The huge amount of responses I got to my last post made me wonder if queers are more likely to feel alienated from their families than straight people are. I mean, if your family doesn't respect your queerness, this is pretty self-evident. But I know a lot of queers whose family is cool with their queerness, but they still feel alienated. Why would this be?
One reason I can think of is the kid factor. Plenty of queers have kids, but on average, we're less likely to procreate than our heterosexual counterparts (partly because homo sex ≠ babies, and partly, I'm guessing, for a whole host of other social/cultural/maybe-even-biological reasons). Holidays tend to center around a traditional family structure, and also tend (for good reason) to center around kids. Sometimes we don't really fit into that.
My own family is an example of this. I have a brother (I'll call him DB for Dear Brother) who is married and has a young daughter. I love my niece dearly, and love DB and his wife as well. Partly because DB has a kid, a trend has emerged: My parents and DB's wife's parents, who live 10-12 hours' drive apart, spend Christmas together. Actually, it's more like my parents have been subsumed into DB's wife's family, since the group includes many other members of her family as well. So DB and his wife each get to be with both sets of parents every Christmas. This is convenient for them, and also great for my niece, since she gets to be with all four of her grandparents every year.
As you can probably figure out, this leaves me in a slightly weird place. Do my DGF and I drive 10-12 hours to spend Christmas with DB's wife's family? Last year, we did; we rented a car and spent some time on our own and some time with them. This year, however, they are renting a house in a remote, snowy location and spending four nights there. DGF and I were invited to come (though we were not invited to help decide where Christmas would happen). DGF and I decided we would not come along this year. Our decision was met with much sadness and consternation by my parents.
The first two years it happened, I was annoyed that my parents decided to join a new clan. But now I am at peace with it: they want to be with their grandkid, and this way they can see her every Christmas. I understand. The hard part for me is the expectation that I will always join them. My mom is upset that I am not coming this year. And while I am sad that I will not be with my parents, DB, sister-in-law, and niece, I do not wish to drive 12 hours to spend four nights with my DB's wife's family. They are nice people. But I have decided I will come along some years, and not others. This is the first year I've said no. I'm okay with my parents' choice about how to spend their Christmas, but I wish they better understood my decision to sit this one out. I'm not trying to prove or anything by not going, either. I just don't feel like going again this year.
If I had kids, things would probably be different. Either my parents would switch off between my brother and I for Christmas, or I guess I would go along so the cousins could be together. But I don't have kids, and I don't foresee having them in the near future. And so as a result, Christmas is as I've described above. And it just leaves me feeling weird and sad. Am I being selfish? Independent? Petulant? Self-actualizing? I don't know. I wish Christmas wasn't loaded with so many weird emotions.
I'm hoping that this year, the DGF and I can start some traditions of our own. Last night, we lit a candle for Hanukkah (we're not Jewish) and I gave her all of her Christmas presents. It was wonderful and unexpected and romantic. On Christmas, we're planning to spend some time with our friend M, and some time with our friends C&D (C is my butch buddy; D is her awesome wife). Maybe we'll think of some other traditions to incorporate. Will we bake cookies together? Go to church? Eat Chinese food with Jewish friends on Christmas eve? Who knows. But despite my weird guild/sadness/confusion about family stuff this year, I'm looking forward to creating some traditions that are mine and my DGF's.
How about you guys? Any sticky family situations you're avoiding? Any cool new holiday tradition ideas that you and your DGF share?