IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Parents Don't Know I'm Gay and I Live With Them

Nobody wants to be a closeted 38-year-old who's never moved out of her parent's apartment.
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Gena Hymowech
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Nobody wants to be a closeted 38-year-old who's never moved out of her parent's apartment.

I wish I could watch more movies on my computer, but I forgot how the DVD player works and the selection of films available online sucks. Not to mention that trying to watch a movie from one's bed is uncomfortable and I spend so much time on that damn computer for work that I try to limit it in my off-duty hours. So when I want to see a film I usually use one of my parents' DVD players. 

If I'm watching something safe, it's fine. If I'm watching something else, I have to be careful because, after 11 years of being closeted, I don't want to be outed by a TV screen.

Just replace "son" with "daughter."

Just replace "son" with "daughter."

I also don't want to be outed by my schedule. It's on an index card, posted by a magnet on the refrigerator. Not the ideal place for it, but that's where I like to keep it. It's what works best for me. Except I go to a lot of queer events and a lot of my work revolves around queer stuff, so writing that schedule can be tricky.

Leaving the house requires trickery as well. My mother always asks where I'm going and what I'm doing since she's worried about my safety, and I have to lie because telling her I'm looking for a wife is definitely not the right answer.

These are the main strategies I use to get by. I don't know how successful they are because I can't read minds. My parents might know or they might not. 

I remember only one time when I was asked why I don't date men anymore. I can't exactly recall what cock-and-bull story I gave my mother — it may have been something about struggling to get over my last (and only) heterosexual relationship. Whatever it was, she seemed to buy it.

She has never said anything about the lesbian sex books in my bedroom either. Maybe she really doesn't see them or maybe she'd rather not broach the subject. Some people don't ask the question when they think they can't handle the answer. I should probably hide these books so I don't feel so panicky whenever she stands too long by my bookcase, but I don't want to. I like my books to be right where I can see them. 

And sometimes I want her to ask if I'm a lesbian. I know it sounds crazy. I never said I was normal.

Lesbian and gay books.

Here are some of my books, right where I can see them.

In case you're wondering, I didn't plan for things to be this way. I don't think anyone would. Nobody wants to be a closeted 38-year-old who's never moved out of her parent's apartment.

How did I get here? By making a lot of awful decisions and having a lot of bad luck.

My first mistake was majoring in newspaper and magazine journalism, which at the dawn of the Internet was like majoring in hand-waving. Miraculously I did manage to get a job — a job I was stupid enough to leave after a few months. I had a great reason, which I can't write about here without risking being sued, but I could have figured out a way to stick it out longer.

I tried hard to find another good gig in my chosen field for years after that and failed. I eventually became so exhausted from all the job searching and interning and working as an unpaid editorial assistant and researcher that I wound up taking whatever sounded halfway decent, emphasis on the halfway.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder in my lady area. (This could be the subject of its own IHTM essay.) It hurt a lot in the beginning then became more manageable over time. Nevertheless, I used that and a close family member's death as excuses to remain underemployed, because I was in more psychological pain than anything.

As far as my personal life went, I dated men exclusively until I was 27 while always feeling like some things were missing. I would later learn these things were tits and any significant emotional connection. 

The realization that I was gay was not entirely unwelcome. I was mostly thrilled. It explained a lot. I celebrated. I went to my first pride parade. I told people I wasn't even close to that I was a dyke. I began writing queer articles on the Internet. (I am very lucky my parents are not online.)

Gena with flag.

This is me, celebrating.

Had I told my parents right away I could have avoided all this drama, but I knew who I was dealing with. I wasn't worried about what my father would think, only that he wouldn't keep it a secret from my mother. And while I know she'll always love me, she's very conservative. I often feel like I wouldn't be able to bear her disappointment, her tears, or her trying to convince me that I don't know myself.

To give you a sense of how conservative my mother is, let's examine that time I told her I lost my virginity.

I know: stupid, right? That being said, I did not think it would be such a big deal because I was 26 and in a relationship. But you would have thought I was giving it away on the corner with a free frosty on the side.

My mother also believes women should look like women. Even as a femme I disappoint. She would love nothing more than to blindfold me, throw some makeup on my corpse-like visage, drag me to the nearest Dress Barn, and plunk me down in a chair at her regular salon for an emergency color and blowout. 

Discovering I like butch women could emotionally send her over the edge, and I don't want to be responsible for her having a heart attack. She is already on medication for high blood pressure.

Recently, I felt a little hopeful when she said Bruce Jenner's mother was sweet to support him, but then again, telling her I watched Transparent didn't go over so well. I tried to make it sound like I was interested in it because it's a show about a family. I was hoping she wouldn't act like she was disgusted.

She acted like she was disgusted.

Gena against a brick wall.

I often feel like I'm up against a brick wall.

I have no clue how I've managed to keep this secret so long, emotionally speaking. Worse, it looks like I will keep on living like this for quite some time. I don't want to say for the rest of my parents' lives, but it could be. (The moving out thing I'm working on.) 

Or I could come out next week. It's hard to say. I do know I dream of the day when I can be out to both of my parents. I dream of feeling a sweet relief, a shedding of an immense burden. I dream of my mother, my father, and I having a relationship based on authenticity. If you ask me, I think we all deserve it.