Main photo: Vera NewSib/AdobeStock
While many of us jet set across the world, drive cross-country or head around the block to join family for holiday celebrations, for some in the LGBTQ+ community, the holidays aren’t the most wonderful time of the year. Instead, this season can ignite familial pressures and uncertainties.
“Many of us are often quite disappointed by the reality of a return home, which can inflame wounds around being rejected, or being only tolerated rather than fully accepted,” writes Michael C. LaSala, licensed clinical social worker and gay/lesbian well-being expert. “Intrusive questions, snide remarks that indicate a lack of understanding and acceptance, as well as the need to hide from some or all family members are what faces many of us when we return to the old homestead.”
Those who identify as LGBTQ+ can also find it difficult to adhere to their familial roles before and after coming out; plus, a sense of obligation to be present and engage with family members can lead to some negative emotions toward one’s self and family during the holidays.
Being an openly gay man myself, who was raised Catholic in a very traditional household, it was difficult for some of my family members to look past my newly outed identity. After coming out, things shifted, and instead of peace and harmony, anxiety and grief settled in.
Under such circumstances, it can be difficult for an LGBTQ+ individual to attend these family functions — and, if you are one of these people, know that you do not have to. But, if you decide to make that visit, check out LaSala’s “ABC plan” for managing yourself in a positive way around not-so-positive people.
Many of us are often quite disappointed by the reality of a return home, which can inflame wounds around being rejected, or being only tolerated rather than fully accepted.Michael C. LaSala
A. Acknowledgement + Acceptance
Taking ownership of your identity is more than empowering; it is courageous. If you find yourself in a situation with people who are attempting to shame you for who you are, acknowledge their lack of awareness, but don’t take on their burden. Accept what they have to say, but understand that the only expectations that need to be met are the ones you set for yourself.
Speaking of expectations, let your family know your limits before you even arrive. ” For example, if you would feel more comfortable staying in a nearby hotel, rather than the family home, assert that in a firm but calm way, not in an argument,” suggests LaSala. And remember, you do not have to force yourself into an environment where there is a lack of acceptance or any other type of toxicity. Declining an invitation to visit for the sake of your emotional health is not selfish.
Even if there is a lack of support and acceptance in your family right now, accepting where they are at this point, may be best for your overall well-being. Accepting this does not mean you agree with their feelings toward you; it just means you’re recognizing they may still need some time to adjust. Gaining some perspective and reducing any source of blame can also help generate compassion. Remembering that you are your own person will help you maintain your own truths.
For even more help on getting through the holidays, take a look at these tips from PFLAG.