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Ask Izzy: Coming out to your conservative family

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Photo by Alexander Grey / Pexels
Photo by Alexander Grey / Pexels

Ask Izzy is a biweekly advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets.

Dear Izzy,

I'm new to my LGBTQ identity and don't really know how to come out to my conservative family. They all have very strong personalities, and I guess they kind of ignore me anyway, so I didn't really think about it. They didn't love that I moved to Seattle and started talking about pronouns. But now I'm seeing someone really great, and I want to be able to bring them home without it being weird? What do I do?

— Secretly Sapphic in Seattle

Dear Secretly Sapphic,

Mazel tov on your new romance! The beginning of a relationship is an exciting time, especially if it's the first time you are experiencing queerness in this way. It's a time for butterflies, connection, and new vulnerability. I am proud of you for putting yourself out there and jumping headfirst into the world of queerness. It's a scary thing to do, but you are already killing it.

First, I recommend reading stories from other members of the LGBTQ+ community who came out to their conservative families, and then following their advice. A quick online search will give you everything you need.

As for your family, it's a tricky one. You obviously want to be your most authentic self around them, but it doesn't seem like they are all that supportive of you in the first place. Before you bring anyone home that they may not approve of, it might be best to start with a conversation. Tell your family, maybe even one on one, how you are feeling, and be honest. If you come from a place of openness, they are more likely to do the same.

You can accept that you share different values, but also know that you deserve to be treated with respect. If they respond well to you sharing your thoughts on your pronouns and new community, then move forward by sharing your new relationship.

I found a few more bits of advice from a site called Diverse Church that you may resonate with:
Take your time: There is absolutely no rush for you to get this conversation over and done with. In fact, it might be better to subtly drop hints over a few weeks. You can do this by mentioning Queer celebrities, people you look up to, or even other members of the community that your family might know. Make queerness a regular part of your conversations with them, and it will be easier when it's time to break the news.
Mentally prepare yourself for the best- and worst-case scenarios: In the days leading up to the big conversation, it might be helpful to journal or meditate. Think about how you want the conversation to go, how they might respond, and how it might feel if it doesn't go exactly as planned.
Be the bigger person: If an argument arises while you are having the conversation, it's important to remember not to stoop to their level. There are plenty of reasons why they may be responding the way they are, and it's important to stay calm and regulated while they process the news. Diverse Church says, "Try not to rise to their arguments in the first conversation at least. Reassure as much as you can, while not budging on your big news."
Come from a place of love: Make sure your family knows that you are sharing this news with them because it is important to you, and because you love them and want to be your most authentic self around them. If you reassure them of your love, they may have an easier time giving it back to you.

Finally, I want to reiterate that you deserve a beautiful, kind, loving relationship that you can share with your family. But that may involve meeting them where they are. Until they show you otherwise, assume that they love you and care for you, and want the best for you.

If at any point they begin to show hostility or disregard for your feelings, then you dip out. No need to put yourself in a situation where you could get hurt by people who mean the world to you.

Protect your heart and the rest will follow.