The holidays are some of the most cherished times of the year — unless your family is wildly homophobic. Then they can be hellish. If your Thanksgiving turkey comes with a hefty side of looming transphobia, homophobia, or bigotry in general, here are some tips for making it as smooth as possible.
Keep a Cool Head: Sure, your first instinct might be to grab the bottle when your aunt starts in about the Trump train, but it really won't help. Booze is known to escalate emotions, and the last thing anyone needs is to be overly emotional in situations like that. If it gets too much for you, step outside.
Offer to run to the store and see if anyone needs anything — “forgetting” the thing your homophobic relative requests is optional — or, if your family has a dog, ask to take it for a walk.
Defuse the situation by removing yourself from it when it gets too heated; then, if you want to come back in with a clearer head to debate Aunt Debbie, go for it.
Stick Close to the Relatives Who Support You: Look, I have some pretty personal knowledge when it comes to dealing with a homophobic extended family, but even on that side of the family I still have one cousin who is very progressive, so during the rare family gathering we tend to stick pretty close together. It makes it a little easier when there’s someone to whom you can pass a glance of “Can you believe this shit?” from across the table.
If absolutely none of your family is supportive, try opting to skip it altogether and go for a Friendsgiving if it is possible and safe for you to do so. If you have absolutely no choice but to go and absolutely everyone in your family is a bigoted windbag, have a friend or two that you trust enough to let them know about the situation and ask if they can be on standby through the phone.
Stand Up for Yourself to the Best of Your Ability: Don’t feel bad if you can’t speak up due to a power struggle dynamic in your family. If it would genuinely be unsafe for you to speak up, don’t feel obliged to do so. Look after yourself first and foremost. You do not have to be the mouthpiece for the LGBTQ community if it will genuinely put you in harm's way. If you can speak up and you feel obligated to do so, go for it.
Speak up if you want to speak up, but don’t think ill of yourself if you are in a situation where you have to remain silent. You know your values, and that’s all that matters.
If you need a discreet outlet to express your thoughts, consider keeping a log on the notes section of your phone. It will be less conspicuous than a traditional journal, so you won’t be bothered with people asking what you are writing about.
Take Care of Yourself First: Look, if you need to lock yourself in the bathroom and cry, do it. If you need to remove yourself from the situation altogether, do it. Never let anyone compromise your mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Consider keeping your bag pretty much packed in case so that if you need to leave quickly, you have the chance to do so.
Always keep in mind that if your family is bigoted, it is on them and has nothing to do with you.
Set Aside a Day for Yourself When You Get Back: If possible, take the day after you get back to take care of yourself. See a movie, hit up all the sales online, chat with friends. Do whatever you need to restore your soul.
JESSA POWERS is an editorial intern at The Advocate.