'You Just Want To Make Them Proud': My Parents, Allyship And Me

HuffPost UK speaks to eight queer people, who share differing stories of what parental allyship means to them.
HuffPost UK

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Allyship is at the heart of Pride – and when you think of allies, parents are often overlooked. Not every queer person has a great relationship with their mum or dad. In fact, in some cases, parents aren’t allies at all, but for others, that family support has been a lifeline when they needed it most.

This Pride month, we’re celebrating allyship in all its diverse forms. Here, HuffPost UK speaks to eight people, all with differing stories about what being an ally means to them and their families.

While some found coming out to their parents easy – and continue to have a strong bond – others have had to seek strength elsewhere.

‘I keep my sexuality a secret from my family... because I love them with all my heart’

Ray*, London, 26.

frantic00 via Getty Images

“Being a gay man in a Muslim Indian family has been the biggest obstacle in my life. A lot of the time, I feel like I’m the only one in the Muslim community to feel this way. I grew up in south east London. I never knew my biological father, so it was with my mum and my older step-brother. My social life and family life have been two completely different worlds – both of which I’ve had to adapt to.

“With my family, I’m a straight man who doesn’t say much and does whatever it takes to keep them content. I keep them at a distance because my biggest fear is to lose them. I fear destroying their reputation from them finding out my truth.

“Life has never been easy for my mother – from dealing with abusive husbands, having a car accident meaning she could no longer walk properly, losing her dream job, becoming a widow, then developing an abundance of underlying health issues. It’s been one thing after the next.

“Her religion and culture is something she holds greatly, I believe it’s a sense of comfort and strength for her. I feel a growing sense of guilt for not telling her who I really am. It makes me feel anxious and somewhat depressed.

“Being a gay man in a Muslim, Indian family has been the biggest obstacle in my life.”

“I wouldn’t be able to freely continue to be myself without having the right people in my life to keep me going, though.

“The first person I came out to was my best friend at school; he and his family took me under their wing and are my biggest allies to this day. They became the parents who allowed me to grow. The more friendships I gained in my life from then on, the more I started to build a family of my choosing – one who accepted me for me. I feel blessed to even have one ally, let alone a network of people.

“The reason I keep my sexuality a secret from my family – still now – is because I love them with all my heart. I hope one day I’ll have the courage to come out to them. But for now, I’m happy learning more about myself.

‘My mum told me she didn’t care if I was straight, gay, bi, whatever – as long as I was happy’

Fabian Castellani, London, 28.

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“I first started dating a guy when I was 23. We were together for eight months, but I never told my parents. The guy kept pressuring me to tell my mum every time I went home to see her. In the end, it was too much. I ended things.

“A week later, he found my mum on Facebook and messaged her, outing me. Rather than being upset or angry, she told him I was right to get rid of him if that was his response to the break-up. I had no idea this was happening until she called me, asking who Jake was. She told me what happened and said didn’t care if I was straight, gay, bi, whatever – as long as I was happy.

“A similar story happened with my dad. He called me up one afternoon to rant about his then-girlfriend going through my social media channels. She was under the impression my dad and I had been clubbing together and he’d been getting with other women – and then she stumbled across my ‘interested in’ section. Apparently she questioned him over and over. He told her he didn’t care about my sexuality and it shouldn’t be any of her business.

“I sometimes still struggle with the fact that my parents are so supportive.”

- Fabian

“My experiences were the same for most queer people when they come out or are forced out: sheer panic, like the world had been dragged from under my feet, then worry, wondering if they would accept it or not. And then, finally, relief.

“My mum and dad are both incredible people. They’ve also been extremely supportive of my brother, Vince, who is currently transitioning. I think sometimes I actually struggle with the fact my parents are so supportive.

“I guess there’s a little internalised homophobia in there; something that tells me I’m not ‘normal’, if that makes sense. We all try to be unapologetically ourselves, but often, for those of us that live that truth in our daily lives, there’s a weird feeling when you speak to your parents. You just want to make them proud.”

‘I was lucky enough to have a mum who had recently come out in her 30s’

Whitney Simon, London, 28.

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“When I came out at 16, I was lucky to have a mum who had recently come out in her 30s, only a couple years earlier. Despite my terrible reaction when I found out – I was still reeling from finding out about her divorce to my dad – my mum was an absolute legend when, months later, I came out to her.

“Since then, we’ve truly become best friends, embracing our queer identity, celebrating Pride together, swapping our rainbow clothes, supporting each other during both our weddings. She ended up marrying a woman she met online in 2014, and they have a three-year-old son together. I married my long-term girlfriend in 2017.

“I know how lucky I am to have my mum as my best friend.”

- Whitney

“My mum ended up pulling me aside, once, telling me, ‘I hope you know I would love you even if you were straight’. It was the most hilarious / sweetest thing I’d ever heard, but only made me further realise how lucky I was to have her.

“She is my best friend, an ultimate ally, and overall support system. We’re both each other’s biggest and gayest cheerleaders and it’s pretty epic.”

‘My parents are the strongest allies I’ve got’

Jack Dick, Leicester, 29.

HuffPost UK

“I was pretty confident that when I came out to my family, it was going to be widely accepted as we have gay relatives already. But I think because of pressures from the media and from listening to others’ experiences, part of me felt that if and when I did come out, I could lose everything.

“When I went to university, I grew some balls to do it. But living away from home, the only way I could muster up telling my mum was by text. I thought it’d give her time to think about what I’d said and how to respond.

“I explained to her how my ‘friend’ who was staying from uni was my boyfriend and I was gay. She rang me a few minutes later and was absolutely fine with it, saying she’d always known. But she was worried how my dad would react (he’s quite old-school), so told me to let her speak to him.

