Growing up is hard for any child, but making the transition from teenager to young adult as an LGBT youth is even harder. The level of discrimination that’s allowed is absolutely ridiculous. Just when you believe that you have things under control, someone else comes in to stereotype and degrade you. But thankfully, things have gotten better for many LGBT people. We’re on TV, in newspapers, represented in the sciences, and just about anywhere else that we want to be. Hollywood has realized that unflattering portrayals of LGBT people aren’t acceptable, and that’s really improved the image of this community tremendously.
Yet there’s one part of life that hasn’t seemed to change all that much, and that would be the families that we moved away from in order to pursue work or school. When you return home for the holidays, you may have found things have changed.
For example, if you have a significant other, they may not be welcome at the house. Before you take the time to book travel accommodations, you need to have a serious talk with your family. They need to meet the people that matter in your life, but you also need to realize that you can’t force them to change. If you encourage them to open their minds a little bit, you’ll go further than condemning them for being homophobes or transphobes.
Other relatives that come down for the holidays may not be comfortable with it at all. However, we’ve found that this is the best time to educate people. All you can do is maintain the best boundaries possible. You don’t have to get into arguments for the entire holiday season. You can just stick to talking about your experiences, and let everyone else make their commentary. Some LGBTs feel that you shouldn’t have to prepare everyone for a visit from you. In a perfect world, we would certainly agree. Yet this world isn’t perfect, but we still have to live in it. When our friends went home for the first time, they tried the “surprise” approach. They had never come out in high school, and now they wanted to reveal their true selves in front of their loving parents. It didn’t end well at all, and they had to fly back to college at their expense before really participating in the holiday festivities. We think it’s sad, but that whole situation could have been prevented by a few phone calls or Skype chats. The reality is that we can’t make the whole world tolerate and accept us. There will be people that just can’t think any other way, and they will have the unfortunate distinction of being our family.
But it can indeed get better: sometimes families do change, and they realize that letting go of a twentysomething child for something like their orientation is absolutely foolishness.
If things start going sideways and tempers are flaring, perhaps it’s best to remove yourself from the situation. You should look to your parents or the person that actually asked you to come. If they knew about your sexual orientation and lifestyle, then they can stand up for you. If they’re not willing to do that, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll return in the future.
Now, if you have a rocking cool family that loves to see you and doesn’t think your LGBT status is a big deal…cherish them. Yes, they may have plenty of quirks, hang-ups, and flaws, but they don’t participate in the mass discrimination that so many people are willing to fall into.
Some of you have written to us to describe your awesome family, and we really appreciate that. It’s not all doom and gloom out there folks, but a lot of people struggle to really get the same warm feeling that you may enjoy from your family. Unfortunately, there are parents that are willing to give up smart, happy, funny young adults simply over being gay/bi/lesbian/transgendered. It’s very sad and the only thing we can do is raise the positivity. As much as it hurts, you can’t let your mood get really dark and dreary. Focus on the positive, and the rest will follow in good time.