Of the 320+ million people living in America, only about an estimated 9 million are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. That's only about 3.8 percent. Yet, if only one LGBT person sits at our holiday table and announces they are not straight, it can hit like an atomic bomb.
After the stunned silence, perhaps, what happens next can begin to determine how the family goes for generations to come. Will it continue to be a united, loving supportive family (assuming it was to begin with)? Or will the family erupt in a cacophony of denial, suggestions for how to change, denunciation based on religious interpretation, and fear? Alternatively, will the family leaders respond calmly and supportively?
The key to familial response is to mentally prepare before the big holiday. In our thoughts, we can ask ourselves what we would really think of an LGBT child/sibling/or other relative? What about their partners and friends? Can we think outside of our religious 'box' to accept the possibility that the reality may not support our beliefs? Maybe the person is LGBT whether our holy book condones that or not. What then? Later on, perhaps our relative will likely wish to marry and have children. How do we react to that possibility? The children will be our grandchildren, nieces and/or nephews; will they feel our love or a slight distancing from us?
In your mental preparation for the possibility of a gay or lesbian announcement, if your holy book says same-sex relationships are not condoned, rather than focusing on that point remember also the admonitions to love one another and 'vengeance is mine, saith the Lord'. If you're concerned about what other people will think, it's good to know that societal attitudes are becoming more accepting, and society may judge us more on our handling of the issue than they would of the LGBT person.
According to guidelines from Care2 make a difference, at the time of the possible announcement we should listen to our family member, letting them set the tone, and avoid anticipating what they want to say if they're hesitant. Ask appropriate questions (how they do it or whether they have a sexually transmitted disease is not appropriate). Leave religion and politics out of the conversation, do show respect and remember that this is the same person you loved before the announcement.
Millions of families have gotten through this type of announcement, and moved on to form healthy, embracing relationships with their LGBT family member. Some do it after hurtful, agonizing processes; sometimes angry words continue to resonate in the gay person's heart long after the occasion, and we can't take those words back. The best thing is not to say them in the first place. Plan ahead for the possibility of the announcement, and we won't have to regret our response later.
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