I really appreciate the support and advice you are giving to many people that are facing difficult times.
I’m a 24-year-old Italian guy and time ago I realized I was bisexual… but mostly attracted to men. I’m still in the closet and I want to ask for your advice because I’m becoming increasingly anxious. A part of me urges to come out but I know it’s not safe yet: I’ve never been in a relationship and haven’t yet come to terms with my sexuality. More importantly, I’m still economically dependent on my family and the moment I’ll be able to live by myself seems so far away.
My family is caring and supportive, but judgmental towards others’ sexuality, in particular on homosexuality (they are Catholics), my parents having even worked with associations in support of “traditional family”. They say they love me the way I am, but I don’t know if they would still feel this way if they knew their son is homosexual.
I still love my family but I feel hurt when they make a joke or have something negative to say about homosexuals, not knowing I’m one of them. I feel that we are growing distant. I’ve actually reached a point in which I am uneasy when at home with them. I had to ask them not to question me continuously about girls. I find difficult to study and go through everyday tasks, my performance at university worsening.
Even if they would still accept me as a person, I know they wouldn’t accept my homosexuality because it would mean going against their religion. I guess it was already hard for them when, years ago, I told them I was agnostic. I don’t know if I have the right to hurt my family further by coming out gay. Sometimes I feel like a burden to them, I often think that I’m making them worry for my soul.
It’s not helping that I’m struggling with my bisexuality, It’s like I am constantly asked to make a choice. Be with a man, and face rejection from family and people around you... be with a girl and risk being in an unhappy relationship because you still experience a stronger desire for men. I think this is the main reason I feared being in a relationship, together with the fact I’ve only dated girls that were religious and/or somewhat judgmental towards homosexuals.
My brother told me that for a period my mother suspected I was gay. I don't know if that is good.
They noticed that something is not right with me lately. They think it’s because I’m going slow in my studies and because I don’t have a girlfriend, which they say it’s because I’m too unsecure. Instead, I’m aching because I’m still not telling them the truth and I feel we are being pulled apart.
Is there something I can do to better manage this emotional pressure while still being in the closet at my age?
Thank you so much for caring and reading through this long letter,
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I sympathize and empathize with your difficult situation. It sounds as if you may have read some of my previous letters, because you make the observation that it’s not a great ideal to come out to parents who still hold the financial strings if you feel they will disapprove strongly and possibly leave you without means of support.
On the other hand, you’re 24. Not sure why financial independence is so far off for you, but if I were you I would make that my top and immediate priority.
But let’s talk more about your parents and the Catholic Church. While I was raised Southern Baptist, I have familiarized myself a bit with Catholicism and have a lapsed-Catholic husband. I believe that many people misinterpret what the Church’s official view of homosexuality is. While there are some things that are definitely prohibited when it comes to homosexuals (specifically, the Church sees the holy sacrament of marriage as being only between a man and a woman), the Church does not hate homosexuals. Even Pope Francis said not too long ago that he does not judge homosexuals and neither should other people. That is for God to do. This article by Christina Mead, I believe, is a pretty good representation of the Catholic position.
The anxious feelings you have are generated by the tension between the real you and the mask you are wearing daily around your family. I had that for four years before coming out to my now-ex wife. It was a miserable time.
The good news is that your parents seem like caring and loving people. They may be a bit misguided by social pressures (especially in a country like Italy, which has a bit of a machismo culture), but if you prepare yourself well enough to answer their questions and allay their fears, you should be okay, I sense.
A couple things you can do. 1) I suggest reading this helpful booklet (the booklet is geared toward Americans—sorry, I don’t know of an Italian source) and 2) talk to your priest about this in confessional. This in itself will lift a huge weight off your shoulders, since you’ll be able to talk about being homosexual while knowing that the conversation is confidential. Now, during confession, the priest might ask if you can continue the conversation outside of confessional. This might be a good idea, if things are going well. If you and your priest have a good relationship, I suggest, when the time comes, you approach your parents together.
You probably recognize, as well, that your parents are trying to think of what is best for their son. They worry about health issues (HIV etc., even though you can get these from women just as easily as men) and perhaps legal issues. Gay people do have legal protections in Italy. You can’t be discriminated against; however, same-sex couples in Italy do not have the same rights as straight couples when it comes to shared property, inheritance, and social welfare programs. Making yourself aware of your rights in your country is always a wise path, and you can use this knowledge to address questions your parents have, too.
You will only find your real happiness by allowing yourself to come out and be yourself. The timing and how you do it will be up to you. The best thing to do is prepare yourself as best you can, educate yourself, and, if possible, find allies to support you when you do come out to your family.
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