“I thought if I text, it’d give her time to think about what I had said and how to respond.”

- Jack

“My relationship with my dad wasn’t the best when I was younger and when I came out, it put further strain on it. For a good few years, we barely spoke while I was at university. When I was home, we didn’t speak much at all. He worked away a lot – I just assumed he wasn’t bothered as long as it wasn’t mentioned.

“Four years on from this, and me and my parents have a stronger connection than ever. They’re probably just as close, if not even closer, with my fiancée. I look back now and question myself. Did I create these pressures because I was so worried? Or was it a case of blind ignorance?

“Knowing my parents as an adult and knowing now I can ring my dad or my mum to talk about anything, I’m pretty sure my fears about coming out was just my anxiety around what I was lead to believe would happen. My parents are the strongest allies I’ve got, and I know both of them would jump to the defence of anyone – and not just their son – who comes under the LGBT+ umbrella.”

‘Nobody cared as much as my fear told me they would’

Rose*, London, 29.

HuffPost UK

“I knew I wasn’t heterosexual from around the age of 12, but struggled to accept it properly until my early 20s. I came out to my family – my mum, brother and sister – in my mid-20s. I told each of them separately, months apart, but I didn’t tell any of them face-to-face.

“My mum was first, as I felt sure nothing would change between us. Even though I knew her as a compassionate and non-judgmental person, a small part of me worried that having a LGBTQ+ child might be one step too far for her.

“It turned out I had nothing to worry about. After texting her, ‘I have something to tell you... I think I might be gay,’ she immediately called me to tell me I didn’t need to worry about being honest about who I was. She told me I’d drunkenly called her a year ago to come out, but had never mentioned it again. She knew the conversation had to be re-initiated by me, so she’d been waiting for that.

“She told me I'd actually drunkenly called her a year ago to come out, but never mentioned it again.”

- Rose

“I remember the relief of finally telling my mum. Having her love and acceptance gave me the strength I needed to start being more honest with people. Now, I wonder why it took me so long and why I believed any of my family might react negatively.

“Since coming out to my family, I’ve been able to be more open about who I am. There’s been no big announcements or declarations, but in everyday life, I’m able to assert that I’m not straight and talk openly when people ask questions.

“If I come up against anything that makes me question who I am, the love and understanding my family have shown me is the only acceptance I need. I’m aware that I’m one of the lucky members of the LGBTQ+ community, and my mum was the ally I needed from the moment I told her – both times!”

‘Even when it was against her faith, my mum still picked me’

Bella Snowden, Baltimore, US, 31.

Bella Snowden

“Growing up Black in Baltimore, in the US, there was no room for being queer. Like most trans kids, I thought I was gay first – even though, deep down, I knew I was a girl the whole time.

“My mum didn’t take it well when I came out at 15. I did it over the phone while she was at work, so I didn’t know how upset she was until she got home. She and my dad yelled at me, telling me I needed to get my life right. The only help I had was my brother who, at the time, was closeted and stood up for me even though he was scared.

“I left home after that and spent time over friends’ houses – sleeping on floors and staying out till 3am. Aged 15 and newly queer, the world wasn’t kind to me.

“As time went on, my mum started to come around. With every new phone call we would talk more, and she started meeting my friends. My brother came out 10 years later and thankfully he had a better experience than me.

“Now I’m 30 – we still can’t really talk about sex, but I’m not in a rush for that anyway! The last six years have been extremely hard. My mum has been sick – she has Parkinson’s disease and dementia – so my brother and I are back in Baltimore.

“I came out as trans this year, but with how my mum’s brain works, she’s not going to understand that. She might die never really knowing me as her daughter. But she’s my mum – and even when it was against her faith, she still picked me. I will love her forever.”

‘My dad walked me down the aisle. It was the result of years of us working hard to understand each other’

Wahaj Mahmood-Brown, Bishop’s Stortford, 34.

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“In an attempt to gain acceptance from my dad when I came out, I perhaps didn’t take the time to understand him. In reality, he needed me to accept him as much as I needed him to accept me.

“My dad didn’t get it at first, none of my family did. It took a lot of work over a few years to show them that gay people are no different, we want all the same things in life. We’re as boring as everyone else!

“Once he saw me with a partner and saw what a gay relationship looks like, my dad got used to the idea. When he walked me down the aisle without hesitation, it was the result of years of both of us working hard to understand each other.”

‘I wouldn’t call them allies, but not enemies either’

Niall*, London, 25.

nito100 via Getty Images

“I was brought up in a fairly liberal Irish Catholic household, and knew I was gay from around 13 years old. I came out to my parents over the phone, after living a secret life for four years at university. I regret the way it happened – I’d had a few beers, then rang my mum. The secret was killing me: I had a boyfriend!

“That Christmas, we had a discussion in the living room with my eldest sister, which didn’t go well. It was the first time I’d seen my mum and dad since telling them, and I knew something was off. Conversations between us were short, the hugs felt lighter.

“To this day, my private life is a taboo subject with little interest. I’ve never been asked by my family what it was like to grow up knowing who I was, but not presenting it. Aside from my close family, no one else knows. Mum and dad say it will ‘upset and hurt family’ and ‘granny is close to dying’. I’m not sure they’re wrong.

“I wouldn’t call them allies, but not enemies either. I’m doing my part, educating them bit by bit, without overloading them. The rationale for their prejudice is slowly being interrogated and their image of the ‘gay man’ is slowly evolving. In London I am out and proud. Back home, only my close family know for now.”

*Some names have been changed.