Christmastime is my second favorite time of the year. My favorite holiday has always been Halloween, but all of the cliches during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” put me in the jolly spirit every November and December.
I enjoy shopping for gifts (which may be in large part to the miracle that is online retailers), spending time with those closest to me and I am always proud to have one of the brightest homes on the block. I feel like I’m finally the adult that I always wanted to be.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Like many LGBTQ people, the holidays were more stressful for me than most of my family ever imagined. The most difficult time was during the period where I had quietly accepted my sexuality but had yet to reveal my true self to the rest of the family. We have all been there. You present only a part of your true self to the family while keeping a majority of who you really are repressed.
One of the scenes that I most relate to in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – arguably the best Christmas movie ever – is when the in-laws arrive. They meet the Griswold family with loud greetings, uncomfortable hugs and requests for strange favors like rubbing a bunion for a whole quarter!
In real life I have thankfully never been asked to rub anything on an elderly relative. But every holiday had the awkward hugs with family members, the uncomfortable inquiries into my dating life and the ongoing socially-conservative conversations that caused minor damage to my tongue as I bit down to keep it from expressing my horror at some of their viewpoints.
Fortunately, it has been years since I’ve been in that situation. While I love my family, I learned a long time ago that I get along better with them when there are several state lines separating us. I’m of the belief that we should all be free to choose our family and that is how I’ve lived my life for nearly two decades. And even in that time span, my chosen family has evolved over time.
As we head into the holidays, I have a message for the allies in our more socially-conservative families. Remember that we certainly need your support, especially in these times where everything can be politicized.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has some great tips for those who want to support their LGBTQ relatives. It can be a small gesture like steering a conversation away from an uncomfortable subject to openly discussing a favorite LGBTQ character on television. Even those small actions can make an LGBTQ person relax, even if it’s just for a little while.
Of course, I’m not saying that all family gatherings are awful. I have many great memories of Christmas while I was growing up. Fun with my cousins, tons of presents, special nights around a fire and the Christmas tree with my parents – all are treasures in my mind and memories I would never wish to lose. I had a great childhood and was fortunate to have that kind of life through my teens.
I would never tell anyone to ditch their family. If you have the love and support that helps you become the best version of you that is possible then hang onto that. But don’t be afraid to add those who are not blood-related to your family.
True, I miss out on which cousin is pregnant or what uncle is doing what with his career. But I figure it’s a fair trade to have a lower-stress holiday season and be around the people who I know accept me for who I am rather than what they expect me to be. I understand that it’s not always an easy thing to do, but it is worth it in the long run.
We have a new year on the horizon and that means there are endless possibilities and experiences ahead that will create more memories in our future. It’s up to you to choose with whom to share those soon-to-be memories.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday season, no matter what your tradition or family situation.