'Tis the season for coming out?
November 16, 2007 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Is there a time of year that's "best" for coming out of the closet? In your experience, what did you do right and what do you wish you would have done differently when you told your parents that you're gay?

Someone told me to do it right after Christmas because everyone will be in a good mood, esp. since they have the time off of work and the Christmas shopping and stress is over. But I don't want the family to always associate the holiday season with the their son's bombshell. So I'm not convinced that the holiday season is ideal for this.

(If it matters, my parents are divorced and remarried. Both are very conservative Christians and my father is a Baptist minister. Oh yeah, and my older sister came out of the closet two years ago and they always tell me how hard it is for them and how depressed they are and how they feel like they failed as parents.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request -- taz

 
I can't speak from experience here, but it seems like post-Christmas letdown is pretty common, where everyone feels kind of empty and disappointed, with nothing to look forward to for a while. I'd be wary of linking possible closet-egress depression with the post-holiday depression.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2007


I did it right before Thanksgiving, 1999.

I would not suggest you do the same.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2007


you know, if they're pretty seriously Christian, i'd aim for Easter. it's a time of rebirth, of new life, of love. if you frame your coming out to them thusly, they might be open to it. maybe. best of luck.
posted by entropone at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2007


I have no experience in coming out either (and to my knowledge, my friends who have come out to their families didn't time it to coincide with any particular time of year), but I agree with Greg Nog that the post-Christmas season isn't particularly happier or lighter than any other time of year. It even comes with its own specific stresses beyond the general post-holiday letdown -- taking down the tree, dealing with credit card bills (if gifts were charged), getting back to work/school after time off, possible winter weather whose charm has faded once the holidays are over, etc.

If your parents are inclined to be upset over your being gay, I just don't know that there's a specific time of year that will make it "better" for them to find out (though entropone's suggestion of Easter is interesting).

Best of luck.
posted by scody at 12:10 PM on November 16, 2007


I honestly think that coming out of the closet is like quitting smoking. You'll always find a reason not to--too much stress at work, going out drinking tonight, just until I finish this pack, whatever.

Once you have decided that coming out is right for you, it's best to just bite the bullet and do it. Modulo major events, of course; "I'm gay, passed the mashed potatoes" is probably not a good idea at Christmas dinner.

I'm gay, btw, if that matters.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:11 PM on November 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


IANAGS, but I sympathize with your dilemma, especially given your parents' reaction to your sister's bombshell.

From the situation you described, there ain't gonna be a "best" time, or even a "good" time, or even a "less disturbing than any other" time.

But I admire you for deciding to tell them. Have you considered talking to Big Sis to see what her take would be?
posted by Rykey at 12:12 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you are putting it off for the right time, no time is better than now.
posted by greta simone at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2007


I am not gay and I have never come out. However between Thanksgiving and New Year's is a pretty bad time to try to get anything major accomplished. It's a time that's already emotionally stressful for most people.

Having said that, I will defer to DNAB - there will always be a reason to put it off in your situation. And I doubt your parents will react much better in June versus December.

So, in summary, time of year has nothing to do with this problem. Good luck with it though.
posted by GuyZero at 12:19 PM on November 16, 2007


Just don't do it when I did: April fool's day.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:22 PM on November 16, 2007 [8 favorites]


I'm interested in the "I don't want the family to always associate the holiday season with the their son's bombshell" comment. It seems to me that this might be a pretty big concern, so you'd want to stay out of any major holidays but especially the Christmas season. I'd pick an unobtrusive time in February or
April - some month that doesn't have anything enormously family-related associated with it.

However, nth-ing the comments regarding "there's never a good time to do it." You have to pick a balance. Set a date and do it then. You're the only one who can determine how seriously the holidays factor into picking that date.
posted by dorothy humbird at 12:29 PM on November 16, 2007


Plaidder's advice on coming out over Xmas. I wouldn't do it over the Christmas season, because there's already enough stress and having-to-be-nice-to-relatives-you-don't-really-like going on.

I'd be inclined to do it during a shopping trip. The logic being that we'd be on neutral ground, and the intaker wouldn't be liable to make too much fuss. It could backfire quite spectacularly, though. I haven't come out to my parents, so any advice I gve is based purely on speculation.

I suppose partially it depends on how supportive your family is going to be. Having your loving, gay-friendly extended family round you could make it a fantastic Xmas. Of course, if they don't like the news, you've got X amount of shocked, drunk people round you for a few days. Yay....
posted by Solomon at 12:48 PM on November 16, 2007


i'm not gay, but i probably wouldn't do it over the holidays. (and i have the kind of family that would probably just shrug and say, "well, that's nice" to that kind of news.)

holidays are crazy--nobody is really themselves. i like the idea of doing it at easter, although i suppose that could backfire (instead of rebirth, the focus would be that jesus died for your sins).

i would wait until late january or so, to give everyone time to recover from the holidays. then tell them, and give yourself time to lie low while they process it. then use easter as an opportunity to try to come back together again.

good luck. don't put it off--there's no point. unless there's college tuition involved. then it might be worth the tradeoff.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:03 PM on November 16, 2007


Given how they feel about your sister, I doubt there is ever going to be a 'good' time to come out of the closet to them.

Are they accepting of your sister? Does she bring girlfriends home for the holidays? I guess what I'm getting at here is, if your parents wont be accepting of your partner - do they need to know your gender preference?

