That’s One Way to Come Out of the Closets

Nick Freeman is preparing to tell his mother he’s gay and an atheist. And he’s doing it by allowing himself to be featured in an article for the North Carolina State University student newspaper:

Atheist students answer questions at the university (Natalie Claunch - NCSU Student Media)

Freeman, a freshman in aerospace engineering, is a member of [Secular Student Alliance] still trying to figure out how to convey his beliefs. He told his father about his non-theism during high school because his father is also non-theist. But Freeman fears telling his mother or people at his church at home for several reasons.

“I was brought up in a Southern Baptist church, so for us [being atheist] meant that you were an awful, horrible, very bad person,” Freeman said. “I was born into the church, and I’ve identified as atheist since I was 15…I’m [still] not out of the atheist closet.”

“There’s a very strong sense of community at our church; I love all of the people there and I’m very afraid of losing them,” Freeman said. “[The reason I haven’t come out as homosexual] is the exact same reason haven’t come out as non-theist: I’m afraid of losing their respect.”

Freeman said it’s difficult keeping things that are such big parts of his identity from people he loves, but he wants to be able to be independent, before risking the loss of friends and possibly family.

“If you look at surveys…the only minority group hated more than gay people are atheists,” Freeman said. “But surprisingly enough, I was extremely happy as a gay Christian…and there are tons and tons of congregations that are very open and accepting of that now.”

But Freeman emphasized that his homosexuality and non-theism are two separate parts of his identity as a human being. “Sometimes people say ‘You’re gay because you’re atheist’ or ‘You’re atheist because you’re gay,’ but that’s simply not true.”

As for Freeman, he said he is aware that consenting to being quoted in this article may force him to tell his parents the two biggest truths of his life — a stepping stone he is ready, but anxious, to take.

Good luck, Nick! I hope your mother realizes you’re still a pretty decent guy no matter how you identify. But coming from a strong Christian background, there’s a good chance the conversation won’t go down quite so smoothly. But stay calm, be patient, and remember that it might take a while for her to get used to the information.

And get your dad on your side.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Man, that should be a shit storm. Gay and atheist? Good luck, kid. Good luck.

    • http://twitter.com/Balstrome Mike de Fleuriot

       No luck needed I think, he has it all already.

  • Howard

    If your friends don’t like you for who you are than what kind of friends are they? Come out and embrace who you are. True friends will accept you for you. The others will be losses for the better.

  • http://twitter.com/NontheistCentra Nontheist Central

    I love that the Atheists are quietly hanging out, in full view, waiting for people to come to them instead of chasing people down.  Wish believers would take notes on that.  lol

    So proud that a fellow human is NOT letting fear run his life.  Speaking from experience, it just ends up leading to more fear.  It’s a horrible feeling and I am SO glad I’m out now.  It’s so liberating to finally let it out!

  • Otto

    Jeez, not to be a jerk, but I’m pretty sure I just read a piece by Rachel Maddow explaining that she really, really regretted coming out in her student newspaper before telling her parents, because it was incredibly hurtful for them to find out in that way.

    So, I mean, good luck, kid, but if they end up feeling ambushed by this, it might be a harder row to hoe than you’ve thought about.

    • Stev84

       Yeah, I thought exactly the same thing

  • HarryTFS

    I have met Nick. I think he will be every bit as successful as Rachel Madow.  He will be fine.

  • teressa81

    Very proud of this man. And impressed – that’s pretty ballsy. Kids got conviction, that’s worthwhile on it’s own.

    • reasoningbeing

      For me, just the opposite.  I came out as an atheist to my family 30 years before coming out a lesbian.   Did that for my sanity.   Stayed in the closet publicly mainly to maintain a viable career in a super bigoted area and to not make my sons’ lives difficult.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

    “The reason I haven’t come out as homosexual is the exact same reason haven’t come out as non-theist: I’m afraid of losing their respect.”
    Wow! This quote brilliantly illustrates the disconnect between our emotional and rational natures. From a rational point of view, if these people can’t accept Nick for who he is then they should be losings his respect, yet I can completely understand how he can feel this way, being in such a vulnerable situation. 
    Good luck, Nick

  • Ndonnan

    True,Nick does need to do this to be all the man he can be,He does need to learn to have confidence and self respect and this is an important step hes taking.As Matt E said, if other people reject him,its their loss and to their shame.Good luck Nick

  • AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    So glad people are beginning to stand up and let the world know who they are and that they’re good, normal folks, regardless of what the majority religion erroneously believes about them.

  • ShunningMonkey

    Good luck, Nick!  I sincerely hope the best for you, sweetie. It will be tough, but you’ll get through it and be happier in the long run, one way or another! My lesbian mother still can’t accept that her daughter is an Atheist, even though she understands how crippling discrimination really is and how stereotypes do not accurately reflect members of a group. But day by day, she is learning that I am still her kid, and I’m still the cool person I always have been. She freaked out and thought I would lose all my morals (haven’t we all heard that one??) and that I was going to spiral out of control and bad things would follow me like a li’l lost puppy. She blamed my boyfriend (also an Atheist), blamed that I live farther away from her now, blamed everything. But time brings change, and it will for you just like it has for me. Take it in stride, and don’t let anyone make you think you’re a bad person! You’re human, that’s the important part, and you’re her son, which is even more important to your mom. Hang in, Nick!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcie-Miller-Spence/1322445534 Marcie ‘Miller’ Spence

    Good luck and may reason be with you.

  • Lindsaysaxon

    Nick,  Good luck to you!  You are an incredibly brave man.  You may be hurt by the things your parents say as a reaction to your news, but give them time to come to terms with it.  Every atheist who has the guts to “come” out makes it much easier for others to do the same.  Please keep us posted on how it goes.


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