You Need Help: You’re Getting Married, Grandma Doesn’t Know

feature image via Shutterstock.

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

So recently my girlfriend and I announced to the world aka social media we’re OFFICIALLY OFFICIALLY engaged. She and I were going over our guest list when we came across my dear sweet grandmother. I asked if we should invite her and to our surprise we really didn’t know the answer. I mean how do you tell your 88-year-old grandmother you’re gay let alone the fact you’re getting married to another woman? I honestly think SHE HAS NO CLUE and I believe she’s at that age where her beliefs are basically set in stone. I mean I don’t think my grandma would judge me or say something bad but there’s still a real possibility she could. I asked my mom who suggested I should start the conversation by saying ‘sorry’…which I’m NOT…I mean I’m not sorry for being me and I believe I shouldn’t be sorry for wanting to marry the love of my life. Autostraddle Team, do I still invite her? Should I give her the talk? What are your thoughts? Has someone on the team encountered this before? I would really appreciate any insight.


A:

Hello, friend, and congratulations on marrying the love of your life! That’s excellent! If you look at it that way, this is a pretty wonderful problem to have. The other good news is that there are several different things you could do and all of them are the right answer! That’s a wonderful set of solutions to have.

I want to let you know, before I continue, that I’m answering this question from a very particular place in this world. First, I’m getting married to the love of my life too. We’re planning our wedding right now, and everyone in my family is (so far, and as far as I know) okay with this. All of my grandparents have kicked the bucket and I never told a single one of them that I was gay. Mostly this is because they died when I didn’t know I was gay, save for one. My grandmother. Let me tell you why I didn’t tell her I was gay. We were sitting in our living room and some gay marriage news or another was on the front page of the paper she was reading. Apropos of nothing, she blurted out, “Why can’t they just stay in the closet like they used to?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Gay people?” I asked.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Yes,” she replied. “We didn’t used to have to know about it.” Her eyebrows were all slanty-angry and she shuddered. So. I never told her I was gay. Now I’m sure you, friend, will try to comfort me by saying, she probably wouldn’t have said that if she’d have known. I’m sure you’ll comfort me that way because you’re a good person. But there are two things you need to know about my grandmother: a) she was mean and b) she probably did know. I had a very masculine-of-center girlfriend at the time, and both of us were living at my parents’ house. My grandmother was many things; stupid wasn’t one of them. I assumed this was her way of telling me that, regardless of who I was, she didn’t want to talk about it — which sort of sucks. But I didn’t sweat it because she was 96 and unless all my brains leaked out of my ear and I married that at-the-time girlfriend against my better judgement, Hades would’ve had to freeze over for my grandmother to have made it to my wedding.

I tell you this story because we’re going to use it as a jumping off point for some advice and for some follow up questions. First, a question — have you ever had a conversation like this with your grandmother? I’m assuming not, because I’m assuming the anecdote would’ve been in your question. But it is worth noting that, if you have, my answer would probably change a bit. If you have reason to assume that it’ll be a big hairy deal, well. Then you have to weigh things out — what’s heavier, the possibility that it’ll be a big hairy deal, or the possible joy you’ll feel at your grandmother being at your wedding? What’s worth more? Whichever is, that’s what you should pick if your grandmother has given you cause for concern.

Now I’m going to move forward and assume that you haven’t had a conversation like this with your grandmother. Your grandmother is probably very different from my grandmother in that she’s not mean — you even use the words dear, sweet grandmother in your question. So probably, even if her beliefs are set in stone and they’re different from yours, she’s not going to be rude and terrible about it like my grandmother would’ve been. A dear, sweet person has better manners and a stronger compassion muscle than my grandmother (badass, though she was) could ever have had.

Your grandmother is probably much the same as my grandmother, though, in that she might already know. Queerness isn’t new, though it can seem that way because our clandestine survival mechanisms have made our history difficult to record. Even in the days it wasn’t talked about, euphemisms blossomed. “She changed horses mid-stride,” said a writing professor of mine who is a couple generations away from me in the historic direction. Or, “well he was that way.” Talk to my mother about it, and she says, when she was growing up, the telltale sign was a very Catholic woman, married, with only one child. Gay people were a part of your grandmother’s world, too. And they’re part of her world now, because you’re in it. I know you say she honestly has no clue about you, but I’d lay money on her having a clue about others at some point in her life, if not you at present. I feel like that might make coming out to her easier— you’re not springing something on her that she hasn’t heard about all through her life. It’s not like introducing her to an xbox or virtual reality or the phrase YOLO. She might have a few questions, she might get the language wrong, but she’s almost definitely seen a gay person before, or at least heard about them.

