1. Kelly DiPaola told her closest friends she was gay when she was 21 years old, but three years later she still couldn’t find the right words to tell her family.
2. She explained to BuzzFeed in her own words:
Over that time I dated, fell in love, fell out of love, had my heart broken and recovered. I graduated from college, gained a brother-in-law, made new friends, and lost a few old ones. I matured. I realized what truly is important in life and began to appreciate more deeply. I finally accepted myself. But even with all of this enlightenment, one thing remained the same. I couldn’t seem to find the right words or perfect timing to tell those in my life the one secret I’d been hiding: that I was a lesbian.
3. Kelly describes her New Jersey family as “typical old-school Italian. Very Catholic and extremely critical — sometimes narcissistic and downright scary at times.”
4. They are also fiercely and unshakably loyal — something Kelly was reminded of a week before Thanksgiving in 2013, when her aunt (pictured below) unexpectedly passed away.
The outpouring of love, support, and homemade meatballs was incredible. It was at that time, with the uncertainty of life and the outpouring of love so blatantly before my eyes, that I realized I wasn’t giving my family and friends enough credit. I was suddenly certain that their love for me far outweighed any prejudices they may possess.
6. She set a plan in motion to come out to her entire family on Christmas Eve.
7. She created shirts for each family member with a personalized note attached:
The notes read: “Because I have more faith in the love in your heart, justness of your mind, and goodness in your soul, please wear this shirt in support of me and be my ally.”
8. She recorded the entire planning process all the way up to the reveal — as well as a bit of amazing lip-synching to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.
10. Nervously, she passed out the gifts (and stalled for a minute).
13. “Merry Christmas. Surprise. I’m gay.”
The sign read “Merry Christmas, I’m gay” on the front and “No Really” on the back.
15. Tears, hugs, and then even more hugs for everyone involved.
16. Kelly says it was both “terrifying and amazing.”
17. She was most concerned about the reaction of her elderly grandfather. “I shouldn’t have been.” He said, “Kell, I couldn’t love you any less if tried.”
18. Her aunt’s passing made Kelly realize life is “too short to be anything but your authentic self.”
19. Shortly after coming out, Kelly welcomed a new niece into the world. She received a shirt on Christmas Eve too, which is proudly displayed on her nursery wall.
20. Watch the entire surprise here:
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