As queer people, we never really stop coming out. No matter how secure I am about my sexuality and independence today, going back home every time feels like I’m cracking the closet door open again, dusting the cobwebs along the way, and trying to let some of my rainbow light shine outwards. But sooner or later, a relative pops a question about getting married to someone from the opposite sex, somehow always throwing me off completely despite being warily anticipated.
But a lot has changed since that initial awkwardness around the topic. This year for Christmas, I plan to introduce my partner to my extended family. They all know I am in a live-in relationship with my partner—mostly because they’ve spent ample time stalking my social media where I do not shy away from living my truth. But when I came out to my family, I decided I should afford myself the same privileges my sisters and cousins have; I should be able to bring my partner to family gatherings too. It’s a day you celebrate with your family, and my partner is my family in extension. But it’s never easy explaining that to a conservative Christian family.
The Internet is teeming with stories of queer folk coming out to their families over the holidays, as well as guides on how to survive the entire process. It’s never easy and it takes a whole lotta courage to get through it, but once you do, you know the coming new year will genuinely see a new you.
Jason, 23, is a Bengaluru-based audio engineer who is visiting his family in Delhi this year for Christmas. Since he moved cities, he’s found a partner, a cute apartment, and a whole life for himself. He wants to come out to his single mother as bisexual. “I barely even live with her anymore and see her only on Christmas or Easter,” he tells me. “But I need her to know I am happy. I love her but when I go back home this time, things will be different.”
The 2020 Hulu film Happiest Season featuring our favourite former vampiress Kristen Stewart is actually able to succinctly capture what the anxiety around being a traditional family for the holiday season can feel like.
There are good as there are bad reactions to someone coming out on Christmas. But sometimes, waiting becomes imperative. Marlyn, 35, came out to her younger siblings last Christmas. “All through my life, I have had to take care of my family. In my early 20s, I lost my parents in consecutive years, and I had no option but to look after my younger sister and brother.” She had to wait till both of them settled down with their respective partners. Finally, she broke it down to them last Christmas over dinner. “They were absolutely understanding when I told them. I’m guessing the fact that I stayed unmarried and wore tuxedos to both their weddings would’ve given it away,” she laughs. Does she wish she had come out sooner? “No, I think last Christmas was just the right time. All the waiting paid off.”
The beauty of Christmas coming but once a year is that it sets a benchmark for what you’ve achieved in the past year. Also, the unlimited supply of food, alcohol and sweets definitely help. With my partner, now over almost three years, my parents have seen me evolve as a person, grow up to be what they aspired for me to be, without any of the baggage of our past indifferences bogging us down.
It’s also imperative to acknowledge that this year has been difficult for several queer folx around the world, who have been forced to spend months in isolation. If nothing else, this holiday season, parents will have understood the need for familial closeness not only in body but also in spirit. And if they do not accept you’re coming out this year, you should be glad that social distancing rules are still in effect.
Last year, my parents realised I am not going through “a phase” which I will eventually come out of. If I have the courage to bring my partner home for Christmas and take him with me to the midnight mass, I’ve already achieved way more personally than I ever could. In many ways, Christmas was the main reason I could even do it.
One thing I know for sure is that when we go home together as a couple this year, we will be welcomed with open arms. In several ways, it’s our own Christmas miracle.