I agree with you that you shouldn’t say sorry about who you are because you’re not sorry, but I also think there are other reasons not to say sorry. First, if your grandmother has no opinion, if she comes into the conversation entirely neutral, you don’t want to put it into her mind that it’s something one should feel sorry about. It might alter the way the conversation goes, should you choose to have it; go in with total positivity, and your attitude will rub off on her. Second, your grandmother is a grown-ass woman and doesn’t need to be coddled. I feel like we have this notion that we need to tip-toe around old people, especially old women. We don’t. They’ve lived through a bunch o’ shit. They’re strong. They can take change because they’ve been adapting their whole lives; that’s how they got to be old. In my experience, when we stop expecting old people to roll with it, they stop rolling with it or they get angry because they can still, in fact, roll with it. If you choose to have a conversation, don’t open with sorry. Don’t close with it either. But be understanding that her idea of you might be changing very quickly (or maybe not, see above!); that’s hard for anyone.

What actionable things could you do? Well, you could sit down with her and have “the talk.” The talk we all know —”I have something to tell you. I’m gay and I’m marrying ________ and I want to invite you to the wedding. How do you feel about that?” That’s the script for the talk. Don’t panic, don’t sorry, don’t sweat it. Practice saying it like you are offering her a bowl of candy. “Here is some candy. I enjoy candy. I am also gay.” But I think whether or not you choose to do it that way has a lot to do with your family dynamic — are you a people who discuss big topics and thoughts and feelings with each other? My family is. My coming out looked a lot like this.

Is your family a good news family? The sort of family that loves to share the good stuff, but generally suffers through the bad stuff alone or with one or two close humans? If your family is a good news family, consider flipping the script. “Guess what, I’m getting married, ISN’T IT FABULOUS! Here is a photo the dress/suit/banana costume I will be wearing and also a photo of my fiancée, her name is ________.” This good news approach has the added bonus of bringing relentless positivity to the table. Her mood will be up because, well, wedding.

Is your family an avoidance family? Information is truly shared on a need-to-know-basis and any other sharing is inefficient? My fiancée’s family is a little like this. Here is how my fiancée came out to her family: she brought me home one weekend. Finished. You could do the wedding equivalent of that and just send your grandmother an invitation. Depending on your family dynamic, though, that could go over like a lead balloon.

If none of these sound appealing, you’re not sure which kind of family your family is, or the thought of jumping in blind truly terrifies you, you could manufacture the same sort of conversation that I had with my grandmother naturally. When you watch television together, watch the Britanna Wedding Episode of Glee or hand her The New Yorker issue with the review of Carol in it. Put the issue in front of her in a neutral context and then talk about the material as it relates to whatever you’re seeing or reading together. She might spontaneously give you a lot of information — a veritable manual as to how to talk about queerness and weddings with her.

So now a second follow up question before I give my real true opinion — what are the consequences if this goes poorly? Will there be a fight? An excommunication? Will she take it out on your mother? Does your grandmother have the opportunity to do something that will impact you or your family’s ability to survive and thrive? I ask because if it is simply that it might be unpleasant, or temporarily unpleasant, then I think you should go for it. Because your grandmother is a dear, sweet full-grown adult who’s lived a long time and definitely has knowledge of gay people, I think you should give her the opportunity to surprise you. I think you should give your fiancée the opportunity to add this dear, sweet woman to her family. And most importantly, I think you should give your grandmother the opportunity to be at her granddaughter’s wedding — she’s probably imagined it for a good long time and would be sad to miss out on the celebration. Remember: she loves you. Good luck and congratulations again!

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 545 articles for us.

