Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday No-Nos for Straight Parents

Christmas is a wonderful family holiday.  A chance to regale about the past get-togethers, to guffaw about the near misses with the gravy.
Subject Verboten, For Now...
However, one topic that should be off limits in this group setting is your daughter’s or son’s sexual orientation.  Even if you are bursting to divulge the news or feel that if you don’t tell, you will look as if you are ashamed and are harboring a “dirty little” family secret, now is NOT the appropriate time to break the earth-shattering news.  Just like you, relatives have to go through a process of adjustment.  They also need space and support to digest this information.
Follow the Lead
In this case, your child should be the one who decides whom to tell when to tell them, and if he should be the only one to “come out.”  Or does he want you both to reveal his sexual identity?
Kevin Jennings, Ph.D., author of Always My Child (Simon and Schuster, 2003). suggests that you “respect where your child is in her/his process.”
You can surmise how your relatives are going to react by how close that family member is to your child and is he savvy about LGBTQ issues?  Is Aunt Susie open to diversity and what are her attitudes about homosexuality?  Hopefully, the relative’s unconditional love for your child will outweigh the initial jolt.
Make A List And Check It Twice
If you are told by your child to reveal his sexual orientation, consider this criteria that Jennings  uses for deciding whom to tell out of the close family members:
·      Evaluate your child’s relationship with so and so and your own.
·      How often does your daughter/son see her?
·      What is the nature of the relationship?
·      Would you feel disclosure not sharing something so important with your sister?

It’s important to pick a private place for this important discussion.  Choose a time to talk when you won’t be interrupted.  Anticipate questions.

‘Begin the Way You Mean to Go’

It makes sense to begin “there’s something I want to tell you.” Leave time for questions and keep the door open for further discussions.  Remember that you are a family who is working toward the same goal: to love and support one another.

Monday, December 21, 2015

When Homophobia Greets You For The Holidays

If you’re LGBT, you know that the holidays can be particularly stressful.  You can feel like an outsider in your parents’ home.  The feeling may be so uncomfortable that you want to crawl back in the closet.
Treated Differently
Your Auntie Claire may not ask you about your significant other, but she inquires your sister about her boyfriend of the opposite sex.  And if your significant other is a guest in your parents’ home, he might be greeted with indifference.
Grandma may be put off by your new buff appearance and comment how she misses the slightly pudgy grandson she knew? “You Can’t Go Home Again?” You can make it easier on yourself if you keep in mind the following:
·      Realize that this too shall pass.  The visit won’t last forever. 
·      If you feel unloved, call a gay friend who has felt similar feelings. Talk out your uneasiness.
·      If you have brought your boyfriend, don’t demand different sleeping arrangements.  True you may be put in your old room with twin beds and school banners on the wall.
·      Don’t respond to your Uncle Joe’s criticism of Hillary Clinton’s platform for LGBT equality.  You can’t win!
·      Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings if he is visiting home with you.
·      Consider playing a family game to “break the ice.” Focus on common interests.
·      Help out with food preparation and cleanup.  The latter, in particular, is greatly appreciated.
·      Take some time for yourself: a visit to a gym, a thoughtful walk, a long shower, can all aid in lowering your blood pressure that is being raised by various family members.

Resources to Get You Through the Holidays
·      PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has tips for both straight parents and LGBT children on how to survive the holidays.
·      Family Acceptance Project, a national research, education and training program that helps families to support their LGBT children has advice on-line for parents.
If your visits home at other times of the year when your family isn’t so distracted by the frenetic pace of the holiday yield the same results, you might consider substituting your family for one you build through friends and others who are loving and welcoming. But also be mindful of the fact that parents need time to adjust to your orientation.  How long you can wait for their conditional acceptance is up to you.