Ho-Ho-Homo for the Holidays

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

I came out to my mom when I was really young. Unlike the rest of my super-religious family, she was pretty chill about it. In an area where teen pregnancy is pretty common, I think my mom was relieved that grandchildren weren’t in her immediate future.

When I came out to my grandma a couple of years later, I knew that she told them. They knew that I knew that they knew. But as long as neither of us talked about it, I wouldn’t force them into a position of disapproval, and I wouldn’t have to deal with their rejection.

I dated some girls, and when those relationships, fueled by internalized homophobia, distance, booze, and the torch wielding villagers, ended, I began to doubt myself. I dated and married one of the kindest, most amazing dudes, I’ve ever met. But eventually, I couldn’t pretend to be straight anymore, and I left. I dated some other girls before I eventually landed in Philly, moving to and away from home a couple of times. All the while, my family and I were ignoring the big lavender elephant in the room.

Shortly after I moved to Philadelphia, I met and fell in love with my partner, and when gay marriage was passed in New York, Ryan proposed to me. Ryan’s parents are really wonderful people and her friends and mine have both been aggressively supportive (“Hey, when are you guys going to get gay married and get some babies?!” “Are you moving to Jersey so our kids can play together when you get some?”).

But in August, after a lot of procrastinating, I finally asked one of my aunts if she (and, conversely, anyone else from that part of my family) might be able to attend my wedding. She said that she loved me and she was proud of me, but she would not, in any way, endorse my sinful lifestyle.

And we haven’t spoken since. A short while later, when Chick-Fil-A was still proud of being outspoken about homophobia, some friends from back home came out against gay marriage.  And dealing with rejection became something that I had a really hard time with. For awhile, I didn’t want to talk about the friends or family I felt had lost. By not talking about it, I could pretend it didn’t happen. That this is a thing that happens to queer folks.

I have friends who have much more traumatic coming-out stories. Who have families who have been disowned, and ex-communicated. There are people who are the victims of familial violence every day after coming out to their families. This happens to queer people. Sometimes the families we grow up in can’t or won’t accept us. Sometimes words like home, family, and spirituality are really complicated for us. Sometimes our friends go through it with us. They offer us space on their couches and cook meals for us. Sometimes people we meet in homeless shelters and bars become our families. Sometimes we rescue a pet, and that furry motherfucker rescues us right back.

For me, the holidays are kind of a bittersweet blessing. I love spending them with my partner and her family. I love the traditions we are creating as a couple and as part of our group of friends. But I get homesick. It’s hard to acknowledge that a lot of the things I miss are also the source of a lot of pain and trauma for me. I imagine it’s like that for a lot of queer folks.

Maybe you don’t talk to your family. Maybe your folks don’t recognize your gender identity, or won’t let you invite your boyfriend or girlfriend to dinner. Maybe you’re young enough to still depend on your parents for food and shelter and can’t come out to them. Regardless of your sitch, I want to encourage you find a way to cope that works for you.  Make a phone tree and trade texts when your grandpa gets drunk and starts telling racist jokes. If you have a smartphone and can download it, there’s an app that will let sharks attack things within your camera’s range. Get it, and slyly follow your aunt around every time she mis-genders you. Write about it. Draw about it. Tweet it.

If you’re not in Philly, and can seek out something local, please do. If you’re from a tiny town in the middle of no-where, let the internet be your home. There are message boards, chat rooms, and face book communities full of other queerbots who also just want to talk to someone. Cuddle with or think about adopting a pet.  And there’s also this bunch of amazing moms who want you to know that regardless of anything else, they love and are rooting for you. (Grab some tissues, though.)

Please take good care of yourself, and do what you need to make sure your holidays are as gay as you.

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