You Are More than a Sum of Slurs
By, Yasir Afzal
Holidays are meant to be a time when people come together to celebrate culture, family and friends. It can also be a sensitive time when religion is in the driver’s seat. Religions are beautiful expressions of faith, life and love. However, some sects are very strict and do not tolerate deviations from rigid codes of conduct or austere doctrinal beliefs. If you find yourself having to deal with homophobic relatives this holiday season, try to understand the roots of their homophobia and figure out how to make the best of what can be a challenging situation.
A family is supposed to be comforting and supportive. When homophobia creeps into your life in the form of ignorant family members, you can be left feeling frustrated and alone. Always remain calm and patient. No matter how cruel relatives may act towards you, remember that homophobia is nothing more than a fear and that fear is rooted in lack of knowledge. By expressing their homophobic views, your relatives may simply be demonstrating that they don’t know much (if anything) about the LGBTQ community. Perhaps, they are merely echoing stereotypes and opinions that have been passed down to them for generations.
When engaging homophobic relatives, you may be able to change their views by sharing information and telling them your personal story. Awareness leads to knowledge. Knowledge can change hearts and minds. Educate yourself as to why your relatives may be homophobic. Sometimes people lash out at others to hide their own insecurities; others simply may have never been exposed to a gay person before. Knowing where your relatives are coming from is the single most important way you can help promote a loving environment this holiday season, rather than one rife with misunderstandings and blind hatred.
You are not the sum of the slurs that your homophobic relatives throw at you. It is not your fault that they are uncomfortable and cannot understand you. Always stand up for yourself. At the end of the day, you may not be able to rely on another family member to come to your aid. Make a statement by declining invitations to family functions where your partner is not also invited. Instead, create your own new traditions with your family members that do accept you as well as your friends who are your chosen family. Spend time with people that want to see you grow and respect you as a human being. Holidays are a time to spread love and to be loved. Outside of family gatherings, consider joining groups such as GLAAD (Gay and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation), The Trevor Project and PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to build a sense of community and recognize that you are not alone.
If you find yourself in a situation this holiday season where you are unable to help your relatives shed their fears and prejudices, show them what the season is truly about and demonstrate nothing but compassion towards them. Being honest and true to yourself is the best defense when dealing with homophobic family members. May this holiday season bring joy.