The holidays are just around the corner, which means we’re about to be thrown into the most wonderful, and chaotic, time of the year. For many people, the holidays involve family gatherings, sometimes including large groups of extended family and friends. These holiday festivities are often the only time of year that family members see each other, which can create a high-pressure atmosphere.
While it’s natural to feel stressed at this busy time of year, it’s important to remember that certain loved ones could be under even more strain and anxiety. When you have family members that identify as LGBTQ, the holiday can be a source of incredible apprehension. This is especially true if they’ve only recently come out, or if they’re starting to transition and live their true identity. The holidays may be the first time they’ll be seeing many family members since their reveal, which can be incredibly difficult for them.
What can you do to support your LGBTQ loved one, ease any possible family tension, and ensure that everyone enjoys a fun and relaxing holiday?
Understanding Starts with Listening and Learning
Being supportive starts by understanding what your loved one is going through, whether they identify as LGBTQ, they’re experiencing gender dysphoria, or they’re ready to transition in some way (such as name, appearance, hormone therapy, and/or surgery, for example). It is especially important that children and teens be listened to, understood, and supported, as they are already undergoing a lot of difficult transitions at their age, and being made to feel like an “other” can be extremely harmful to developing confidence and self-love.
In addition to creating a safe environment for open and honest conversations with your loved one, you may want to explore additional resources that give you the best opportunity to help a family member through any type of transitional period, such as coming out or expressing their true gender identity. Both GLADD and PFLAG offer a variety of resources to help and support LGBTQ community members, as well as their families and friends.
If you are a parent of a transgender teen, it’s especially important that you take the time to understand how your child feels and what will make them feel most comfortable moving forward. Be prepared to make adjustments and offer support in any way you can, particularly during stressful family events when your teen may feel scrutinized and uncomfortable.
Be Open and Supportive
We all make assumptions and judgments about other people – it’s part of being human. However, you shouldn’t make any assumptions about how people will react to finding out that a family member is not what they thought. You might be surprised by how accepting and compassionate many family members will be when confronted with honesty. There is always a chance, of course, that some family members might not understand, or may cling to prejudice. What can you do if this is the case?
You can kindly suggest that they check out resources that will help them to better understand, and if they don’t have any interest, politely inform them that you support your LGBTQ loved one, and if they are incapable of showing love and support, perhaps they would be more comfortable not attending your family gathering. This will eliminate possible tensions at the event and affirm your support for the family member that is LGBTQ or transitioning.
Beverly Fischer, M.D., is a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community and offers a range of transitional surgery options to support those seeking to live their true identity. For more information, contact the team at the Advanced Center for Plastic Surgery, online or at 410-308-3700.