A Piece of Advice
How To Introduce Your Queer Partner to Your Family
In the Philippines, when you date someone, you’re dating their entire family
Introducing a partner to your family can be joyous and exciting, like the love you were born into and the love you chose are finally coming together. But it can also be tricky and often a cause for anxiety, because the people you love the most aren’t always guaranteed to love each other, too.
This is especially true in the Philippines, where family ties are strong, aunts and uncles can be prying, and even distant cousins and godparents have opinions on everything. While it’s true that the Philippines is a queer-friendly nation in many ways, it’s often a different story for queer Filipinos in the close confines of their family homes and gatherings. Family members might still be new to or uncomfortable with queer relationships, and may not know how to approach them. Some might be purposely antagonistic, others might be rude without realizing it.
Philippines-based psychologist Joseph Eleut Violago said that some people have limits when it comes to how much they can accept the lives of queer people.
“For example, one’s family may accept an individual for being queer, but they might not necessarily approve of one’s partner. This idea follows the common line of thinking that states ‘It’s OK for you to be queer, but it’s not OK for you to date or enter romantic relationships,’” said Violago.
He added that introducing a queer partner to your family is like another step in the process of coming out, one that comes with its own issues and challenges. And that many queer people choose to keep their dating lives private from the families for fear of rejection—either of their partner’s identity or even their own.
Introducing your partner to your family is an opportunity for your family to accept not just your relationship, but more of you, too.
“Introducing one’s partner is an act of courage in itself, one that allows an individual to live more authentically. In a way, the individual is communicating to these people that they are queer and that this is the person that they love, with the hopes that they would accept both realities,” said Violago.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. There’s plenty at stake for both the family members introducing their partners and the partners themselves. Both naturally want to make a good and honest impression but might feel like they have to do so in heteronormative standards.
Here, Violago shares some tips for introducing your queer partner to your family:
Communicate with your partner and your family
Violago said that communication is important for both you and your partner to assess how ready you are for the introductions. “Through a series of conversations, both individuals can express their thoughts, issues, and concerns about the given scenario. By talking about such things, the couple can ensure that they are on the same page, ensuring that they are both committed to this next step in the relationship.”
But don’t leave your family out of this step—it’s also important to find out if your family is ready to meet your partner. You can do this by subtly bringing up the topic and getting a sense of how they feel, or by directly asking them if they’re ready.
This way, neither your partner nor your family feel caught off guard.
Manifest the best
Before they meet, you can give your partner a rundown of your family’s names and things they like to talk about (and not talk about). Do the same for your family. Let them know what you and your partner are comfortable talking about in front of them and what you’d rather not. This can help ease the introduction and come in handy during any awkward silences.
You can also share articles and movies about the LGBTQ community with your family to help them better understand queer identities and relationships.
Prepare for the worst
Of course, you should hope for the best. But it’s also prudent to prepare for the worst. That means preparing a safety plan for what to do in the unfortunate case that the introductions don’t go well.
“A safety plan could include identifying possible sources of support, coping mechanisms, and plans of action that the couple can turn to if ever things go wrong. For example, what will happen if a member of the family asks for the relationship to end? What will happen if someone gets disowned or kicked out of the house?”
Introduce them to your biggest allies first
It’s likely that different members of your family vary in their openness to your identity and relationships. This might be difficult, but Violago suggested using it to your advantage by introducing your partner to your family little by little.
“One can start off by introducing the partner to family members who might be more receptive than others. An example of this would be introducing one’s partner first to the siblings before introducing them to the parents. Think of this as the act of slowly building more allies in the family. Hopefully, in the event that one faces greater resistance in the family, there are already other members of the family that can vouch for the relationship.”
This makes the introductions easier for both your partner and your family, because they’ll all feel like they’re not going into it alone.
The reality is that no matter how comfortable you are in your identity and how confident you are in your relationship, people who aren’t ready to accept it simply won’t accept it. That’s part of their own journey, and Violago advised recognizing that, too.
“In the event that one is faced with resistance, it would be helpful to remember that the members of the family have different paces on their way towards acceptance,” he said.
Source: Romano Santos, VICE.
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