Coming out to a large family
I can think of 25 people in my family that I have had to come out to. Coming out to such a large group of personally influential people takes a monumental effort and a great deal of time (surprisingly). I believe that it took me four months to track down every family member that I thought would benefit from the knowledge that I was trans, and sit them down to inform them in a sensitive and prolonged effort not to give them a heart attack. I still believe I am not done, although I spend every waking moment of my life as a woman, and I am still surprised by the occasional cousin that will nearly fall over from shock upon seeing me enter a room.
I started the process in a very private manner, gathering my immediate family in a room with a psychologist and having a question and answer session that lasted an hour or so. I informed them all at the end of the meeting that I would transition, and there began the information train. The delightful surprise of the coming out process is that you are not always in control of how, when, or why the information that you are trans leaks out. My mother informed her sister, and my aunt ended up sending me a very long and encouraging letter as a result, my grandparents, however, were deeply hurt that they found out through my cousin and not me. I could not control the leak in this case; I blame social networking, so I suggest that you only set up a facebook account as the real you if you’re ready for the fallout.
Each step was more difficult than the first. I was in a neutral space with a professional at the first coming out event. The next step was telling my in-laws at their house, and they simply shook their heads and said “You’ve always been good to us, just be careful.” Then I came out to my aunts and uncles, every single one exhibited a wildly different response. I lost the admiration of my father’s side of the family during the process. The heir apparent to the patriarch’s throne was really a girl, or a pervert, or something they didn’t understand and would rather ignore. I had a feeling that it would go that way. It hurt, but it was necessary. I did not settle into the femme tomboy that I currently find myself comfortable being, I envisioned myself as a dressy, sultry young lady, and as such I planned to explain quite a bit more.
I opted not to come out at any huge family gathering or while I was crossdressing. I did not come out in a hand written letter. I did, after the first 25 people, drop the bomb all over the internet. I cannot say whether my method was any harder or easier than yours, as people are quite comfortable with very different things. I was a pretty typical alpha male as well, and it was a huge surprise- a shock- when I came out to the more conservative members of my family. My method was always with food involved, in a small informal gathering of 5 people at the most, and always after work. These were the things I could control, the environment, and a more comfortable environment made for a better coming out. I was never yelled at, I was never vehemently questioned, and I was never physically assaulted in any instance. I typically initially told them that I was trans, and if they dug any further I would answer the questions as they came.
When you come out to a large family you have to realize that you are not always in control of the flow of information. Chances are that you will have instantly become the sensational news of the century, and people don’t keep that kind of thing to themselves. I do recommend that when you get around to explaining yourself privately that you offer an apology if they have heard the news from another source, and try to feel alright about abdicating any familial throne. Those things are way more trouble than they’re made out to be anyway.
Image Credit: Martin Pettitt