By Steven Petrow
Originally published on Advocate.com November 28 2011 5:00 AM ET
Question: I’m so excited that the holidays are almost here. My friends call me a “Christmas junkie” – that is, when they don’t refer to me as “the gay Martha Stewart.” Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to recreate that perfect Courier & Ives experience. Anyway, here’s my question for you (actually two questions): My boyfriend, Houston, and I are going to my parents’ home for the holidays, and I haven’t come out to them yet. I was thinking that I’d tell them about Houston and me once we’re already there, but he isn’t so sure that’s a great idea. And then there’s the question of where we sleep when we’re home. I think if my parents knew we were a couple they’d split us up, but if they thought we were just friends they’d likely let us bunk together in my old bedroom (twin beds). As you see, so many questions!
Answer: Yes, so many questions, so little time! If I understand your predicament correctly, your parents think you’re straight and are visiting for the holidays with a buddy – not a boyfriend. Now, at the last minute, you’d like to change it up a little and come out to them, explain that Houston isn’t just a friend but he’s your “friend,” and claim your childhood bedroom as your fa-la-la-la-la love nest (no doubt pushing the twins into one big bed).
Sorry, but this seems like a case of wanting to have your pecan pie and eat it, too.
Let’s back up and take your dilemmas one at a time. Start with these questions: What will be the most comfortable way to handle your coming out for your boyfriend? The answer: Not holding him hostage or witness to the conversation with your parents. What will be easiest on the parents when you tell them your double good news? The answer: Not having someone they don’t know from Texas (sorry, I couldn’t resist poking fun at Houston’s name) standing or sitting by as they process your news.
Now, what to do? Although I’d usually suggest having the “Mom and Dad, I’m gay” talk in person, you can do that on the phone or Skype with them right away and still give them at least a couple of weeks to absorb what you’ve told them (which may or may not be news to them, of course). With any luck, they’ll ask you if there’s anyone special in your life right now, and then you get to tell them all about Houston. “As a matter of fact there is….” In this Courier and Ives world, they’ll tell you they can’t wait to meet this man who makes your heart go pitter pat, and they hope you’ll be comfortable sharing your old bedroom even if Dad throws in, “You know, son, that mattress is kind of lumpy.”
Of course, not all coming-out talks go that way, and you may run into some obstacles along the way. Just remember that, even though your parents may have known for years that you’re gay, knowing it in your heart is different from hearing it from your son. They’ll likely need time to process – time that you really need to give them. So cut them a little slack and give them time to deal.
As for your sleeping arrangements: In any situation when you’re the guest, you got to play by the house rules. If your folks aren’t comfortable with their son and his boyfriend sleeping together under their roof, that’s their prerogative as unfair as it may be. You may not like it and, in fact, you may decide as a result not to stay there (or even to visit). But, again, it’s so much easier for everyone to have these conversations sooner than later – and certainly before you’re about to head upstairs to bed and you all realize, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Talk about it: By the way, I’ve seen the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Thanksgiving greeting, which called for making Aunt Betty feel “awkward” by coming out on turkey day. As I’ve said, there are good times and not so good times to have this conversation, and if you think it will be productive, I’m all for it. Let me know what you did and how it turned out.
Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got a question? Email him at [email protected] or contact him on Facebook and Twitter.