Lockdown Forced Me To Come Out To My Family Again

Illustrated by Naomi Blundell Meyer
Welcome to Love Lockdown: a weekly column about how people are navigating romantic relationships in the time of coronavirus.
It’s been eight months since my partner and I became 'official' and even though there’s a lot going on in the world right now, it's been an incredible few months. The downside is (why is there always a downside?) that lockdown has meant I've had to join my family in helping at the church I’ve attended since I was a baby. It is a church which fiercely denounces homosexuality.
I’m a 26-year-old who loves art, news, architecture and books. My partner is 32 and loves sports, spending time with her friends and most importantly: me. We met on a dating app, connected over our love of music and great food, and finally met up for brunch last August. We've been inseparable ever since. In December, I took the huge step of moving into my first flat and we were excited to start the new year together, my newfound independence promising so much. 2020 had its own ideas.
In March, when lockdown happened, we moved in together, deciding it would be too hard to be apart during quarantine. And, global pandemic aside, it's been pretty great. We've had our small squabbles here and there, but overall, things have just 'worked'. She is sincere, affectionate and we talk about absolutely everything — it's what I always imagined a relationship could be. But while my relationship with my partner has gone from strength to strength, my relationship with my parents has gone the other way.
I grew up staunchly Christian in the Black church. My parents are retired educators and both have leadership roles at church. When I was 24, I began dating a woman and for the first time, I felt that both my physical and emotional needs were being met in a relationship. But things soured when my father confronted me one Sunday evening. Calling an impromptu family meeting in the living room, he decided to interrogate me about my love life. 
“Tell me it’s not true that you're dating a woman,” he demanded.
As it was clear he already knew, I decided to tell the whole story; that not only was I dating a woman, but that I felt a real connection with her. I told my parents how much my life had been hindered by having to hide my dating preferences.
He responded terribly — trying to make me leave the house. Luckily, my mother convinced him not to kick me out and a few weeks later, I lied and told them that it was stupid for me to consider dating women, and begged for my father’s forgiveness. That was three years ago. 
During lockdown, while churches have been closed, I've been helping to stream live services and so, I've spent every Sunday in the church building with my father, my mother and brother as well as a few other relatives. It's the most time I've spent with them since I moved out and it's thrown the question of my sexuality into the open again. Spending so much time together means my father's interest in my personal life has again been piqued. In March, I ignored his questions, eager to keep the peace, but by May, I couldn't deflect anymore.
This time however, he wasn't able to threaten to kick me out; I had my own home. And so I told him all about my wonderful girlfriend and how, in the future I planned to marry and have a family with a woman. I told him that my life really, wouldn't be that different from the heterosexual families he saw every day in the media. I told him I was worried about being ostracised from our family.
Sadly, rather than healing our relationship, it fractured it further. He told me that if I did go ahead with this life, he wouldn't speak to me again. I was sad, but not surprised. I've seen how he treats people he doesn't agree with. I had just hoped he'd make an exception for me. Now, I'm learning to make my peace with his decision along with the help of my girlfriend, who supports me completely.
I understand my dad comes from a different time but I can’t allow him to disrespect someone I care about. What happens from here is up to him. I will continue to love him from afar but I have to protect my peace.
Quarantine has been hard, but I'm finding comfort in the situation I'm now in; living openly and honestly with my girlfriend. I hope my story serves as help to any other girls in their early 20s with unsupportive parents. It sounds like a cliché, but it really does get better.
If you are an LGBTQ+ person and you would like some more information on any of the issues raised in this article, or advice on coming out, check out Stonewall’s website.

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