“Over the River and Through the Woods, To Straight Relatives We Go”
All traditional family relatives revisit roles of your childhood: “the black sheep” who disappoints the family, the perfect sister who visits with her baby, and you, who always felt estranged for being “different.”
Somewhere between the cracked walnuts and the football game, the air is heavy with tension. Thanksgiving is not a great time for good conversation and introducing your lover to your seldom-seen relatives. With your hosts obsessing about the gravy’s consistency and trying to put on a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, do you really want to subject your new girlfriend/boyfriend to what can be a nerve-wracking experience?
Alternatives to Holiday Introductions
Perhaps, a better time would be a non-holiday time when the family is more relaxed such as a summer barbeque. “Coming Out” to your family with your lover should be an occasion in itself and has its own agenda. It may take several visits for your family to get to know your companion. You want your mate to feel welcomed and not secondary to the perfectly-browned turkey.
Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with Your New Partner:
You may want to consider these options if you have already made your plans to go home:
· Have your boyfriend/girlfriend bring flowers/candy/wine as any houseguest would. This gesture starts your lover out on the right foot. He/she should follow up with a “thank you note” after the holiday.
· Do not insist on sleeping in the same bed even if your parents allow your sibling with his heterosexual “live-in” to do so.
· No public signs of affection that could possibly make others uncomfortable.
· When you know there are homophobic relatives, stay clear of topics that will incite anger such as Prop 8, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” You’ll be guaranteed to alienate.
· If your parents are not homophobic, but your “dyed-in-the-wool” grandparents are not accepting, have your parents clue in your grandparents in advance of the holiday. It will pave the way for you. Or, you can pretend that your companion is just a friend for now. There will be another time to “come out.”
For more tips on surviving the holidays with your lover, check out
What worked for you in introducing your partner during holiday time?
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.