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Dealing with Parents
Jun 2, 1998

I'm HIV positive and gay and my parents hate gays and do not know that I am gay or HIV+. So I think a lot about how I will tell them either one or both news. I don't know if the stress they will give me is worth sharing the news. They live far away. But I guess now with HIV I feel like I should tie up everything. And I guess I should find out whether my parents could ever accept who I am. Anything you recommend? What's the best way to go about doing this. First tell them I'm gay and then a couple of months later the other news????

Response from Rev. Pieters

There's no "best way" to come out to your parents about being gay and HIV infected. But you can prepare yourself before you come out. Ask other gay men and lesbians, or people living with HIV, about their experiences of coming out. Contact your local chapter of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and talk to some parents about how their children came out to them. Listen to their experiences, and the experiences of other gay men and lesbians, to learn about the dynamics of coming out to Mom and Dad.

Those dynamics can vary greatly. Sometimes gay and lesbian people are pleasantly surprised to find out that their parents have known or suspected all along, and are glad finally to talk about it. Other times, there can be a very negative reaction. But even in these circumstances, a change in their attitude can happen with time. Put them in touch with PFLAG, a local AIDS Service Organization, or a local gay-friendly church, such as the Metropolitan Community Church.

Their reaction may partly depend on how well prepared you are, and the attitude you bring to the discussion. If you approach your coming out apologetically, feeling ashamed of your confession, that can leave the door open to your parents reacting with shame or disapproval. If you approach your parents with a proud and loving attitude, having worked through issues of shame and guilt yourself beforehand, you can positively affect the way your parents will react. Similarly, if you tell them about your HIV infection with shame, despair, and fear, that gives them permission to feel that way too. Foster your own hope for a long life that many people with HIV now feel, and try to convey that confidence to your parents.

When the time is right, (and there is no perfect time) be prepared to offer your parents books, articles, and community resources like PFLAG. Share with them the facts: there is nothing to be ashamed of in being gay or having HIV. You are the same person they've always known or loved. After you come out, it may be a rocky road with them, but if your own hope and pride are in place, you will be well prepared to handle any negative reaction they may have.

Good luck and God bless you all! I know that God is lovingly with you on your journey.



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