Mike was 19 years old. It was 2000.

August 17, 2017

We are now in mid-August. Most Pride festivities across British Columbia have wrapped up, and we have one more long weekend left this summer.

It’s the perfect time to share with you how QMUNITY has an impact in our communities.

QMUNITY sat down with Mike, and his mom Pat, to learn about their experience of QMUNITY, which they first accessed when QMUNITY was commonly called The Centre.

Mike was 19 years old when his parents visited QMUNITY. He had just come out to his family. The year was 2000.

Entering the building at 1170 Bute Street is often the first steps folks take when reaching out to access vital supports, programming, and services at QMUNITY. This is precisely what Mike’s parents did when they wanted to learn how best to support their son.

Mike, how did you expect your parents would react when you came out?

Coming out to my family was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. ¬†It’s quite unnatural for a teenager to discuss their sexuality with their parents. ¬†However, after living away for a year and coming out to myself, I knew I wasn’t willing to hide who I was any longer. ¬†I always knew I would be¬†accepted because I had an extended family who was very accepting of LGBT family members in older generations. ¬†Nevertheless, accepting your child’s sexuality is much more difficult. ¬†I knew my parents’ reactions would be very emotional and I was right. ¬†But unlike others who come out, I was surrounded by love and support.

Pat, how did Mike come out to you?

He was 19 years old and had spent one year living out at UBC. He came home for the summer and we were going to go to White Rock for lunch. Just before we were about to go out he told me that he had something to tell me. My initial thought was that he was going to tell me that he got somebody pregnant. When I asked him this he responded by saying “No… I am gay.” ¬†We never ended up going to lunch that day. ¬†Instead, we waited for the others in our family to arrive home from work and high school. ¬†By the end of the day, Mike had come out to me (his mom), his brother, sister, dad,¬†uncles and aunts.

What was your initial reaction to hearing Mike come out?

I just remembered feeling shocked because I never had any inkling that he was gay. But as his eyes filled up with tears I put my arms around him and we cried together. There was never any thought that I would not accept my son, I loved him unconditionally. My initial fears were about what his future would be. Would people accept and be nice to him? Would he have the same opportunities? At the time I had no knowledge of what it meant to be gay and the community that would be out there for him. At first, I felt like he had a whole other life that I was not apart of.  It devastated me that he was not able to confide in me when he was younger and struggling with this secret.  I was also scared about HIV and AIDS.

How did you learn about QMUNITY?

Pat: A close friend had told us about The Centre.  My husband and I made an appointment.

What did you learn at QMUNITY?

Pat: It helped to set my mind at ease that nobody was going to hurt him.   They showed me that there was a huge community for him in Vancouver and that he would be totally accepted in life and have all the same opportunities.  They reassured me that Vancouver was a safe place for the LGBT community and that the VPD were allies. They also reminded me that he was the same person that he was before he told me he was gay and we were lucky to have such a loving son. Something about that struck me and helped me to know that everything would be ok for him, and us.  They also gave us information of other support groups, such as PFLAG.  Visiting The Centre and a PFLAG meeting really helped us gain clarity.

Mike, how do you think your parents’ visit to QMUNITY helped you and your relationship with them?

Mike: I was thankful my parents sought help from professionals and members of the LGBT community. ¬†My parents needed some questions answered and some fears quelled. ¬†It was a sign that they were willing to do whatever it took to accept my sexuality. ¬†Also, at 19 years old, there was only so much I could say to help them through this. ¬†It was great that my parents were able to discuss their fears with someone knowledgeable about the gay community. ¬†It also helped them understand that they, and I, were not alone in this “struggle.”

What, if any, advice would you give a young person today coming out to their parents?

It’s hard to give broad advice to young people coming out because everyone comes from diverse backgrounds. ¬†I was lucky because I knew I was coming out to an accepting family. ¬†Unfortunately, so many people have it much harder. ¬†I would recommend that once you’ve accepted your sexuality, there’s no time like the¬†present, to be honest with your family. ¬†Sometimes it’s easier telling your siblings first; this allows you to test-run your delivery. ¬†They’ll also help your parents when you tell them. ¬†Tell them with confidence and compassion. ¬†Try not to let their reaction hurt your feelings, and don’t expect them to “get over it” overnight. ¬†They will likely experience a roller coaster of emotions. ¬†Cry with them. ¬†It will probably bring you closer together!

Since coming out Mike has completed multiple degrees at the University of British Columbia and now works in the healthcare profession.

Not all stories are like Mike’s. Many youth continue to face discrimination from their very own families. Many youth end up leaving their homes, couch surfing with friends or relatives, or worse.

At QMUNITY, our Youth Program provides a safer place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer, and questioning youth 14 to 25 years of age to hang out, find resources, share experiences, develop leadership skills, and get support.

When you give to QMUNITY, you are helping to ensure we can continue to provide access to resources and community to those most in need.

Thank you for giving. And thank you for continuing to give.

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