Gay Family and the HolidaysPosted: 11/25/2012
This is going to be a combo rant-advice time, which I realize might frighten some of you. Sit down, things are gonna get intense.
The holidays (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, etc.) are generally celebrated by gathering with family. In most cases, this means biological family, which means seeing people you only see kind of rarely.
This, for me, was the first Thanksgiving where I was not living with my parents, so I got to stop by casually to see everyone. Another fun fact: I have a staunchly conservative, Catholic grandmother who is somewhere in her eighties. I’m not out to her. I made the choice not to come out to her after I saw “defend marriage!” and “we hate abortion” flyers in her car a few years ago. It just seemed like the responsible thing to do.
I have learned, over the years, how to deal with the grandma questions. You know the type – the ones about relationships and marriage and children and crap. For instance, my first Christmas home from college we were all in our pajamas and eating chocolate on Christmas morning, and apropos of literally nothing, my grandma turned and said, “So, do you have any special boy in your life?” Super-amazing deflection response: “No, grandma, I’m really busy and haven’t thought about it.”
Two years later for Christmas I got a really nice box of silverware, but it had a card that was basically like, “Just in case I die before it happens, here’s your wedding present!” Really uncomfortable; I said thanks and we’ve never talked about it.
Fast-forward to Thanksgiving 2012, greeting everybody and saying my hellos as a visiting family member. My older brother whispers to me, “When are you gonna tell her you’re gay?” While talking about Black Friday shopping with my grandma, I mention my “roommate” (secretly my girlfriend, for those not in the know) had to work a really stupid shift at her retail job. Not two minutes later, my little brother went, “So… Roommate, huh? You should just tell her.” A little while after that, my mom felt it prudent to take me aside to remind me that my cousin had already come out, and that “grandma is totally okay with him being gay, so you could tell her.”
What does this have to do with anything advice-wise? A couple of things, actually, that I consider pretty important.
If you have a family member who is LGBTQ and they are not out to another person, family or no, it is NOT your job to tell them they can come out. We do not require your permission on this front. I don’t need you to tell me when I can or cannot talk about my personal life, or in what terms, and it’s really quite condescending and paternalistic for this to happen. If someone comes out, it is because they have given themselves the permission to do so, not because some straight person has deemed it “okay”. If you have a queer family member, don’t you dare tell them this ever, because it’s rude.
The second issue is that people are different, and people are viewed differently by other people. My grandma, for instance, might consider me her favorite grandchild (or maybe not, I don’t know), but the point is that she might view me in a different light than my cousin. That being said, she might not react as well as everyone seems to think if I were to come out to her.
The third issue is that the holidays are not just about one person. I don’t want to make a big scene and make Christmastime or Thanksgivingtime memorable to my octogenarian grandmother because that’s when she learned I’m gay. It’s about togetherness and family and being glad we have what we have, it’s not about coming out. Not for me.
At this point, I’m very thankful I can be out to the family members who do know. Further, I’m thankful I can still make my own choice and that nobody has outed me (as far as I know) without my permission.
So please, take a step back and consider, if you have to, the position your non-heterosexual family members might be in. They will come out to the people they choose, at the times they choose to do so. Don’t be a douche and try to push them to do it any sooner than they are comfortable.