How to Come Out and Spend the Holidays with Your Family When You're Gay
Dear April Masini,
I'm a male college student and I just told my parents that I was gay about three months ago. While they didn't take it "well" in the traditional sense of the word, they handled everything much better than expected and seem to have since come to terms with it."
However, I've been at school since I told them and I am preparing for my first big holiday at home- Christmas. My parents have invited my boyfriend to come by for a bit on Christmas, which is great, but I'm nervous. I'm wondering if they will flip out when faced with this all in-person. Also, the rest of my family might not be as accepting, so I'm nervous about that. What do you think I can expect from my parents and family this Christmas? And do you have any tips for helping me deal with everything?
Sincerely, Out and Anxious
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Out and Anxious,
Going home for the holidays, when you’re gay, and your parents aren’t — sexually or literally — can be difficult. (In fact, going home for the holidays when there aren't any overarching issues can be difficult too!) But there are ways to get around these potential differences and conflicts to make a holiday visit more pleasant than it might be:
- Be realistic. Your parents aren’t hip to lesbianism or FTM. You’re not going to have the gay version of a Norman Rockwell painting at holiday time. If you expect anything different you’re going to be disappointed, so be realistic about what can or cannot happen at the holiday time visit.
- Lower your expectations. Don’t expect Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to go off without a hitch. Expect that someone will try to engage you in an argument or insult you or your partner. This is real life — not someone else’s. Sorry. There are no laws or rules that parents or relatives have to like you or like what you do with your life. Of course it would be nice if unconditional love was as free as air, but it’s not. Deal with it.
- Let go of anger — and kill ‘em with kindness. When those barbs and insults come flying — directly or veiled — don’t go on the defense and don’t attack back. In fact, the best way to take someone’s power to hurt you away from them is to step out of the way. Practice saying things like, “I know this is difficult for you, and I’m just glad we can all be here together.” If things get too heated, and you find yourself aching to fight back, leave the room. Literally. Excuse yourself and take a walk.
- Baby steps. Think of this visit as one in a series of visits that will occur over the years that you and your parents are all alive. If you have to cut this visit short because it’s too tense or you get thrown out of the house, be understanding and see the glass as half full — at least you made it through two of the four day visit! (Or two hours of the four day visit — whatever it is try to be grateful for what DID go well.)
The holiday is stressful for adults, kids and seniors, and everyone acts out and somatizes their feelings to some degree, but when children are the stress victims, there are ways that you can help them go easy on themselves.