I Still Hide My Rainbow Boxers From My Parents

Auriane Alix
A story about parent-child dynamics in a post-coming out context.
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Photo by Jacek Smoter on Unsplash

One is white, the other is black. Both are adorned with a beautiful, bold, ablaze large rainbow elastic. I love them.

Usually, I’m not comfortable with wearing visible distinctive signs. I don’t feel like displaying my romantic preferences. It’s written enough on my androgynous face — stereotypes aside.

But these! They’re perfect. Discreet. Private. I can be proud and nobody knows. Unless I raise one arm, and my shirt lifts up: BOOM, surprise!!

That’s why I’m careful to keep my arms close to my body when I’m near my parents. Or else, I don’t wear these boxers. Just to be sure.

This is a story about a post-coming-out environment, which doesn’t solve everything. This is a story about having to be discreet when you haven’t done anything wrong. Although this is not a story about intolerant parents, quite the contrary. But above all, this is a story about self-building, self-confidence, and small personal victories.

My true self has blown out its 6th candle this year

It’s been 6 years. 6 years since I left home at 16 to go to school 800 kilometers away. And 6 years later, here I am back in the south of France. This round trip marks a journey within myself, but also between my parents and me.

I dated my first girlfriend when I was still under my parents’ roof. But I couldn’t let my true self come out. My parents weren’t very open to this. I remember them casting disapproving glances at gay or lesbian couples on the street, saying that “they didn’t understand”.

So I met myself in Paris. On the sly. Like almost every queer person on earth.

I came out to my grandmother 4 years ago. To my father right after. With my mother, it’s been 2 years. It wasn’t easy. The first two were the most understanding. But I never said: “Mom, I am a lesbian”. She knows. That’s all.

Now I can tell them a little about my relationships. They’ve even met some of my girlfriends, and it’s always gone very well. I’ve never heard any nasty comments again. Everything seems smoother, lighter now. I’m grateful to them for that. I feel lucky.

But I still can’t walk around in my rainbow underwear.

It’s because of a temporary tattoo and Instagram

One day, I told my mother that I had broken up with my girlfriend whom she knew, and with whom she suspected what was going on. That’s how I came out to her.

A few months later, I spent a weekend with friends in Normandy, in a villa overlooking the sea from the top of a cliff. The place was superb. We laughed, swam, and drank beer.

It was in June. Pride. Someone had a good idea to bring temporary rainbow-colored tattoos. I happily put mine on my neck. It was temporary, after all. My friend Sara had her camera. She made portraits of me with my beautiful neck tattoo.

A few days later, I had my mother on the phone. We exchanged banalities, then she took her harsh voice and told me that she was “surprised”. I didn’t know what it was about, but it gave me shivers down my spine. Suddenly I was a child again.

“I thought you wanted to be discreet about it,” she said. She dropped every word with disdain, and they fell forcefully on my shoulders.

Suddenly, I realized. Sara had posted the photos on Instagram.

I felt a mixture of shame — as if I had done something wrong — and anger. Why couldn’t I rock a temporary rainbow tattoo if I wanted to? I told my mother that I never said I wanted to keep quiet about it. Which was true. She changed the subject. I felt bad.

“We accept you, but please don’t remind us.”

Catching the black underpants on the clothesline this morning made me wonder. These are my boxers, after all. The most private of all clothes. Why should I have to account for it?

This episode, along with other unpleasant memories, makes me feel like I’d better shut up. Keep my lesbian identity quiet. As if my parents were silently saying, “We accept you, but please don’t remind us” (that’s not what they say).

Through reactions of surprise/anger/disappointment/…(fill in the blank), they gave me the feeling that I shouldn’t be proud of this aspect of myself.

Except I should. My identity is not something to claim, but it is not something to hide either. It’s just who I am. Do people hide their rock’n’roll t-shirts, or do they put tape on the label of their baseball caps? They don’t.

I’m an adult in all areas of my life. Except towards my parents. I am autonomous, I travel alone, I earn my living, I take care of my business. But when it comes to my parents, I still give them some authority. Deep down inside, I’m afraid of disappointing them. To confront them. Even though I’ve been out for several years.

Why did I share this? (The take away)

I didn’t write this as a diary entry. My own mind is enough for that. I wrote this to highlight a few points that I felt were important enough to raise. It’s Take Away time.

From the outside, I look confident. Strong. But the truth is: I am far from having figured everything out. I never will. If I have shared a bit of my experience, and these frailties that I feel inside me and on which I have tried to put words, it is to say this: everyone is a fragile house of cards, which is built as well as it can be. A beautiful house of cards.

Whether you’re out of the closet or not, comfortable with yourself or not yet, or having trouble with friends or family: don’t worry. It’s been many years for me, and it’s still fragile. But every step you take, even the smallest one, is progress.

We’re all in this together. You are not alone. The person you give authority to are often the hardest to come out to. That’s how I interpret my situation. But the truth is: you must be you. You owe it to yourself. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being queer.

It’s hard. It’s a lot of struggles, conflicts, problems. But it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to love someone, even more despite all the obstacles. It’s beautiful to stand up for yourself, to find the inner strength to be who you really are.

There is nothing wrong with you. Be patient and kind to yourself. Growth is not a linear and homogenous process.

Take care of one thing at a time.

It will be alright.

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