So, you’ve come out of the closet and you’re going home for the holidays. Congratulations, being who you are (regardless of how others feel about it) can be a wonderfully liberating and empowering decision. Coming out gives others the opportunity to truly know you (no more hiding!) and gives family and friends the opportunity to “show up” for you, and support you in discovering (or acknowledging) this part of your identity.
Coming out, though it may feel incredibly scary and difficult, is an important step. One that the late Harvey Milk, an American politician and gay rights activist, spoke about. “For invisible, we remain in limbo–a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment…” For Milk all gays and lesbians must come out.
Returning home after coming out may always prove frustrating for one reason or another, but when your family doesn’t understand or accept your sexual orientation or gender expression, there can be added emotions.
Here are 7 tips for dealing with visits home when you’re LGBTQ:
1. Remember, you’re fabulous!
The reality is, while some relatives may be open-minded and accepting of diversity in sexual orientation and gender expression, other family members may not. And those folks will likely be around during Christmas or Kwanzaa celebrations. If your family is full of intolerant minds, remind yourself that their lack of acceptance has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. It’s unfair that you’ve got to be the bigger person here, but to get through it, you’re just going to have to take a deep breath and let it go. The only way to change someone’s heart and mind is with compassion and love–for yourself and them. The only way for them to see it, is to turn the other cheek if someone says something hurtful. You’re fabulous, honey…don’t forget that!
2. Get reaquainted.
The holidays are a great time to get reaquainted with your extended family. While this year you’re ‘here and queer,’ they may have gotten engaged, had a baby, bought a house, graduated from school or experienced another major life event. (Yes, straight, cis-gendered folks have personal dramas, too.) Whatever accomplishment or struggle they’ve had, try to truly reconnect with them. It’s a great way to get the attention off of you and it’s the perfect time to be there for them. Who knows, maybe they were apprehensive about coming home, too. We all have things we’re embarrassed about or even ashamed of.
3. Find allies.
Opening up to your family may be the perfect time to find allies. It may be wishful thinking, but not every single family member will want to disown you when you come out. Who knows, maybe you have a niece who thinks it’s cool having a gay uncle or a cousin who has a gay best friend. Now that you’re out, you may be surprised how much support you get–and from the most unexpected places.
4. Be an ambassador.
Whether you like it or not, you’re an ambassador. You’re in the unique position of possibly changing the hearts and minds of any unaccepting family members, by showing them that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer doesn’t mean you’re any less ‘you.’ If you come from a loving family that adores you, maybe by coming home and being out you’ll show them that their gay co-worker is as normal as everyone else, or, that their transgender classmate might be a great person to get to know. By being out, you’re putting a recognizable face to the LGBTQ community. But, no pressure. You’re impacting their view just by being out and present.
5. Know you’re not alone.
Even if you come from a small town, there may be a nearby LGBTQ community center, meetup groups or bars/clubs in the area. GayCities touts a listing of gay events in 223 cities on 6 continents and Go Magazine’s website features events and parties for women-who-love women. If your hometown isn’t included on either site, check out Meetup.com. where you can create a meet-up. You never know how many other like-minded people might be interested in getting together. There’s, obviously, also Craigslist for both platonic and non-platonic fun, but be careful…enough said.
6. Keep it in perspective.
Feeling rejected can hurt. Especially when the rejection is coming from someone you grew up with. But, remember that your family cares about you and wants the best for you. It’s just their idea of a happy life may not look exactly like your idea of a happy life. The best way to get them to accept who you are is to continue doing you and pursuing whatever will make you happiest. When they see you living your life to the fullest, they won’t have much cause for concern about the sex of your partner or your gender presentation.
7. Remind yourself that it’s just temporary.
Keep in mind that the holiday season comes around just once a year. If you’re planning to be home for a day or so, you have 364 days that you won’t have to deal with your family. If you’re going home for a week, you’ve got at least 51 more full weeks without them. Keep the visit in perspective. It won’t last forever, so enjoy what you can while you can. Depending on where you’re from and where you live, this might be a great opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp winter weather or enjoy being in warmer weather and do something you can’t do where you live now.
However you deal with being back at home, take care of yourself, enjoy the food and family–as best as you can–and remember that you are amazing exactly how you are. Please feel free to share any tips you may have in the comments section below.