Coming out or coming out of the closet in front of the family. LGBT teens hide their orientation – Psychology

They had just had breakfast that day. They spend the morning relaxing in their own way. He went for a walk. She turned on the laptop for a moment to take care of small errands. Only Junior seems tense. It is difficult for him to concentrate on an activity, to remain seated. At some point, he picks up a smartphone and disappears somewhere. In an instant, the mother, sitting in front of the laptop, hears the sound of an incoming message. He grabs his smartphone. He sees a message from Junior on the screen. It’s very short: “Mom, I’m gay.”

Blurred hues of the rainbow

Sexual orientation manifests itself around the age of twelve. It is estimated that only a quarter of people in this group do not yet know their sexual orientation. Colloquially speaking – the vast majority already feel it. In high school, almost everyone knows it. How many people in this group are LGBT teens? It is difficult to say unequivocally what percentage of the population are people of non-heterosexual orientation. These questions do not appear in the census. And even if they did, we would still have underestimated data.

In countries with a Western culture, including Poland, some people with a sexual orientation other than the dominant hide this fact from the environment for fear of exclusion. We don’t know the exact number. What do we know then? The latest data available comes from a survey conducted in August 2016, in which the German Dalia center covered nine countries of the European Union. In Poland, 4.9% identified as LGBT people. respondents, nearly 2 million citizens of our country. The highest percentage of these people was in the 14-29 age group – it was 10.5%. It can therefore be assumed that in a statistics class in any Polish high school, two or three students are LGBT people.

Go to school, back to the closet

Today’s school children do not know the era before the smartphone. For this generation, the world is a veritable global village. The NASK “Teenagers 3.0” report, published in the fall of 2021, revealed that the average Polish teenager spends an average of 4 hours online. and 50 minutes of free time each day. Most often to communicate with others (77.9% of respondents indicated this answer). Information spreads there instantly, it is easier to find people who think and feel the same. It is also safer in such a group to leave the wardrobe – because it is used to call revealing your orientation to others. This is clearly visible in the report of the Campaign against Homophobia describing the situation of LGBTA people (“A” stands for asexual people, not feeling sexual attraction) in Poland in the years 2019-2020. According to data from this report, among young people in school who identify as LGBTA, only one in ten hide it from friends (93% of respondents came out), one in four at school (74% came out revealed) and one out of two people to their family (47 percent came out). Apparently, young people are less afraid of the reactions of their peers than of their own family. This sometimes leads to a paradoxical situation where parents inquire about their child’s orientation from the parents of another child in the same class. Effect: shock and disbelief.

This is not a country for them?

Junior described in the introduction (this is a true story) has his own school, friends and acquaintances. His parents also have acquaintances, friends, they live in the local community, they are citizens of our country. The social and cultural context is of great importance here. According to the ILGA-Europe ranking, Polish legislation is the most homo- and transphobic of all the countries of the European Union. While more and more countries in the community have legalized or intend to legalize same-sex marriage, in Poland many municipal and local governments have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”, and the president, a candidate for a new term in recent elections, referenced the LGBT issue, saying, “It’s not the people, it’s the ideology. This country is not friendly to people other than the heterosexual majority. Living in an open local community is easier to bear. However, not everyone is so lucky. In large cities, the ability to hide in crowds helps. The smaller the city, the more difficult it is. The question asked by parents of non-heteronormative adolescents: “What are people going to say?” it is then associated with much greater concerns about the reactions of the environment. Young people feel this atmosphere very well and take it into account when they decide to leave the locker room. More than half of them choose to stay there, pretending to their immediate family that this problem does not exist. How do parents react?


Junior is lucky. His family isn’t perfect – they sometimes have hard times – but they have risen to the occasion when it comes to guiding their son. They accepted. This does not mean that the information was easy for them. As open-minded people, living in an equally open-minded group of people, they were not afraid of the reactions of their immediate environment. They worry about their son’s future in a homophobic Poland. They imagine the potential reactions of strangers if he chose to walk with his partner while holding their hand. They assess the possibility for them to marry, to adopt children if they want to raise them, and the possibility of having access to information if their partner is hospitalized. The natural and simple things in a heterosexual world become a big challenge for LGBT people. Therefore, they are very seriously considering emigrating to another country that is more friendly to sexual minorities. What they will take with them is the mourning of a vision: most likely, they will not have the grandchildren they both dreamed of until recently.


In many families, coming out is associated with anger, which can come in a variety of forms. It happens that a teenager shouts information to his parents about his orientation in the face, fighting for autonomy in an argument. It also happens that he hides it for fear of the anger of his parents or that he reveals it to only one of them (generally the mother), fearing the reaction of the other. To what extent these fears are justified, the above-mentioned report from the Campaign Against Homophobia shows: 39%. mothers and 46 percent. the fathers do not accept the orientation of the child. Up to 10 percent of female and male students surveyed had been kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation, 26 percent decided to run away at least once.

What causes such strong emotions? Typically, the mechanism consists of two mutually propelling elements. The first is an authoritarian parenting style in which the parent is always right and the child has to adapt to it. The second is having a rigid view of the world, often tied to a person’s values. Self-image, a dogmatic approach to religion and the need to have grandchildren can be such values. A child, coming out of the cupboard, comes out of this vision. The parent’s anger becomes the expression of his disappointment, but also a tool to repress the child within the framework imposed on him. Sometimes the child’s partner may become the target of anger as someone who has “spoiled” (or usually more badly “burnt”) the branch. One example is the story of Mata (name changed), who his father broke off contact with when he accidentally caught his 15-year-old son kissing another teenager of the same sex. This boy was beaten by his father and thrown out of the house shouting: “You will not spoil my baby!” When the son stood up for his partner, he heard, “Go…with him if you don’t like him!” Mat had nowhere to go – his parents were divorced and raised him in a joint custody model. After the story with her boyfriend, Mat started living only with her mother and her current partner. The only form of contact with the father was the monthly payment of alimony to the mother’s account. What if Mat didn’t have such an alternative?


Sometimes the idea that their child is heterosexual is so deeply ingrained in the parent’s mind that the parent does not seem to accept the opposite. The classics include reactions such as: “You will grow”, “You will succeed”, “It is too early to tell”. Hanka (name changed) remembers her parents’ reaction when she told them she was a lesbian. The short answer was, “You’re not.” What followed was like a stereotypical discussion with an anti-vaccinator about the wisdom of vaccinations — whatever Hanka said, her parents offered answers to support their view. She ended the conversation with a feeling of helplessness, but also great confusion in her mind. On the one hand, she knew very well how she felt. On the other hand, the arguments of the parents were at stake. Some of them seemed to him useless. Some, however, gave food for thought. This resulted in deepening doubts about his own needs and preferences, which over time led him to question his identity. Not just sexual.

The GOCC paradox

This year we had the 30th Grand Orchester de la Charité de Noël final. In power in Poland since the 2015 elections, the united right has come out against this initiative. This had a paradoxical effect. The product of the collection began to grow very visibly and this trend is still visible today. Speaking out against the Orchestra has opened the hearts and wallets of much of society. Perhaps similar effects will be brought about by the position of the ruling coalition against nearly 2 million citizens of their own country? Let’s hope so. Let’s not forget that LGBT people and their families need support.

Listen: “There was a time when my daughter wanted to kill herself.” How a homophobic mother became an LGBT activist [PODCAST NEWSWEEKA]

Przemysław Mućko – a psychotherapist working in the field of cognitive-behavioral therapy and schema therapy. Co-founder of the InTeGral Scheme Therapy Center and author of the blog “Psychwiada”

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