44 Comments

  1. I’m of the opinion that it’s better for everyone if certain people don’t know, don’t come to weddings, etc. Yes, it’s hard when your family isn’t at your wedding, but who wants a grumpy homophobe there ruining things?
    I’m super out to all of my family, and all of my grandparents are alive and unsupportive. But my great-grandmother, with whom I lived off and on throughout my childhood, would absolutely not be someone I would tell if she was still alive. I’ve known I was gay since toddlerhood, and came out to her daughter, my grandmother, when I was 13; I’m very unapologetic about being out and don’t care who knows. Except, again, for my great-grandmother. She was a preacher’s daughter born in 1912 in Alabama. No way was she going to be okay with my gayness. Nevermind that I’d be afraid it would cause a heart attack or something.
    Do I think she would say anything bad? No; she was exceedingly polite. But I realized and realize that it just wasn’t worth it to come out to her. She was elderly and I knew she’d die before I got married and had children or anything like that. I don’t know what I’d do if she lived long enough for me to procreate; how would I explain that? I think that would necessitate a conversation, but thankfully, again, no way she was living that long.
    So yeah, weigh the pros and cons, but I think it’s okay to just not want to bring it up with her. Families have lots of “unspokens” that everyone’s just agreed to not speak openly about. You’re allowed that. Sure, we shouldn’t let the elderly be bigoted assholes just because they’re elderly, but then again, some things just aren’t worth the effort. You do you, and my thoughts are with you. Hard stuff!

    • YES to all of this! Sure, it’s great if one can be unapologetically out to everyone, but sometimes it’s just not worth the trouble and pain that could follow. Even if it’s potentially temporary, it’s very difficult to know beforehand, and I don’t know if I’d take the risk of creating an uncomfortable family situation if the person involved doesn’t HAVE to know.

  2. Sometimes, when I have given people the opportunity to show up for me, they really and truly have, to my surprise and happiness. I know that’s not how everyone’s story goes. But it could go that way. My grandparents have passed away and I do wish they could’ve seen me get married, have kids, etc.

    I guess it just depends on how important it is to you to give her the opportunity to be there, and whether you’ll be able to shrug it off in sufficient time if she is upset or mean. It’s a bit of an emotional gamble, but I tend to think that family is worth betting on until they prove otherwise.

    • Totally agree.
      Also, to add my 2c to it…Maybe you can’t assume people are going to have bad thoughts about your choices before they’ve even had a chance to have them. They probably have an inkling anyway. Being gay isn’t a 2017 thing, after all. Assuming what someone is going to think because of their age is kinda prejudiced.

  3. yo, i created an account just to comment on this.

    when i had the marriage coming out convo with my grandparents i started by saying sorry, not for being gay or anything, but for lying to them. like said above, your grandma prob already knows and i think it is hurtful to not be trusted with information. by not telling her, you are basically just assuming the worst, right?

    • I completely understand why you said sorry. I disagree re: lying, though. I don’t think we should have to apologize for not disclosing (or lying) about our sexual identity to family. No straight person has that burden to their family. Why should I?

      • I feel like coming out (or not) is one area in which we simply don’t owe anyone any apologies. Coming out is an involved, lifelong process. You do it to yourself. Just that can take years. Then you start to do it with each person when it feels right to you to do so, maybe because you want to share more of your life with that person, or because you just can’t NOT go there anymore. Whenever you do it is the right time to do it. You don’t “owe” it to anyone to come out to them. It’s more like a gift.

        And the cool thing is when you do, when you give them that gift of a chance to step up and know you better and meet you where you are, a lot of people will do so, and that is just the loveliest feeling.

        But no, we definitely don’t owe anyone our truth before we are ready. If I were to make any apology to someone it took me a long time to come out to, what I would really mean (and hopefully what I would say) is, I’m sorry that I wasn’t ready earlier, because we could have had more time here together. But we can only do what we can do. I can meet you here, at my truth, today. That has to be enough.

    • I think this is interesting, both your point and Ember’s below.

      I would/will say sorry not because I feel I have done something wrong, but because I am sorry that my grandmothers don’t know that side of me. From my perspective it’s not an apology for a mistake so much as sharing a wish that we all knew each other that much better. There are things about their lives that I’m ‘sorry’ I don’t know as well.

  4. Grandmas are tough. I conveniently avoided those conversations when my aunt outed me to grandma #1, then my mom agreed to tell her parents. Both turned out fine – Glenn Beck Fan Grandma #1 has been lovely and supportive, and not-terribly-supportive grandparents #2 and 3 live far away but added my wife’s name to the Christmas card.

