Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back and focus on what we're thankful for...

Image by TheCulinaryGeek/Flickr.


... and for some of us, it's also a time to get super anxious about introducing our same-sex significant other to our families.

My wife, Sam, and I were dating for a few years before we started spending holidays together. She would join me at lesser holidays with my family: Easter — because she's Jewish — birthdays, and impromptu BBQs. She was my "college friend" or "roommate," depending on who was asking. We always laughed about how ridiculous it was. We thought my extended family must know we're a couple.

The author and her wife, Sam, on Long Island, Christmas 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Leigh Abby.

Eventually, after I came out to my parents, I let them reveal the truth to my family at their own speed, which worked for me for a few reasons. Waiting made it clear that this wasn't a phase and Sam wasn't going anywhere. And because aunts, uncles, and cousins already knew Sam, I knew their opinions of her wouldn't be based just on our romantic relationship. By the time Sam and I were ready to share holidays, everyone knew we were a couple, and aunts had stopped asking me during Christmas dinner whether I'd met a nice boy.

Which isn't to say it was easy. Like so many others who want to come out to their families, I was concerned about upsetting the family dynamic.

Last Christmas, my friend Clark was nervous about bringing his boyfriend, Andrew, to spend the holidays with his dad's family. The couple had celebrated with Clark's mom in the past, but Clark's dad's family includes a medley of football coaches, Army rangers, and state troopers. He was worried there might be some awkward moments.

Andrew (left) and Clark. Photo courtesy of the couple.

"I knew they were all nice guys, and they understood I was gay, but I had never introduced them to a boyfriend," Clark told me on the phone. But he ended up being reminded of how much he has to be thankful for. "I quickly realized how socially aware, smart, and progressive my family is. Bringing Andrew to spend the holiday with them let me see their true selves and appreciate the people they are."

Travis, 29, remembers going to his dad's house for Thanksgiving when he was 18. "I had come out to my mom, but not to my dad yet," he told me via email.


Travis and his moms. Photo courtesy of Travis Cronin.

"Halfway through dinner, he looked at me and said, 'So I finally got Facebook and saw on your page that you're interested in men.' I turned beet red and before I could really respond, my dad said, 'Well I'm sure you already know, but I love you,' and gave me a hug. All the anxiety rushed out of my body."

Whether coming out happens over time, unintentionally, or is a well-planned holiday announcement, Clark's and Travis' stories reveal that family can truly amaze us with their empathy and devotion.

It's a feeling I know well: The first year that Sam and I decided to alternate holidays, I spent Christmas at her mom's house in Florida. What we didn't know was that it would be her mom's last Christmas. The next year, Sam wasn't just mourning; she was also worrying about how her younger brother would spend the holiday. That's when my mom stepped in. "He'll come here," she insisted.

Just like that, I was brimming with gratitude for my wonderful, big-hearted family. That holiday, a new tradition was born: Now, every other year, when we drive out to Long Island to spend Christmas with my family, Sam's brother comes, too.

GIF from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Of course, families aren't always so supportive.

Kaitlyn, 27, comes from a religious Baptist family. She told me via email that when her parents found out she was gay — on her mother's birthday — her father gave his blessing, but her mother was upset. She wouldn't look at or speak to her. As Kaitlyn recalls, her mother said, "I want to forget this day ever happened."

For many who are considering coming out on special occasions or holidays, this can be a real fear: that not only might your family reject you, but that you'll ruin the festivities, too.

In Kaitlyn's case, time helped heal those wounds.

It's been almost 10 years since she came out, and she says her mother has come a long way since then. "This past year, she has completely changed," says Kaitlyn. "She truly believes not only in gay rights, but transgender rights, too."

Image by Brett Sayer/Flickr.

It's important to come out to your family when it feels right to you.

If your timeline doesn't include holiday declarations, you should trust your instincts and go at your own speed.

Maybe this means coming out slowly and individually to your family. Maybe this means first bringing your significant other as a friend. Whatever you decide, know that we all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and support us. If your family isn't able to do that, reach out to friends who can.

Here's to a happy, healthy holiday with the partners (and pies) of our choosing.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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