Coming Out for the Holidays

By, Ariell Branson

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While not required, coming out can be an important stepping stone in the life of a member of the queer community. Many adults want to come out to their families in person but often find themselves in situations where they only see their families on special occasions. This can make coming out around the holidays a necessary evil. However, because this time of year is typically stressful to begin with, if you do decide to come out during the holidays, it is important to do so safely—particularly if you think the people you’re telling may have an adverse reaction.

First, the conversation should be had in private with those closest to you. Usually that means parents and siblings. Keeping the initial conversation small takes the pressure off of you and also means having to deal with fewer questions all at once. Doing it at the dinner table could put a nasty halt in the conversation and put you on the spot. Doing it before or after the big meal is going to be a lot more productive and will leave more time for everyone to process their emotions before being surrounded by a lot of people.

It is also crucial to try to make the conversation as calm as possible, especially when you suspect that the people you’re telling may not respond well to your disclosure. This is very important for your overall safety and wellbeing. If you suspect that someone you tell may become volatile, it can be a good idea to tell them in a semi-public location where they will be forced to compose themselves. Seth Meyers, who works with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, says, “Have a stock sentence prepared, and keep repeating it until they get it: “I’m sorry you feel that way. Maybe we should talk about this more in the future.” This diffuses the situation and makes it so you are not responding with pure, unchecked emotion.

If you are the relative that someone comes out to this holiday season, try to be understanding. Show them that you love and accept them without laying it on too thick. When you are first told, thank them for coming out to you and tell them that you feel the same way about them that you always have. It can be really difficult for someone to take this step and by responding positively you will make it easier for them to come out to others in the future. It isn’t necessary for you to treat them any different or to suddenly talk incessantly about issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community. Instead, treat them the same way you always have. They’ll thank you for it.