Being Queer in Texas can be difficult, even on our best day, but adding family into the mix can make for suffocating experiences and overwhelming feelings.
As a queer woman, therapist and human who has a very large and blended family of origin, I am no stranger to busy holiday plans and intense socializing (did I mention I am also an introvert?). From as far back as I can remember, the holidays were split between my Mom’s and Dad’s house-they wanted me to be able to see and spend time with as much family as I could. Growing up, this was a built in part of my life and routines, so I knew nothing else. While I have fond memories, when I reflect I now realize there were times when I felt overwhelmed with being so busy, I just did not have the language to voice that.
Fast forward to being a young adult, discovering I was queer and slowly coming out to family, I learned that not everyone shared my same values and political stance. As I am sure many of you have experienced, those who do not hold the same values as you, can be very vocal in sharing their viewpoints and personal moral rubric. These interactions naturally lead me to reflect not only on my safety, but personal comfort levels and general want to visit with family. After lots of processing, journaling and conversations with my close friends and family of choice (more on that in a later blog) I realized that implementing boundaries with family was paramount in protecting my mental and emotional health, as well as allowing me to enjoy myself around affirming and loving family members. While saying “no” to invitations of various family functions took a lot of practice (and I mean a lot) the temporary discomfort was consistently outweighed by the laughter, genuine enjoyment and happy memories made. I am able now to look back fondly on the times I said “yes” and can also confidently say that the energy spent and tiredness felt was freely given and not because I gave in to expectations that were not mine to begin with.
So, this is my invitation to you-- think about family who have been supportive and affirming- once you have their image(s) in your mind, you have take n a wonderful first step in identifying who you like to spend your time with. This has also given you a starting list of people-and by extension, invitations- you can say "no" when you are comfortable! Remember this is a process, and will inherently take time for you to become comfortable with.
Above all, do not forget- Your energy is sacred. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of having a supportive and affirming family.