If you’re someone who identifies as LGBTIQ and are from a very traditional and conservative family like mine – the holiday season can sometimes drum up a bit of anxiety and awkwardness. While we all are finishing up work, school or are trying to squeeze in parties, packing, shopping and cooking; the last thing we need is to add layers of contemplation, awkwardness and anxiety on top of everything else.
There was a moment not too long ago that family functions would make me feel so uncomfortable that I would simply find an excuse to avoid going to them around the holiday season or during the year. When I ran out of excuses, I had to think of ways to try and manage the holiday awkwardness. I came up with a temporary Three Step Plan.
- Your gay husband. You could always take him to many a family event. He does your hair, make up, he dresses you up and chooses the most banging outfit for you to wear. It’s a perfect plan. The Aunties and Uncles just think he’s just a very “cultured” person amidst his colourful persona. This can buy you at least 20 family functions. Cash them in as MUCH as you can. Just a forewarning…be prepared as after a few, he may do this.
2. Talk to the most subdued single and eligible bachelor that may be at the party. Usually, these bachelors are NOT there by coincidence. They may be introduced as someone who’s here from out of town and has no family here but you can bet any money that one of your aunties or uncles has done a full interrogation and background check on his eligibility and invited him in the hope that he clicks with one of the single daughters or nieces. Knock yourself out.
3. Be as traditional as you can be, in every single way, on that day. Nail it, sister. Better yet, be natural at it.
I hope that helps you with at least 5 years worth of events? Yes?
In my inner and extended family, no one has publicly “come out” or declared to ever have been in love with someone of the same sex. Well….no one that we know of anyway. This is the case in most families – the fact that we have no precedence to work with. As great an example Ellen is, we can’t keep using her! You can even ask her yourself – It can be quite the task to be the original!
If there are any closeted gays in my family, they’re perhaps going through a similar sense of anxiety that I did, and are waiting for it to be all unravelled when an Aunty or an Uncle to see them out at some Gay club or festival…or in my case, hosting a Gay TV program. If you didn’t know my coming out story to my family – check out episode two of my podcast here:
As difficult as it was dealing with the immediate aftermath of my entire family finding out because one of my Aunty’s had decided to switch on Bent TV: Melbourne’s Gay TV Show on Monday nights at 10pm and watched the entire episode to draw her assumptions and narrative from it – I actually had the easy way out. I didn’t have to relive the anxiety 170 times, telling each and every individual in my family (can you imagine how long that would take with all them cousins?) – I, instead, had a way of telling them in the comfort of their own home on a HD screen with 2 million other people in Melbourne joining them. The only thing missing was the glitter.
Now that my family know, the next step is actually trying to integrate my life into the holidays. That is, when you have a significant other, how do you take them to family events with you? How many times can you get away with saying, “Aunty, Uncle, this is my FRIEND,” before they figured out exactly what kind of a “friend,” she is. My mind would think of scenarios of their reactions. Being a Sri Lankan family, these reactions would 99.8% of the time be behind my back. So when they did the math, this would be their reaction on the inside:
Accompanied with a bit of:
The phone calls to the extended family and entire community would begin.
But to my face, during conversations and catch ups amidst the festivities, food, underlying friction and other politics between the many other relatives, we would all be like:
As I said before, it’s not an easy task being “the original gay,” of your family. In Sri Lanka, homosexuality is still criminalised. Most of my family, especially the older generation migrated to Australia so are still living and breathing the customs and the ways of what it was like back in the motherland. Whether it be a fear or the unknown or a religious reason, at times there may be resilience to it. But carrying the burden of hiding who I am, cutting myself off and shrinking myself so that others would feel comfortable was too greater baggage for me to carry. The relief of everyone knowing, even though they may not acknowledge it to me personally and I may be the subject of gossip for a few more family events, the sense of relief that I feel now that the fear, anxiety and crippling effect of anticipation is gone is amazing.
So, to all the original gays of the families out there, congratulations! You’ve done a huge service to the future generations of your family and paved the way to anyone else who may identify as LGBTIQ in your family. Parents will have other parents to talk to about their gay child and connect in a deeper way than before; your cousins can say that they too, “have a gay cousin.” Aunties or Uncles can related to others when they say, “My niece or nephew is gay.” The dialogue is now open. Even though you’ve taken the lion shares of criticism, gossip and judgement – the reward you get for that is: No one ever forgets the original. And your story will be told for generations with a few, or many alterations to it.
At the end of the day, no matter the venue or conflict in politics, religion, marriage or whatever, after a few scotches and a shot of the holiday spirit, we all end up dancing the same dance.