. For instance, if telling your girlfriend means telling the congregation, I’d be cautious about it—unless you know that’s what you want to do. It might be wise for you to just stop dating her. Coming out to her may not be required or called for at the moment.”
In other words, you could break up with her now, without providing the details. You could simply say, with complete integrity, “You’re a great person, but I just feel like I’m not ready to be in
a committed relationship right now.” That way, she can save face when your revelation does get out. Five months isn’t that long, so you can reasonably break up without a lot of fanfare. And if you honestly want to remain friends with her, then it’s perfectly fine to ask if she’d be OK with that. Just be clear that the ultimate decision about staying friends is all hers. You can ask, but you can’t make her do it. Nor should you be angry with her if she turns down your offer.
|Some may not be surprised. Others will be shocked.|
But if that doesn’t sit well with you, you can tell your whole story. If she’s a truly forgiving and accepting person, this could happen—though she might need some time to get there. If she’s even a tad judgmental or biased against homosexuality, you can imagine this isn’t going to go over well with her, no matter how you handle it. So be prepared emotionally.
Either way, it’d be a good idea to contemplate what it’s going to be like for the people you’re going to tell. Some may not be surprised. Others will be shocked. A few could even freak out completely. Having walked a few miles in their shoes, though, will help you understand their reactions a little. Or at least prepare you emotionally for the variety of outcomes you’re going to experience.
You also should put some thought into your life during and after your coming out. To do that, ask yourself these tough questions:
You can get some more counsel before taking any action — and find a new faith community if it comes to that — by seeking out a Welcoming Congregation in your area. These houses of worship are LGBT-friendly and offer a place of prayer and refuge. You might also look for a faith-based gay service organization that can help you build a support network and get more advice on how to handle this situation. Good luck as you navigate this new path.
- Do you have a support system set up to help you begin your new life?
- Does your family attend the same congregation and how will they handle the news?
- Could you function if your family and/or congregation rejects you?
Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to AskMargot@match.com.