A perfectly dreadful moment in any gay person's life is the outing. The fear is understandable when you consider that to a closeted person the world is loathsome of homosexuality. Yet validation and love from a family remains an integral part of self-acceptance. The holidays with their emotional themes of family, peace, and love often stir up back burner issues. For the closeted person this can often include guilt for their deception and the pain brought on from an unresolved question: Would you still love me if you knew I was gay?

Our tips on coming out this holiday were compiled from PFLAG's (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) website and Mariana Caplan's book, When Holidays Are Hell...! A Guide to Surviving Family Gatherings, published by Hohm Press.

If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender...

Don’t assume you know how somebody will react to news of your sexual orientation or gender identity — you may be surprised.

Realize that your family’s reaction to you may not be because you are GLBT. The hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act differently than they would under less stressful conditions.

Remember that “coming out” is a continuous process. You may have to “come out” many times.

Don’t wait for your family’s attitude to change to have a special holiday. Recognize that your parents need time to acknowledge and accept that they have a GLBT child. It took you time to come to terms with who you are; now it is your family’s turn.

Let your family’s judgments be theirs to work on, as long as they are kind to you.

If it is too difficult to be with your family, create your own holiday gathering with friends and loved ones.

If you are transgender, be gentle with your family’s pronoun “slips.” Let them know you know how difficult it is.


Before the visit...

Make a decision about being “out” to each family member before you visit.

If you are partnered, discuss in advance how you will talk about your relationship, or show affection with one another, if you plan to make the visit together.

If you bring your partner home, don’t wait until late into the holiday evening to raise the issue of sleeping arrangements. Make plans in advance.

Have alternate plans if the situation becomes difficult at home.

Find out about local GLBT resources.

If you do plan to “come out” to your family over the holidays, have support available, including PFLAG publications and the number of a local PFLAG chapter.


During the visit...

Focus on common interests.

Reassure family members that you are still the same person they have always known.

If you are partnered, be sensitive to his or her needs as well as your own.

Be wary of the possible desire to shock your family.

Remember to affirm yourself.

Realize that you don’t need your family’s approval.

Connect with someone else who is GLBT—by phone or in person—who understands what you are going through and will affirm you along the way.

And make sure to practice safe outing!