Let’s just start by saying: Coming out as LGBTQ can be a terrifying process for any kid (or adult, for that matter). For celebrity kids feeling pressure to do it in the spotlight, there’s an extra layer of anxiety. So we hope more parents, famous or not, will learn from Gloria Estefan’s mistakes: When your kid comes out to you, you do not tell them to go back in the closet.
This week on Red Table Talk: The Estefans, Gloria Estefan’s daughter Emily Estefan revealed that when she came out to her mom, Gloria’s response was that she should never come out to her grandma — because it would kill her.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I’m in love with this girl,'” Emily explains on the show of the moment she spoke the truth about her sexuality to mom Gloria. “The first thing you said was, ‘If you tell your grandma and she dies, her blood is on your hands.'”
YIKES. This is pretty much the opposite tactic that educators and mental health professionals advise parents of LGBTQ kids to take when a child or teen comes out. Educator and queer parent Allison Hope previously advised our readers that asking questions is a preferable response to any sort of blanket reaction statement: “If and when your child comes out to you (do not pry until they’re ready), you should feel comfortable asking them questions so you can better understand them,” she wrote. “But don’t ask leading questions or ones that back them into a corner. Instead, ask things like, ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘What can I do to be supportive?’ and ‘Is anyone giving you a hard time because of who you are?'”
As for Gloria’s blunt reaction, “I just wasn’t ready for that,” Emily said of the continued pressure to “hide” her queerness. “That’s where my hurt started. I’m never going to forget that.”
For her part, Gloria has come a long way and learned a lot from her daughter. She apologized on the show, both for her inappropriate knee-jerk reaction and for her cluelessness for years prior.
“We had no clue” that Emily was queer, she explains — despite pointing out a few obvious signs. “You say, ‘How could we not have known?’ It’s not like we didn’t suspect at some moments.”
Gloria adds that she remembers asking a young Emily “Are you gay?'” and sweetly offering to join her on the Pride Parade float. “If you want I will get on that parade float and I will carry that flag,” she remembers saying.
Emily, too, eventually came to terms with the fact that her mom’s bluntness was “coming from a place of love and protection.” Still, that doesn’t mean her response was right.
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“National Anything day” puts a lot of pressure on us earthlings within these troubled times, let alone any. Here’s my message . Be you. Be kind. Be better. Be open, be careful if you feel unsafe, be LOVE. Anything else is icing … Happy love day… because that should be every. Single . Day. I love you @holagemeny 🌹Loving you is worth climbing the highest mountain to scream it from. You push me, you pull me in, we make magic. And nothing nor anybody could ever make me believe any ounce of that is anything else . If you want to hear my story make sure to tune in Wednesday for @redtabletalkestefans on @facebookwatch ❤️ 📷 @aysiamarotta
In fact, Gloria said on the show that she regrets what she told Emily — and Emily told EW she did never end up coming out to her grandma, who passed away in 2017. Was it because she feared it would literally kill her?
“That is one of my biggest unanswered questions that I will live the rest of my life with. Many of the people around me that love me have told me they knew. But in my heart, my grandmother and I were so close but I’m really not sure,” Emily told the publication. “But that’s part of life too — you don’t get every answer that you want.”
Even though Emily missed her opportunity to share her truth with her grandma while she was alive, it’s clear that she and Gloria have made peace and reached an even deeper, more powerful understanding — through their ongoing communication and relationship, but also simply through this show.
“A few years ago, I would’ve never imagined that we’d be talking about this as I’m about to release an episode where I say things I’ve not even told family members of mine,” Emily told EW. “I’m still growing and learning.”
On National Coming Out Day this past Sunday, Emily posted an Instagram photo that says it all. She’s hugging her partner, with a look of sheer joy on her face. She captioned the photo: “Be you. Be kind. Be better. Be open, be careful if you feel unsafe, be LOVE. Anything else is icing.”
These LGBTQ celebrity parents prove love makes a family.