This time of year I talk a lot about my own experiences with chosen family and reclaimed holiday magic, in so many ways this is my most favorite time of the year, but it’s also not always easy. I have never regretted my decision to runaway, to save myself, but I’ve also never forgotten that first thanksgiving when I had no family, when my beloved queer family hadn’t yet solidified into something I knew I could depend on. I know what it’s like to have nowhere to go, and what it’s like to be someone’s pity invite. Sitting with someone else’s family, trying not to take up too much space, and trying to disassociate into the gravy bowl. For me being a queer writer means capturing those hard moments with as much intensity as I write about the beautiful moments of us coming together and creating queer families. For me this is true in both my fiction and nonfiction writing and in my novel Roving Pack that meant I wanted to capture that feeling of chaos, rejection, abandonment, and anger that Click experiences when ze grapples with Thanksgiving:
From Roving Pack
“Date: November 28, 2002
I called Mrs. Snow back after all the crazy shit at the hotel. I had to apologize because when I hung up the phone I said I would be calling right back, and then of course I didn’t. She said it was ok and that since she had heard a bunch of yelling in the background she was just glad to hear I was ok. It was only a couple days ago that I called her, and when I filled her in a little bit on where I’ve been the last year or so, she asked if I had thanksgiving plans. I said no. She said I had to come to her house and have thanksgiving with her family. I didn’t really want to go, but I said ok after she told me I should bring Orbit.
I woke up late this morning, it was hard to sleep knowing this stupid holiday was going to be there in the morning. Billy was gone. He spent the night with Hope at her squat because they had agreed to try to see their parents together today. I didn’t even want to come over to Mrs. Snow’s place but I’d said I would, so I had to. I asked if I should bring anything and she said no so I didn’t have to do any cooking, just get myself cleaned up. I took a shower and re-shaved my mohawk. I thought about dying it again but I was out of green dye and of course everything was fucking closed today for the holiday. My work pants were mostly clean and I put on a black button down that I snagged for fifty cents at the thrift store a couple days ago.
Dinner was awkward. Orbit and I got there right as everyone was sitting down to eat. It was Mrs. Snow and her husband, their two little kids, and another grownup couple with their three kids. I sat at a table with all these parents and little kids and I realized that there was pretty much nothing about my life that was safe to talk about. I ate turkey. The kids couldn’t sit still for very long and kept running around the room trying to get Orbit to play with them. They asked a lot of questions about my hair, piercings and tattoos but then their parents would shush them. I wonder what Mrs. Snow told her friends about me. After dinner they were all going to wander around looking at Christmas lights.
Mrs. Snow’s youngest kid was cold and had to go to bed so I came back to the house with them. On the way back, Mrs. Snow said she’d run into my birth mom again and mentioned that I’d be coming for Thanksgiving. I know Mrs. Snow probably meant well but I was really angry that she’d say anything about me to my birth mom! She said my mom got really weird and told her to be careful because I was a drug addict. I was so mad. Orbit came and sat in my lap, and I tried to explain to Mrs. Snow what XXX means but she said she had to put the baby to bed. I saw a computer in the living room. I asked if I could check my email before I left and she said of course which is how I’m online right now. I’m getting out of here in a few minutes. I don’t know why I tried to get back in touch with her in the first place. I really hope that Billy’s around when I get back to the apartment.”
This is a complicated time of year for so many of us. I’m so blessed with my chosen queer family and the way our connection has turned the holidays from something that I dreaded into my most favorite time of year. That said, I would be lying if I said I didn’t cringe every time someone asks/assumes I’m going “home” for the holidays. This is probably my biggest pet peeve this time of year made more frustrating because it’s such a blanket assumption that seems to permeate every area of our society from television commercials and casual checkout line conversations, and even all to often our own LGBT community. One really easy way to be an ally is to strike that line from your conversations and replace it with a more open question like asking what someone’s plans are.
I know that this time of year is really hard for a lot of us. If you’re someone whose struggling with the holidays a lot right now.
You are not alone. Let me repeat that again. You are not alone. If you are in the states you know that tomorrow is a rough day for many of us. It’s a day when society tells us that we should feel ashamed of who we are because our family doesn’t look this iconic image of what family “should” be. Take care of yourself. If you’re struggling, I suggest staying away from television and radio (they will just be full of ads that will make you feel worse), go to a park, take yourself to a movie, take a bath, write a story, talk to a friend, or counselor, or hotline, eat cupcakes, draw pictures, workout. Essentially make time even if it’s just five or ten minutes to honor that this is a rough day and that you deserve to do something that makes you feel good about who you are. There are thousands of us for whom to varying degrees today is rough. Take care of yourself, and each other, and remember that you’re not alone.
Here’s the thing- if you are lonely or struggling with family rejection this thanksgiving weekend I’m not going to try to minimize how you’re feeling, but what I can tell you is that you’re not alone. To help you feel less alone, email me at KickedOutAnthology AT gmail.com and I will send you a ebook copy of Kicked Out. The whole point of that anthology was to build community, to foster kicked out families. This time of year can be hard, and sometimes reading the stories of other folks who have had similar experiences.
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