Coming Out at Thanksgiving

Poll: 55 percent of gays will come out to their families during dinner this week

Mom, I'm gay - now pass the turkey (photo by Think Stock).

For many in the LGBT community, heading home for Thanksgiving means a lot more than turkey and all the fixings. As many as 55 percent of those polled by say they’ll also come out to their families – at the dinner table on Thursday. Among singles, 68 percent say they are also planning on telling their families they are gay; 35 percent more are hoping to find the perfect moment to let the cat out of the bag; and 10 percent say they will surprise their families by bringing home a same-sex dinner guest.

“For many gay men still in the closet, Thanksgiving and other family holidays can be very lonely,” says Josh Mirmelli,’s relationship advisor.

Dr. Lori Eickleberry, a licensed psychologist, agrees, explaining, “The family atmosphere at Thanksgiving is very warm and loving, and many closeted gay singles feel left out because they cannot be themselves, or share the holiday with their partners or boyfriends. But, while Thanksgiving might seem like a good time to share the news with family and close friends, gay singles should be prepared in case the news isn’t well received.”

Here are some tips for coming out:

  • Ensure that you have an adequate support system and develop a “safety plan.” In the event that your loved ones do not initially respond well, have a place to sleep for the night and friends to turn to for support.
  • Be wary of alcohol and drugs. Avoid the temptation to rely on alcohol or drugs as a “social lubricant” or anxiety reducer. Coming out when sober will limit the risk of taking a step for which you are not ready and will allow you to have a conversation with a clear mind.
  • Search for allies. If you think that certain friends or family members will be easier to tell than others, start there first. Positive reinforcement and support go a long way during times of increased stress.
  • Remember that just as you went through a rollercoaster of emotions surrounding your sexual orientation, family and friends may need some time as well. Anticipate that family and friends might need some time to process the news before having any further discussions.
  • Oftentimes, initial reactions are based on a lack of understanding. Having information and resources available to friends and family might aid their process of acceptance.
  • Be aware of any strong emotions such as hopelessness and seek the help of a professional if you feel you lack the support and guidance you need.