Thanksgiving can be a tough time for some gays. To help brunt the Turkey Day stress, we posed this question to a comedian, some LGBT activists and a radio morning show host: How does a gay survive Thanksgiving? Their answers will make you laugh and, even better, inspire.
Comedian Ian Aber
Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday filled with family food and fun. Thanksgiving can also be a relentless battle zone, where passive aggressive comments, lifelong familial grudges and political and religious ideology combine with poor alcohol pacing and general ennui to create a emotional thunder dome from which no one escapes unscathed.
Here are a few tips that may help you make it through the day.
1. Drink enough not to care but still sober enough to drive yourself if you need a quick escape to go get …
2. Ice. You can never have enough of it and icy glares from your boyfriend's fundamentalist grand father doesn't count. Just have an escape plan and a list of keywords, that if mentioned, you can get out of the fire zone. Like Obamacare, Boehner, Tea Party and Sarah Palin. (Brush up on this handy cheat sheet, too.)
3. Nap. Pretend to be asleep. Maybe mention you were diagnosed with Narcolepsy when you arrive so it doesn't seem strange when you close your eyes in the middle of a political discussion with your racist ass uncle. Snoring really loud over the most offensive parts might be overselling it.
4. Drugs. A 1/2 a Xanax may be all it takes for you not to lose your shit around your family. Drugs aren't always the answer, but in this case they are. Talk to your health care provider.
5. Pretend you like them. Sometime the best offense is a complete pretense. Sure, these are the people who brought you into the world but they are also the ones who installed and push all your buttons. But you can at least act like you enjoy their company for one day a year, can't you?
6. If you must go off on anybody, save it for the end of the meal and have your exit planned. Nothing worse than summarily letting everyone you are related to have it and then have to wait 30 minutes for a cab.
Melissa Carter, morning show host, B98.5 FM
Never forget that we as humans have far more in common than not, and that we make the choice whether or not to be happy. So when you find yourself in an awkward situation at Thanksgiving, try to remember to stay in the moment and focus only on the things you love about the people around you. The rest should just be taken as entertainment and fodder for your blog.
Buck Cooke, executive director, Atlanta Pride
How does a gay survive Thanksgiving? Well, this gay journeys home to the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains near Greer, S.C., and I survive by bringing the gay with me, as if I had any choice in the matter. I usually play one of my favorite musical soundtracks on my drive north (“Peter Pan,” “Rent” and “Evita” are perennial favorites) to keep me surrounded by the fairy dust that is so hard to find outside of our Southern gay mecca of Atlanta. I also have the very gay task of helping my sister and her family decorate their Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night, so that helps, too.
At night, I re-read old Wonder Woman comics from the 70s, 80s and 90s that are stored in the closets of my childhood bedroom since I think they were a large cause of me becoming gay in the first place. And, like a good gay, I blast Christmas carols all the way back to Atlanta so I can do my part to usher in the Christmas season.
Craig Washington, prevention program manager, AID Atlanta
Many who know the hypocrisy of the myth associated with Thanksgiving and the real eradication of indigenous peoples in the U.S., redefine it as an occasion to break bread with loved ones. For LGBTQ people our friendship circles serve the traditional functions of family, providing nurturing, support and love. Some of us are fully affirmed by our families of origin, but far too many are rejected or offered the scraps of partial acceptance.
I was once invited to my brother and sister-in-law's home for Thanksgiving and my sister-in-law tried to dissuade me from bringing my then partner Lenny. She mentioned that my nephews had reached the age where they were asking questions. I said I would be more than happy to answer them. I told her and the rest of my family that if Lenny was not welcome than neither was I. Lenny came with me and everyone wound up having a great time.
I will never forget how committed I was to stand my ground and how, regardless of the outcome, I would not accept anything less than a dignified welcome. We all deserve to enjoy occasions (traditional and otherwise) where we are fully welcomed and accepted as we are. I encourage you to go where you are fully fed and do not drink from any separate but unequal fountains. Be with those whom bring you joy, recognize your worth, show you respect and make you laugh.
Rick Westbrook, executive director, Lost N Found Youth
As I reflect back on Thanksgiving growing up, I remember spending lots of times in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother. I learned so many things from both of them and was actually groomed to be the matriarch of the family when they passed on. That’s right, I said matriarch not patriarch, cause I think they knew before I knew. I proudly take on the mantle and use it every day when dealing with the youth of our city. Because of the unconditional love given by these two women it makes me a better person and allows me to share that with others.
Lance Mealer, program coordinator, AID Atlanta’s GO Atlanta
When I came out my family distanced themselves from me and family gatherings were rather uncomfortable. Couple this with the fact that I had moved to another state to “start over” and the holidays were really a rough time for me. I couldn’t justify traveling over 8 hours on the road or spending hundreds of dollars for a weekend trip ‘home’ to suffer the discomfort that would last my entire trip. After the first year of sitting at home with a cold pizza and channel surfing, I decided there had to be something I could do that gave me the feeling of being included in the holidays.
The following year, I set out to find friends that were in similar situations. So I started what was referred to as the “Not So Homeless Thanksgiving.” It was a group of friends that got together on Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate the holidays with each other.
It wasn’t anything grand, usually only about five or six of us. Some of us were there because our family gatherings were too uncomfortable and some of gathered because we just couldn’t afford the trip to wherever home may be. Regardless of the reason, we had each other and we were Thankful for that. It was our family and that’s how we survived. So, during this time of family, remember that you can pick your family and do every time you pick a friend.