And that is a burden that my community and I must bear.
May 23, 2023
So even though I know I am not alone in my anxieties, and my extended family aren’t outright villains but just a product of hundreds of years of gender stereotypes gone unchallenged, it still remains a source of great struggle for me.
I feel as if I’m being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils: sacrifice a part of my identity to avoid being invalidated by my extended family or risk backlash by being my truest self. Neither choice allows space for complete comfort.
And if you know me, you’d know that I am never one to stifle my voice. I lead our school’s Feminist Coalition Club; I have been involved in a group at Planned Parenthood working to provide inclusive sex-ed to teens; I’m no stranger to protests and marches. In short, I take pride in my ability to practice honest expression. Yet, now that I’ve experienced this fear of sharing my gender identity with my extended family, I feel like I’m letting myself down.
This leads me back to my original conundrum: For those of us who aren’t entirely out to our extended families but know we will be around them A LOT over the holidays, what are our options? Let’s break them down.
The way I see it, one can make two general choices when determining how to handle a queer holiday season. You can either:
– Avoid the topic of your identity altogether
– Make the bold decision to bring up the matter and make your family members aware of your identity.
The first option is the one I’ve been drawn to lately. I’ve been too anxious to tell my extended family about my pronouns because it’s never felt like the right time; I’ve been weary of how they’d react and because, in the past, they’ve shown that they’re not the most progressive individuals so therefore, I’ve kept quiet to avoid the risk. Many other queer people will choose this path, too. It’s easy, it’s safe, and it’s usually comfortable. If your leaning toward this option, know that this is completely valid.
But for me, I think I’m ready to try option 2. For me, taking the path of avoidance has caused me to feel like I’m neglecting a huge part of my identity.
It feels fake and, instead of comfortable, it’s been making me feel quite the opposite actually. This is why I’ve been battling the anxiety of coming out to my extended family. This discomfort is why I hope this holiday season will be different, and I’ll finally choose the second option.
The second option is what I consider to be the bold one. In this situation, you liberate yourself from the shackles of fear and wear your identity on your sleeve. Maybe you stand up at the dinner table and announce your pronouns to the world or pull all your family members aside to chat more intimately with them. However this option looks for you, it is certainly a brave choice.
However, this option can also be very complicated for many people. This option can be risky for those who go against your religion by being queer or for those those with homophobic families. It is bold, brave, and commendable but should not be blindly run into. If this is the choice you wish to make, I strongly suggest you consider it seriously in the interest of safety.
This is where I am right now. I want to choose option two so badly. I want to get past my nervousness around my extended family, so I can stop feeling like I’m letting myself down. But I also want to protect myself from hate and ignorance. So I’ve been thinking a lot in preparation for this holiday season. I’ve been considering the aspects of safety, how I’d make my family aware of my identity, and all the other things holding me back.