Diffident Son

11 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: I’m 19 years old and a sophomore in college. I’m studying to be a history teacher, but I really want to be an actor. I’ve performed in many shows, I’ve been told I’m good at it and I love the work. But changing my major would entail a big effort and additional money because I’d have to stay in school longer to make up courses I need. Complicating this is the fact that I’m gay – I’ve known since I was very young – but I haven’t come out to anyone except my best friend. I was bullied in middle school, which really damaged my confidence. I’m afraid of telling my parents because they might not want to pay for the rest of my education. What’s my next step?

–Insecure

You’ve got a lot of cross-currents going on, and Ms. L.B. empathizes. Keeping your sexuality a secret is defeating your potential. You need to prioritize and start with small victories. Sit down and work up a life plan, starting at your school and your circle. Arrange for sessions with a counselor at the campus counseling service to talk about your feelings of being gay and your insecurities. Are there one or two other trusted friends you feel comfortable enough coming out to? As for your course of study, you’re only a sophomore. Presumably, you’re still taking required/survey courses and won’t be deep into your major until next year. So, enlist your faculty advisor and talk with a professor in the drama department who knows you and who can help you devise a course of study. Investigate work-study and campus jobs for any loans/funds you might need if your parents withdraw support. You need facts and confidence to present your case. When you feel stronger, you can come out to your mother and father – perhaps during spring break or the summer (for now, Christmastime is when you keep things to yourself). Keep your cool. If your folks balk, you’ve already laid the groundwork for an authentic, responsible life:

Mom and Dad, I have two important things I’ve wanted to talk with you about for a long time. One of them is a bigger deal than the other because it’s all about who I am. Here it is: I’m gay. I’ve known for a long time, since I was a little kid. I’ve been insecure about it because I was bullied and beaten up because I was “a fairy” and “a girlie” in middle school. I never told you. I got into sports and dating to hide what I was because I was scared of rejection, not ashamed. Never ashamed. Well, I’m not scared anymore. This is me, and I hope you can accept and understand that. I’ve also been taking a look at what I want to do with my life. I’ve done a lot of acting, as you know. I’m good at it, and I love it. So, I’m changing my major to drama. I’ve talked with professors in the drama department to help plan a course of study and the campus finance office to see about loans and work-study programs. All this is a lot to take in, so I know you’re surprised and have a lot of questions. I love you both very much, and I hope you can understand how important all this is to me.

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