Many Americans view Thanksgiving as the holiday for being with family and friends while eating food and giving thanks for one another. While this is a popular image of the holiday, it can be a much different experience for #LGBTQ+ people.
Michael C. LaSala, director of the Master of Social Work program at Rutgers University, says multiple factors contribute to why going home for the holidays can be a difficult time for many LGBTQ+ individuals. In an article for Psychology Today, he wrote, “Intrusive questions, snide remarks that indicate a lack of understanding and acceptance, as well as the need to hide from some or all family members are what faces many of us when we return to the old homestead.”
Last week, many #Kent State students went home for Thanksgiving break and will not be returning to campus until the start of the spring semester in January. Many of these students who are LGBTQ+ will face challenges when returning home.
Alina Whitehouse, a sophomore English major, says that she is nervous about going home for Thanksgiving because she is not out as bisexual to her family.
“Spending this much time at home makes me quite uncomfortable due to the fact that I have to hide a large portion of myself while I am there,” she says.
In early September, Whitehouse tested positive for COVID-19. She went home to quarantine for two weeks and says that during that time, she couldn’t wait to be back in Kent.
“When I’m in Kent and with all of my friends, I never have to hide who I am because I constantly feel supported, which is something I don’t feel when I’m home,” Whitehouse says.
Being with her family often leaves her feeling trapped and on edge. She says that she is often afraid to let something slip or give away any detail that might reveal her sexuality because she doesn’t want to start a conflict with her parents that could ruin their relationship.
Sydney Fischer, a senior public relations major, faces similar challenges. She is out as bisexual to her immediate family and they are accepting of this, she says.
“I am very lucky to have support from my mom, stepdad and my brother,” Fischer says.
However, when it comes to her extended family, Fischer is hesitant to come out to them due to opposing beliefs involving her sexuality. She expressed that she’s nervous to go home for Thanksgiving because of the recent election and the conversations that will follow.
“I know a lot of my family voted for Trump, and I find it sad and disheartening given that I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Fischer says.
She adds that her plan is to try to avoid these conversations at all costs and to get through Thanksgiving with as little conflict as possible.
Both Whitehouse and Fischer offered advice to others who might be experiencing Thanksgiving with families that don’t accept who they are. They recommended continuing to foster friendships with people at Kent State from home. FaceTiming or texting is a way to distract yourself and still be who you are from a distance, they say.
For those hesitant to return home, there are many methods you can use to survive the holidays, such as establishing boundaries. Remember that this will pass, and when it is over, take time for yourself. You made it through, and you should be proud of who you are.