Queers, holidays and family

What is it like to spend the holiday with family as a queer person. Below is from our conversation with a queer Ethiopian.

As a queer person, what is like to spend the holidays with family?
During the holidays, we gather in the living room talking and watching television programs that focus on the holiday. I used to like the holidays a lot when I was a child because they would buy us new shoes and clothes and we used to be allowed to hang out with the other kids in the neighborhood in a way that we were not allowed during other times. And if it is a religious holiday, we spend the day in church. However, ever since I came out to myself, the holiday has been fraught with complications. While I enjoy spending time with family, the joy and laughter that comes with it, it is also a time when I am acutely aware of how much of myself I need to hide. It is a time that I think about how much I have to hide. I see how open everyone else is and I cannot stop myself from wondering about how they would react if they knew about me. This causes a sense of loneliness even as I am surrounded by people.

In what ways do you feel this sense of isolation?
My queerness is a salient issue during the holidays for me as we gather as a family and spend an extended period of time with eachother under one roof. While I don’t know my family’s views on same-sex love and attraction, I assume that my queernes would shock them given how religious they are. So, during the holidays, I worry that they may realize my queerness and thus this may lead to this being my last holiday with them. My mind keeps wandering away from them and to aspects of my life that they don’t know about.

Have you ever thought about bringing someone you are seeing to your family for the holidays?
Yes! After I came out, I introduced my partner to my family and I told them that she was a very close friend. I used to take her home for the holidays. I remember that during the first holiday that I took her home, we sat far apart, we did not look at each other and we didn’t talk a lot about ourselves and we feared that my family may be able to tell that we were involved. Although they did not know that we were together, I was very happy that they liked her. My family used to take good care of her whenever she came to the house but my mom used to say “May I see both of you get married one day” and we used to joke that she really meant “may you two get married to each other”.

Have you ever spent the holiday with other queer people? What was it like or what do you think it would be like?
I have never spent a religious holiday with queer people but I can talk about the time that I spent a holiday with queer people. I was able to not think twice about what I said or the jokes that I made. We listened to music by queer artists and we spent time talking about our relationship with my then girlfriend and some of our humorous experiences. We had a very good time. I don’t know how to explain what it means to not have to edit who you are, to not have to wonder “Would they accept me if they know I am queer?” It is being fully present without worrying about anything else. I see how free I feel even when I am with allies so I find it hard to explain what it is like to spend time with other queer people. I think because most of us have similar experiences in regards to how our family views us, we are bound to have deep discussions and have a relaxed and joyful time.  

What would be your ideal way to spend the holidays with family?
My ideal holiday involves my mom not asking me when I will get married or when I will have children, my being able to be fully present and when I am out to them and I can enjoy it without having to edit myself. I want to spend a holiday just as when I did as a child and it was a time when I did not worry about what I am wearing just to make them happy. But since that is not the case, during the holidays, even as a thirty something old, I spend time worrying about how to answer or how to avoid their questions.

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