    One thing that might tip the scale towards telling her is her interactions with the rest of your family. Do you have other family members invited to the wedding? Do they talk to grandma? If so, your chances of one of them mentioning it to her accidentally (or “accidentally”) are probably pretty high. Maybe you can get ahead of the news, and potentially make it less blindsiding for her? Either way, good luck and congratulations on your engagement!

  5. If your grandmother feels the same about you as the way you describe her I think she’d just want to support and be happy for her grandchild. So maybe give her a chance! However, when I came out to my grandmother she thought I was joking and I couldn’t convince her I wasn’t. She said women have always held hands with each other, so I’m not even sure she properly understood what I was saying. Although I’m sure it’s different if you can refer to your partner and she can meet her.

  6. This is such a tough thing to work through. Coming out is a process that we repeat, repeat, dread, repeat, think we’re done doing, and then have to do again. And it sucks. It sucks that when you’re excited to marry the person you love and already maybe overwhelmed with the planning of your amazing love-party, you have to consider a weighty Coming Out.

    I also struggled with this. When I was in my 20s I was living with my then-girlfriend and I wasn’t out to my dad. It was the same kind of thing, where I knew he was a pretty conservative guy and also not a dummy, so he knew. But we had never talked about it. He was going to come and visit me in my first apartment, full of mish-mosh furniture and photobooth pictures of me and my girl smooching. So I sent him an email: “Hey dad, really looking forward to your visit. Just wanted to let you know that Becky is living with me because she’s my girlfriend and I’m gay. I’m sure you had an inkling, but wanted to put it right out there before you arrive!” He knew, he acted cool, we all survived.

    The coming out didn’t stop there. A few years later, we were getting married. I had the same conundrum: my extended family must have known, but I had never told them. Becky had made an appearance at family gatherings for years, and everyone was really nice and welcoming. But in my secret-keeping Catholic family, we just didn’t talk about it. Part of me thought everyone would be fine, but part of me kept remembering times when people had said insensitive things. My grandfather, a man I love fiercely and miss dearly, had made a comment once about how he couldn’t believe they let a lesbian couple get married in Fenway. Was nothing sacred? So yeah, I was afraid of their reactions. I didn’t want my wonderful, adoring, religious grandparents to reject me. But I knew that if we were doing this thing, we couldn’t maintain the non-acknowledgement. The whole idea of us getting married was about announcing to our community and the state that we were one, and intended to be forever.

    So I wrote letters. I didn’t want to stand up at Christmas and make a big proclamation. I imagined horrified faces and awkward silences. So I wrote. I made my mom check in with people so I wouldn’t have to. And it worked. No one was weird, everyone exceeded my expectations. Now, 6-plus years later, my wife and I are so normal it’s almost embarrassing. We bring our universally-adored daughter to family things and feel comfortable being our regular, affectionate selves. My grandfather passed away this fall and the last thing he said to me was “How’s my Frankie?” (my daughter). If I hadn’t felt like I could be out to them, we would have missed out on so much. It was worth the risk.

  7. I recently got engaged and also had to come out to my elderly, very Catholic, Puerto Rican grandma. My family practices avoidance and likes to keep things unspoken, even if known. I also live 1000 miles away from my grandma, although I grew up living with her so we have remained fairly close.

    How did I do it?

    I sent her a handmade letter and a picture of me and my fiancé. My letter was written with a bit of humor and a lot of sincerity. I did not tell her I was engaged (that will come soon) but focus on the fact that I was in love with a wonderful human who happens to be female. I told her that I plan to spend my life with this woman. I am giving my grandma a little time to digest this information before I announce my wedding.

    She sent me back a card with some bible verses on it – but it was about support and encouragement and love. It was her way of saying she loves me no matter what.

    Since then my fiancé and I have visited my grandma and stayed at her house. We do not talk about the gay thing, but we are welcomed and love.

    So it isn’t perfect but it’s a start and I feel so much better after taking these steps. Over time I believe my family will be come more and more comfortable with the situation.

    Best of luck to you in your journey!

    • Ok THIS is the comment I was looking for. I’m US-born, Chilean and Colombian, and (to be frank) I felt like all the advice was not taking into account the Latino dynamic that I need (will need) when my gf and I become officially engaged. So thank you for writing your thoughts here. I love the idea of a letter like that, and I may do it if/when the need arises to tell my grandmother. She’s also super Catholic, and my very Chilean family definitely has that we-don’t-ask-and-we-don’t-tell dynamic.

