I’m from a large, close-knit, religious family in the American South. My parents and grandparents have repeatedly said that if any of us were gay, it would break everyone’s hearts, but that person would have to be cut off for the sake of the younger family members. However, my “roommate” of six years is welcomed at every family function. My mother refers to her as “my third daughter.” Grandma buys her Christmas presents. My uncle, a church leader, reserves us seats at the family table at homecoming. And my partner has really bonded with them—she doesn’t have much family and always wanted siblings. We’ve both talked about the future, and we’re both content to keep living an open secret. She works at a big religious organization and would likely lose her job if we came out. We plan to get married in another state and become the Ambiguous Spinster Aunts Who Own Too Many Tiny Dogs.
The problem is one of our teenage nieces, who’s quickly becoming the black sheep of the family. She’s going through an “alternative” phase in high school and does shocking things like dying her hair, using cuss words, and criticizing her father’s church. I am not so shocked; she’s just finding her way in life. But now she wants me and my partner to come out. Our last conversation, she basically said we are cowards and hypocrites and hurting the cause of LGBT rights. I am pretty hurt and also angry. My partner and I chose our life together and accepted the cost of staying partly closeted. That’s our decision. My niece has no right to hijack our life because she’s going through a rebellious phase. I’m worried that she might out us to the family, either on purpose or by making snarky comments. How do I talk to her about this? Make her take this seriously?