Coming Out: 5 Practical Ways to Handling Unaccepting Family Members
The decision to share your sexual orientation with friends and family is a big step for many people.
You may worry about how your loved ones react, what questions they will have, and most importantly if they will accept you for who you truly are.
Adjusting to the new revelation about their family member likely will take a bit of time and patience.
However, for some families, the aftermath of coming out is much more traumatic.
What can you do to deal with those tensions?
Practical Ways to Handle Lack of Acceptance
Ideally, our loved ones would accept us for exactly who we are, no question. Unfortunately, the reality for some who come out is less idyllic. When family members—because of tradition or religious beliefs—choose not to recognize all aspects that make up their loved one, the person coming out might feel abandoned, betrayed, or rejected.
Some things in life we can control, but many we cannot. Other people’s reactions and beliefs are hard to control, but we can set ourselves up with practical tools to protect ourselves and create a space that encourages growth and acceptance with time.
1. Be in a good place in your life
You can’t pre-plan someone else’s reaction. What you can do is be prepared for the worst and best scenarios.
Before coming out to family, especially those you suspect will have an unaccepting attitude, make sure that you are in a healthy and steady place in your life. The stress and emotional work that comes with unaccepting family members can take up most of your energy. So, you want to make sure that there are no other major stresses in your life to compile on top of our family drama.
2. Control the environment
Keeping control over the environment in which you come out to your family and then later interact with them will ensure your safety and can even encourage your family towards acceptance.
Choose the right time and place to meet with them. Find a time that isn’t hectic and place that everyone feels comfortable in. Afterward, when meeting with those family members, look for occasions in which you are surrounded by others who support you and can diffuse tension.
3. Have an arsenal of support and resources
If you can’t get support from your family, you’ll need to find it elsewhere. Gather an arsenal of friends—people who identify as you do—and support groups that provide acceptance and tools for handling your family and embracing your true self without shame.
You’ll need these forms of support so that you don’t feel isolated. Obviously, you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. So choose wisely.
4. Be ready to educate
Most of us fear what we don’t understand. Outdated myths about sexual orientation and gender roles plague the minds of many people still today.
Be prepared to be an educator to those who are unaccepting. This will include answering many questions when coming out and then having conversations about it afterward. Consider: Can you dispel or combat the arguments that are out there? Are you willing to teach?
5. Have patience
Some family members take years to come around. Some never do. The reality is that patience is essential when it comes to unaccepting family members.
Ask yourself, “How much does it mean to me to have this person in my life?” If it is someone you care about keeping, you’ll have to bear down and wait out the storm.
Coming out is exciting and scary all at once. You are taking the step towards fully embracing who you are while also fearing the potential repercussions of doing so.
Not every family member is going to be accepting of who you are. It is unfortunate but true. What you can do is protect yourself and foster acceptance by applying some of these practical tips.