This Is How I Came Out to My Niece
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Katelyn Fry
It was a Thursday in May. I was sixteen. I asked my sister if she and I could go to Panera when I got out of school so that we could talk. Panera was a fairly new restaurant back then, my favorite spot, and at the time, my dad was the general manager. I hoped this location might make our conversation a little easier; I had kept this secret long enough.
It was time I told my sister that I'm gay.
I ordered my usual: Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich and a green tea iced tea. She ordered a chicken Caesar salad. We beat around the bush for a while, catching up, as I repeatedly told her that I was nervous. I refilled my green tea more times than I can count. I chewed through several straws.
About two full hours went by. Our meals were long finished. And my sister was insisting I tell her why we were there.
I took the last sip of green tea - my final excuse to prevent any words from coming out of my mouth – and took an enormous deep breath.
“I think I’m gay.”
She was mid-sip as her eyes widened at my news. To my relief, they quickly went back to normal.
“Okay,” she said, as if I had told her something as simple as wanting to order more food.
I exhaled. Wow, that’s it? I thought. All of the anxiety, all of the anticipation, all of the fear – gone in a matter of a second and an “Okay”?
We spent at least three more hours at Panera, moving on to hot chocolate and dessert, explaining further, answering questions.
But then, the stress I had earlier began to resurface. My niece - my sister’s daughter - was nine at the time. Still a child, yes, but able to understand the world around her. We had a family party in just a few weeks, and I wanted to bring the girl I was seeing. How do I get my niece to understand my news?
Like many parents, my sister wanted to take on the task herself – at least, the initial part. “I’m just going to tell her you have someone special for us to meet,” she planned.
My Niece Sat Silently for a Moment...
By the day of the party, all of my adult relatives knew. Letting my niece know was the final step before I was fully out to my family.
When my niece and her parents arrived, Mikayla ran up to me and gave me the same incredible hug she always did. “This is Nikki,” I said with a smile, as Mikayla turned to see the new face standing beside me.
With a definite, minor look of confusion, she softly said, “Hi, Nikki. I’m Mikayla.”
Alright, I thought with my heart still racing. There’s step one.
As the party went on, I would notice my niece in the corner of my eye, staring at me and Nikki - not in a bad way; it was genuinely innocent and curious.
My niece and I had a moment alone and I asked her to get some ice cream cake with me. I have to say, watching this nine-year-old struggle to find the words she wanted to say was nothing short of adorable.
“Is Nikki your best friend?” she asked.
“She’s kind of like a best friend. I like her a lot.”
“Are you guys like… mommy and daddy, and grandma and grandpa?”
“Just like that. Mommy and daddy, and grandma and grandpa, make each other happy, right?”
“They like spending time together, help each other, and love each other, right?”
“Well, that’s what Nikki and I are like. We make each other very happy, too.”
Mikayla began to smile. “But she’s a girl,” she said as she giggled and blushed a little.
I giggled back to let her know it was okay. “I know, but sometimes, you can’t help who makes you happy. Sometimes, people come into your life and make you the happiest. Even people you didn’t expect.”
She sat silently for a moment as she ate her dessert and thought about what I had just said. And in a nearly identical way to my sister back at Panera a few weeks earlier, she gently said: “Okay.”
What I've Learned from my Coming Out Experience
Coming out at all is monumental. Coming out to the younger ones in your life, like your nieces and nephews, can be even more challenging. Before taking this giant leap of honesty in your relationship, it is very important to talk to their parents first. After all, just because you are ready to share the news, it doesn’t mean your siblings will feel the same way. They may not think their children are old enough, or maybe they just aren’t ready to give them that kind of information yet.
Find a way to tell your nieces and nephews that you are all comfortable with. Beyond the initial moment of sharing this news, my recommendation is to be open. One of the most beautiful things about children is that the world is a blank slate to them. After telling your nieces or nephews that you are gay, be ready, willing, and patient to answer any and all questions they have for you. Not only will this help them gain the best understanding of what they’ve just learned, but it will strengthen and solidify your relationship.
It will probably be one of the biggest weights to ever be lifted off your chest. And, in my experience, I’ve found that it definitely doesn’t hurt to have some dessert waiting when this day finally comes, and give you and your nieces and nephews a delicious, sweet light at the end of the tunnel ;)
Published: March 20, 2017