by Isabel Corp
The holiday season is here and family reunions are at an all-time high. However, when you are LGBTQ+, the holidays can be a painful or traumatic time of year. Many LGBTQ+ people do not have families to go home to, are not out to their families, or have to put up with hostile behavior from conservative relatives who don’t understand boundaries. It is very important that we spread awareness about this divide, and encourage LGBTQ+ camaraderie during a time of year when queer people often feel neglected.
When you belong to a community that is ostracized by a large part of society, that hostility trickles into personal relationships. LGBTQ+ people have to deal with pushback from many changemakers, from politicians to religious leaders, which often shapes the ways the education and healthcare systems cater to us. These powerful institutions, along with societal stigma, have the ability to shape the way our families perceive us.
What’s more is that a lot of LGBTQ+ individuals have to deal with very invasive questions about their love life from family members who assume that they are not LGBTQ+, which raises levels of shame and discomfort. Before I came out to my grandmother, I lost count of the number of times she would ask me if I had a boyfriend. I would have to simply tell her “No,” and change the subject as quickly as possible. I am still deeply afraid of what my very conservative grandfather would say if one year I happened to bring home a girl. But I am also very privileged to have many other family members who support me without needing to question my sexuality—a lot of people in our community do not have that. LGBTQ+ homelessness has spiked in the past few years, possibly because the current political climate has given more parents a reason to justify rejecting their children.
This is why chosen family is so important. When families of origin cannot love and accept us unconditionally, we carve out spaces for ourselves with other queer people. For the 40% of LGBTQ+ people who are either homeless or estranged from their families, it is vital that we look out for each other and ensure that our queer friends and family members know that they are loved and celebrated. This holiday season, Family Equality reminds you: Embrace whatever definition of “family”—formed, found, chosen—supports and loves you unconditionally. Lean on them when you need to, this time of year and all year-round.