The time has come. The whole family is gathered around the dinner table and you’re feeling confident. While your brother passes the salad around and your dad saws off another slice of rye, you don’t even put your fork down to say, “Guys, I think I’m gay.”
There’s a pause. Your sister’s eyes dart from face to face, gauging the general response. When no one seems phased, she says, “OK,” and everyone goes back to spreading goat’s milk cheese on their bread and serving heaps of beetroot and sweet corn onto their plates.
Suffice to say your coming-out is a non-event. While you’re busy counting your lucky stars – thank god for progressive parents – little do you know that your nearest and dearest actually have a few niggling questions and concerns they want to address, but don’t dare to, for fear of sounding like they’re not “totally cool” with the situation.
The thing is, these sorts of questions have a way of bubbling up to the surface, and you might need a little help decoding them when they do…
Scenario 1: You go to the hairdressers and finally get the rad cut you’ve been mulling over for months, and when your sister sees it for the first time, she says, “I like it, but it’s quite severe…”
What she really means: Do you WANT to look gay?
The lowdown: It might take your sister a while to formulate it in so many words, but once she finally does, it gives you the chance to explain to her that straight isn’t neutral and that while you might look gay, she and the rest of the family look pretty straight to you.
Scenario 2: You walk down the stairs, all ready to go out. You’re feeling fly in your new snap back and high tops, but your mother says, “Don’t you want to wear something a little softer?”
What she really means: Change now. You look butch.
The lowdown: Turns out the gay thing might be easier for your mother to digest than the whole gender thing. If you err towards masculine of centre you might need to school her in the ways of female masculinity.
Scenario 3: You and your big bro are trying to stream a TV series and some soft porn pop-up windows start flashing on the screen. He smirks and asks, “Is she your type?”
What he really means: How should we talk about girls now?
The lowdown: While you stutter and give an embarrassed reply that leaves the two of you feeling awkward, what you don’t realise until much later is that this was a clumsy attempt to connect as broheims. Consider introducing him to “the female gaze” to help him better understand why soft porn pop ups don’t do it for you.
Scenario 4: Out of the blue, you get an alarmist email from your dad with a subject line like: “Lesbian’s rape-murder goes unprosecuted in South Africa” or “Malawians jailed for homosexuality”, with nothing but a link to the article in the body of the email.
What he really means: You being out makes me afraid for you.
The lowdown: Long story short, your dad is worried that your open-minded friends and chilled family will lull you into thinking this being gay business is going to be a breeze – and lord knows you’re doing yourself no favours with that haircut. Little does he know, you’ve already read the articles, watched the documentaries and worried about your LinkedIn profile picture. You might seem dismissive when the news comes on, but you’re actually just doing your best to be brave.