By Sarah Rutledge Fischer
Recently I have come out on social media where a majority of my family can see it. I’m 22, and I’ve known I was at least bisexual since I was in 9th or 10th grade. Most of my family hadn’t known, but my friends had. I’ve told two of my aunts, some cousins and two of my uncles. They’re okay with it. I’ve since learned I’m pansexual – no problem with any gender as long as their heart and personality are pure.
When I came out, my highly religious uncle verbally attacked me. He called me names, made me feel horrible for my choices and told me I was an abomination and even drug up my past—saying that I’m not going to be any good—blaming my mistakes on liking females.
Should I be patient and try to educate him? Or should I cut my losses and continue to live my life as I am? I’m finally happy with myself, and I have an amazing girlfriend who adores me.
Coming Out at 22
Congratulations! Coming out can be terrifying at any age—especially on such a public platform. It sounds as if, for the most part, you are surrounded by people who love and support you. Hooray for them and for you! Unfortunately, it always seems to be the nastiest voice that grabs our attention, doesn’t it? So, let’s talk about this uncle of yours.
Now, you are asking for advice, but I bet you already know what I’m going to say. This man, whether or not he is related to you, has proven that he is not worth your time. I’m always in favor of politeness, but I encourage you to cut things off firmly, making it clear that as long as he chooses to subject you to verbal abuse, you will have nothing to do with him. There. Easy? Of course not. Now, let’s talk about that.
No matter how well educated and self-aware we Western women of the 21st century may be, we are all undeniably a product of the patriarchal society in which we were raised. We absorb the implicit lessons of our society’s gender roles from a young age, and unfortunately one of those lessons is that women bear responsibility for the bad behavior of men.
Now, the most visible examples of this tendency are the most extreme—victims bearing blame in situations of rape, abuse, and sexual assault. But the same behavior creeps into more benign social interactions. Think about the girl in school who complains about being teased by a male classmate only to be told “boys will be boys” and to be asked whether she had explained to him that his teasing bothered her. We almost don’t even notice how strange it is that she is being made responsible for the male classmate’s bad behavior.
Here, your uncle is behaving badly. He is verbally abusing you and attempting to shame you. And you, an older version of that young girl, have a voice in your head asking whether you adequately explained to him that his comments hurt you and suggesting that you should help him understand why. There is no shame in recognizing this voice inside of you, but there is power in fighting back against it.
So, I agree that your uncle could bene t from some education, and if he comes to you respectfully someday with a desire to understand, I think you should welcome him with patience and grace. But for now, cut him loose. He deserves his own company, and you deserve better. That should get you started.
To submit your own question for Allie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Focus reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.