Just like Santa sneaks down the chimney with a mixed bag of toys and coal for the stockings (anyone actually remember that?) so the holidays with family can be a mixed back of good and bad. If you are considering coming out this holiday season to family and friends, we have a few do’s and don’ts that will help you with your decision.
DO the following…
Have an ally on standby. Your network of supporters, your chosen family, friends, and family, can make the difference between you emotionally surviving a coming out experience, and you getting wasted trying to bury your pain. If you are considering coming out during the holidays and you are alone at the festivities with your family, make sure your bestie is on speed dial.
Think and plan ahead. The conversation will likely not go exactly as you have envisioned in your mind. It may go much better, or much worse. The best way to emotionally prepare yourself for the conversation is to practice the conversation with friends before you come out. Script out the conversation with potential objections or questions (for introverts having it in writing we have found, is super helpful!)
The holidays are a time where stress is naturally heightened, so realize that it may not be the most ideal time to come out. The phenomenon of “emotional overload” means that other stressors may “leak” into the coming out conversation you want to have. If mom is mad at dad, this may leak into your coming out conversation. If the holidays are stressful in your family, consider telling them at a different time.
Allow your family and friends to be “in process” with what you have just shared. You might have had months or years to assimilate your orientation or identity, they are just hearing about it. Sure, many in your family may already suspect, but sometimes verbalizing a new reality is different from what they only have as an “inner knowing.” Their reactions are not your job to soothe or emotionally regulate. You are who you are, and you are a beautiful soul. A family having a negative reaction is about who they feel they are, not who you are. Their reaction cannot change the value of who you are one iota.
Think about this… if I have a dollar and crumple up that dollar, how much is it worth when I give it back to you? One dollar. Exactly the same as before I crumpled it up. Now, if I rip it and tape it back together before handing it back to you, how much is it worth? Same, one dollar. I haven’t changed its value one bit. Now, you may be wondering why I keep taking your dollar away from you, intent on destroying it, so why aren’t you asking me what is wrong with me instead of what is wrong with you? See what I did there? There is nothing that can change your worth or value. Not what gramma says, how auntie reacts, or how dad belittles you. That is about them, not you. So pick your badass self up off the floor and sashay away from any negativity. Honey, you don’t need that in your life. Nor do you need to drown your sorrows in a bottle of whiskey. Just give it, and yourself, time and space.
Now, all of that being said, it is important that they have the time and space they need to integrate this new information. One of the greatest forms of honoring your family is giving them this time and space.
Do NOT do this…
Blurt out “hey I’m gay, lesbian, bi, trans, nonbinary…” in the middle of passing the mashed potatoes. Gramma will likely drop the potatoes and the shock factor may send her into an unintended stroke. (Srsly, we have actually heard of this happening). Though it may feel better to you to just “get it out” and we fully condone being out openly with those around you, the way you come out matters just as much as you do. It shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately, it does. It matters to you as much as to your family because you want to have the opportunity to create as welcoming of a scenario as you can for others to step into the fullness of the beauty of who you are becoming.
Believe you have to come out to everyone at the same time. Just because the holidays offer an opportune time to have everyone together at one table, does not mean that you have to come out all at once. Often, this can lead to more emotional overwhelm than telling the story one by one, and if you are already struggling with addiction, this could prompt a craving to self-soothe with your drug of choice. It’s ok to tell people one by one in smaller groups in your family.
Feel pressured to tell family if they are non-affirming. This is your story. It is your life. You get to choose who is allowed into that sacred space. It is also your choice to hold onto the parts of the story that others won’t steward with care. It is even your choice to say “I would rather not discuss the details of my personal life with you right now” if a non-affirming family member is pressuring you to come out on their time table.
We want to encourage you to hold onto what LGBTQ+ San Diego County News says this holiday season…
“Remember that this is your life and you have every right to live it as authentically as you choose. It is your right to be happy and healthy. It is your right to not live your life just to please others.”