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“The holiday season is here and so is the need to tell your family you’re not at all who they think you are.”

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Photo courtesy of carina

Are you gay? Pansexual? Genderqueer? Or whatever else you are? Good, because the holiday season is here and so is the need to tell your family you’re not at all who they think you are. Use the following possible scenarios to help guide you in tumbling out of the closet while everyone’s decking the hall.

Scenario 1: Mom, Look at My Fruitgayke

Getting started in coming out to your mom while she’s making the holiday dinner can be difficult, especially when she needs her yams counted. Adding a hypothetical situation and noting her response can help you gauge how to proceed.

You: Suppose I told you that you had three yams and a pretty good chance of never having grandchildren? What would you say?

Mom: Come on, Daniel.

You: Okay, well you have more yams than you do chances of having grandchildren. Because, Mom… well, you know how I’ve been, like, really anxious and stuff, and how—

Dad: (from the other room) Go! Go! Go! Come on! You got it, you got it! You’re almost there!

Many times when a father is about to overhear that his child is gay, he is watching the Broncos. Avoid allowing his encouragement to affect you because it has nothing to do with you. Instead, focus on the parent who is halfway listening.

You: Mom… I… um… Do you promise… Here’s a yam…

Okay, this isn’t going well. Switch to your alternate plan.

You: Will you go look at our fruitcake?

Mom: Daniel, the company’s going to be here any minute. Why on Earth would I go look at our fruitcake?

You: Because it’s important.

Mom: (shakes head, walks toward fruitcake, gasps) Who in the hell wrote “I’m gay,” in ugly green frosting all over the fruitcake?

You: Me.

Mom: And why does it say, “I’m so not gay,” right across my apple pie!?

You: I chickened out the first time. Sorry. Only read the fruitcake.

Although your mother is making a face you cannot describe, don’t feel shame. Be proud of who you are when she orders your father to the store for a dessert that doesn’t look store-bought. Hold your head high when she can’t stop muttering, “It’s fine, really, it’s fine.” Your mother is in the beginning stages of expressing her feelings and the end stages of arranging the breadbasket.

Mom: Okay Daniel, at least come tell me which dinner roll looks most like a penis.

Your mother is trying to connect with you. Be as compassionate as you can in expressing what you need to next.

You: I already ate that one.

Scenario 2: Grandma, You Have Cracker Crumbs on Your Sweater and I’m Pansexual

Grandma’s visiting for the holidays and you have just given her a bowl of string beans to snap because your father said she looked helpless and needed something to do.

Grandma: Heavens to Betsy! I’ve been around the teacup and know where the handle is, but this looks like too much pumpkin for a nickel!

You: I have something equally difficult to tell you, Grandma…

Your grandmother has lived through six wars and spent the last fifteen minutes wondering where she put her whatchamacallit. Relax. Be confident. Now is as good a time as any to let your grandmother know you are sexually attracted to many different genders.

You: Grandma, you are very important to me so I want you to know that I’m pansexual.

Grandma: You’re who?

You: I said, I’m PANSEXUAL.

Grandma: You want to know what I heard you say?

You: Um, okay.

Grandma: I heard you say that your CAN is FLEXIBLE!

You: Ha! Sorta! No, I said that I’m PANSEXUAL.

Grandma: Spell it.

You: P-A-N-S-E-X-U-A-L. P-A–

Mom: (from the kitchen) Lauren, are you spelling pansexual for your grandmother?

You: No, I’m snapping beans.

Grandma: Did you know that when I was a little girl—

You: Yes, I did. Now Grandma, I’m writing something down for you.

When it is time to let your grandmother know that you are pansexual on a paper holiday napkin, be clear. Beating around the bush will only remind her of a game she used to play. Hand your grandmother the paper holiday napkin on which you’ve written, “I can be sexually attracted to all gender identities” around a picture of a melting snowman.

Grandma: Oh my! Would you look at that! (yells to the kitchen) Carol? Where did you find these beautiful napkins?

Mom: Walmart.

You are watching your grandma fold up the napkin and tuck it into her pocketbook. Other folded up napkins are falling out.

You: No! I wanted…

Grandma: (rummaging through purse) I know what you want. I must look like I just fell off the turnip truck.

You: In a way, I guess. But—

Grandma: Ta-da!

An unwrapped Werther’s is in your grandmother’s hand. You can either accept it or go find someone who is more supportive of who you are and what you actually consider a goodie.

Scenario 3: (Clink, Clink) I Am Something Other Than Male or Female

Finally, you understand that you are neither male nor female, and now it is time to share this with family members you rarely talk to or see. Timing is key. Wait until just after someone again explains to Grandma that this is her house so no one can take her home. Then clink your glass repeatedly with your fork.

You: I just wanted to say that I’m grateful to be surrounded by family and wonderful food, and in the gender spectrum, I am somewhere between male and female. I’m genderqueer. And from now on, I’d like to be called Storm.

Mom: (looking around nervously) Well. Everybody, Shawna was a bisexual, then a lesbian, and now I guess she’s a… a Storm. Who wants ham? (tearing up)

Dad: Shelly, it’s fine. Everything’s fine. Nothing to worry about. We simply now have a Storm. Hmmm, that’s good mustard.

Aunt Margaret: I think she’s trying to tell us she’s metrosexual.

Uncle Pat: I heard her say AC-DC.

Aunt Margaret: Good golly, Pat! How could you hear AC-DC? Nothing she said even came close to rhyming with that.

Uncle Keith: I heard her say that if yer aunt had nuts she’d be yer uncle!

Your mother has just excused herself from the table, your father is following after her, and Uncle Keith is wondering aloud if there are any Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Try to remain calm. This is the beginning of a wonderful journey of living openly.

Uncle Pat: Honey, do you feel a little like Margaret’s friend Carol who has inch-long hair and enjoys fishing with her husband but also does feminine things like attend Margaret’s book club?

You: No.

Uncle Pat: Okay, well is what you’re experiencing similar to stuffing a chicken into a duck and calling it a turducken?

Uncle Keith: Wait. Wait. I got one. Women’s room? Men’s room? Or beside a truck?

Remember, the happiest life is an authentic life. Continue to be open with those around you.

You: Everyone, try to understand what it would be like to wake up everyday knowing you are something there isn’t a word for. That’s how I felt until—

Grandma: Is it her birthday?

Older Sister: No, Nana. It’s her day to make our mother cry by saying she’s a man with a hoo-hee and a woman with a wingie-doo.

Grandma: Wingie-doo.

Stef Willen is a contributor to This American Life and writes the McSweeney's column, Total Loss, which she is currently turning into a book.