I’m going home for Chanukah and my parents are, as always, having a big holiday party for family and friends. I’ve never told them that I’m queer and don’t know if they have guessed or not. However, I’m out at my college and tired of lying and being someone I’m not with my family. I want to tell them, but don’t want to mess up the celebration for everyone. I think that my parents and siblings will react well…although, of course, you never know until you know…but I’m not sure about my grandparents and some of the aunts, uncles, and cousins. How do I begin? Seth
I first want to congratulate for deciding to take this step. It can be a difficult thing to do if you aren’t sure what the reaction will be. It’s great that you’re out at school; that will give you some sense of confidence going into this new situation. And it’s helpful that you think some crucial family members will react positively. In general, when thinking about coming out, it’s important to assess each situation and decide whether it’s safe to do so. Is there a chance, even a remote one, that someone will have a negative reaction? What will you do if that should happen? Are you financially independent? Do you have a place to go if that were necessary? These are difficult things to contemplate, but worth doing in advance. Also remember that you don’t have to tell everyone who is coming to this party at the same time; you can let your parents and siblings know that you want to talk with them privately before the rest of the group arrives. You might want to think in advance of just want you want to say and what you need from them. (For example: Do you have a partner that you’d like to bring home to visit? How do you want your family to respond when people ask whether you have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” at college?) You can describe the kind of support you’d like and you can offer them resources, like Pflag (www.pflag.org) and the Jewish Family and Children’s Service (firstname.lastname@example.org ), resources that can answer any questions they might have.
I’m very glad you’ve reached out as you’re contemplating this step. It’s natural to have the feelings you do and great that you’ve decided to move forward. Don’t hesitate to write again, or email JFCS, if you’d like more support or have additional questions after you’ve made this first move.