5 Tips for Surviving Your First Family Holiday Gathering After Coming Out

With just a little preparation, your family gathering should be enjoyable for everyone.

HomoCulture Coming Out Brian Webb

This article was published on December 19th, 2021

Holiday time is here, and it’s full of fun, family, and cheer. The season comes with so much excitement – and this year, you have a secret to share! Telling your family that you are gay can be the scariest part of all. 

The stress and anxiety that precedes such big moments can be overwhelming. You do not know how they will react, and let’s not even get started with those vicious relatives who are quick to berate you and throw all sorts of passive-aggressive comments your way. 

However, the best way to get through it is to show up with confidence and come out as yourself – even if it’s different from how they remember you.

Photo by Lynda Hinton on Unsplash

Here is how to survive your first family holiday gathering after coming out:

1.  Prepare yourself mentally

Before heading to that Christmas dinner, you already know what you are about to get yourself into, what with a barrage of questions from that one mean cousin or aunt with boundary issues. So you are better off preparing yourself off mentally for the questions and comments that will come your way.

It will help boost your confidence and set the tone for your interactions. But remember, you do not need to answer everything that comes your way. After all, you want to enjoy and have a good time; the occasion is not all about you. 

2.  Try to keep calm throughout the gathering.

It is natural to expect some pushback from your family when you come out. They may not be as accepting as you hope, and the holiday gathering is your first time seeing them since you came out. 

The key is to stay calm and not let their negativity get to you. They are probably just testing the waters to see how much they can get away with. 

Responding to them calmly will show that you are not going to be pushed around and that you are still the same person they have known for years. This is an important step in gaining their acceptance.

3.  Set boundaries and learn when to say no

Coming out should not serve as a leeway for your family to put your entire life up for examination. Be vocal about your boundaries and what you’re willing and not willing to do. 

Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and stand up for yourself. No one is entitled to know about your current dating situation or queer life in general. Make it clear to that nosy auntie or Uncle that your personal life is none of their goddamn business!

4.  Bring a friend for support

Sometimes, tagging along a close friend can help make the difference during those awkward holiday dinners. It even helps when you’re feeling anxious or scared about your first family gathering after coming out.

Having a friend can help ease the tension and make the experience a little more bearable. Don’t you want someone to laugh through those uncomfortable moments or someone to stand up for you when everyone becomes a bit invasive about your queer life? 

If anything, the presence of a friend(s) will keep all your family members on their best behavior as no one would want to expose their prejudice in front of guests.

5.  Walk out when you have reached your limit.

If things spiral out of control, the best thing to do is simply walk out of that gathering. You don’t have to put up with any behavior that’s making you uncomfortable. Offer to leave early and give yourself a break. 

You’re not doing anything wrong by being who you are, and your family should accept you for that. There is no reason to carry on with that holiday dinner if it is not doing you any good to your mental health. Make for the door and perhaps seek your close friends and loved ones for support.

Final thoughts

Coming out is a big step, and while some family members might be completely supportive, others might take a little more time to come around. If this is the case with your relatives, it’s important to remember that you do not owe them an explanation or an excuse for coming out at Christmas dinner. 

Acknowledge their discomfort but focus on the present: spend the holiday day enjoying yourself and being surrounded by loved ones.

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