Hey, Bonita!

Holidays With Hateful Family Members

Hey Bonita,

I’m a twentysomething gay man originally from a very, VERY small town a couple of hours away. Like, blink-and-you-miss-it type of place going up towards the mountains. I’ll be going home to visit my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas like I do every year, but I’m starting to get really sick of them. I never really shared their political or social attitudes, but I only started challenging their opinions a few years ago, when nationalism started going mainstream. I just couldn’t abide by my loved ones saying this stuff, but it’s really been hard on my relationship with them. In particular, my sister-in-law is an absolute monster who has changed my brother for the worse. She is incredibly small-minded and super loud about it, and I swear she brings up certain stuff that she knows I’m sensitive about just to get under my skin. My parents agree that she’s a bit much, but they share her views on pretty much everything. OK, whatever, but [my sister-in-law] is also a homophobe and a racist who uses slurs. I’m gay, and one of my partners is black, so needless to say I cannot stand her and really don’t ever want to see her (preferably ever again).
I love my brother and his kids, but I hate the way he is raising them and the woman he chose to be their mom. Sometimes I think about just not going home at all for the holidays, but then my mom will guilt me, and I end up breaking bread in a scary little town with equally scary people at my table. I get so anxious that I have a hard time sleeping with all of them in the same house as me! I’m not just repulsed by their attitudes, but every year it’s like tensions get higher, and I’m starting to feel unwelcome and unsafe, especially when my brother and his wife are there. He wouldn’t let her attack me, but the fact that I’m afraid of it at all is kind of too much. How can I make sure I leave my family Thanksgiving without tears in my eyes? Well that’s probably not possible, but I find my holiday dread starting earlier and earlier each year now. I just can’t take it anymore. Help!

A Gay at the End of Their Rope

Hey Gay,

If your hometown is only a couple of hours away, then there is absolutely no need to stay all day or even sleep over. You’re an adult who doesn’t have to sit around waiting for permission from anyone, and it sounds to me like you aren’t being picked up and dropped off for these holiday visits. I know it can be hard to break away from family expectations, but it’s about time you stopped spending extended periods at home during the holidays. I have plenty of family members who live in nearby towns, and they only spend a few hours at holiday luncheons before giving out hugs and kisses and then heading home. You’re not a kid, and you don’t have to be all up under your family like that anymore, so don’t be. There’ll certainly be some resistance to you telling them that you’ll only be swinging by to eat and visit for a spell, but don’t talk about it like it’s an option—and really, it’s not. It’s a choice that you’re allowed to make about who you spend your time with. Less, “I’m sorry, but I probably can’t spend the night” and more, “I’ll be there for the meal, and then I’m heading back to Athens. See you then!” If they want to know why, you can either tell them that your sister-in-law is the worst or you can just make something up and save yourself the trouble. It’s up to you how to deal with that, but more than anything you should stand your ground and stop subjecting yourself to conversations about how much your community sucks and should be eradicated. You are no one’s punching bag, and submitting oneself to abuse is not an act of love or anything to be encouraged. You can establish a firm boundary here and have the holiday experience that you’ve always wanted.

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