Helen Bonser – Coming Out

“Don’t have it be ‘that Thanksgiving.’”

[PFLAG] even train[s] people how to come out. We say, “Don’t go home at Christmas and do that in front of the Christmas tree.” People think holidays are a good time. No! In fact, we say, “Don’t go home by yourself and just . . . Send a letter ahead. A better way is to send a letter first. ‘Dear Mom and Dad. I’ve got something really important to share with you. This may be a shock.’” So on and so forth. Once [the parents] have the letter and a chance to get used to it for a while, then they can come home. Then they can say, “Well, I sent my letter. Now we can talk about it.” We actually advise people: “Don’t have it be ‘that Thanksgiving that Jimmy came out’ or something like that. Don’t do it.” And it still happens. It still happens.

What we have tried to do is protect the person coming out from these horrible scenes that have happened in so many people’s families. [PFLAG says,] “It’s going to be bad news anyway. You might as well write it in a letter, send that ahead, and give them a chance to go through these stages of shock. Because there’s going to be shock, denial, and bargaining. The first stages of grief are going to happen. You don’t have to be there to see all those. And, when you come in, they’re still going to be in the anger/sadness phase, but at least they’ll be over the first awful part.” Because they say the worst, awful, hurtful things in the beginning. [With] this one couple I was [working with], one of the things her mother kept screaming is, “We don’t have any gay people in our family. We don’t have any lesbians in our family.” Well, her daughter was sitting right there going, “Sorry, but you do.”

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 14 March 2013.