Coming Out on Thanksgiving? Slate Has Some Tips.

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Nov. 27 2013 10:00 AM

How to Come Out on Thanksgiving

Family eating a meal.
I'm gay! Please pass the gravy.

Photo by Photodisc/Thinkstock

National Coming Out Day is long past, but America’s unofficial coming out day—Thanksgiving—is just around the corner. Strong anecdotal evidence and imprecise surveys suggest that the Thanksgiving dinner table is, tactically, the ideal place to drop the news. With its focus on gratitude, love, and eating your emotions, the holiday is existentially geared toward candor and acceptance. But that doesn’t make coming out a breeze; navigating its eternally choppy straits still requires tact and diplomacy. To facilitate smoother sailing, then, Outward has compiled a list of the top strategies for coming out on Thanksgiving.

Mark Joseph Stern Mark Joseph Stern

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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Coming out is tedious. Would anyone disagree? By the time you’re ready to announce the big news, you’ve already teased out, tussled with, and trampled over the demons that kept you barricaded in the closet. Even if the moment itself is infused with drama and catharsis, its function in the broader narrative is one of anticlimax.

So why not short-circuit the whole process? Instead of waiting for the perfect moment (which will never arrive) or manufacturing a segue (which will be painfully awkward), simply roll the bomb onto the table and let someone else detonate it. Slip in the news—“I’ve been meaning to tell you: I’m gay. Also, this Tofurky is delicious!”—and shift the burden onto your family. It’s the emotional equivalent of looking at the ceiling while you get a flu shot: You’ll barely feel the pinch, and by the time it’s over, the deed is irrevocably done.

Of course, if your family is horrible, this tactic may backfire, and your relatives might be irked that you didn’t lay down any cushion for a soft landing. But that’s not really your job, and besides, if they’re truly terrible, they’d get upset no mater how you came out. Accordingly, this strategy earns my endorsement as the most efficient and user-friendly of the bunch.

2.  Divide and Conquer

Unless your siblings are awful humans, they probably won’t care if you’re gay. As a general rule, young people like the gays. And unless you were extremely sneaky watching late-night Will & Grace reruns, they probably already suspected it.

Use this fact to your advantage. Corner a sibling on Thanksgiving morning and explain the situation. Give them 10 minutes to work through it and another 10 minutes to forgive you for increasing the pressure on them to produce grandchildren. Then take on the rest of the family together. A little backup goes a long way when coming out, and a supportive sibling can give hysterical parents a reality check. As a bonus, this strategy shifts a bit of the burden onto somebody else—your sibling—and, if you have several siblings, it helps to disperse your parents’ anger. (If you have a lot of siblings, your coming out might also trigger a chain reaction.)

3.  Bring a “Special Friend”

Once a favorite weapon in the gay person’s arsenal, this tactic has fallen out of use in recent years—a trend I heartily endorse. It’s essentially a bait-and-switch: Bring a “friend” home for Thanksgiving, then reveal that your “friend” is actually a lover. If your parents are homophobic, they’ll be trapped between the desire to kick your “friend” out and the urge to be good hosts. Most of the time, the latter sentiment will win out. If it doesn’t, at least you have built-in emotional support.

Still, the whole operation has an uncomfortable air of deviousness about it. When coming out, there’s really no need to pull a fast one on your parents: The process is supposed to be an honest conversation, not a wily ruse. And the machinations seem a little unfair to your “friend,” who may bear the brunt of your parents’ displeasure. Even if all goes swimmingly, the backdrop of bad faith chicanery might make Thanksgiving dinner quite uncomfortable. So use this strategy as a last resort. And if you can’t work up the nerve to pull it off this time around, remember: It works just as well at Christmas.

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