  8. A tale of three grandparents and my hella gay wedding:

    Grandparent #1: My grandfather. Since I started going to youth pride parades in middle school, I have received the message that I was Not To Come Out to this man; he disowned my mother for boyfriends he didn’t approve of, stopped going to church when the Episcopalians ordained gays, and alluded to GW Bush’s anti-gay “morals” as the main reason for his vote. Come my engagement, he is 93 years old and my only surviving grandparent. I put him and my maternal uncle’s family on the tentative guest list, held them there for a long time, because it’s hard to let go of the idea that everything will be fine and that family is supposed to be at weddings. But I knew, because reasons, that the price was too high here – possible disinheritance for my mom (again) and general unpleasantness.
    So I never invited him, or anyone on that side of the family who could have told him. I take my wedding ring off when I visit him. It’s weird and sad, but it’s what it is.

    Grandparent #2: My wife’s grandmother. This is a woman who worked at a women’s college and tells cackling stories about the lesbians who asked her out for ice cream, who maintained a sort of ditzy, “Oh, you’re always coming to family dinner with her, huh,” for at least two years. She is also 93 years old, and had declared a fondness for the gay neighbor who plowed her driveway each winter. So my wife decided to have the talk with her: “Grandma, fancifulscientist and I are getting married.” Grandma said quite hotly “I know!” and then voiced the concern that with no dude, my wife could not have babies that would take care of her in her old age. My wife said she’d risk it.
    Grandma came to the wedding. She sends me fancy cheese at Christmas. All good.

    Grandparent #3: My wife’s step-grandfather. Preacher with a large family, of which my wife’s little subset is the only without another generation of kids already. He made sure to tell my wife’s stepmother, his daughter, that he had been thinking and he was sure that all his grandchildren, all his grandchildren, should be able to get married. That he thought I was a very nice young woman. That he considered my wife to be part of his family. Aaaand about his sister and her “great friend” who lived with her until she died, who he had always considered his sister too.
    We didn’t invite him, because he lived far away, but he sent us a gift and welcomed me to the family.

    Point is – people drop hints, explicit or implicit, that tell you pretty clearly whether they are more tied to their beliefs or to their love for you. Either decision is an okay one. My limited statistical sample says that 67% of grandparents will surprise you with their kindness when given the opportunity.

  9. I love all of the stories of encouragement. Here’s another:

    My wife and I both grew up in what we remember as being conversative families in Texas, so there were a lot thoughts that we shared about whom in our families to come out to. We are both extremely close to our maternal grandmothers and these are the ones that we had the hardest time with. Mine has a gay brother who has been out forever and she’s always been completely OK with it. Yet, somehow, as her only granddaughter I had a really difficult time with crushing her. Also, I had given her indications of being straight in the past, as I married my male high school sweetheart in my early twenties. My tactic was immersion with avoidance. I brought my then girlfriend (now wife) around a few times just to see if she could get used to another person being there. It turned out that my brother had told her that wife and I were dating and just assumed that grandma knew about it. That ended up being the best thing that could’ve happened because I didn’t have to tell her myself and she had time to think about it without me in front of her face. It turns out that she’s been one of the most accepting people that I’ve ever known. So, there’s that one.

    Wife is also extremely close to her maternal grandmother, who is quite religious. I’ve been going to their family holidays since Wife and I started dating over four years ago and Grandma seemed to think I was an incredible friend to move across the country with her granddaughter. Wife waited to come out to her until we were engaged and it didn’t go well at first, but she’s come around. She even made both of our wedding cakes, which were delicious, and she asks about me now when they talk on the phone.

    Other grandparents are distant, but supportive. Super conversative rural Louisiana grandma sent us a wedding gift, unsolicited. A step-grandma is friends with us on Facebook and likes every post.

    This is what I hope for you, OP. It such a great feeling to be really out. The only people who haven’t been supportive have been some distant cousins and aunts and uncles, and really, neither of us were close to them anyway, so not big loss there.

    Good luck.

