Oh my God, don’t you love the holidays? Especially the visits home to your Family of Origin?
They are the best!
Christmas, Hanukah, whatever —it’s all about joy and love.
Get me on that plane now!
As I pack my suitcase, I like to play this game where I try to pick which holiday memory is my favourite.
Was it that cozy night when my grandmother and I sat in the glow of the menorah and she told me how overweight I was? Or was it that fabulous Hanukah party when my brother-in-law got wasted and peed all over the bathroom floor?
It’s always a really hard choice, and I usually can’t make up my mind until I’ve finished packing all my clothes and started tucking in the jumbo bottles of Ativan and sleeping pills.
This year, I decided that instead of just savouring my memories I would do something useful with them.
I’ve carefully analyzed my experiences, gathered some true stories from friends, and started to write a guide for our straight families and friends to help make our holiday time with them even more special.
So here it is, your exclusive preview of the soon-to-be-bestseller: How to Welcome Your Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Whatever-They’re-Calling-Themselves-Now Family Member Home for the Holidays (and Make Them Wonder Why They Ever Left)!
1. Show us that you are cool with queerness. This is the absolute most important thing and luckily it is super easy!
Give us a rundown on all the people in town who you think are gay. Throw in a few jokes about how swishy or butch they are; this is a good way to break the ice and show us you’re not all hung up on political correctness.
Maybe you’re a straight woman who loves watching reruns of Brian and Justin fucking on Queer as Folk because it gets you really hot before you have sex with your husband. Tell us all about it! We love stories like that.
And of course, if you’re a guy who’s had fantasies about watching two women have sex, share this with your lesbian relatives.
Or, if you want to go all out, just hit on us.
Don’t worry about not being the right gender for our current lifestyle preference; just show us that we’re still hot in your eyes.
2.Recognize the unique contributions that queers make to our society.
Be sure to ask your gay male family member for fashion advice or decorating tips. This can be very validating for them.
Be sure to ask the dykes about power tools.
3. There are no stupid questions. As long as you have an open heart, and come from a place of love, you don’t need to censor yourself.
For example, these are some really good questions for lesbians: Why don’t you wear makeup —you’d look so much nicer! You’re pretty enough to get a guy; why did you become a lesbian? Are you sure you don’t want to sleep with men?
This last question is a good one to repeat each time you see your lesbian relative, just in case she’s changed her mind.
4. Use language that you are comfortable with. The last thing we want is for you to sound all uptight and self-conscious around us.
If you have always used “gay” or “fag” as an insult, and you can’t think of any alternatives, don’t stress yourself out. We know that you don’t mean anything by it.
Or maybe we bring home a girlfriend or boyfriend. We might call the person our “partner” or even “husband” or “wife.” But that doesn’t mean you have to. “Friend” is a perfectly good word. If you are comfortable with it, use it. So we’ve been living with the person for ten years. Nothing wrong with friend.
Or maybe your sister has started calling herself some guy name, and using male pronouns. That doesn’t mean you have to. Show “him” that you remember the girl he used to be, and that you still love that girl.
5. Don’t let your queer family members embarrass themselves or the family. Sometimes we do and say things without realizing the consequences. So please, help us.
If we’re not dressing to fit in, if our tattoos are showing, if we are touching our “partners” too much in public, tell us. Don’t just let us go on making the family look bad. We only want what’s best for you.
You don’t have to stand idly by while your brother lisps and giggles like a girl. Remind him how men are expected to behave in your town. He’s probably just forgotten.
6. Just because your family member is a lesbian, it doesn’t mean she is condemned to ugliness.
Some lesbian communities are overly tolerant of extra weight and/or sloppy dressing. This does not help anyone.
If your lesbian relative has gotten fat or otherwise let herself go, don’t just sit there. Tell her how worried you are about her! Share information about Atkins or Weight Watchers, pass on makeup tips.
7. Remember that the weirder someone looks, the worse their hearing is.
If someone is really tattooed and pierced, or if it’s hard to tell if they’re a boy or girl, there’s nothing wrong with discussing them quite loudly. In fact, the more someone stands out, the less they can hear.
For example, if a woman has really short hair, wears men’s clothes and no makeup and has a lot of tattoos, she’s probably nearly deaf. You can stand right beside her and talk to your friend about why she looks like that, and she won’t hear a thing you say.
This is just a taste of the wisdom I have gathered.
There is so much more to cover, from sleeping arrangements (separate beds for our “friends” please!) to gift giving (a pink purse for your butch daughter can be a great push in the right direction).