Despite its merriment, the holidays can prove more stressful than joyful for many folks. Traveling, buying presents, dealing with your pro-Trump aunt who’s on her fourth husband but believes that marriage is “sacred” and should only be between a man and a woman (seriously, Cheryl?) are all common examples of how the holidays can be the worst.
When you’re LGBTQ, there are obvious additional challenges surrounding acceptance. When you’re queer and bringing home your partner, it can be a nightmare. Even when you come from a supportive family, celebrating the holidays with your partner can be taxing.
What do you do when your parents insist you sleep in two separate rooms? Is any PDA too much? Should you have sex? Is it even possible, with your parents down the hall?
There’s also pressure to be a perfect, model couple. You don’t want to give family members any more reason to not accept your relationship, and you want to prove to them that all queers deserve love. It’s hard not to feel the weight of the community on your shoulders — especially if you’re the only out couple your family members back home have the pleasure of knowing.
And what if your partner’s family doesn’t like you, and you’re still stuck with them for another four days? That’s the definition of hell.
I don’t know your family situation, but I know every family is bat-shit crazy — or “quirky” if you’d prefer — in their own way. Here are some solid tips for surviving the holidays with them:
1. Pick your battles.
This is for your mental wellbeing, not theirs. Not only will you drive yourself mad if you argue with your parents on every issue, but it will not be productive. Would your parents make you and your beau sleep in separate rooms if you were straight? Then sleep in separate rooms even though you’re not. If you think they’re insisting on separation simply because you brought home another man, then it could be something worth arguing over.
2. Take your space (and alone time).
I’ve made it very clear when I go home that I will have alone time. I don’t intend on having breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then those two other made-up meals that come with holiday leftovers — with my family. I will be seeing friends, or if I bring home a partner, I will be spending time alone with them. Luckily, my parents get as sick of me as I do of them, so this works out fine. No one’s feelings get hurt. Some parents, however, might assume that you’ll be doing everything with them because it’s “family time.” But even if you are excited to spend quality time with your family, it doesn’t mean you have to be with them every second of every day. Lay down ground rules soon after you arrive. You don’t need to be an asshole, just tell them you have plans to do certain things alone or with your partner.
3. PDA is OK!
I wouldn’t have a full make-out session in front of your parents. (I’m not exactly sure why you would want to do that.) But a peck on the lips, hugging, hand holding, and calling each other “honey” is completely fine. At least if those expressions of affection would be appropriate in your family and culture if you were straight. If queer PDA makes some people at the table uncomfortable, good. That means they haven’t been exposed to LGBTQ intimacy, and it’s about goddamn time they are. If family members say something about it, then it’s up to you to pick your battles. If this is important to you, then absolutely fight them on it. If not, and it’s worth cooling it down for a few days to keep the peace, then do that. But have a prior conversation with your partner. They might feel uncomfortable displaying affection if front of their (or your) family — or they might feel abandoned if you suddenly won’t let them hold your hand. So don’t be a putz and make sure to consider their thoughts and feelings, too.
4. Live your life.
This means you need to stop caring about what others think. I know this is one of those obnoxious things that everyone says all the time, but it’s true. I’m also aware of how difficult it is to not let others’ opinions affect you — especially when it’s the harsh opinions of your own family. But you, before being gay or in a relationship, first and foremost are an individual. There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first. I’m of the firm belief that nobody — not even your family — is beyond reproach. At the end of the day, you need to do you, and if your parents can’t accept you for that, it’s their loss.
5. Drink a bunch of eggnog and call it a day.
Go to bed early — especially if you’re sharing a room with your partner!
You can’t always win. But you also don’t have to stay. If it gets too uncomfortable you can go to a hotel or leave town early. And keep this in mind: as queers, it’s our prerogative to have chosen families, in addition to our families of origin. If you haven’t built one yet, the New Year is a great time to start.