It's that time of year...ARGH! Time for all of us to visit those folks we sometimes don't want to see: family! Needless to say, for a number of LGBT people spending time with their biological relatives at Christmas is not exactly their idea of having a good time. Some couples are forced to sleep in separate beds. Others are dis-invited altogether. Some couples spend the holiday apart from each other and visit their families separately. What's a queer couple to do?
Well, I can only share from my experience. From the very beginning of our relationship, Gary & I didn't give either of our families the option of treating us as anything but equal to other family units. Things were fine with my family for the most part. However, Gary's family is Southern Baptist and we had a rough road to travel...for a while. The first Christmas I showed up it didn't seem to be a problem. They probably figured it was just a phase and Gary would grow out of it. However, after I started showing up for the third and fourth Christmas [we're on our 18th now!] tensions began to mount. It was apparent I was not going away any time soon so they'd have to deal with me!
Long story short, tensions became so unbearable that we let his family know that we loved them but if this is the way they were going to treat us, we'd opt out of family gatherings altogether and visit them as individuals instead.
Believe it or not, this was the turning point in the story. His sister basically read the rest of the family the riot act and, slowly, things began to improve. His brother also hand built us a porch swing and gave it to us one Christmas which was a symbol of his support for both of us. These days, I feel as much a part of Gary's family as any other brother-in-law.
I guess the point of my story is that sometimes we have to be very patient with our families. Many of us have had years to struggle with the issue of our sexuality. Our families need time to sort through their feelings as well. I know that not everyone out there will have a happy ending. But, if we love our families long enough some of them might surprise us!
P.S. For those of you out there for whom family gatherings are not an option, remember that all of us can create our own sense of family. We can surround ourselves with people who love and support us unconditionally. So, here's hoping you find "family" this Christmas season. It's really not the same without them.