When Coming Out Makes or Breaks a Family

At 25, Jean Marie Navetta was terrified of telling her parents she was a lesbian. Her mother was deeply religious and her father was an old-fashioned Italian. She had been evasive about heterosexual relationships all her life, but when she met the woman she will soon "marry," said Navetta, 'I couldn't hide my feelings.'"

"I had known underneath all the while," she said. "But I was just too scared to have that conversation with my parents."

Navetta approached her brother first. "I think I'm a lesbian," she told him while at a stop light en route to a diner. He sighed and said, "It would have been easier if you told me you were a Communist."

"We laughed," she said. "He was trying to make me feel better."

Later, she wrote an e-mail to her father. "I was crying like a baby," she said. "But my parents deserved to know."

Now 33 and communications director for PFLAG, Navetta said her father's response was the right one: "Unconditional. We love you."

"In the end," she said, "my parents saw me happier than I had ever been in my whole life."

For Navetta, Chastity Bono was a role model. "Her story resonated with me," she said. "You see someone like Cher in the entertainment business, who is exposed to everything, and she still struggled."

Said Navetta, "Parents have a coming out journey, too."

To learn more, visit Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

Stephanie Dahle contributed to this report.

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