How do you identify? How has this affected your relationship with your family?
I identify as a queer and gay woman. When I first came out it definitely shaped my relationships with family members. I was privileged enough not to be cut off because of my identity like so many people in the community endure. Initial troubled reactions from my mom were presented as concerns for my safety. Ultimately, I think it came from a place of unfamiliarity and feeling helpless in providing wisdom or guidance. Once she got over that hump, it’s been smooth sailing. My family members have met my partners and now are just happy that I’m happy.
Tell us about your experience visiting family for the holidays.
Holidays used to be a lot bigger in my family, but as the kids grew up and parents retired in warmer places, the groups got smaller and the visits shorter. To be honest, that’s fine with me – I don’t miss the big crowds, forced small talk, and constantly outing myself over and over again to distant cousins. Nowadays, holidays look like mostly immediate family sharing food and time together in either Florida or New York.
Anything specific to your family’s background/culture that makes coming home and being yourself specifically tricky to navigate?
Honestly the trickiest thing is combating the WASPy culture I grew up in. Part of coming out and truly becoming myself as a queer woman was and still is about being authentic. That is in direct conflict with the quintessential WASP way of life. I often will experience resistance, even condemnation, for exhibiting any negative or complex emotions in front of extended family or friends. The best thing I can do in that immediate situation is remove myself from it. There’s no use in trying to convince people who have never truly been in touch with their feelings that I need to be in touch with mine.
How do you establish personal boundaries with family?
In challenging moments, I find it very helpful to discuss with a friend my personal boundaries I wish to set ahead of seeing my family, and also discuss ways in which I can hold my ground while acting with love and kindness. Write them down if you have to!
How do you deal when the topic if family conversation turns to something you don’t agree with or invalidates who you?
Personally, I cannot safely engage in a conversation that directly contradicts my core values. If something comes up at the dinner table that invalidates me or my identity, I remove myself from the situation. The hardest but most crucial thing to avoid is engaging in a values-based conversation with the hopes of convincing someone to change their minds.
Do you have other tips on how to have a happy and healthy holiday?
I always carve out alone time for myself to help center my thoughts and intentions. It helps in reminding me of why it is important to show up for family and also value myself while showing up.
Self-care is crucial for me. If I’m not okay, that’s okay. I take a couple of quiet moments to myself to reflect on how I’m feeling, where those emotions are originating, and picking up my self-care tools to process them.