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When it comes to dealing with family during the holidays, there’s a wide range of ways it could go. There are different types of family members: the people who always ask you how your life is going, those who inevitably compare your success to the rest of your family members, and the hyper-right winger who insists that you are doing wrong no matter what. The rest of the family falls in a mix of more or less judgmental people who can be a minefield to talk with. When you throw being LGBT into the mix, these issues can become more prevalent.
Before I came out, family gatherings were a mess of me trying to create stories that would make me look as straight as possible. Every time I was asked about girls or if I was dating at the moment, I would come up with some lie, like, “Yeah, there is this one girl who I like,” or just say that there is no one at school I am interested in.
The second was much easier to do than come up with some story about a fictional girl, but this was always risky, too, in case the younger cousins overheard and went to the internet to try and find who I was talking about. There were a few times where it almost didn’t work out.
At one point, I had already come out on Facebook, but not to all my family, and was at a family gathering when the younger kids managed to find my Facebook. This terrified me because I wanted to come out in my own time, so I ripped the laptop away from them and insisted that there were pictures that I didn’t want them to see, secretly trying to hide my sexual identity. This cut it way too close for comfort.
Since I came out, handling family gatherings has become much more interesting. The right wing family tends to stay away. I have caught them giving me glares, but they often steer the conversations away from any topic that might create a huge issue (my immediate family is also very liberal, and conservatives wouldn’t win the debate). Other family often wants to ask about my love life, but don’t know how to.
Some ask questions as if I’m a completely different person, while others just assume I’m the same as before. They’ve used words like “partner” or “man friend,” making it clear they don’t know how to ask about my love life without tripping over themselves. At times, it gets amusing watching them try to figure out what to say.
The biggest thing when it comes to dealing with family during the holidays is to try not to take anything too seriously. It may seem, especially at first, that your family is trying to make you uncomfortable. While the more conservative family members may be trying to do this, overall, your family is mostly trying to connect with you. They probably think you’re very different than prior to when you came out, and they’re probably unsure of how they should talk to you.
If they mislabel you, correct them in a polite way; they probably don’t know what you would like to be called. If you’ve explained it before, then maybe you have some right to be annoyed, but assume they’re trying to get it right. If not, just laugh about it with your friends later.
If they truly say something that offends you, explain why you’re upset about it, then try to not let it bother you as much. If nothing ever changes, you might have to cut them out of your life; make sure to do this only when you know they don’t want to change and you’re in pain or uncomfortable. While that’s not something I have experienced in my family, I know it’s a reality for many people.
Having a drink or two might also loosen you up. It’ll make you more relaxed and let things roll off more easily. It might also make other family members less worried to offend you when they try to talk about how your LGBT life is going. I’ve found that most people are coming from a friendly place and want to learn more about you.
Sometimes your family will just drive you up a wall regardless of sexual or gender identity. In this case, just trudge through it. The occasion will only be so long, and you can go back to your life as usual within a few days. Try not to take anything that happens too seriously, and move on. If the experience is truly bad, then make sure your family’s actions and words don’t hold much value in your life.
Family can be hard around the holidays for anyone, especially when you come out as LGBT. If nothing else, say screw it and find some other group of people to celebrate with; they could be more valuable to you than your family anyway.