A guide to surviving the holidays with your mildly-homophobic family.

For LGBTQIA folks, spending the holidays with your family can be … awkward. Still, I’ll be up-front about one thing: those of us who can spend the holidays with our families are already immensely more fortunate that those of us in the community who cannot. Innumerable LGBTQIA people spend the holidays alone after being outcast from their families simply for the fact that they are queer. We shouldn’t take for granted being invited to have dinner with our families.

Although, that doesn’t mean that those of us who do have the privilege always have a comfortable experience. Our families may accept or handle our queerness, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% tolerant all the time. Some of them were raised in religion; some stand on the right-side of the political spectrum; and some just are too ignorant to understand. Whatever their reasons, the conversations of getting married, having kids, finding god, and growing up can nevertheless be exhausting.

But the holidays are supposed to be a time of love and laughter and kindness and giving. Sure, they can be stressful and incongruent with those values, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyed to some degree. I know that for me, coming from a family that’s half-Jewish and half-Southern Baptist, the conversation always rears its ugly head at some point. This Thanksgiving for instance, my mother spared no time whatsoever asking me about why I’m not a “warrior for God.” And many of you are in similar situations.

Here, I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts on how to make it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or whatever holiday (if any) you celebrate with the people who have to be reminded that they are supposed to love you unconditionally.

DON’T waste time trying to explain your love life if you don’t want to. 

Whether you’re in a relationship that’s new, not in one at all, have an occasional fuck buddy, or you’re just not that interested in being in a relationship, the question of your love life is bound to come up. This question is a great chance to be extremely passive-aggressive. Fight that urge. It’s only going to cause tension, and you still want to stick around long enough to eat pie.

Answer honestly, but do so in a way that does not leave room for questions you don’t want to answer. Some of us may be excited to tell our parent(s) about the person we’re seeing, and that’s great. But if you’re anything like me (a sex columnist), talking about your love life can be awkward. A simple, “Yes, I’m seeing someone, but it’s still new,” or “Yes, I’m seeing someone, but he/she/they is/are with his/her/their family/friends” will suffice.

The real inquisition can begin when you reveal that you’re not seeing anyone. Maybe your brother has brought his significant other home and mother dearest is badgering you about why you never bring anyone around. The easy answer is always, “Ha! Because you’re kind of a homophobe.” Resist. It’s much easier to smile and say, “I’m working a lot/enjoying the friendships I already have lately. I don’t have a lot of time for dating right now.” This more than likely won’t prevent the family from expressing their opinions on the matter, which can be the annoying part. If that’s the case, it is okay to say that you simply don’t want to talk about it.

DO engage with the people you’re there to spend time with.

Yes, I know, they can be insufferable at times. But the better attitude that you come in with, the better the entire day is going to go. And fuck! It’s a free meal. I’m in my early twenties. I never say no to a free meal. I mean, I don’t ever say no to a meal at all. But I digress.

Ask your siblings how school or work is. Remind your mother or father how grateful you are that you get to spend the day with them. Offer to help cook. Take out the trash. These little gestures will diffuse any tension and show that even though God slapped you with the queer stamp, that you’re still a good kid at heart.

DON’T get overheated in discussions about religion or politics. 

Look, this one is hard for me, too. I get told constantly that I’m being prayed for due to my faggotry. It’s difficult for me not to go off. I have learned, however, that there’s a quiet and calm way to make your point and state your opinions without initiating World War III.

I’m a staunch believer in the fact that we should always share our political and religious beliefs if they’re called into question. I am not a subscriber to the school of thought that states we have to explain our beliefs to anyone. That’s up to you. I often choose to do so.

As previously mentioned, my mother started early with the talk of God – asking me when I stopped believing in God. Mostly for her own sake, I calmly explained that I do believe in a higher power, but that I don’t subscribe to organized religion due to its typically intolerant and homophobic nature. When she went into the spiel of how not all Christians were this way, I promptly and mellowly reminded her that she raised me in a Southern Baptist church. I added that knowing I was gay from a young age and being told that I would rot in hell had been traumatizing and that it drove me away from the church.

She seemed to accept this and we moved on.

Politics are a bit different, especially when it intermingles with religion (literally the exact opposite of how the two should be in the United States, but whatever). Talking politics falls on deaf ears. For more liberal-minded people (as most queer people are), we’re equally guilty. The fact is that we know that we’re right about everything (or so we think) and often are so busy preaching that we don’t hear what the other side has to say (sound familiar?). Granted, that’s usually because what’s coming from conservatives is nonsense, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that we don’t hear them and engage in insightful and introspective conversation.

It’s not worth it at the dinner table over the holidays. There are much more pleasant topics to discuss. Your nephew’s piano recital. Your new job. Your dad’s retirement party. Find something – ANYTHING – and spark a conversation that you can bond over rather than fight about. And if politics come up, state your opinion, hear theirs, agree to disagree, and change the subject. If they become aggressive or loud, politely inform them that you don’t want to argue and walk away (preferably toward the wine).

Which brings me to my next point:

DON’T get fucked up.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. If you get fucked up, you are more likely to become sensitive to every little thing that’s said. You’re also more likely to run your goddamn mouth. Again, I’m a fan of running my mouth, but I also know how to shut down bullshit. If you’re not well-versed in that, it may not be helpful.
  2. If you get fucked up, you’re not going to be able to drive. And do you really want to spend more time with these people that have caused you to drink so heavily?

Save the drinking for afterwards, when you’re home or with your friends. Unless you’re there to stay for a while, lay off the bottle. A couple of drinks won’t hurt you, Loose Lips, but nothing more. I know drinking feels necessary to be around them (fuck, I’m drinking right now), but keep it under control.

DON’T dignify stupid questions with responses.

My mother always told me there was no such thing as a stupid question.

She was wrong. So fucking wrong.

Especially so if you have a partner you’re bringing home, there are bound to be some really dumb fucking questions tossed your way.

“Who’s the guy and who’s the girl in the relationship?” We’re both men/women/genderfluid/non-binary (pick one that applies).

“Are you a top or a bottom?” Do I ask you about your butthole?

“Do you two touch your penises together?” or the lesbian variant: “Do you two scissor?” Do you have sex at all? 

“What made you decide to be gay/bi/trans/pan/asexual/intersex?” What made you decide to be such a fucking cunt?

“Aren’t you sad you won’t be able to have kids of your own?” I’ll cry about it from the third floor of my downtown town home thanks to my disposable gay income.

The list goes on and on. You’ll want to be sassy. But just remember, you don’t have to see them again once you’re gone for an entire year. It’s completely okay to smile and politely remind your family that their questions are inappropriate. Then go for the wine.

DO invite your LGBTQIA friends who can’t spend the holidays with their families/friends and DO warn them that your family is a little ignorant. 

Remember, not everyone is as fortunate as some of us. Help your friends enjoy the holidays and create fond, even if subpar, memories.

DO host or attend a Friendsgiving/Holiday Party.

This is really just for your own good. Pretty much one person in every friend group hosts a Thanksgiving/Christmas after-party for the friends to get together and blow off the family steam (in my friend group, this person is me. We have Friendsgiving for Thanksgiving, and Single Bells for Christmas because we’re all sad and alone). These people compose your real family, and you need to be with them to feel better. Go to them. Drink with them. Eat with them. Laugh with them. Get to the part of the holidays you’re really going to look back on with keen fondness.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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