During family gatherings for holidays or events, LGBT people who aren’t out to their families can find it hard to find the right words to navigate difficult conversations that take place.
Unfortunately, I am not out to my family, save one cousin who I bared my soul to only to be met with confusion and concern that I was merely "going through a phase." I can announce that I am still in my phase four years later and going strong.
This upcoming time of year is always a hard time for me: family members asking if I have a girlfriend, why don’t I have a girlfriend and when I will focus on getting a girlfriend.
I have to be careful about how I use pronouns when answering vaguely about people that are my type or that I have an interest in. I have to be careful about how I carry myself and the topics I want to discuss. I'm usually confined to vaguely describing the “friend” I went to dinner and a movie with while "watching" football and knocking back my third glass of "eggnog."
So where does that leave us closeted LGBT? How do we navigate the rough seas of holiday small talk without resorting to locking ourselves in our rooms? I have formulated and fine-tuned some techniques over the past years that help me in tough situations.
One: I always have a drink that is near empty in my hand so that I can make an excuse to leave and get more if the conversation takes a personal turn.
Two: Aunts, grandmas and distant uncles we see once or twice a year all have a knack for getting down to brass tacks when it comes to our personal lives. So, we have to be especially vague when it comes to these types of questioners. I usually reply with a counter-question or offer a refute of the agenda that they, in fact, are pushing on me.
The last option to getting out of a tough situation is to excuse yourself to the bathroom — a tried and true classic for all party-goers. Last year during our annual Christmas Eve party at my grandparents' house, I was backed into a corner by a nosy aunt, who was also the family gossip. I was asked about how I plan on balancing school and my relationship with my future girlfriend. So I gave the usual rebuttal, "We'll see, but school definitely is the most important part of my life,” which is not a lie, and “I'd honestly rather just get through school right now and not have to worry about it.” Jury's still out on that one.
That is the state of my being during the next four months: constant anxiety. The next few months are stressful for everyone, but especially to people like myself who aren’t fortunate enough to have accepting families. So we do our part to keep family peace, which usually gets wrecked somewhere between a judgmental mother-in-law and the new wife of a cousin.