As queer people, we never really stop coming out. No matter how secure I am about my sexuality and independence today, going back home every time feels like I’m cracking the closet door open again, dusting the cobwebs along the way, and trying to let some of my rainbow light shine outwards. But sooner or later, a relative pops a question about getting married to someone from the opposite sex, somehow always throwing me off completely despite being warily anticipated.
Last Christmas, my partner got to visit my family home and meet my parents for the second time. When he met them for the first time, he was a “friend” comfortably nestled among other friends. Two Christmases before that, in 2017, I’d told my family I’m into boys. I came out to my mom at the beginning of December of 2017. Although she understood and took it all in calmly, something seemed suddenly broken between us. We were prepping for a horrid Christmas that year. But while everything around us changed, the spirit of Christmas never did.
Ironically, we got together as a family to celebrate the season with gay abandon. My parents chose to entirely ignore the news of my own gay abandon, and went about the festivities. Our annual ritual is to have our close family and their partners/kids and a few friends over for dinner. So, of course, we all had to hide the gay away on such short notice.
But a lot has changed since that initial awkwardness around the topic. This year for Christmas, I plan to introduce my partner to my extended family. They all know I am in a live-in relationship with my partner—mostly because they’ve spent ample time stalking my social media where I do not shy away from living my truth. But when I came out to my family, I decided I should afford myself the same privileges my sisters and cousins have; I should be able to bring my partner to family gatherings too. It’s a day you celebrate with your family, and my partner is my family in extension. But it’s never easy explaining that to a conservative Christian family.
The Internet is teeming with stories of queer folx coming out to their families over the holidays, as well as guides on how to survive the entire process. It’s never easy and it takes a whole lotta courage to get through it, but once you do, you know the coming new year will genuinely see a new you.
Jason, 23, is a Bengaluru-based audio engineer who is visiting his family in Delhi this year for Christmas. Since he moved cities, he’s found a partner, a cute apartment, and a whole life for himself. He wants to come out to his single mother as bisexual. “I barely even live with her anymore and see her only on Christmas or Easter,” he tells me. “But I need her to know I am happy. I love her but when I go back home this time, things will be different.”
Jason, much like many queer Christian kids in India, has found Christmas to be the best time to break the news. The whole gang is under one roof, and for a brief while, families stop their bickering. That’s not to say dropping a queer bomb isn’t bound to get them up in arms, but since Christmas and forgiveness go hand in hand, they are at least bound to hear you out. Using a mature and accepting sibling or cousin as an aide/ally definitely helps. My personal tip is to wait till they start opening the wine bottles, but not so long that the bottles get over.
The 2020 Hulu film Happiest Season featuring our favourite former vampiress Kristen Stewart is actually able to succinctly capture what the anxiety around being a traditional family for the holiday season can feel like.
There are good as there are bad reactions to someone coming out on Christmas. But sometimes, waiting becomes imperative. Marlyn, 35, came out to her younger siblings last Christmas. “All through my life, I have had to take care of my family. In my early 20s, I lost my parents in consecutive years, and I had no option but to look after my younger sister and brother.” She had to wait till both of them settled down with their respective partners. Finally, she broke it down to them last Christmas over dinner. “They were absolutely understanding when I told them. I’m guessing the fact that I stayed unmarried and wore tuxedos to both their weddings would’ve given it away,” she laughs. Does she wish she had come out sooner? “No, I think last Christmas was just the right time. All the waiting paid off.”
The beauty of Christmas coming but once a year is that it sets a benchmark for what you’ve achieved in the past year. Also, the unlimited supply of food, alcohol and sweets definitely help. With my partner, now over almost three years, my parents have seen me evolve as a person, grow up to be what they aspired for me to be, without any of the baggage of our past indifferences bogging us down.
It’s also imperative to acknowledge that this year has been difficult for several queer folx around the world, who have been forced to spend months in isolation. If nothing else, this holiday season, parents will have understood the need for familial closeness not only in body, but also in spirit. And if they do not accept your coming out this year, you should be glad that social distancing rules are still in effect.
Last year, my parents realised I am not going through “a phase” which I will eventually come out of. If I have the courage to bring my partner home for Christmas and take him with me to the midnight mass, I’ve already achieved way more personally than I ever could. In many ways, Christmas was the main reason I could even do it.
One thing I know for sure is that when we go home together as a couple this year, we will be welcomed with open arms. In several ways, it’s our own Christmas miracle.
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