I'm bi (granted, I know this is not the same thing, I get to bring my boyfriend home at Christmas) but I've never felt the need to share the details of my sexual preferences with my parents. Its just not something they need to know.

I know *a lot* of people are going to disagree with me here but I'm going to say it anyway. Please think about your parents feelings, regardless of whether they're right or wrong, they cannot just change their feelings on homosexuality because their son says he's gay. If they're already feeling depressed and like they've failed as parents because your sister is gay - consider how devastated they're going to be when you come out to them.

IMO you seriously need to weigh up how much positive difference them knowing is going to make to your life, vs how incredibly devastated they're going to be.

It doesn't matter when you tell them - and unlike most people in this situation - you already know how they're going to react/feel. It may even be worse for you than your sister, they may feel doubly betrayed because you know how your sister's 'announcement' made them feel because they've discussed it with them.
posted by missmagenta at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


it doesn't matter when you do it. it just matters that you do it.

it might be shitty for a while, but the date you choose isn't going to make that any better or worse really.

you'll be fine.

:)
posted by Lleyam at 1:13 PM on November 16, 2007


I did it in the fall, when all the leaves were dying, like my parents dreams for me.

It seems like it is going to sting them, as it did with your sister. The sooner you tell them the sooner things move closer to normal. In retrospect, they wont admire your consideration for waiting for an appropriate time of year.

I did not live near my folks when I did (I was 19). Telling them in person and giving them time to ask you questions and share their feelings is important. But if you go to visit for a week, don't tell them on Monday and leave on Sunday. They will need time alone as well.

If your sister is around she could provide support or be miserable, depending on her personality and your family dynamic.

Have as painless a time with it as possible.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:14 PM on November 16, 2007


dnab's got it.

A reason not to do it at the holiday season is that at least you'll sidestep the ol' You Ruined The Holidays! line.

A reason to do it at the holidays is that it provides more opportunities for you to say hey, I'm still your kid, spending the holiday with you just like I always have. This isn't so weird, right?
posted by desuetude at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2007


I would think the best time to do it would be after Easter.

Why? Well, the last big family holiday would probably be out-of-the-way and they would have a fair bit of time to absorb things and assimilate reality before another upcoming get together.

Although - the converse would be that there is more time for both them and yourself to "stew" and then back-out of upcoming get-together (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, Labour Day, etc.)

While I am not in your particular situation, I have been estranged from my family for years at a time. It's not nice - but it may happen. I hope you have the support of friends, local family or a significant other that you can lean-on if that occurs.

Good luck and more power to you!
posted by jkaczor at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2007


I find it's not the "when" it's the "how." There's NEVER a good time, but it's always a good idea to tell them you love them, they did nothing wrong, that you're not divorcing yourself from the family, and that it doesn't mean that you're doomed to a Life of Tragedy. They may see all hope of grandkids going away, so if you or your sister might have kids, let them know that their vision of you with kids and a family is not dead forever.

I'm a middle-aged dyke with a baby, out for 20 years now, if it matters.
posted by pomegranate at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whenever you do it, do not do it while trapped in a small metal box moving at 60 mph.

I came out to my mom at the beginning of spring break of my junior year in college in 1987 (OMG!!!!). I knew my mom wouldn't freak or cut me off or throw me out - I was pretty sure she wouldn't even be that surprised (she wasn't) - but I was still incredibly nervous. I ended up ignoring all the advice I'd gotten and read and just kind of blurted it out - I'd just finished finals and hand't slept more than a couple of hours for a few days running.

Given your circumstances, though, I'd also advise doing it at the holidays - and, as others have said, it's already a stressful time of year. Good luck!

On preview: coming out means not having to lie to them anymore, or to obfuscate as many details of your life as you probably are. They will not feel obliged to keep nagging you about why you haven't settled down with a nice girl.

Coming out is not about shoving your sex life/orientation in your parents' faces. It's about showing them (even if it takes them a while to realize this) that you love and trust them enough to let them into your life. And contrary to what missmagenta says above, they may, in fact, change their feelings on homosexuality. Millions of parents do it.

And the fact that they may feel that they've "failed" as parents because two of their kids are queer is actually not your problem. It's their problem. They've raised (I'm guessing here, of course) two wonderful, responsible, creative delightful people - how in hell is that "failure"?

/soapbox
posted by rtha at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


No advice on timing. I did it long enough after my grandmother's death that mourning wasn't the prime mood for my mom. I did it between Thanksgiving and Christmas - a few weeks for them to get through the initial reaction before the big holidays, and with enough other distractions for planning, shopping, cooking, travelling that it wasn't the only thing on their mind.

If it's not something you know your family will cheer ("tolerate" is a whole 'nother can of beans), then there might be a few terrible moments for this (funerals, weddings, Christmas dinner), but there's never really a fantastic time. I'm so sorry that you have to spend time and energy thinking about this sort of thing. Don't let obsessions over specifics that you can control (timing, place, wording) think that you can control the outcome of it. I know you intellectually and emotionally know that, but it's hard to go through all the same. My thoughts are with you. And people who say "my parents wouldn't give it a second thought" don't really help because honestly, yours do, it really really really freakin' sucks, and I wish you all the patience, luck, support and time that you and your family will need to travel through this.

