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Social Issues
After Some Personal Struggles, This Tennessee Grandmother Came Out As Gay
July 9, 2013
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'Civil Behaviour' is a New York Times advice column written by Steven Petrow that answers questions about gay and straight etiquette for "a boomer-age audience."

In the latest edition, Petrow responds to a letter from a 53-year-old grandmother in Tennessee, who asked that her name be withheld.

She tells Petrow that she was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist Church, and that she had spent her whole life "living in hiding and hating myself because of my sexual orientation."

Last year, she convinced herself that it would be better to die than to risk bringing shame to her children and family by being open about her sexuality.

Although she had planned a date when she was going to commit suicide, some things got in the way, and she ended up telling a friend the truth about her sexual orientation.

From there, she told her family and friends. She says she's "lost many friends and a few family members" since coming out, and that her church has "completely shunned" her.

But she also says "for the first time in my life, I am being honest with myself and learnign to love myself for who I am."

Her question for Petrow is this: "As I continue to interact with people who are not accepting of my sexuality, what advice could you give me on how to treat them now?

petrow-side.jpgPetrow's response (and her letter) are well worth reading. He says that her question, which was posted on his Facebook page, occasioned a lot of comments from others who had considered or attempted suicide rather than come out.

Petrow also admits that he considered ending his life at one point.

But his ultimate message is one of hope: he points out that there are many congregations that welcome LGBT people, and recommends that the woman who wrote the letter treat the people who are treating her unkindly with as much respect as she can muster.

He also quotes this awesome response to her question from a 17-year-old high school student named Brandon Lineback:

"Treat them with love and respect. Just because they have their opinions about you doesn't mean you have the right to treat them badly. That will get you nowhere. I know I'm only 17 but when I came out I lost a lot of friends and people treated me horribly. Then I got to where I was hateful to everyone. I realized you can't treat others the same way they treat you and that it's hard to look at those who shun you and say, 'I forgive you and I still love you.' But there are two reasons to do that. Forgiveness is not for the other person, it's for your peace of mind. I hope some of your loved ones will begin to see you as the same person you were before -- now you're just being more honest about it."

Check out the full piece at the New York Times.


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