TeenSource Editors Note: In honor of Pride Month and Father’s Day, Youth Advisory Board Member Marisa shares her experiences growing up in a conservative town with two dads, and the strength and struggles it takes to confront homophobia and discrimination. Remember that families can look many different ways, and that no matter who makes up the members of your family, you are loved and valid.
By YAB Member Marisa, 16, Oakdale
In my family we live off of one motto: family is more than blood. Family is love, adoration, and, most importantly, family is whoever you want it to be. For example, I have two dads. Growing up in a conservative town, we faced many challenges when it came to my parent’s sexuality. We have experienced everything from a look of disgust to people completely dropping us as friends.
As a kid, I felt lost when navigating my friendships especially with homophobia involved. It got to the point where I was terrified to tell people I was raised with two fathers in fear they’d abandon me. I tried researching for tips but never found much so I hope this finds you when you need it. (If you want to find some celebs who have gone through this too you can read this article from Family Ties.)
When these experiences first happened to me, I had no idea how to handle it, but since then, I’ve gained some insight. So here are 5 tips I wish I had known.
1. Trust in yourself!
The first emotion I felt when my friend said she couldn't be my friend anymore was shame. But no matter how you feel, remember that the friend saying this to you isn’t really your friend. If a friend can’t accept your family, that this their problem, not yours. That’s something I wish I had learned earlier. Stay confident in who you are and who your family is. If you’re comfortable you should talk to your parents about this incident and how you’re feeling - they’ve been through this situation before, and they’ll likely be able to support you through it.
2. Acknowledge their feelings
Some people might be angry with you or your parents, or have trouble understanding a family that is different from theirs or anything else they’ve known before. If their emotions are running high, they may say some offensive or cruel things about you and your loved ones. As unfair as it sounds, if you’re able to acknowledge their feelings and have an honest conversation, it may be a moment of growth or learning opportunity for that person. That being said, some people aren’t willing to change their views and you will just have to accept that.
3. Help them learn
If you have the opportunity to have an open conversation about their feelings, you can acknowledge them and then help them learn. You can share information with them and share more about what makes your family unique – but still a family, just like theirs’. It may take time for them to come to terms with who your family is. Let them know that you and your family are still the same people they’ve always known and loved.
4. Stand up for yourself and your parents
People may think you are a “bad seed” or you’ve been “compromised.” These are all insults I’ve heard and I’m here to tell you it’s not true! In fact, there’s a study that says that children of gay parents are more well-adjusted and are more willing to discuss issues than children of straight parents. Remember what makes you and your family special, and be proud of who you are and take comfort in the strength of your bond no matter what anyone else thinks or says.
5. Be realistic
Despite all of the effort you put in, some people just aren’t ready or willing to broaden their perspective – but that is not a reflection on you or your family! They may be willing to stay friends with you, just not your parents. Personally, I wasn’t willing to stay friends with people who could not accept my family, but that’s totally up to you and there is no shame in whatever you decide! Remember that no matter what, there are many people who will love and respect you and your family.