For many folks, this is “the most wonderful time of the year”; however, for some of us, this highly anticipated season is anything but a sequence of “holiday greetings and gay happy meetings.”
In fact, for those of us who actually are gay (or fall somewhere on the broad LGBT+ spectrum), the weeks spanning Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve are often overshadowed by a looming sense of dread and nervousness, especially if we just crossed the threshold of the infamous closet a month or two before.
As liberating as coming out may be, the thought of returning home for the holidays can be an intimidating prospect. From supportive relatives who express their allegiance with a bombardment of well-intentioned yet completely intrusive and sometimes highly inappropriate questions to those blatantly unsupportive family members, navigating the holiday season as a new out and proud person can be an overwhelming experience.
So, if you’re preparing to journey home this Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or New Year’s and are unsure of what to expect, here are a few things to contemplate before boarding your homebound one-horse open sleigh.
Remember Who You Are
Going home for the first time since coming out—especially during the holidays, when everyone is together and the stakes are higher than ever—it is crucial to not lose sight of who you are. Although the chances of forgetting your newly embraced identity may seem pretty slim, giving in to the temptation to temporarily forfeit your individuality simply to pacify the opinions and convictions of your loved ones can run a greater risk than you may realize. Therefore, it is important to remain steadfast in your own beliefs and to know that you are a fabulous, badass superhero who is deserving of the opportunity to live life unashamedly as your unique, wonderful self, regardless of what anyone—even your family—has to say about it.
Embrace A Place of Grace
In this situation, it is easy to prepare for war, but before you pack your sword and shield, it is crucial to approach those relatives whose beliefs about sexuality and gender identity differ from your own from a place of understanding and grace. Now, I am not saying that you should subject yourself to hateful rhetoric and insult; what I am saying, however, is that you should consider the circumstances in their own lives have informed their opinions and recognize that it takes time to undo what has been done. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and old beliefs, especially those such as these, are not likely to die fast. Also, remember that it took even you some time to fully embrace yourself and that it may take equal or a bit more time for others to do the same. All you can do is show these people that you are the same you have always been—the you that they have always loved and cherished.
Don’t Attend Every Party You’re Invited To
Don’t attend every party you’re invited to, and by “party,” I mean argument. When visiting your family as a new out ’n proud individual, it is essential—for your own emotional health and sanity—to carefully pick and choose your battles; after all, not every comment deserves a response. But for those things that do warrant a reply— whether they be honest questions or hateful remarks—remember to respond with as much poise and politeness as you can possibly muster. Taking the high road isn’t always the easiest pathway to traverse, but I can assure you that it is always the best.
Plan an Escape Route
If things become heated or exceedingly uncomfortable despite your efforts to remain understanding and respectful, it is a good idea to map out an escape route. Before embarking homeward, inform a couple of close friends that you may reach out to them should things go south and that you would appreciate their support. Friends are our family of choice, so if time with your biological clan isn’t going as you had hoped, remember that the world is full of kind people with open hearts, eager ears, and shoulders that are readily available to cry and lean on. And if you can’t seem to get ahold of anyone, go into another room and pop in your earbuds, crack the spine of a good book, or turn on the television. The important thing is to give yourself permission to walk away and recharge and remember that it’s okay to not be okay.
Remember That Nothing Is Permanent
Nothing in life is permanent, even this. After the last bite of turkey is swallowed and the final present is opened, you’ll get to return home to your comfort zone, the place where you can fully and uninhibitedly be yourself. And though it’s a sad thought, the truth is that if things didn’t go as planned, you don’t have to go back.
Just as it is okay to not be okay, it is perfectly acceptable to distance yourself from those people and situations that do not positively contribute to your overall wellbeing. Saying goodbye for now to your family does not mean that you love them any less than you did before you came out; it just means that you yourself a little more. And that, my friends, is not only okay but essential.