Or kinky, or poly, or trans. Or genderqueer. Or gender-non-conforming. Or bisexual, or pansexual, because “bi” means two and there are more than two genders and you date any and all of them because you fall in love with people. Or you’re in a 24/7 D/s relationship where you always capitalize the “Y” in You when you talk about your dom lover, and lower case the “i” in I because you are the sub. Or maybe you’re an intellectual liberal who is enlightened and works on the Internet and reads fancy smarty things like SexIs and your family just ... isn’t.
Or maybe you, you know, like your family. They’re good people! They raised you right! They don’t really get you, but that’s okay, they try, in their way. They have their own quirks and weirdness and style, but they love you and that’s what matters.
This is one of those two-kinds-of-people moments: There are those who spend a period of time separating from their families, of examining their particular version of dysfunctional family dynamics and attempting to purge, if not just try to understand, the complex and at times destructive patterns that have been ingrained by us being grown in that family unit, regardless of the fact that they are great people and loved us very much.
And there are those who ... don’t. Those who put up with our family dynamics and don’t necessarily spend the time examining what is so terribly difficult about our particular dysfunctional family. Not that yours is any more dysfunctional than others (unless, of course, it is), but more so that all families are dysfunctional in their own particular ways.
And hey look, it’s the holidays. Joy and peace and glitter and light, right?
Well, not for so many of us who return to the place where we grew up (a.k.a. “home”) for the holidays. At best, we are cordial ... and the rest of our lives are completely invisible. At worst, we are bullied, manipulated, guilt-tripped, misunderstood, misrepresented. How do we get through these winter holidays?
First of all, ask yourself: Do you really want to go back there?
The answer might be no. And that’s okay. You don’t have to, regardless of what your mother or father or grandma might have to say about it. You have another life now. You another home, a new home, a home you may have even lived in longer for the time that you lived “at home,” in the place where you grew up. And you have another family, your chosen family of queers and kinksters and whatever particular kinds of weirdoes that you are.
You could stay home! And have your own holidays! Here’s how you do that:
1. Investigate Who’s Staying
Start asking your friends who’s staying in town and not returning to the place where they grew up a month or so in advance of the holidays. Most folks know in advance, especially if it takes plane tickets to return. Take an inventory. Gather some names. Start thinking about what you could do together.
2. Make Your Own Traditions
What were your favorite things about the holidays? The large varieties of cookies? Maybe you could organize a cookie exchange. Getting a big thermos of hot chocolate and going around to look at the holiday lights? I bet you could figure out how to do that in your own town. The Yule tree? A fireplace to gather around? A big holiday dinner? Going caroling? Whatever you like most, see if you can’t reproduce it.
But If You Do Return ...
1. Take a Co-Conspirator
Bring someone from your kinky queer anarchist beautiful life back to the place where you grew up. Seeing your town through their eyes, and you’ll have someone to process the particular crazy of your family after witnessing whatever happens after the spiked eggnog gets busted out. (Note: Take someone reliable, calm, and easy-going.)
2. If You Can’t Take a Co-Conspirator, Find a Buddy
If you are returning by yourself, rack your brain to see who is still in the area that you can call on for drinks, coffee dates, whatever you might need. Your favorite cousin? Your sister? Your best friend from high school? If there’s nobody left in your town, see if you can find a few of your best buds in your new home, your real home, to be available by phone for consults and bitch sessions.
3. Make Time For Yourself
See if you can recreate some of the things you love about your life at home. Visit the town’s gay bar. Go to the gym; take in a yoga class. Make time to go to a coffee shop or bookstore and play on your laptop, complaining about your family on Facebook. Whatever you need to do, whatever makes you feel like you’re in your own element, and outside of their control.
4. Consider Their Perspective
If you are returning to your family of origin, to the place where you spent your childhood, your family probably loves you. You are probably in good enough standing with them (e.g., not disowned) that you know that they care for you, your well being, your life. They might not think that what you’re doing with your life will make you happy, but you know it does. They might not understand or agree with you, but you know better. Remember that they really do love you, and care about you, and want to spend time with you: they just don’t get it, and it’s possible they never will. That just might be the way it is, and it might help if you can accept that.
5. Watch Your Mouth
Because they might never actually get where you’re coming from, and because you might have radically different views, you might end up getting very frustrated and wanting to argue or disagree or scream. Consider this, and perhaps choose not to. Will it really help anything? Consider the option of watching your mouth and accepting that they don’t get it, and probably never will. This might mean staying sober through your days with your family. Radical, I know, but it might help you refrain from those extreme outbursts—which, if you think back on it, might not be quite as satisfying as they seem at the time.
6. Remember, You Aren’t Alone
Everyone has a hard time during the holidays. All of our families are difficult in their own ways, and though the popular rhetoric says it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” for most of us it’s full of stress and pressure, obligations and over-budget spending, overeating and overdrinking. See what you can do to create your own holidays in a way that you love the most. If you are loving it, chances are the folks around you will see that, and your enthusiasm will be contagious.