Have you sort of rehearsed what you want to say, to whom? That can help alleviate some of the inherent pressures in this too. You can try it out on us, if you want.
posted by barnone at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2007


Well you already know you’re gay. Presumably you’re not getting any gayer anytime soon. Coming out is a big deal all by itself, when you do, it will be a special occasion. So the best answer is really whenever you’re ready. From the descriptions of you family it might not be good to do it near a major holiday because they may get themselves too hung up on you “ruining” holiday X then dealing with the fact that you’re gay.
posted by French Fry at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell them as absolutely soon as you yourself are ready to.
posted by Nelson at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2007


And yeah, in regards to why someone may actually need to come out to their parents -- I'm trying to take a deep breath to respond to this. GardnerDB is taking his parents' feelings into consideration. S/he knows this will upset them and is trying to determine the best possible time to mitigate their unnecessary stress. I'm sure GarnderDB is well aware that desire for parents to change does not in fact immediately correlate with the parents actually changing. But you know, it does happen. And it doesn't. But the poster's desire to live an open and inclusive life -- as you yourself say, bringing someone home for the holidays -- does not in fact require the parent's possible devastation at the news to prevent that conversation from happening. Imagine how the poster might feel (and alludes to in the original post) -- s/he knows this is going to harder for the parents, since a) it's happened before, b) they felt they had a space to vent, and the poster was internally having to negotiate being that support, c) can already imagine the base of the response, if not the extent. I don't think you really need to comb through the intent to come out with a fine-tooth comb here.

Please, people, let's try to make this ONE place where "look what you're doing to your parents" isn't the conversation. GardnerDB, there are lots of places of support. Your sister may or may not be able to provide that when you need it. Can you talk to someone who knows both you and your family about this?
posted by barnone at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2007


Were I gay, I'd save the news for the Fourth of July.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:32 PM on November 16, 2007


Totally forgot:

Things I wished I'd done include: being more coherent and having a list of resources to hand. This could include the phone number for their local PFLAG chapter, and a few books, like Eric Marcus' Is it a Choice? On that Amazon page, see also the list of "customers also bought" books. There are also good resources linked in this AskMe thread, if you haven't already found it.
posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2007


I just asked a friend of mine whose parents are very traditional Baptists. He came out a few years ago, and it was rough for a while. Eventually his parents accepted it, and while things are still strained (in regards to religion, I'd assume) they're as close to normal as they can be, for now.

He says there's no good time, except for a time that feels right for you. You'd know this better than any of us - it's your family, after all. He says it's probably not going to go well at first, but don't let that get you down. Eventually it will get easier for everybody involved.

(When you get done with your parents throw a big party, with a big gay cake and rainbow streamers everywhere, in which you literally come out of a closet and everyone celebrates it with noisemakers and confetti. Do that with your friends, to celebrate taking this difficult step with your parents.)

/devoted faghag since age sixteen
posted by cmyk at 1:38 PM on November 16, 2007


By the way -- if you'd like to get in touch with my aforementioned friend, drop me a mefi-mail.
posted by cmyk at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2007


I'd do it during summer, as it seems like people are happiest (best weather, none of this seasonal depression, no stress, no big huge holiday shopping bills, no "just one more cup" of eggnog)... but you shouldn't use that as an excuse to put it off.
posted by anaelith at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2007


I drove home over Mother's Day weekend in 2003 and did it, because I felt like I had been lying to my parents by not doing so up to that point and felt like being honest with them at last would be almost like a gift, a gift of sincerity and honesty. I had only come out to myself over New Year's and friends/colleagues on campus around March, and I was on a high of letting the truth just, uh, come out.

It was rough at the time - I spent the summer afterward basically out of reach in Africa, which gave us all some breathing space, and let everyone see that I hadn't really changed and was still the same funky globe-trotting guy I'd always been - but my parents are, three years later and having relied on family and friends, mostly OK with it. I'm single and I mostly live abroad, so my personal life (ahem) is off the radar most of the time, which is good. My little brother took it hard as well, I think because he saw my parents so mentally anguished by it; only this year are we really back on track.

Based on my own experience, then, I'd make a few recommendations:

- Come out when you want to and when it feels right. That time will come. You'll know.
- Have a place to go if it doesn't turn out so well. I'm not saying run out the door at the first sign of upset or tears, but if things get violent - and I have no idea if they will since I've never met you - you need to be safe.
- Practice on people you already know.
- Enlist your sister for support. Come out to her first, if you haven't already done so. It might be worth a special trip over a weekend to see her, even, if you aren't around each other that much, so you can discuss it without having to have an OMG Intimidating Phone Conversation.
- Seek out a campus/community LGBT group for tips, stories, and support before, during, and after. My friends and colleagues kept me afloat for the very rough year after I came out.
- Check out some resources designed for parents of the recently-out here and here.
posted by mdonley at 1:47 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying everyone should stay in the closet to their parents - I'm saying weigh up the pros and cons and unless there will be a positive net gain then, really consider whether they need to know at all.

If they're not going to be accepting of your sexuality and they're not going to let you bring your partner round for dinner etc, then is it worth the suffering on both sides?

Of course the best person to discuss this with is your sister. She knows better than anyone here, how this will affect your relationship with your parents.

