“No matter how others may feel about your relationship, it’s about a lot more than sexuality. It’s about love,” says Steven Petrow, author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners. He recommends that you convey this whenever you’re introducing somebody new. 

Petrow also offers other practical ideas. Before you go, be sure to thoroughly prep your partner with basic information about family members, explaining who has and hasn’t been accepting of you in the past. 

He suggests preparing your relatives, too. 

“Whenever someone is going to bring home a new partner, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, you need to tell the family what’s up,” he says. “Tell them who you’re bringing, be truthful about the fact that you are in love with this person, and share a little bit about them so that the relatives will have some material to work from.” An easy way to do this might be on social media, or in an organization email.

During the gathering, appoint a friend so you’re not perpetually at that moment. “Maybe a sibling or a cousin who’s accepting of you, who can help deflect negativity as well as answer questions,” Petrow says. “If Cousin Louis says something homophobic, your ally can point it out with a gentle but direct remark: ‘Hey Louis, I’m sure you meant well, but what you said is pretty homophobic.’” Ideally, your ally will have a sense of humor, he adds, so as not to humiliate anyone who misspeaks. 

There may be less-than-tactful questions. Yet, Petrow thinks even uninformed queries, such as “So, which one of you is, like, the girl?” can be “an opportunity to talk seriously regarding your relationship.”

“‘We’re both women. However i do the shopping and cleaning and she or he does the gardening and home repair.’ Underline how roles correspond to your abilities rather than gender.”

You may hesitate to show affection, but Petrow encourages being authentic. “Don’t slobber all over each other, of course — that’s just politeness. But if you normally hold hands, hold hands.” If someone can’t handle this, he states, “that’s their problem.”

And if a person insists on being rude or hostile? “Leave if you’re being disrespected. There aren't any extra points for participating in a family ritual that’s hurtful.” 

But don’t despair whether it doesn’t go well. “Time is on your side,” he says. People need time to let down their guard and discover their similarities, and as likely as not, this can eventually happen with your family.