by Dr Sam Tan, Senior Clinical Psychologist
In a previous article, we explored how cultural narratives can add on another layer of complexity in the coming out process for Asian LGBTIQ people. In this article, we will explore some ways to deal with these issues.
Step 1. Evaluation
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Why do I want to come out to my parents? Is it for more freedom to be yourself? Is it because you wish to be closer to them?
2. How good is your relationship with your parents now?
3. How much external support do you have if things go badly? Are you financially independent? Do you have emotional support? Is there any risk of harm to yourself?
Only consider coming out when you have a clear answer to why you wish to do so, if you have a fairly strong relationship with your parents and if you have contingency plans.
Step 2. Graded Exposure
Many Asian parents do not know much about being LGBTIQ. Coming out abruptly might be a big shock and they may not know how to respond to you. It is useful to slowly expose them to the LGBTIQ community and to normalize it for them. This also helps you judge their reactions and how strongly they are holding to their views about being someone queer.
Step 3. Coming Out
Choose a time when there are no other stressors occurring in their lives and sit them done. Tell them you are queer and tell them the reason for your coming out to them (e.g., to be closer to them).
Step 4. Dealing with Strong Reactions
Be mentally prepared for strong / negative reactions. Some reactions may be delayed and arise after a few months of your coming out. It helps to rehearse how you wish to handle your parents’ reactions either with a friend or in your mind.
Validate their anger and denial. Try to see their concerns behind their reactions and validate those concerns. Even if they deny and reject you, be proactive and try to build on the relationship. Avoid pushing too much for acceptance. Also rehearse how you would set boundaries (i.e., firmly and politely) if they continue denying and attempt to match-make or change you.