You could be missing out from your post that your parents are still best friends with your sister and she brings her girlfriend home for the holidays and you all play happy families - if that's the case then sure go for it - as others have said, just get it over with - there's no good time for. But I get the impression from your post that this isn't the case and its not all happy families around the dinner table with Big sis and her 'special friend'.
posted by missmagenta at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2007


I came out to my Mom on the telephone. If I recall correctly, it was sometime in the Spring, or maybe late Winter. If I could go back and do it over again, I'd do it in person, but at least she already knew. This was in 1984-85, and when she was so supportive I explained to her that a lot of parents don't accept their gay children. Her response was that it was a parent's job not to judge their children, but to love them.

Anyhow. I've never heard that there's any special time to come out, unless you're making a "statement" a la National Coming Out Day. I tend to think that the holiday season tends to be crazed and stressed -- think of travel issues, the big meals, who goes to what church, family members who don't always get along -- that it might be best to come out in a different setting. On the other hand, if this is the only time you actually see your parents and there actually is a need for them to know at this time, then maybe this is the time.

I caution you that this may not end well, since you describe them as conservative Christians. Although I agree that coming out is beneficial and is a "good thing" for lgbt people, the whens and whys do matter. Think carefully about why you are doing this and what you expect from your parents before you disclose, and be prepared with a backup plan for whatever may happen.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2007


@ MissMagenta: While I understand what you are saying about not telling my parents because they'll be devastated and depressed, it would be impossible for me to hide my sexual identify forever. We talk a lot about our personal lives and I see them regularly. When I eventually find a SO, am I just not supposed to ever mention that part of my life? How do I not mention my personal life to my parents? That's all they care about. They care about my career, I suppose, but not enough to want to talk about it exclusively. Saying I should never tell them about my sexual identity is not practical advice. If I push them away and refuse to talk about my personal life, one of two things will happen. They'll become even more depressed and feel rejected, or they will assume I'm gay and assume every anti-gay stereotype about gays being selfish and anti-family (all of which they hear at their uber-conservative gay parents support group) is true.
posted by GardnerDB at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2007


While you should consider your parents' feelings - and you are, obviously, by trying to figure out when it might be best to come out to them - I'm going to put out there that your peace of mind, your not having to lie, and your not having to be anxious about what you've told to whom are all more important than your parents' upsetedness. And the fact that they're initially upset doesn't mean they'll remain so. I have lots of friends whose folks wigged out when they (the kids) first came out, and then came around over the years. People can be remarkably adaptable.

missmagenta - you're bi and you're with a guy now, but have you dated women and just not brought them home, or mentioned them to your folks? Or if you haven't yet dated a woman, and in some hypothetical future you were to do so, would you consider your sexual orientation something you don't have to share with your folks (by not bringing your girlfriend home)? Because you know, by bringing your boyfriend home, you are in fact sharing your sexual orientation with them.

you can mefimail me if this seems to derail-y
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2007 [7 favorites]


Yeah, there are ways to make the message a bit easier on the parents, but unless you're in danger of being hurt by them as a result, it's not too much to think that your parents might accept you for who you are. There's a point where protecting them from the truth will just bring distance and future resentment. And yeah, if your parents can't accept you for who you are (after a suitable 'mourning' period, at least), then they are failed parents; but the failure is in how they've defined parenthood. (One of my favorite lines, from 'Flirting with Disaster': "Even if you were Jeffrey Dahmer we would still love you.")

My only regret about coming out was that I didn't do it sooner. I guess for a lot of people 22 is early, but it's amazing to see now (as compared with back in the 80s) how much support and acceptance there is for someone coming out. It's not all a picnic, but it's a lot better than growing up worrying that you'll have to stay hidden forever.

With the parents, part of it is considering what relationship you have with them, and what relationship you want to have, which you don't speak to.

I get what missmagenta is trying to say. I just don't think it's worth it to sacrifice being honest about who you are to protect your parents' illusions. Your life doesn't have less value than theirs. And you have to figure that, unless you're going to disappear or construct a careful lie to live within, they're going to find out someday, and when that happens you're probably not going to feel that delaying it was worth the effort.
posted by troybob at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2007


@ MM again: Sorry, I didn't read your second post before I wrote my response. I don't mean to sound hostile and I know that you're only urging me to weigh the pros and cons of telling them.

Because my sister came out to them, I have been able to see how they might react when I do it. They are nice to her and have said that they love her and they still want to be her parents. She has no idea that how hard it has been for them, though. Only I know how hard it is on them because they always tell me. And that is what is making this so much more difficult. I'm in a unique situation because I'm able to see the strong face they put on for her and also see how pissed off they that she "ruined" all of our lives.
posted by GardnerDB at 2:27 PM on November 16, 2007


Maybe they already suspect that you are gay and they're waiting for you to tell them? My son came out to his dad and brother and then me and I was like, DUH, I'm your Mom, I know these things! You might be surprised...but then every family is different. Not much help here, but yeah, it might be OK.
posted by wafaa at 2:27 PM on November 16, 2007


I did it New Years Eve: out with the old, in with the new.

That said, my only regret is not having done it sooner.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:28 PM on November 16, 2007


I never told my mother or my father I was hetrosexual. I guess I am still in some closet. Sure, they probably see my two kids running around and I kiss my wife in their presence but I never told them that I was screwing her.