  10. In my own life I would lean towards giving someone the chance to know me and love me as I am, if I’ve had reasonably good signs about it. For example, I talked about gay marriage in the news with my grandmother got positive feedback about a year before I came out to her as bisexual. Queerness has been around forever and just because she’s old doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be negative. My grandmother simply said, “It makes pro-creat-ing a little harder, but as long as you’re happy,” and told me about walking hand in hand with her husband behind men hand in hand in San Francisco. And she has a picture of my then-girlfriend on her wall, and the photo with my boyfriend from before then is down! Totally with it. But I did feel it out first, and maybe wouldn’t have bothered had the signs been bad. Compounding the decision is that I was never out to my father before he died, and so having a chance to be out to his mother is healing. We only get the chance for so long.

  11. AWWWW YOU GUYS <3333333333

    Seriously, I almost forgot that I sent this question thing!!! I was like WOW THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. WAIT….THIS IS ME! LOL

    I really appreciate all the support everyone. See this is why I endorse Autostraddle in everything that I do even if it's not queer related.

    Ali, your voice was ringing in my ears especially when you said “It’s not like introducing her to an xbox or virtual reality or the phrase YOLO.” My grandma has seen my person a couple of times when we were still in the Philippines if you guys are wondering.

    I think my family is like hush-hush-lets keep it a secret and open all at the same time. My mom told me a few weeks ago how she had talked to her brothers and sisters when they were in the Philippines. She basically told them to just let me be happy.

    My grandma lives with my aunt and her Christian husband. Now IDK what kind of reaction they would have. I mean I honestly do not want to invite them to my wedding sort of. Christine and I have it down to 25-ish people and we kinda want to keep it at that. But because you invite grandma there's that expectation that you invite them you know..

    But anyway!! I think I will go for it. I recently found out that my grandma might not be living here anymore..She did tell us over the holidays that she wants to spend the rest of her remaining years in the Philippines. But you're right Ali, I should give her and Christine the chance to know each other.

    BRB CRYING

  12. My dad recently told my 80something catholic grandmother about my girlfriend… I thought we would just never tell her and maybe I would bring my “friend” over for christmas in a couple of years… but guess what? she was totally cool with it! no more asking if I have a boyfriend every 5 minutes!

    pleasant surprises can happen, now I know I should have had more faith in her

  13. In my experience, parents sometimes think things about grandparent generation people that were never or are no longer true. I came out at 31. My mother was 64 then. My grandparents have all been dead for forever, but I am very close with my great-uncle (my mom’s uncle) who is in his 80s. My mom is very liberal and was totally cool with it (so was my dad). However, she pushed hard for me not to tell my great-uncle because he’s so old. Mind you, he’s not especially conservative, has never expressed anything particularly homophobic in front me, is well educated, and lived in NYC most of his adult life. He was the last person close to me that I told because my mom was so freaked out about it. (It was particularly fraught because he provides me with some financial support while I’m doing my PhD.) Turns out, he wasn’t upset at all. I hadn’t dated anyone in the last few years so he had some hurt feels when he thought it had taken me years to tell him, but when it turned out to just be a few months, he was mostly just curious. (After a couple of years, he worked up the courage to ask me if I liked sex with women. I told him I liked sex with my partner–the only woman I’ve been with, but I didn’t know if I liked sex with other women.)

    So, in summary, I think sometimes people in the middle generation assume that folks older than them are far more bigoted than they all actually are.

  14. I didn’t proactively come out to my parents before they actually asked me. It was not great, and they have never exactly been supportive but they have gradually come to terms with it. But the one thing they asked me as soon as they knew was to not tell my grandma. The four of us were all living together then, and fortunately things are generally easier since I’ve moved out. They said they think other members of the family could handle it, including my other grandma who I’m not as close to, but not her. And I believe them. My family are Russian-Jewish immigrants and homophobia (among other -isms) have always been part of their deal. So it has been. And I feel like even if the right time happens in my relationshsip and marriage equality finally comes to Australia, I’ll be holding back from doing it while she’s alive, which sucks.

  15. Grandmas are awesome. I have/had two amazing grandmas who didn’t blink when I came out; one has sadly passed away, but my other grandma (a conservative Jewish holocaust survivor) loves my wife like her own grandchild.

    (Super sappy happy story that I love sharing about my grandma, just to show how sometimes it can be very positive to be out to grandma):

    So my grandma who has passed away and I were really close. She lived with my parents for a long time, and we spent a lot of time together when I was home from college, etc.

