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Should I come out to my Baptist parents re: Gay with HIV
Apr 22, 1998

I'm asking for advice on whether or not to reveal my HIV status to my parents. I have not yet told them that I am gay. I'm 41 yrs. old, and have been off work for the past three years. My parents think I'm still working. My father is a Baptist minister who is well known in both Canada and the U.S. My parents are preparing to move back to the States and my question is whether or not to tell them of my predicament. I have thought it best that I would tell them via a letter after they have made the move. I don't want them to stay here on my account, and then blame me for having ruined their retirement. Do you think I'm right in thinking this way? I have recently begun to worship at a local M.C.C. and I finally feel accepted for who and what I am. My parents and I have never discussed the topic of Homosexuality. I have lived with my partner for 20 yrs., yet the topic has never arisen. My Doctor has asked that I tell someone in the family, so I finally came out to my sister. She supports me 100%.

Please advise me on how I should proceed on this issue.

Response from Rev. Pieters

The decision to come out to your parents must be yours alone. That being said, I am one who believes that it is important to come out to parents, both about being gay and living with HIV, in most circumstances. Letting those who are close to us know the truth of our lives can be a great challenge, but honesty is liberating, empowering, and life-giving.

Your idea to wait until they've completed their move might be a good idea. But don't put it off too long, if you're going to do it. You're probably feeling a lot of tension about it, and some of that tension will disappear when you've finally come out.

I hope you'll be surprised at their reaction. I was when I came out. My parents, pretty conservative Presbyterians, told me they didn't understand homosexuality, but I was their son, and nothing could change their love for me. They educated themselves about the issues (with my help and a good bibliography), and soon were standing up for gay rights on their own, both in their church and their larger community. And they were very helpful and supportive, in their own way, when I was so sick with AIDS.

If you're like many people, your silence about your orientation, your life partner, and your HIV infection is probably creating an unnecessary distance between you and your parents. Having to be so careful about what one says, and having to be so constantly conscious of editing your stories and comments can set up a situation where tremendous barriers build up. Don't your parents have a right to know their son in the fullness of his humanity?

Your parents may have an initially bad reaction. But many parents, with time and prayer and education, have come a long way in accepting their grown children's gay or lesbian lifestyle. The bond between them becomes much deeper and more meaningful. And there may be a side benefit... your parents might become active in changing minds among the Baptists about gay issues! There's nothing like putting the human face of a loved one on an issue to make people re-evaluate their opinions.

Think about this, too: would you want your parents to find out about your HIV status, let alone your gay identity, when you are sick and perhaps incapacitated in the hospital? Do you want them to hear it from someone else? Or do you want to be in charge of telling them? How you share the news with them can have a lot to do with how they react.

Talk to your MCC pastor, or perhaps a deacon in your church. They have no doubt faced this issue with many others, and can help you sort through the complex issues of your situation. Strengthen your "chosen family" around you. They can be a great support for you through your coming out process. God bless you on your journey. And remember, "Don't be afraid; only believe." (Mark 5:36) Faith works!

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