I would suggest that you not announce your sexual inclination. Just go about living your life and if at some point your mother or father happens to be stupid enough to ask "Son, are you queer?" you say, "Yes, I am."

Why make some big fucking production of it? Imagine if this Thanksgiving, right before your big announcement your 16 year old cousin stands up and says, "I have something to tell you all; I am hetrosexual but I am saving myself for marriage. Therefore, on top of my being a hetrosexual I am also practicing anal and oral sex with my girl friend. I thought you would like to know."

Then it is your turn only you replace hetro with "homo" and girl for "boy". Something just don't need to be announced.

Live your life and let them interpret as they wish.
posted by bkeene12 at 2:52 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would wonder if they've shown you how their lives have been 'ruined' by your sister's announcement as a way to encourage you to stay in the closet--if they have suspicions, that is (or 'just in case'). If this is clearly not the case, you might consider that the longer you hold off telling them, the more they might then regret that they've made that reaction obvious to you. Not that you should rush it, just that I think when people consider coming out they don't necessarily consider that the parents might someday resent it or feel shut out the longer you wait. Not telling them deprives them of an opportunity as well.
posted by troybob at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2007


While you should consider your parents' feelings - and you are, obviously, by trying to figure out when it might be best to come out to them - I'm going to put out there that your peace of mind, your not having to lie, and your not having to be anxious about what you've told to whom are all more important than your parents' upsetedness. And the fact that they're initially upset doesn't mean they'll remain so. I have lots of friends whose folks wigged out when they (the kids) first came out, and then came around over the years. People can be remarkably adaptable.

missmagenta - you're bi and you're with a guy now, but have you dated women and just not brought them home, or mentioned them to your folks? Or if you haven't yet dated a woman, and in some hypothetical future you were to do so, would you consider your sexual orientation something you don't have to share with your folks (by not bringing your girlfriend home)? Because you know, by bringing your boyfriend home, you are in fact sharing your sexual orientation with them.


If I could favorite this comment 57 times, I would. rtha hit several nails right on the head with a beautifully-worded hammer.
posted by spinturtle at 3:07 PM on November 16, 2007


I agree with what troybob said. Give them the opportunity to feel and judge and do with the information what they will. I would have surely resented my son not telling me and shutting me out. "Not telling them deprives them of an opportunity as well."
posted by wafaa at 3:14 PM on November 16, 2007


By telling them, all you're doing is reversing the situation - right now, you're putting on the pretence, presumably avoiding/deflecting any questions about your love life. They're presumably doing the same with your sister - putting a brave face on it as you say, and avoiding talking about her love life.

You're really in a no-win situation. On the one hand, they need time to deal with and accept your sister's 'bombshell'. They sound like very loving parents and its possible that in time they will come to accept her 'choice' (I know its not a choice, just couldn't think of a better word) but at the moment they're conflicted - torn between the love they have for your sister, and their belief that homosexuality is wrong/abnormal and to have a gay child means that they're bad parents. Adding your news to the mix is likely going to add fuel to the 'we're terrible parents' argument but at the same time, waiting til they've accepted it (if they do) might make them feel completely betrayed (you've lied to them for all this time) and upset them all over again.
Try to be supportive and help them reconcile their conflicted emotions, if you were already in a stable relationship that might actually be helpful (again, it might go completely the other way - people are like that - you know your parents better than we do) if they could see that you love your partner of the same gender and that you make each other happy, that could tug on the ol' parental heartstrings.

Its also possible that if you're that close to your family, that they already know or at the least, suspect and it might turn into a complete non-event.

These things are impossible to predict but if you are close to your family then eventually you will have to tell them - but this isn't the case for everybody.

I definately think, under the circumstances, the gentle approach would be preferable to the 'announcement' type of thing.

Also remember, you can't judge someone based on their initial reactions. I've been on the receiving end of the 'bombshell' more than once and its really hard, because you know its a really big deal for the person telling you and you know they've been agonising over how to tell you and how to drop it casually into the conversation and you want to be supportive of their big moment and tell them what they want to hear (without the big pause while you figure out what they want to hear) when all I really want to say is ...yeah, and? Because, unless it was a bloke I really fancied (in which case the answer would be 'bummer/gutted') I couldn't care less. But you know 'meh' really isn't what they want to hear. and 'Cool' just sounds lame.
posted by missmagenta at 3:15 PM on November 16, 2007


bkeene12: I could see it if being gay were simply a matter of the sexual act, but there's more tied up in it than that. (And I'm not one to put my sexuality at the center of everything I am; coming out when I did made it all that much easier to put it in its proper place. The coming out thing is in part a hurdle that you get over in order to get on with the rest of your life; I think that generally, not doing it keeps things up in the air.) Your marriage, kids, family--those things are about more than who you've screwed. I would imagine you told your parents you were getting married/having kids rather than just have them find out on the street.
posted by troybob at 3:17 PM on November 16, 2007


Writing as the parent of a bi > gay child, I agree that you should tell your mom and dad on the schedule that meets your own needs best. On the other hand, all things being equal, it seems that Christmas is a hugely stressfull time for someone pastoring a church, so not springing this news then might be kind. The conservative Christian friends and relatives I have will almost inevitably take it personally, but as others have said, you probably need to let that be their problem, not mostly yours. You obviously have been bearing several people's burdens in this regard for a while
posted by Rain Man at 3:19 PM on November 16, 2007


missmagenta - you're bi and you're with a guy now, but have you dated women and just not brought them home, or mentioned them to your folks? Or if you haven't yet dated a woman, and in some hypothetical future you were to do so, would you consider your sexual orientation something you don't have to share with your folks (by not bringing your girlfriend home)? Because you know, by bringing your boyfriend home, you are in fact sharing your sexual orientation with them.

