I found this search that landed a visitor to this blog on Christmas day: “Christmas hard for gay people.”
This search provoked a random stream of thoughts, which I will share.
Christmas inspires thoughts of gathering with family, friends, and neighbors… most if not all of whom are straight. There are some gay gatherings held on Christmas by and for gay people, but that’s not what this blog is about.
In my observation, Christmas can present a range of challenges for a gay person.
First, Christmas observes the birth of Jesus, and in Christian religions, is (besides Easter), the most holy of holidays. There are many challenges, though, with various Christian denominations. Some (not all) abjectly reject gay people. For many gay people, the religious aspects of Christmas can make the holiday difficult to deal with.
For example, if one grew up in family that followed Catholic or Evangelical faith teachings, then have to hear and deal with rejection, intolerance, and expressions of hatred often — just because one chooses to love someone of the same sex. For me as a gay man in a same-sex relationship that to me is as equal to an opposite-sex marriage, this is one reason why Christmas is hard for me. Hatred and intolerance are not values that I grew up with. (Note: not all Christian religious are the same with regard to gay people. Unitarian/Universalist and Episcopalians are about as open and accepting as can be, while Evangelicals convey hatred and hypocrisy at almost every turn.)
For some gay men, dealing with family can be difficult at Christmas. I am not among those who have family strains, thankfully. However, I realize that many gay men have become estranged from their family and have to deal with forms of rejection — just because he/she is gay. Some families do not invite gay siblings or children to family dinners or gatherings. Some gay people choose not to attend family gatherings, either, because they always feel uncomfortable.
While my brothers and sisters and their children and I get along well, there have been instances where I have had some issues with a few of my siblings’ spouses. But we have come to an understanding: my brother is my brother, my sister is my sister, and their spouse is not. I can love and be close to my siblings, while I don’t have to be close to their spouse who doesn’t like the fact that I am gay. (BTW, this applies to just a few. I am very close to many of my in-laws; just not all of them.)
Another challenge that Christmas brings has nothing to do with the holiday itself, but with shared interests. Often, football games are being shown on television. For some gay men, including me — clueless about football — trying to join “the guys” in the rec room who are watching football is hard to do, because I do not know what they are talking about and don’t care. Hanging out in the kitchen trying to help cook is sometimes viewed as a gender role reversal, and that doesn’t always work. For me, I usually go play with the kids until my old body can’t take it any more and I need a break. (The energy, flexibility, and stamina of youth is wasted on the young. LOL!)
Finally, in my opinion, Christmas can be very hard for a gay man (or woman) who has not yet come out to his family. He shows up, single, at a family gathering, and inevitably, Uncle George asks who you are dating, or Sister Mary, with best intentions, tells you about a girl she wants you to meet. These well-intended comments or suggestions make for many awkward moments.
Christmas (or other big holiday events where families gather) is not a time to come out to the family, though. Think about it — everyone is all together (good), but distracted by lots of things going on. If you blurt out, “uh, I’m gay,” it may take some people by surprise, and change the whole dynamic of the event. While there are some movies that have shown what can happen in a dramatic and sometimes hilarious way — what I have observed is that when someone comes out to a large group all at once, the rest of the group is taken by surprise and doesn’t have time to process it, so they react. Their reactions often tend to be withdrawal and silence. That silence can be perceived as rejection — when likely it is an indication that the person needs some time to figure out how they will deal with this news.
What I recommend if you’re not out yet is to wait and tell family at another time, preferably one-on-one, and in person. Give the family member time to come to his or her own terms with the news. Accept that some will treat you as they always have, and some may back away for a while. That happened to me in my family of 14 siblings. However, with time, consistency of behavior on my part (that is, I remained the same guy that I always was), and not taking withdrawal personally as rejection, we re-developed our relationship. I am happy to say that I am close, really close, to all of my siblings now.
I think Christmas is easier for gay people who have come out — whose sexual orientation is known. They can choose to interact with the straight loved-ones in their lives in a way where they do not feel as if they are living a lie. Or, they can simply choose not to interact, and watch a movie or surf the web. I have to be honest, the stats for my website and this blog skyrocket on Christmas day — and I have a feeling that many gay guys who are choosing to be alone are among the reasons for the spike in visitors.
However, it all comes down to how one chooses to be. One can wallow in self-pity, or feel alone, lonely, and sad. Or, one can choose to think about how to make positive changes for the future. Christmas day is not really a good day to “come out,” due to the distractions of what else is going on that day. But perhaps making a plan, deciding when, to whom, and how to come out, will be time well-spent in making positive plans for one’s self-improvement in the near future.
Think about it: you have one life, and the people in your life are going to be there for a long time. You can choose to make a positive difference in how you feel about it if you give yourself a chance.
So put your boots on, stand up, smile, and say, “I can do this.” It really does get better when you decide you want it to be so.
Christmas presents a unique blend of circumstances that can make for a range of challenges for the gay person — from awkward moments to the silent treatment from loved-ones. But remember, it is one day of 365, and life marches on. Make your own plan on how to move forward positively. If you don’t, then the struggles, hard feelings, and emotions of the holiday being “hard” will persist.
Life is short: be happy with who you are and how you will choose to live your life — positively and productively.