National PFLAG has adapted a piece by Mariana Caplan entitled When Holidays Are Hell…A Guide to Surviving Family Gatherings to help parents and siblings make the up-coming holidays really welcoming for visiting LGBT family members. It is reproduced below.
If you are the friend or family member of someone gay…
- Get support for yourself. It is important to realize you are not alone.
- Take your time. Acceptance may not come instantly, but be honest about your feelings.
- Don’t be nervous about using the “correct” language. Honesty and openness creates warmth, sincerity and a deeper bond in a relationship. If you are not sure what is appropriate, ask for help.
- Realize that the situation may be as difficult and awkward for your GLBT loved one as it is for you.
Before the visit…
- Practice in advance if you are going to be discussing your family member’s sexual orientation or gender identity with family and friends. If you are comfortable talking about it, your family and friends will probably be more comfortable too.
- Anticipate potential problems, but do not assume the reactions will always be what you expected.
- Consult with your GLBT loved one when coordinating sleeping arrangements if he or she is bringing home a partner.
- If your family member is transgender, practice using the correct pronouns.
During the visit…
- Treat a GLBT person like you would treat anyone else in your family.
- Take interest in your family member’s life. He or she is still the same person.
- Don’t ask your GLBT family member to act a certain way. Let them be their natural selves.
- If your GLBT family member is bringing a partner, acknowledge him or her as you would any other family member’s partner.
- If your GLBT family member is bringing a partner, include him or her in your family traditions.
- Ask your GLBT family member about his or her partner if you know they have one.
The holidays can be a stressful time for GLBT people or families with GLBT members, but there are several strategies that you can use to help reduce stress and create a happy holiday this year.
If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender…
- Don’t assume you know how somebody will react to news of your sexual orientation or gender identity — you may be surprised.
- Realize that your family’s reaction to you may not be because you are GLBT. The hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act differently than they would under less stressful conditions.
- Remember that “coming out” is a continuous process. You may have to “come out” many times.
- Don’t wait for your family’s attitude to change to have a special holiday. Recognize that your parents need time to acknowledge and accept that they have a GLBT child. It took you time to come to terms with who you are; now it is your family’s turn.
- Let your family’s judgments be theirs to work on, as long as they are kind to you.
- If it is too difficult to be with your family, create your own holiday gathering with friends and loved ones.
- If you are transgender, be gentle with your family’s pronoun “slips.” Let them know you know how difficult it is.
- Make a decision about being “out” to each family member before you visit.If you are partnered,
Before the visit…
- Discuss in advance how you will talk about your relationship, or show affection with one another, if you plan to make the visit together.
- If you bring your partner home, don’t wait until late into the holiday evening to raise the issue of sleeping arrangements. Make plans in advance.
- Have alternate plans if the situation becomes difficult at home.
- Find out about local GLBT resources.
- If you do plan to “come out” to your family over the holidays, have support available, including PFLAG publications and the number of a local PFLAG chapter.
During the visit…
- Focus on common interests.
- Reassure family members that you are still the same person they have always known.
- If you are partnered, be sensitive to his or her needs as well as your own.
- Be wary of the possible desire to shock your family.
- Remember to affirm yourself.
- Realize that you don’t need your family’s approval.
- Connect with someone else who is GLBT—by phone or in person—who understands what you are going through and will affirm you along the way.