If I was in a serious long term relationship with a woman then I would bring her home for Christmas, I wouldn't make a big announcement out of it, as bkeene12 says, you don't announce that you're 'straight', it assumed by default and confirmed by the gender of those you bring home. Of course, I doubt my parents would have a problem with it - they certainly wouldn't be depressed and upset and think that they're failures as parents. Quite frankly, I'm pretty sure my mum already knows. If that were the case then I would stick by my advice and weight up what would be gained by telling them vs the pain it would cause them.

I've never made a big deal out of my sexuality, but I've never hidden it either. If anyone asks then I tell them but its just not a big deal. Its certainly not worth hurting my family over.
posted by missmagenta at 3:27 PM on November 16, 2007


bkeene12 - in a culture where the "default" sexual orientation is heterosexual, announcing it by bringing your same-sex partner home for Christmas/thanksgiving/a random long weekend is likely to be much more traumatic for the parents (and the S.O.) than using words to communicate something important like this.

missmagenta - thanks for the answer.

Its certainly not worth hurting my family over.

The way I see it - and everyone's circumstances are different, of course - I would have hurt my family much more by not telling them the truth, and implying by my silence that I didn't trust them to continue to love me even if I were doing something that made them upset.
posted by rtha at 3:45 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Its certainly not worth hurting my family over.

Ah, but you have the luxury of having parents who evidently wouldn't be hurt by your sexual orientation in the first place -- which is a vastly different situation than the OP finds himself in. In order for the OP to follow your advice to avoid hurting them by coming out, he would either have to omit sharing his personal life with them entirely -- which, as he has eloquently stated, is not an option -- or get a beard.
posted by scody at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2007


I've never said he shouldn't tell them - I said he should consider whether its necessary to tell them. From his original post, that isn't clear.
Not everyone is that close with their family that they share this kind of information freely - as far as my parents are concerned my present boyfriend is the only person I've ever dated, the same goes for my older sister and her boyfriend. (and fwiw, I never told them about my current boyfriend either, I just mentioned him a lot and they asked)

But consider this hypothetical situation. You're gay, you're in the closet, you don't talk about your personal life because its a sensitive issue and you know your parents wouldn't approve. You get in a serious relationship but you can't bring your partner home to meet the family because it would upset them/cause arguments.
You come out of the closet and you still can't talk about your personal life because it upsets your family and you still can't bring your partner home to meet the folks.
In this situation, all that's changed is you've hurt the people you care about for the sake of honesty.

This is the kind of situation that I'm talking about - to go another step further, its not unheard of for parents to disown children who make 'choices' they disapprove of.

This obviously is not the situation here - its far worse and more complicated, they're loving parents that want to be supportive of their children and therefore 'put on a brave face' to hide the pain and guilt they're feeling - forcing the dishonesty onto them instead of yourself. Its not fair either way. Its a horrible situation to be in and I wish the OP all the best in whatever he decides to do but I think the question asked has been well and truly answered - there really is no 'best' time to do it. If you choose to go the announcement route, you can only do it when you're ready - and only you will know that.
posted by missmagenta at 4:07 PM on November 16, 2007


@ Bkeene12: I can't imagine parents--sans you-- who would prefer to be blindsided by their kid bringing home a gay lover over be blindsided by their kid first telling them he's gay and giving them time to digest what it will mean for everyone. Well, maybe it would work in a family that doesn't see homosexuality as, to use your words, a big fucking deal.

Furthermore, my sister waited until she had a girlfriend before she felt the need to tell my parents about her sexual orientation and now they blame the girlfriend for "turning her gay." Relationships are hard enough, I don't need my parents to resent my (future, hypothetical) boyfriend more than necessary.
posted by GardnerDB at 4:27 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


In this situation, all that's changed is you've hurt the people you care about for the sake of honesty.

But you were hurting them before, by lying. They just didn't know it - but you did.

And the lying hurts you, too. When you come out to disapproving parents who continue to disapprove of you, and when you still can't take your partner home at Christmas, or talk about him/her without getting into a big fight or having crying, it's still better that you not lie to them. At the very least, it allows everyone to know where they stand. At the very least, it gives you the opportunity to say "I'm sorry that this is so upsetting for you, and that you feel hurt by this, but I am not coming home for [holiday] this year. Since Bob (or Barbara, as the case may be) is not welcome in your home, we've decided to make our own [holiday]. I love you, even though you drive me crazy."

