by JESSICA MAHMOUD
Originally published on Queersmatter.
I think oftentimes the LGBTQ community can seem like a different world. We have so much terminology and identities that many people are not educated on. This can make it hard when spending time with people who are not educated, such as family.
I live on a college campus, so spending time with family presents this whole other world. This other world gets even bigger when we bring in extended family. When you’re not out as a member of the LGBTQ community to family, spending time with them makes you have to hide that part of yourself. Here’s some advice if you are put in these situations.
1. Don’t feel pressured to come out.
As we always discuss, coming out is a personal decision that you should only do when you’re ready. Don’t feel that because you’re spending time with family that you don’t see often that you need to come out. Disclosing your identity is a really big step, and you should never feel pressured to do.
2. Don’t educate people if you’re not sure they want to learn.
While this can be hard to believe for those who are educated, not everyone is ready or interested in learning about the LGBTQ community. On the same token, not everyone wants to learn. While it may be very important to you, maybe even your passion, don’t assume that all of your family feels the same way.
3. Do share what you are comfortable with.
Sometimes when a family member asks you a question, you may be opted to answer with something that hints at your identity. For example, I minor in LGBTQ Studies, which is something that certainly hints at my identity. If you feel comfortable sharing things, by all means, don’t hide!
4. Don’t feel pressured to answer questions you don’t want to.
So who are you dating now? When am I getting grandkids? These are questions you might get if you haven’t seen family members in awhile, which can be very triggering to disclosing your identity. However, don’t feel like you need to. Simply say that you’re not dating anyone.
5. Do address situations that make you uncomfortable if you feel safe.
Even though not everyone is ready to be educated, if you feel safe enough, there’s no problem addressing situations that make you uncomfortable. These might include family members making offensive conflicts towards the LGBTQ community or using microagressions. If you feel like your relationship is strong enough, and that they’ll listen, you should question their remarks in these situations.
6. Don’t risk your safety.
That said, if you feel that certain actions or conversations will risk your safety, such as risking your relationship or support of a family member, it’s best not to risk it. Not everyone is open to talking about topics that surround the LGBTQ community, and if you’re not sure if your family member is, you should probably keep it to yourself.
7. Do take advantage of local facilities.
I’m writing this from Florida, where I’m on vacation visiting my grandmother, who I’m actually not out to. Spending time with my family is a little difficult because we don’t really talk about LGBTQ topics, which is something I really miss doing. In an attempt to find people who identify or enjoy talking about these things, after checking out a gay bar, I decided to try and find the local LGBT Center. I’m looking forward to participating in a discussion group and hanging out with people from there, even if it’s just for the night. Check out this site to find one near you.
8. Don’t make it all about you.
While your LGBTQ identity may be a big part of you, it’s certainly not all of you. It’s no big deal if you don’t bring it up in conversation and just decide to talk about other things.
9. Do enjoy time with family.
Family time, especially vacations, can be a great time to make memories with your family. Try not to think too much about how much you need to share about your identity with your family and focus on enjoying yourself.
Family members can be hard to be around if you’re used to talking about the LGBTQ community and you’re family is not as educated as you are. Family time can get even more difficult if you are not out about your identity. However, don’t let this stop you from enjoying yourself and try to relax. I hope this helps you for next time you visit family, or just living with your family all the time!
Jessica Mahmoud is a Journalism major with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies minor. Her pronouns are she, her, hers, herself. As an aspiring activist, she hopes to use writing as an outlet to educate others.