Is It Okay to Lie About Your Orientation or Identity?
Queer folk often wonder whether it's okay to lie about their orientation or gender identity. Understandably. The cost of coming out can be exorbitant, and sometimes people are asked when they're not ready to tell—and those asking aren’t really ready to hear!
But LGBTQ people feel terrible lying about it. Yes! So, inspired by Queer Theology’s recent podcast on the topic, I wanted to speak to this as a mom here.
The classic question about lying is this: is it okay to lie to Nazis about the Jews you have hidden in your home? The indisputable answer of course is yes. Or, is it okay to lie to slavers about the slaves hiding in your barn? Again, the indisputable answer is yes. While this may seem an extreme example (these are parents after all and not Nazis or slavers), I see principles underneath that can inform our answer and provide some useful distinctions.
Why would we lie to Nazis or slavers? We lie because they wouldn't know what to do with the truth if they had it—the truth would actually make them more dangerous. The same is true with parents or pastors or others who would use the truth against you. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, they can't handle the truth. They are not mature enough/knowledgeable enough/respectful enough to handle that truth well. In other words, they would use that truth to hurt. They wouldn’t see it that way, of course, but it’s still true. Like the kids whose parents beat them or send them to “therapy” or kick them out of their homes. (And the fact that so many “Christians” do not even believe these things happen shows that this is a real problem.) To tell these parents the truth can be an endangerment, so we—responsibly—decline to give them that truth, just as we don’t give them a club to beat us with.
Is it dishonoring to parents not to tell them? To lie to them when they ask? Not at all. They're asking something that is not theirs to know until they are able to receive it and you are ready to share. (Of course to say, “I’m not going to tell you,” is the same as, “Yes.”) So for all these reasons, you tell them what you want them to know at this time: No, I’m not.
As holidays approach and you might anticipate time with bio family, let me put your mind at ease. You get to decide your story, and you get to share it as you want, when you want. You can’t stop people from guessing or gossiping or anything else. But as much as it’s possibly up to you, you direct your story. And sometimes, to withhold truth from family is to be true to yourself.
Have a safe and loving holiday!