The holiday season is the best time of year right?!
The stretch of time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is one of my favorite times of the year. I absolutely love Fall weather, breaking out sweaters and jeans, decorating for the holidays, and going to parties. It is the time of year where we are all supposed to come together and be thankful for all the positive things going on in our lives and support each other. It’s when we specifically carve time out of our busy lives to see our family and friends and share in the joy of the holiday season…..at least that’s how its supposed to be, right? We see commercial after commercial of people greeting family at the door, big hugs for everyone, a feast at the table, and images of people who truly look happy to be together. While this portrayal of the way things are supposed to be was very representative of my life for the better part of 25 years, I have to admit that the Hallmark version of the holiday season that I once knew is no longer a representation of my life today.
Before I go much further, I need to make it very clear that I absolutely love my life. I am a newlywed, have an incredible husband and daughter, the best friends a person could ask for, and quite a few extended family members who are truly wonderful. I don’t want to discount how much they all mean to me and how much happiness they all bring into my life.
A very interesting thing happened in my life when I came out to my family and friends…. I would imagine it is a similar story for a lot of people who society forces to “come out” as if making a proclamation about the gender of the person I find sexually attractive is anyone else’s business or somehow a requirement because that person happens to be the same gender I am. (But thats a post for another time.) So I was faced with a couple of different reactions: First, and most importantly, complete and total love and support. This particular reaction took a number of variations, but in time, the majority of my friends and family came to this reaction.
The second reaction I faced was a mixture of denial and anger. (let’s call them the disbelievers) While disheartening, this particular reaction is, in some ways, expected to happen. People simply can’t believe the person they know and love has “lied” to them for all this time, they feel angry about their perception of a “betrayal” of trust. The disbelievers are the group that inevitably resorts to the classic “Are you sure this isn’t just a phase or an identity crisis of some sort?” line that we all know too well. Those with this particular reaction then fall into the aforementioned group, by coming to terms with their emotions and realizing they were wrong; or they simply fade out of your life or reject you completely.
The third reaction, and perhaps the hardest for me to deal with personally, was the “I love you no matter what, BUT……..” group. (Lets call them the “conditional love” group) This is the group that will break your heart the most. It is almost like when you have a big crush on someone, and they give you just enough attention to keep you around, but refuse to give you what you truly want from them: to be loved. I’m talking about truly loved, not with the added “BUT” attached. This reaction only happened, for me, with a handful of people. I’m not here to call anyone out by name, but I honestly feel like this group of people needs to understand the damage of their CONDITIONAL love, because for me, this reaction has been far more painful than outright rejection.
Here is how it has played out: I came out, the conditional love group, for the most part, started out in the disbelievers group. They got mad, felt betrayed, we argued, yelled, and they make it very clear that they will never be supportive of my “choice” to be gay. I don’t wanna bring religion into it, because I have quite a few friends and family who are religious and supportive. So this is in no way a rant against religion. My issues is when religion is used as a weapon, or an excuse to be a shitty person. So we come to an impasse. I am gay, always have been, always will be, its how I was made and I have known it since the moment I knew what attraction felt like. The conditional love people take a “moral” stance. They “love the sinner, hate the sin”.
This situation manifested for me in the form of carrying on for the last 5 years as if I wasn’t gay in order to allow them to pretend nothing had changed. I never talked about it, they never talked about it, and we just carried on as if the GIANT elephant in the room didn’t exist. As much as I am ashamed to say it, I enabled this behavior by going to holidays and family events and left Chris at home. Of course, because he is amazing, Chris never once made a single complaint, in fact, he encouraged me to try and maintain as much of a relationship as possible, regardless of the fact that he was being specifically excluded. You guys…. I let this go on for over FIVE YEARS…. and for what?! To carry on a superficial relationship for the sake of what someone else wants me to be? Chris and I got married and aside from my daughter, he is the single most important person in my life. I have enabled certain people to literally pretend that the love of my life doesn’t even exist. The rare occasions when they crossed paths were exceedingly awkward and in essence he was treated as if he wasn’t even there. I HATE that I let that happen. The only benefactor of that relationship is the conditional love group. They get everything they want; they get to pretend I’m not gay, they get to continue to feel they are morally superior, they get to treat my husband like a sub-human being, and yet are rewarded with my love and presence. It is a relationship that is one sided, with me giving and them taking and after all this time I am fully depleted and can no longer allow it to continue. I have sat by at holidays, watching everyone else get to be with their husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, wishing that I was home with MY PERSON and spending time with people who love me UNCONDITIONALLY. I finally put my foot down this year and let the conditional love people know that I was no longer willing to meet their conditions. I am standing up for myself. I am standing up for my husband and my daughter. I am standing up for what is right and what is good. If I am not accepted fully and unconditionally, then I am no longer willing to pretend to be someone else just to be allowed to be present.
I am gay.
I am proud to be gay.
I am proud to be married to Chris.
I am proud to raise my daughter to love unconditionally.
I am proud to be who I am and I will no longer allow anyone to ask me to be someone else.
Holidays may look different from now on. We may not have the Hallmark commercial holiday, but I couldn’t care less. What we will have is a crazy, mixed bag of people who love us no matter what. And I will take that over a Hallmark commercial any day of the week. Don’t make the mistake I did for so long. Stand up and be yourself and demand to be treated with respect, dignity, and unconditional love, because anything short of that isn’t fair to you. If you are alone this holiday season just know that there are resources available and people who will be there for you. Look into your local GLAAD/PFLAG/HRC chapters and spend this time around people who want you for you, not for who they think you should be. HAPPY HOLIGAYS my friends!