Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Coming Out to Your Family in a Safe Manner

Written by Guest Contributor Jori Hamilton

Even if you know your family will be supportive, coming out is rarely easy. However, it becomes much harder when you come from a strict or conservative family and you’re worried about how they might react, or you know that they won’t accept it. You might even worry you’ll be punished, ostracized, or even disowned due to your family’s views.

While you might not be able to change your family’s views or opinions, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel safe when you’re coming out to them.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe and keep the conversation running as smoothly as possible. No matter how strict your parents might be, your safety should never be compromised.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few helpful tips you should use to come out to your Asian parents safely.

Prepare Yourself for Anything

It’s a good idea to plan ahead as much as possible when it comes to this conversation. While you don’t want to seem overly rehearsed, you also don’t want to fumble over your words or make it seem like you’re not sure of yourself. Having a plan for what to say will help to ensure you don’t misspeak.

Consider using a “map” to experience more clarity in what you want to say, covering things like

  • How you feel
  • Areas of concern
  • Moving from general ideas to specific ones
  • Assessing and analyzing

The more prepared you are, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be throughout your conversation.

Unfortunately, even if you say all of the “right” things, the conversation may not go the way you want it to. It can be hard to think about, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan, just in case. That’s especially important if you live with your parents and they don’t want you to stay with them anymore. Moving away from home isn’t easy, and might feel like the worst-case scenario, but it may end up being beneficial to you if you’ve been living in a toxic environment. Consider having backup housing in place if you need to leave suddenly.

Time, Place, and Partner

Knowing what you want to say to your family is only half the battle. The other half is knowing when and how to do it, and whether your partner should be involved.

This is a serious and important conversation. While you might want to get it over with quickly, consider the best place and time.

The best place is somewhere private. This isn’t a conversation you should have at a restaurant or an event with other people. Set a time to discuss it in your home or your parents’ home. Choose a time when everyone is “free” and there won’t be any rushing or distractions.

Finally, consider whether you want your partner there. They can provide support for you, and it’s a good opportunity to introduce them to your family so everyone knows you’re serious. If things don’t go the way you want them to, your partner will still be there as someone to lean on to remind you that you’re not alone.

The reason you should give yourself plenty of time for the conversation is to give your family a chance to process and ask questions. Prepare for them to be shocked, and potentially in disbelief. You might experience questions like

  • “Are you sure?”
  • “When did you know?”
  • “How do you know?”

Give them the space and time they need to process the information before assuming they’re upset or disappointed. You might not work everything out in one conversation, and that’s okay!

Maintaining Your Relationships

If your parents don’t approve of your lifestyle, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Often, a family’s initial response could be rooted in shock, which might make them say things they don’t necessarily mean. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take months, or even years for certain family members to come around. However, in many cases, it does get better.

For your part, do what you can to maintain healthy relationships with your family. Make attempts to stay connected by calling, video chatting, or texting. Send cards on holidays, invite them over, and share important events and milestones. Maybe they’ll be accepting, maybe they won’t, but it shows that you’re taking the high road.

Be aware, however, that there may come a time when you need to cut ties with your family. That’s not an easy thing to accept. However, if they are adding toxicity to your life or making you feel bad about who you are, you don’t need that kind of criticism and abuse. It’s not safe, healthy, or supportive.

The bottom line? No matter how strict or old-fashioned your family is, you should never feel unsafe when you come out. They might support you, they might not, but you’re never alone, and you can build a community around you that will always love you for who you are. Keep these suggestions in mind for when you’re ready to come out to your family, and stay true to yourself in the process.

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