In other words, it allows you to live your life, and not the life your parents think you should live.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and it applies to more than just coming out: Your silence will not protect you.
posted by rtha at 4:30 PM on November 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


To be honest, I wouldn't want to have a relationship with my parents if I can't be myself while I'm with them. That would more destructive to my soul than anything--and that's how I'm feeling right now. So if I tell them and they approve, great. If I tell them and they disapprove, well then, that will suck. But if I never tell them, I'd drift further and further away because keeping secrets is too difficult. So that's why I feel the need to tell them, MissMagenta. Maybe it is selfish, but I can't live with not telling them. Being honest with them is, as I see it, the only way to give our relationship a chance at survival.
posted by GardnerDB at 4:38 PM on November 16, 2007 [7 favorites]


I would suggest before Christmas, or even before Thanksgiving. That way if they make a stink about you ruining the holidays you can scream angrily : "well thanks a lot. That's the kind of attitude that made me gay!" (I say this to my mother all the time and we have a nice laugh)

Seriously, the forced merriment of the holidays returns a sense of normalcy. The only really bad coming out stories my friends have told revolve around endless conversations and periods of doubt as people retreated and sulked. The holidays can be a good excuse to get back to normal after a nice brief conversation.

Good luck. It's such a relief for you, and eventually them. It feels so good when it's over.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:41 PM on November 16, 2007


sorry - I hit post too soon.

they're loving parents that want to be supportive of their children and therefore 'put on a brave face' to hide the pain and guilt they're feeling - forcing the dishonesty onto them instead of yourself.

This reminds me: GardnerDB, about how your parents have put on the "brave face" in front of your sister? This is not her fault, or her problem. Your parents are adults, with the full capability to decide how to, and when to, express their feelings. Their behavior in this case obviously springs from a loving place, a peace-keeping place, and they clearly mean well. But their daughter had the courage to be honest with them, to trust them, and they aren't able to return that. They're lying to her. It's in an effort to not upset her, of course, but it obviously has repercussions. It was their choice to take on that dishonesty. No one forced them into it.
posted by rtha at 4:43 PM on November 16, 2007


P.S. Sooner rather than later. I waited a really long time and it was just more awkward for everyone. Let them get used to you as gay before you bring that special someone home. That is much more stressful than coming out, and you don't need to do make it worse.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2007


But consider this hypothetical situation. You're gay, you're in the closet, you don't talk about your personal life because its a sensitive issue and you know your parents wouldn't approve. You get in a serious relationship but you can't bring your partner home to meet the family because it would upset them/cause arguments. You come out of the closet and you still can't talk about your personal life because it upsets your family and you still can't bring your partner home to meet the folks. In this situation, all that's changed is you've hurt the people you care about for the sake of honesty.

I wouldn't say that is all that has changed. One thing is that once it is in the open, you don't have to wall off an important portion of your life that you have to keep from your parents. Another is that once it is discussed, you don't have to worry again about the consequences of them finding out, particularly at times when it would be harder for them to deal with, such as when a parent gets sick or dies. Another thing that has changed is that you have asserted your worth as a human being; hiding who you are is, to some degree, to be complicit in the general attitude that you have something to be ashamed of or that you are somehow less worthy than a straight person.

...forcing the dishonesty onto them instead of yourself. It's not fair either way.

Really, forcing? If they're going to be dishonest about their reaction to the news, that is their choice to make, and the person coming out is absolutely not responsible for it. They could also choose not to be dishonest about their feelings but to discuss them and try to work through them as a family. It seems you are characterizing coming out as an assault against the parents. Yeah, there are parents who disown their children when something like this happens; but those people have already failed as parents for reasons that have nothing to do with their child's sexuality. In any case, the idea that someone coming out deserves some kind of blame for being honest about his/her own identity is bullshit. The parents alone are responsible for their own prejudices, their own feelings, and their own reactions.
posted by troybob at 5:03 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Good luck, whatever you work out, GardnerDB. If you decide to go for it, it's not a selfish decision at all. Keep in mind that the initial reaction isn't necessarily the long-term reaction. It can be a shock for parents, understandably; we're all disappointed when our expectations are frustrated. You've got to let it sit with them a while. When I came out, one of the things I read as disappointment actually turned out to be worry--worry about how others would treat me, worry that my life would be a sad one, worry about disease and such.

You just have to kind of feel for the timing of it. Holidays are stressful for lots of reasons, but they don't last forever.
posted by troybob at 5:40 PM on November 16, 2007


Thanks for your advice, kind words, and well-wishes, (almost) everyone. I will MeFi mail some of you--when the time comes--to let you know how things turned out.
posted by GardnerDB at 6:34 PM on November 16, 2007


Maybe it is selfish, but I can't live with not telling them.

It is most assuredly not selfish. You want to be able to share yourself with them, and for them to truly know you - that is a very vulnerable place to put yourself, and your courage is commendable. After I came out, one of the things my mom said to me was she she was afraid I was leaving her behind - that I was leaving the world of heterosexuality for the (to her, smaller and more limited) land of gay, where she wouldn't be able to follow, or relate to my experiences. It took us a little while to truly appreciate how much more we were able to share when I didn't have to lie to her, or duck inconvenient questions.

Your parents have raised a good son.

Please mefimail or email me if you want to talk more, and please consider keeping us updated, either in this thread or via mefimail. thanks!
posted by rtha at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Honestly, the best time? Tonight. (Or tomorrow morning, depending on your time zone.) Call them up and say you've got something to tell them. It's a lot easier when you don't give yourself time to get worked up over, and when you give them space to hang up, cry, get over it, and talk some more.

And maybe you'll get the reaction I did from my dad (I'm bi): "Huh, I always thought you'd be a lesbian."
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:06 PM on November 16, 2007


I see how you feel. My generalization aren't helping you any.
You have a tough decision to make, perhaps you should look at it this way...

