Fannie Fierce

Come Out, Cousin!

Filed By Fannie Fierce | March 08, 2008 1:20 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, LGBT families

Dear Fannie,

I'm gay and have been out to my whole family since I was a teenager. I'm very close with my cousins, and lately I've been getting an inkling that one of them might be a lesbian. I've never heard her talk about boys, or even crushes on boys, real or celebrity. She's vegetarian, hippieish, and wears a lot of male clothing... I don't know... I'm just saying... But, the thing is that she's visiting me soon. Should I ask her about it? How do I bring it up?

--Questioning Questionable Cousins

Dear QQC,

It's good to hear that your family is loving and sane enough to have accepted your sexuality at such a young age. But it's important to remember that just because your parents may be okay with your fey ways, doesn't necessarily mean the rest of the clan is as cool. To your face it may be one thing, but with their own families, it may be a different story. So, assuming your lesbi-dar is correctly calibrated and your cousin is indeed a lesbian, her reluctance to come out to you may be due to her own family situation.

Also, coming out is a very personal and extremely variable experience for each queer person. Everyone has to come to coming out at his, her, zir etc. own pace. The worst thing to do is to force an outing with an awkward, "So... boys or girls?" Also, I should note that while her vegetarian status and gender non-conforming attire may be convincing evidence to you, they are far from definitive markers of lesbianism. My advice is to let your cousin's visit be a warm-up to the topic. Take her out with some of your gay (and lesbian) friends, watch some of your old Margaret Cho DVD's (I KNOW you must have some Margaret stashed away somewhere. And if you don't, get some. No gay man's library is complete without her). Basically, make it very comfortable for her to come out, if she needs or wants to. Let her do it on her terms, not yours.

send your questions to [email protected]

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Oh, the well-intentioned forced come-out. Never a good idea. In fact, I think I'm more of a fan of its mean-spirited cousin, the outing, just because it generally has more humorous results. I know, I know, I'm sick!

Good to point this guy in another direction that'll make his cousin feel more comfortable.

Several months after I came out (in my mid-30s), Mom gently asked my 3 younger brothers, all of whom had very limited dating experience, about their orientation... and all said 'straight.'

So, I think a lot of it depends on the closeness of the relationship, the overall comfort level the cousin seems to have with opening up.

A sensible approach, it seems to me, is to ask, "Has there been anyone special in your life lately?"

If she ate granola and wore Birkenstocks, then maybe you'd be able to tell without asking...

I wish I could eat granola....