What happens when you come out to your family four years after your father? Patrick Campbell tells his story.
By
Patrick Campbell

22 Feb 2016 - 1:39 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2016 - 1:39 PM

In August 2015, I came out to my mother and sisters. I was 18. I thought it went alright at first - it wasn’t really a surprise that I was gay considering I lived up to a majority of the stereotypes and had already tried to come out to them as bisexual when I was 15 (that didn’t go well).

Something that I didn’t think about was how previous events would affect this entire scenario. Four years earlier my father had come out and left our family for another man. It was a surprise for us all to say the least, and I am the only one who has maintained some form of a relationship with him – even if it's just texting every couple of weeks and occasionally meeting for a coffee.

What I didn’t realise was that the way my father had come out and abandoned my family would change how my family would take my coming out.

"Being compared to the man who abandoned his family was a low point... I couldn’t get why my family was angry with me."

I remember it really struck me when I saw my sister in a gay bar about a week later, and she got upset. She came home the next day and said it “felt like dad all over again”. Being compared to the man who abandoned his family was a low point. Whilst I have respect for what my dad did, and the struggle that he must have dealt with before doing so, I am still angry. Yet, I couldn’t get why my family was angry with me.

When I first told my mum that I wrote for the SBS's LGBTI website, her response was, “Oh is that really necessary?”. From her perspective, her recent exposure to the LGBTI community included a husband lying and cheating on her, then leaving her to pick up the pieces with our family.

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When I looked at it like that, I could almost understand where she was coming from. The most prominent LGBTI person in her life didn’t seem to be having a difficult time at all. I couldn’t imagine how it felt for her.

At this stage, I have no desire to tell my father. I can’t think of anything worse than him trying to bond with me over our sexual preference. When that conversation plays out in my head, it's worse than when he sat my family down to tell us he was leaving.

It took me two attempts before I could get my mother to accept that I wasn’t heterosexual, and even now, my family still has difficulty discussing anything of a romantic nature with me.

When I tell my friends this, they don’t often understand. Most of them assume that having a gay dad would make this whole process a lot easier. I’ve had friends in their 30s who have only recently come out, and they refuse to accept that what I had to do in accepting myself and sharing myself with my family was a struggle, just like coming out was for them.

Everyone has different experiences with coming out, some are easy, so many aren’t. It took me two attempts before I could get my mother to accept that I wasn’t heterosexual, and even now my family still has difficulty discussing anything of a romantic nature with me.

I am not my father. I am not like my father. Him being gay did not make it any easier for me to come out. Him being gay does not make being gay any easier for me. Him being gay does not make me immune to the struggles other LGBTI people face. It gives me a unique and often difficult experience that so many others will never know.

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