    I was staying at my parents house with her because my parents were away for the weekend, and my now-wife, then brand-new girlfriend came over for dinner. Grandma LOVED her. Just adored her from the second she walked in the door. Within two months grandma was bugging me about when we were getting married, that she wanted to live to see our wedding. Unfortunately, grandma had a stroke a few weeks before I planned to propose (and no one knew I was planning that). My GF and I were visiting grandma so my parents could go eat, and grandma opened her eyes and asked for my girlfriend. When she said “hi grandma, I’m here”, my grandma took off her diamond ring and handed it to my girlfriend. Basically, grandma knew she was dying and wouldn’t make it to our wedding, so she decided to kickstart it by providing the ring.

    So, uh, there’s the best case scenario for coming out to a grandma…

  16. If your parents are onboard, make them do the dirty work for you. We did this with both sides, in very different ways. I got my mum to tell my grandma I was gay when I first came out, because she is super nosy. My partner never came out to anyone specifically, just dated women in obvious enough ways that everyone knew. Except her grandma.
    A week before we got married, granny-in-law still didn’t know, so we sent her parents round to inform her of the real reason for our trip to New Zealand.
    We know that in both cases, the conversation didn’t go well. Neither of our parents are good at lying. But getting them to do it meant that we didn’t have to let ourselves hear people who loved us make mistakes.
    Because pretty quickly both sides got over it, and have been totally lovely. And I’m happy to not have seen the initial reaction, because it wasn’t the truth.

  17. My girlfriend thought she was closeted to her old grandmother, but then the grandmother started giving hints: “Have you been going to town with girls recently? I’m not assuming you’re all by yourself all the time.” GOING TO TOWN, for real.

  18. ohgodohgodohgod this could not be more topical for me. A full three years ago, my wonderful girl and I announced to the world that we were getting married. My mother did not take it well. She also told me that if I tell my grandmother that I’m gay, my grandmother will die (yes, die). And, to be honest, she might. My mother was raised in a convent and my grandmother is a staunch Catholic who lives in a tiny village in a faraway country and spends most of her time worrying about the fate of her four grandchildren. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to tell my grandmother, but it never comes because I am honestly worried about how she will deal with the news (not to my face, but once I leave the country and she’s all alone going over these things in her head). So, long story short, I am paralysed with fear and still not married while my family sort of silently ignores my gayness. I know this is not fair to my girlfriend whom I desperately want to be with, but I also don’t know how to make it okay in my fairweather family. Do I cut my grandmother out of the most important part of my life? Do I wait for the right moment to tell her? Do I just tell her, her feelings be damned? I know that if my grandmother dies before I resolve this, I will forever feel like I waited for her to die and that is just too horrible. And I can’t not invite her to my wedding – I care about her too much for that. I’m tired of feeling like a coward but how do I cross this ultimate cultural/generational barrier?

    • Im sorry you have to go throuh this. Its hard I know..For me…I think there never is a right time. I mean you can try to plan or whatever but I just find that it falls through..holidays.. a birthday..some sort of family thing..etc etc.

      Maybe a sort of letter? My sister helped me in a way to be more out towards my parents. She went with them to the store and on the way was like..so speaking of the future..it turns out my parents were waiting for me because they felt awkward about initiating that certain convo.

      But like Ali said being gay isnt something that hasnt been around you know..

  19. I think there’s something to be said for intermediaries. They can out you on your behalf after testing the waters with some gay topics, work through the dumb questions, and make sure any terrible shit grandparents say about you never reaches your ears.

    My super cool atheist grandma who I was really close with truly did not want to know. She even complained that my other grandma didn’t have to know, so why did I tell her (she had asked). My mom eventually told the other one (who is Mennonite and who I never dreamed of telling), and she just said she thought as much and she liked my girlfriend. AS FAR AS I KNOW. You see what I’m saying? This is the secret to coming out and keeping your grandparents.

  20. What an absolutely wonderful article! Exhaustive, compassionate and wise – but then hilarious to boot! I was laughing my way throughout. :) Banana costume, what an inspired choice of wedding attire. And since my grandma is also mean, that gave me a big belly laugh.
    I would read a book about those different types of families, too.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!