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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » LGBTQA Relationships » coming out to extended family- could use some advice

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Author Topic: coming out to extended family- could use some advice
Member # 29206

Icon 1 posted      Profile for not_a_hobgoblin     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've decided that it's definitely time to let my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. know about my girlfriend. We've been dating for over two years and are talking seriously about getting married after we graduate (which won't be for another two or three years), and I want to be able to share that with the people that will appreciate it. I'm also just sick of the constant reckoning of who-knows-who-doesn't whenever I'm in a large family group. I'm really tired of this being a secret.

The thing is, my family is really way too large for me to do this "in person," even over the phone. Even though both sets of grandparents, one aunt, and one grown and married cousin know already, that still leaves seven aunt/uncle couples and any young children they have, plus nine or ten grown cousins living on their own who would get separate phone calls. (To be completely honest, I'm also a little afraid to call some of the people that I know will react badly. Email gives me some distance from them.)

So I've also settled on email as the medium to convey my message. I'm going to include a picture of the two of us, and then... this is where I get bogged down.

1) What kind of tone do I take for this? Bare facts? Newsy? Hallmark?

2) Should I ease them into it with an opening paragraph or just start with "I'm dating a girl?"

3) Should I put some my high-school aged cousins on the "To" list? (My mother is concerned that their mothers will want to decide to tell them on their own or not- I'm of the opinion that they could feel hurt if I don't consider them old enough to be told myself. Never mind that it leaves a whole large segment of the family that I still have to hush suddenly around.)

Thanks for any advice you have.

"Cut her down."
"She is a witch!"
"But she's our witch. Cut her down."

Posts: 174 | From: Indiana, USA | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I guess I only have this question: why is it that you feel the need to let everyone in on the fact that your have a girlfriend at all?

Immediate family is one thing. I suppose I'm a little confused as to why you want to tell every extended family member you have. What are you looking to achieve here?

Is your immediate family aware of and OK with it? Because if they are, it may be better to leave it at that until you are in a place where you are sure of your future with your partner, if to do nothing else than avoid scrutiny from your family.

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Posts: 3987 | From: Greater Burlington Area, Vermont | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 29206

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My immediate family has been 100% behind me for the last two years. Both sets of my grandparents, one aunt, and one cousin know. The one cousin half-explains the reason I even thought about coming out to my extended family: she's been out to them as a lesbian for the past 8 years. She's happily married now, with a house and a dog and all that, despite the absolute mess her coming out was. I know more or less exactly how each member of the family will react, and they live far enough away that the disapproving ones will have very little effect on my day-to-day life. The precedent, such as it is, has been set- these are the kinds of things my family shares.

But I do want the approving ones to know. To quote myself:
We've been dating for over two years and are talking seriously about getting married after we graduate (which won't be for another two or three years), and I want to be able to share that with the people that will appreciate it.
And if they know, no matter how good-intentioned they are, sooner or later the rest of the family will know... and feel even more insulted that I hid this from them.

In addition, to rephrase from earlier: I'm finding out over the years that I'm not a person that does well in the closet. I am getting more and more frustrated and sick of having to consciously work to limit my conversational topics around certain family members, or to do a quick mental check of the who's-in-the-know list before I mention my girlfriend. I realize this isn't something I'm going to be entirely able to escape, and I know that thinking before speaking is a necessary skill in polite society, but I'm not talking about avoiding curse words. I'm talking about pretending not to be happily almost-engaged. I hate pretending. I hate having to dig up innocuous answers for "So what's going on in your life right now?"

I intend to be more or less completely out of the closet in my adult life. Since I'm planning on having children, anything less is out of the question. I may still have several years before then, but I'd rather give my family time to get used to the idea before then. I'd like to get more practice coming out to adults before my career is on the line. I'd like to have a larger support network than I have right now when I'm living on my own.

Basically, I've come to the conclusion that this is something within my power to change that will probably make me mentally healthier than leaving it alone, so I'm working to do so.

[ 06-07-2009, 08:38 PM: Message edited by: not_a_hobgoblin ]

"Cut her down."
"She is a witch!"
"But she's our witch. Cut her down."

Posts: 174 | From: Indiana, USA | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 13388

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Hey not_a_hobgoblin,

I'm happy to hear that you feel so strongly about your girlfriend and that you'd like to share this happiness as well as additional information about yourself. [Smile]

All families are different about this stuff; it's nice that yours is so supportive of you here! As for specifics as to how, I think it really depends on your and your family's style. For example, I am not close to my extended family, which is small; they've very liberal and would be more-than-ok with people coming out to them. However, because we don't have regular contact for various reasons, this wouldn't really come up. I have a large immediate family who I'm quite close to and they'd already know; with my permission, they'd have passed it on already. My guess is that many of these aunts and uncles already know but are waiting for you to bring it up. [Wink]

Along those lines, sending a photo of us and our partners, regardless of gender, would be so out-of-the-blue for us. People would probably be glad to see (if they would make personal observations that we all do when we see people in photos, not necessarily negative but not neutral either.) I would personally not go to the photo route, but if it feels right to you and your family's style, then I say go for it!

This is what I'd do:
Dear X, I hope you're doing well. [I just finished my X year at x University and will be living at home and working at X again this summer. What are you up to?

I am writing because I want to share something with you. My girlfriend X and I have been dating for two years. She's a very important person in my life right now and hopefully in the future. Because you, too, are an important person in my life, I wanted to share this with you.

There's no need to write back but I'd be more than glad to answer any questions you may have. Thanks for the opportunity to share this; it's very important to me.

I would leave it at that, focusing on the relationship rather than your sexual orientation although that could certainly be included or made the emphasis. We could draft that together, too.

This way, you're letting people know and giving *them* the opportunity to follow-up should they choose. If they are positive and write back, that's when I'd send them the photo.

I'd write the aunts and uncles and the cousins who are middle school or high school age. I'd leave it up to the parents of elementary school aged parents to decide. I grew up in a family that was aware and accepting of queer folk; in fact, my parents would specifically point out things. "Do you ever notice how Alex's mom has that close female friend who's often with her (and there's no talk of a dad)? I'm not sure but I think it's her partner." That said, my parents sought to de-emphasize dating and marriage in general, regardless of gender, when we were younger because they felt too many people overemphasized it and didn't want us to be 10 and thinking we weren't complete without a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Whatever you do, I'd send out individual emails rather than one group one-- even if you use the same exact text. I think it's fine if you don't feel like calling everyone, but I think it's important to personalize the message.

Whatever you do, you know yourself, your girlfriend, and your family best! I wish you good luck and please tell us how it goes. [Smile]

Posts: 3318 | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 43453

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Hey not_a_hobgoblin,
I am also struggling with a similar dilemna. My immediate family has also been supportive, if a little in denial, about my sexual orientation. A couple of my cousins know, but my grandparents, aunts, and father do not.
I think you are approaching the situation in a very mature and coming out will most likely be a success for you. I hope all goes well!

Posts: 3 | From: Canada | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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