Our expert says:
Mothers find it hard to acept their children growing up and moving out --- even at 23 ! --- let alone a very over-protective mom. I understand your dilemma, especially if she is unstable and handles stress and surprises badly. I don't know how we can predict which would work best, telling her before or after the move. One might argue that doing it before gives her a bigger bundle of concerns to face at once, doing it after might enable her to handle the first issue of your moving away from her, before facing the second.
Excellent responses from Tiny TIm and Marius. This is one of those situations in which she WILL find out, eventually, so that your choice is HOW she finds out, not IF. You haven't mentioned whether she knows your friend, or how, if so, she relates to your friend. If they already know each other and have a good relationship, maybe having your friend join you when you discuss this with mom would work well. But if she doesn't know your friend, that might make it more difficult.
Have you perhaps contacted some of the gay/lesbian support groups or organizations near you, for their advice based on their own experience of coming out to their families ?
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