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'Mom, Dad... I'm Gay': Tips for Coming Out

12/17/2013 01:24 pm ET | Updated 6 days ago
  • Jonathan Alpert Licensed psychotherapist, executive coach, columnist, and author of "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days"

The holiday season can sometimes bring up sensitive issues for people and families. Naturally more time is spent with those we're close to so these issues are more salient than they may be during other times of the year. One such issue is coming out to family. For many, the mere thought of it can evoke feelings of great anxiety and dread and they fear rejection or that they'll be ostracized by their parents. In some cases, this might be true and coming out to them may not be advised. This is especially true if the parents have expressed extreme homophobia or hatred toward gays or if you're living with them and they have threatened to throw you out if they ever found out you're gay. In this situation, you may want to wait until you are more independent and able to support yourself. If you are coming out, know that there's no formula to doing so but some planning can help to make it a positive experience. Here are some tips:

  • Keep in mind, if you are out to your friends already, then that would suggest that you're content with your sexual orientation and it's just a matter of developing the comfort and confidence to come out to your parents. It's not uncommon for parents to be the last to know, or at least for them to be last on the list to come out to.
  • Choose the right time. Don't wait until there's a crisis or if you feel pressured by someone, and definitely don't come out during a stressful holiday gathering. Do it when you feel good about yourself, have support in place, and when your folks are relaxed.
  • Approach this in a positive way and not during an argument or when there's anger as that will only associate it with something negative.
  • Practice your lines. "Mom and Dad, because I love you very much I want to share something about myself that's really important." Or, "Mom and Dad, I met someone really special and he has some great qualities which I think you would like and admire too."
  • Anticipate their feelings. Generally parents go through a few phases. Initially there might be shock given the new information. If not then they probably already had a clue that you might be gay. Next there's denial -- a defense mechanism to deal with uncomfortable new information. They might say things like, "It's just a phase you're going through" or "Okay, now what would you like for dinner?" Feelings of guilt might follow as they accept the info. Reassuring them that you're happy with whom you are will help to alleviate their guilt and self- blame. This is followed by asking lots of questions and then some form of acceptance.
  • Finally, be patient and know that your parents need time to accept and adjust to this. Just as it took you a long time to come out, it will take them time too.

For more tips on dealing with stress and dilemmas check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

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