Gear Up for the Holidays, OUTSpoken-Style

Oh, “the holidays,” that months-long stretch of Thanksgiving,
Christmas, Hanukkah, and friends. A time to love and laugh, to
share and reflect. A time to eat. Especially a time to eat.

For most, the holidays are a time of joy and apprehension. There
are things we love about celebrating life and family. And there are
things that give us pause. This is especially true in the LGBTQ
community, where many of us have had traumatic experiences with
family, where many of us are still somewhat in/somewhat out of the
closet, and feel we have to adjust who we are in order to spend
those few celebratory days together with people we perhaps don’t
often see.

I know a lot of LGBTQ people who simply avoid the holidays
altogether, at least in the traditional sense. They stay in
whatever cities they’ve moved to, away from their hometowns, and
hang out with friends who constitute their “new” families. I think
that’s wonderful and a perfectly fine way to spend time with loved
ones, thanking them for who they are in your life. But the holidays
also provide a golden opportunity for those of us who avoid family
situations to take charge and assert ourselves, either as real and
integral parts of our families or, finally, as disconnected from
certain family members once and for all.

In our OUTSpoken
program, we encourage people to push themselves and
their loved ones toward greater acceptance and understanding of
LGBTQ people and their needs. But we also make clear that YOU have
the right to draw the line when you need to, that YOU have the
right to say how much abuse you’re willing to put up with from
certain family members, to decide how many times YOU are willing to
be disappointed by the same people in your lives.

There’s power in changing hearts and minds, but there’s also power
in knowing your limits and picking the fights worth fighting.

Too many of us stress over that one family member who has given us
the most trouble in our lives. We miss opportunities to build
better and more lasting relationships with other family members,
people who are more open to us, willing to learn and change for us,
because we can’t bear to deal with family of any kind. And it’s
usually just a few family members who spoil the pot.

So, I say, this holiday season, as opportunities to be with family
abound, take the time to prepare yourselves for the hard
conversations that need to happen in order to move your lives
forward with family. I, for instance, need to finally sever all
ties with one particular family member, whose presence in my life
and at family events, gatherings, etc., absolutely makes me want to
stay all 1,000 miles away from “home.” I need to do this, in part,
so I can have try to build better relationships with other family
members, like my six-year-old nephew, whom I love and adore but
don’t talk to that often, because I avoid family situations to
avoid other family members. That’s not fair to him, and it’s not
fair to me, either.

It may sound trite, but I think it’s true: Those of us with
complicated families, with continuously bad relationships with
certain family members, need to stand up and be clear about the
ends of those relationships in order to give REAL family as a
present to ourselves! It certainly isn’t easy, but I think, I hope,
the reward will be worth it in the end.