Honesty is important only if you believe that the other party wants or needs honesty. I guess if you can answer this you will have your answer.

I respect any decision you make because you were smart enough to weigh all the angles before making a choice. There is no right or wrong in this instance, only one man coming to grips with one of the biggest decisions of his life. I hope you find the happiness and solace you seek.

If I had to pick I would go with Spring time- not Christmas. Best of luck to you.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:23 PM on November 16, 2007


about how your parents have put on the "brave face" in front of your sister? This is not her fault, or her problem. Your parents are adults, with the full capability to decide how to, and when to, express their feelings.

Seconding. And their brave face is not really your burden to carry, either. It's not entirely fair (human, but not fair) for them to lay that on you, especially since I can't imagine that at least your mom doesn't have at least a little inkling that it's possible that you might be gay. Heck, maybe they're even subconsciously trying to force the issue with you a bit to get it over with. (Armchair psych from all the way over here is quite a reach, I know.)

Well, you've opened the can of worms and given yourself a lot to think about with this AskMe, huh? Keep us posted.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 PM on November 16, 2007


Nthing getting in touch with PFLAG if your sister has not already done so--they can help you with strategies. I'm not gay, but everything I've read stresses not making coming out a big production, nor doing so out of anger.
posted by brujita at 9:56 PM on November 16, 2007


Honesty is important only if you believe that the other party wants or needs honesty.

Honesty is important only if you believe that you want or need honesty.
fixed that for ya
posted by spinturtle at 10:12 PM on November 16, 2007


crap. please place emphasis on the second 'you', not the first
posted by spinturtle at 10:44 PM on November 16, 2007


Don't do it near Christmas, or at any big family holiday gathering. Yes to involving your sister first, if you haven't yet (you didn't say whether or not she knows you're gay, but having her in your corner to talk with as you do this will almost certainly help).

Honesty is important only if you believe that the other party wants or needs honesty.

That's just stunningly bad advice; I find it hard to believe anyone with any personal experience of coming out issues would write that sentence.

spinturtle's absolutely right; the honesty in question here is *your* honesty with *yourself,* GardnerDB, and I'm really glad to see you're in touch with that. Good luck. I came out to my dad when it became clear to me that the relationship I had with him was becoming dishonest the longer I let him believe I was straight. When I got fed up with the effort and distance caused by that dishonesty, I told him.
posted by mediareport at 11:51 PM on November 16, 2007


Furthermore, my sister waited until she had a girlfriend before she felt the need to tell my parents about her sexual orientation and now they blame the girlfriend for "turning her gay." Relationships are hard enough, I don't need my parents to resent my (future, hypothetical) boyfriend more than necessary.

Late to the party! This happened with me and my gf. She is the one who "made me gay" in at least my dad's eyes. I would go so far to say that the first bf (at least the first your parents meet) will take the load of that regardless when you tell them. Having said that, I would say no to telling them near the holidays because emotions will be running high anyway. But ASAP after that when you feel as ready as you know you will be. My parents were definitely upset and things went into a turmoil for a while. But at least I didn't feel...false anymore. And that was the most important thing for me.
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:57 AM on November 17, 2007


Do it when you're ready. Whenever that is. If it's Christmas, Easter, some boring Tuesday, so be it. I am straight but I know plenty of "my parents know" gays.

A little off topic, but this is something I got out of a conversation the other day and it (sort of) pertains. IANAT but you are incapable of making someone feel a certain way, positive or negative. No one is capable of making you feel a certain way. You are not responsible for anyone's feelings or reactions other than your own. That said, people are free to react and allow other people's actions and words to affect them in any way they choose. They choose the emotion they want for every situation, it's not you. In other words, it's your parents' problem if they choose to react negatively. Just as they could choose to react positively. Either way, not your problem. Detaching yourself from the responsibility of their feelings may help make it a *tad* bit easier.

And your reaction to their reaction is entirely up to you. Maybe you'll feel a sense of freedom, guilt, anger or some random combination of all/none of these emotions. It's in your hands how you walk away from this...which in my mind is the really important thing here, not your parents. I hope you walk away a stronger happier person, regardless of what your parents choose to think of you. Really, don't forget to look out for #1.

Anyways, kind of a strange and off topic point, I know. Best of luck to you.
posted by smeater44 at 2:32 AM on November 18, 2007


I did it in early Fall. Actually - my sister did it for me in early Fall. I told her, and she immediately grabbed my parents and said, "He has something to tell you!" I'm sure I would have waited, but it seemed like a good enough time as any.

Suggestions: Be clear about what you are telling them. If they are conservative and a little sketched out by it, be gentle. Remind them that you aren't telling them that you will be wearing a feather boa to the dinner table (unless you already do this!), or that you plan on having a series of non-monogamous relationship with people you don't know (unless, of course, that is your plan!). But it sounds like you are a more relationship oriented person, and just want to share that part of your life with them the same way you would a heterosexual lifestyle. So I'd say just remind them of that.

Holiday time can be nasty without any bombshells. February might give you the perfect opportunity to explain that someday you want to have a Valentine, but that it would be a boy and not a girl, and that you hope that they will support you in finding a happy, healthy relationship with a guy so that you can live life to the fullest.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:12 AM on November 19, 2007


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