I am lucky that I grew up with a close relationship with my mom and told her almost everything as a kid. I say almost everything because I did withhold kind of a big secret: I knew I was gay, but I hadn't yet come out. I had many reasons for not coming out, including that I felt an immense amount of shame, and I was scared of how my conservative, religious family would react. Perhaps even scarier to me was the thought of how society would react to my being gay, especially because I'd previously dated men. Thankfully, when I finally came out, it brought me and my mom closer together.
Growing up, I never doubted that my parents loved me unconditionally. My parents and I were extraordinarily close; my family ate dinner together most nights and shared a lot of our lives together. Sometimes, my parents would ask me why I wasn't meeting anyone special, and even though I did date a number of men and had a few serious relationships, I would usually tell my family that I just wasn't serious about things or that it wasn't working.
When I was 30, I broke up with a long-term boyfriend. I also met a woman I was very serious about and who I spent a lot of time with. Looking back, I'm sure it was obvious to my family what was going on. However, I didn't tell them that I was dating her — I instead just referred to her as my friend. I did, however, slowly start coming out to my friends, who were all wonderfully supportive. I was still so nervous about telling my family, especially because I had been keeping such a huge secret for so long. I was worried that it would hurt my parents' feelings knowing that I'd kept so many things from them.
One day, my mom and I spent a day together hanging out, and over lunch, she asked me the question I'd been dying to answer: was I gay? I told her yes, and finally shared the truth about my life. I was not surprised, but I was relieved by her and my dad's response: they were extremely loving and supportive of me and assured me that they loved me no matter what. They did have questions and concerns, but they were mostly worried about me being loved and cared for by society, because even in this day and age, LGBTQ+ folks still experience extreme discrimination. It was such a weight off my shoulders to no longer have a big secret, and I was beyond relieved that I finally got to fully be myself with my family. And while I broke up with the woman I was dating, that feeling of relief remained.
The confidence I gained from not having to carry my secret helped me accept myself. It also helped my relationship with my mom. She'd suspected for so long that I wasn't being completely honest, and now, I felt like I could be my whole self with her again. Being able to be honest about what I was doing and how I was spending my time brought us closer together, as did seeing how deeply my parents still loved and supported me.
There were definitely some changes as my family adjusted to my life. I slowly began bringing the woman I was seeing home for holidays, and my parents welcomed the woman who is now my wife into our family warmly — and even helped us with our wedding. As a young person struggling with coming out, I could have never imagined how amazing it would feel to get to bring a woman partner home and see my family love her. I am so glad that my parents and I were able to find our way and have the sort of open, honest, and loving relationship we'd had my whole life.