Monday, November 22, 2010

The Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving Day is a huge holiday in the US, centered mainly around a special family meal. In case you haven't noticed, Americans like to eat a lot. It is always on a Thursday, with Friday typically being a holiday as well. It is considered the busiest travel time in the US. I’m not sure why it is busier than Christmas. Probably because a lot of people throw in New Year’s Eve/Day with Christmas and schools are out for at least two weeks (some for over a month.) So, the travel is spread out over a longer period of time when it comes to Christmas. In addition, with Christmas, gift-giving is a central tradition, and it is easier to stay home and ship presents. For Thanksgiving, people just bring themselves, any luggage they need, and perhaps a dish or two.

Because Thanksgiving is considered to specifically be about family togetherness, it can be a painful time for those who have been rejected by their family because of their sexual orientation or choice in patner(s). LGBT people, poly people, and those in consanguineous, intergenerational, or interracial relationships are reminded every year that even their own family hates them.

Some people make the best of this and plan a Thanksgiving meal with friends. I throw out a special “good for you” to anyone who hosts such a meal this holiday. Keep up the good work. I think such gatherings are much more enjoyable anyway.

But I also have words for anyone who has driven away or banned someone in their family because of that other family member’s orientation or partner(s): Shame on you. You don’t have to like your family member’s sexuality or how they live. But you should reach out to them and support them instead of driving them away. Every person at that table does things you don’t like. Why single out a family member for punishment because of who they love? If your family member has a partner whose family is more accepting, guess who is going to win? Guess who is going to get to play with the grandkids/nieces/nephews? Not you.

If you can’t go “home” for Thanksiving and you are feeling down and you haven’t managed to make plans with friends, consider hosting your own Thanksgiving and invite some friends. Or, volunteer at a homeless shelter or some other charity location that will be helping people on Thursday. Don’t allow depression to take hold. You can find a place where you will be welcomed.

Recently I thanked the advice maven “Dear Margo.” Here’s something from her cousin, “Dear Abby,” about bigotry raising tensions at Thanksgiving. Someone from Jacksonville wrote…

For the past few holidays we have had to accept the fact that my sister-in-law was bringing her husband and her boyfriend to family holiday dinners.

Is he really just a boyfriend, or does this person simply refuse to use the term “husband?”

Last year we protested, saying it was ridiculous and that we wouldn't come. (We don't want our kids thinking this is appropriate.)

It is not appropriate for consenting adults to be happy with each other?

We relented when my mother-in-law said we were being unreasonable because the husband and boyfriend are OK with the situation.

The mother-in-law sounds like a great woman. More people should follow her example and be kind.

We have ended up going in the past, but Thanksgiving is nearly here again and we're not "thankful" for this arrangement. How do you think we should handle this?

The writer doesn’t have to be thankful for that relationhip. The writer can have his or her own relationships, or not. The writer should go and be kind. What could be the harm? The writer can explain their views to their own children. The children will probably see for themselves, though, that there’s nothing wrong.

Dear Abby disappointed me with her response…

If your children are small, they will accept the "odd" man at the table as simply a good friend of their aunt and uncle, so I see no reason why you shouldn't join the family unless you personally dislike the man.

However, if your children are old enough to understand that there is something romantic going on, make other plans for the holidays. To do otherwise would make it appear that you approve of what's going on, which you do not.

Really, Abby? Do you really think that when a teenaged boy has his girlfriend there, that everyone else there approves of the fact that they are having sex? Or when an adult brings one partner they are dating? The writer can continue to be a bigot even if he or she goes. Nobody is going to have sex in front of the kids. Then again, if the bigots in the family are the kind of people who can’t keep their mouths shut, maybe the rest of the family will be even happier if they decide to stay away.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Linda, Melissa, and Matthew. I’m also thankful for everyone who is moving forward the right for all adults to love, sex, and marriage.

What are you thankful for? Can you go home for Thanksiving? Do you host?
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