To my parents:

As I meet with you this week for the first time in a few months to try to stitch up the tears in our threadbare relationship, I wish that I had a few minutes to be completely truthful with you about who I am. Just a few minutes in which I could share an important part of myself without worrying that you would interrupt me, or walk away, or, worst of all, tell me, in that terrible quiet voice that you’ve both adopted, that you’ll be praying for me to return to God.

But I’ve spent the last few months grieving the loss of my family, and I don’t want to lose you again just when we’re on the verge of establishing an uneasy peace. As much as I wish that I had the guts to be honest with you, I know that I’m a coward. I’m relieved that I can explain my actions by saying that I don’t want to make things harder for the younger children. If I were to come out now, I know that you would desperately try to isolate the other children from all the harmful influences that you think warped my soul.

But the truth is that I am most afraid of being shunned by you.

When I was younger, we used to play a  “game” where you would dare me to come up with a situation in which you stopped loving me. What if I murdered someone? I asked. What if I got pregnant in high school? What if I robbed a bank?

Whatever the hypothetical situation, you promised you would always love me.

I hope none of the rest of your children ever have to deal with the knowledge that they have ventured further than your love can reach.

Your confident answers to my hypothetical questions about your love now sound like the eager words of young Christians who swear they are ready to die for Jesus. But it’s all very well to promise the right response in a situation that is relatively unlikely. Hypothetical martyrdom is easy. Showing kindness to the living people right in front of you is hard.

You may have promised to visit me on death row, but you’re all too willing to cut me off when I turn out to be a thinking individual. And we haven’t even touched the topic of sexual orientation.

The truth is, you don’t love me all that much, and you never have. You loved an image of yourself, and as I grew older, you saw less of yourselves in me, and so you loved me less.

As I quietly stand with other LGBTQ folks on National Coming Out Day, I know that the choice between coming out of or staying in the closet is a choice between being true to myself, and having a relationship with my family.

And I’m not ready to give up my family quite yet.