When you’re not welcome home for the holidays

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The holiday season is upon us and while most people are gearing up for family gatherings filled with love and laughter, there are others who only feel rejection and shame, making this time of year one to forge through rather than relish.

It’s no secret that the LGBTQ community deals with family members who simply cannot accept the fact that they are queer. For some, while they are welcome to family functions, they are encouraged to stifle who they are so that the rest of the family does not feel “uncomfortable.” There are others who might be welcome but experience emotional and mental abuse by being belittled or put down continually while they are in the presence of their loved ones. Then there are those who are simply not welcome at all and are ostracized from the family that once pledged their love to them.

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For 24-year-old Ann*, the mental abuse she withstands from her mother can sometimes be unbearable.

“My mother refuses to accept the fact that I am gay and has called me disgusting many times,” Ann said. “She says she regrets the time she spent raising me and will never be proud of me. I would never dream of bringing up being gay during the holidays because I am accused of trying to rock the boat if I do.” 

The story is similar for 31-year-old Taz*, who simply tries to avoid holiday functions with her family in hopes to protect herself from being forced to be something she is not.

“I’m welcome, but it is very clear that I am expected to come alone,” said Taz. “I am continually asked where my boyfriend is or when I will find a husband, even though they know the answer to those questions.”

Sadly, there are thousands of people who can relate to this type of family dynamic and although it is a painful situation every day of the year, enduring rejection during the holidays can be particularly tough.

“Holidays are difficult for many people, however they identify,” said Diane Kubrin, licensed marriage and family therapist and Director of Mental Health at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “It is a triggering time of year for many people and I have had so many in my life, personally and professionally, say that they dislike the holidays. Many have felt cut off from their families or disenchanted by the expectations of a consumerist culture. ”

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As if it is not heartbreaking enough to endure the pressure of being forced back in the closet by their families, there are some who simply chose to not put themselves in a situation where they may feel rejection, even if that means separating themselves entirely from their loved ones.

“I told them until they could accept me as bisexual—accept is not embrace, just accept—they wouldn’t have a relationship with me,” said a woman who asked that we refer to her as Authentic Paint.

According to Diane, waiting for acceptance from families can sometimes be a lengthy process.

“Sometimes a family needs time to also adjust to the news that a family member has identified as LGBT and sometimes this news may feel shocking,” said Diane. “Often times, families need time to integrate information about this person, especially if this family is religious and feels being gay is a sin.” 

And she said there is no such thing as a “best reaction.”

“Except to embrace the concept of understanding, patience, empathy and to allow everyone their own individual process,” Diane said. “The family needs space to come out as well, and what looks like rejection may simply be a period of adjustment for the family.”

Although Diane encourages people to give their families a chance to accept them on their own time, she also believes people need to be cognizant of the treatment they are enduring while this process is happening, as well as how we look at others in similar situations.

“I think it’s important to note that there is no right or wrong way to come out and, for some people, being included in a family event is what’s most relevant even if they can’t talk about their significant other or friends,” Diane said. “I would also support a person’s wish to not participate in family events if they felt too restricted, and would encourage them to explore alternative ways to spend the holiday where they can be in a more affirming environment. It’s really important to honor someone’s individual choice, the ways in which they choose to come out and the ways they choose to navigate family dynamics.”

Whether they are celebrating the holidays with or without their families or simply attempting to get through this sensitive time of year, there are certain things people do in order to help ease the pain of rejection.

“I usually have Friendsgivings with other queer folk or just give myself extra love on that day,” Taz said. “I don’t dread the holidays, but I do make a conscious effort to be at peace with myself and to be in a comfortable environment, even if that means spending it alone.”

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“Despite all of the horribly hurtful things that have been said, I am happy to be out to my family,” Ann said. “Constantly lying by omission was suffocating me and although I cannot force my mom to be accepting and supportive, I would rather have a fun week with loved ones while my parents are still alive and healthy.”

During this holiday season and throughout the year, remembering to take care of yourself  mentally and emotionally is the most crucial way to handle the feelings of rejection.

“If you are rejected by a family member,” Diane said,  “it is extremely important not to isolate during this time of year, but to find love and support from other people in your life and to create alternative plans for yourself during the holidays with people who make you feel good about yourself.”

*Names have been changed upon subject’s request

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