How to come out to your family this holiday season (if you want to)
Choosing when to come out is a difficult decision. While some people know that they’re queer — and feel ready to share that — from a very young age, others wait until much later in life. But for many, going to college and having space away from home (and from high school) provides a moment of clarity and empowerment. It’s not unusual to use the holiday season as your time to come out. Often people are in high spirits because of the holidays, you have a lot of people you care about gathered together, and, perhaps most crucially, you feel like you have your support network of friends, whether from high school or college, to fall back on.
But coming out, for some people, still requires some planning — and a lot of thought. Now, coming out is incredibly personal, so if any of this advice doesn’t ring true to you, you should feel confident going your own way. But in broad strokes, these are some considerations to bear in mind. Because coming out during the holidays can be great, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple.
Make sure you're ready
Firstly, there’s no shame in waiting to come out to your family. You should only come out when you feel comfortable, when you want to do it, and when you feel like it will be a constructive or an important thing to do. For some people, that might be the minute they realize that they’re queer — for others, it may be never. If you don’t feel like this is the right year, the right time, or just the right situation, that’s totally your call. It doesn’t make you ashamed or embarrassed, it just means that you’re protecting yourself. And that’s important.
Remember that you don't have to come out to everyone
If you’re coming home to a huge Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner filled with dozens of aunts, cousins, and everyone in between, it can be incredibly intimidating. There may be some people with whom you feel more comfortable than others — and some people who you want to completely avoid. Just remember that coming out to one person doesn't have to mean coming out to everyone. Maybe you just want to talk to your parents, maybe you trust your cousin Jenny not to tell anyone else if you don’t want her to, maybe you want to avoid your mother knowing at all costs. That’s OK. For some people, coming out to someone — anyone — in their family can feel incredibly cathartic and rewarding. Sharing your experience and getting acceptance from someone to whom you're related— even if it’s only a single person — can be a huge, positive step. Sometimes, you just need that reassurance. If you just want to start with one person or a couple of people, that’s a great way to ease your way into it, just make sure that you’re choosing people you trust.
Choose your timing
Once you’ve decided who you want to tell, you’re going to have to pick your timing. A lot of the timing is about how you want the conversation to go. Do you want it to be a big, sit-down, in-depth conversation? Or do you want to just mention something about your significant other in passing so they get the message? There’s no right or wrong answer — you can say as much or as little as you want, you can make it as serious or breezy as you want. But, obviously, if you’re hoping to have a real conversation about it, then you probably don’t want to mention it midway through them cooking a meal for 20 people. Envision how you want it to go and choose your timing accordingly.
Be prepared for questions
Maybe you have a little explanation all worked out or may you’re hoping you can just say something casually — but a lot of us don’t consider what happens after we say our piece. The truth is, you’ll probably get some questions. In fact, you may get a lot of questions — and not all of them appropriate. People can be weirdly invasive or inconsiderate when you start talking about your personal life. But here’s the important thing to remember: you don’t have to answer any questions you’re not comfortable with. You don’t have to answer any questions at all. That’s totally up to you — it’s just good to know that they might start coming and to prepare yourself for them. Just remember, you’re in control.
Coming out is a deeply personal decision — and a deeply personal experience. Ultimately, it should only be when you feel ready and on your terms. But if you’re going to take advantage of the holiday season, make sure that you pick your timing — and your people — wisely. Always remember that you can put yourself first.