BY: Deeran Anderson
When deciding to talk to your faith-based family about something I’ve kept private, such as my attraction to men and women, it can be like an atomic bomb going off in your head. I’ve gone through every emotion in the “book.” I was finally happy to get it off my chest. I was scared at how they would react, angry that I even had to do this in the first place and saddened that I didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk about this with them since the beginning.
Being able to talk with someone who has gone through the same situation has emotionally helped me push through my mixed feelings. I wrote a book called Colorful Confessions: from Headache & Heartbreak to Healing & Happiness where I restate what former pastor told me – “The devil’s greatest weapon is to make you feel alone.” This is true on many levels because knowing I was not alone and that another black/brown individual in the world is struggling with the same issues has been such a relief. Even after all of his struggles, he was still able to be successful and have a fruitful life. Knowing this brought me great strength and comfort. The conversation I had with Tan France on Revenge Body was so eye-opening and mind shattering. Here are six lessons I learned that really helped when addressing my parents about my sexuality.
#6 Set The Right Mood
If you and your parents are not as open and close like Khloe Kardashian and her mom Kris Kardashian is, then you need to set the right mood. Make sure to consider all variables when discussing this topic with them. Below is a list of ideas that may help ease the situation and give you peace of mind.
Location- Maybe pick their favorite place to eat or a place that holds a great family memory to ease everyone.
Music- background music always helps as long as it’s easy and calm so you don’t have an awkward silence.
Appearance – Make sure you are not wearing anything eye-jarring to them. Remember, you are already about to tell them something they might need to wrap their ears and head around. Don’t wear anything that will make them lose focus on the main point and topic at hand. That’s why even though I love colorful clothes, big glasses and fur coats (yes I know it’s not the 80’s ), I put on a tailored navy blue suit to ease the visual distraction.
#5 Know Your Ego vs. Your Confidence
Make sure when you talk with them, you are walking in the conversation with confidence and not ego. There is a small difference between the two but it makes a big difference. A person’s confidence means they know their self-worth, they know their value, they understand their worth and what they bring to a situation. Ego is demanding that someone else knows your worth, value, gives you accolades, suggesting things need or should be done YOUR way, etc. Typically, your ego precedes your confidence. The ego will be on the forefront to protect your confidence. If someone attacks you, you put up ego so your confidence isn’t attacked. Sometimes a wall can be triggered falsely so be aware of that as well.
Having confidence when you go into the conversation with your family and knowing that there may be different outcomes will better prepare you for their reactions. If you go into that same conversation with your ego then things will get ugly very quickly. This is why when I started to have this conversation with my father and he walked out, I was mentally and emotionally okay because I was confident in who I was by that time.
#4 Listen To Your Family
After you honestly speak and “lay everything out on the table,” sit back and listen to what they have to say with an open mind and heart just as you have asked them to do with you. Try not to interrupt and save all questions and comments for the end. You might be surprised at what you hear. In my case, my mother had a totally different reaction than my father. She already knew and was perfectly fine with it. It was like an elephant had been lifted off my chest and I could fly.
#3 Give Your Family Time
On the other hand, what you’re telling them can be very difficult to take in and process. Give them time to think about what you’ve said. Sometimes people’s first reactions are not their last reaction. Give them as much time as they need to process what you have said and allow them to go through their emotions.
#2 Don’t Allow Your Family To Disrespect You
I stated before that you may need to give them time. However, don’t allow them or anyone to disrespect you. It is perfectly fine if they don’t agree with your choices. I am sure they have made some choices you don’t agree with or their parents don’t agree with. Although a person does not agree with something, that does not give them the right to belittle or degrade a person for it. When I told my dad and he walked out, my mother started to make an excuse for him. I was not going to accept the excuse and I simply dismissed it in a respectful way.
#1 Own Who You Are
Don’t apologize for who you are or who you choose to be. Life is too short and you only have one. This is your journey and you should not feel obligated to tell anyone anything, by talking to your family you are allowing them into your personal life because you choose to, you don’t owe them that. I confessed to my friends and family while on the show at one of my parties. It was not me telling them because I thought I had to, it was because I wanted to. I had grown and developed into the man I was proud of and not ashamed to share it.
All and all, talking to your family about something like this is your choice and you know them best. But take the words of Jim Carrey into consideration when deciding if you should do it or not. In his iconic quote he says, “Sometimes we disguise fear as practicality.” so ask yourself if you are making the decision out of fear or practicality and hopefully the answer will lead you to freedom.