Graciously Giving our Authentic Selves

The holidays are here!  For most people, this is a time of gathering with family and friends and joining in the spirit of giving.  At Kaleidoscope, we recognize that one of the most valuable gifts we can give to others is being our authentic selves.  Most people want to be honest about who they are with the people who they love.  This isn’t always easy for someone who is LGBTQ+, though.  In fact, sometimes it may even be unsafe.  Research shows that 40 percent of homeless youth in Los Angeles (and nationally) identify as LGBTQ+ and many of them are homeless due to family rejection.  It’s easy to understand why revealing this part of oneself can be so frightening when it so often leads to negative responses or even being ostracized.

Are you a LGBTQ+ teen who’s wondering how to handle questions from loved ones during a holiday gathering like “Do you have a boyfriend?” when that question might not accurately reflect your sexual orientation or gender identity?  Perhaps you’re someone who is a strong ally of a LGBTQ+ youth in your family and you’re wondering how to be supportive?  Kaleidoscope is here to help!  It helps to consider such things beforehand and to have a plan in place.

For LGBTQ+ teens:  Consider what you’re willing to share with loved ones and what you’d rather keep to yourself at this time.  You may not be ready to be out to everyone (or even anyone) in your family – and that’s okay!  If you would like to share part of your LGBTQ+ identity and feel safe to do so, then it’s still a good idea to have in mind how much you feel comfortable sharing – and who you feel best sharing that with.  When adults ask you personal questions, it’s just because they’re trying to connect with you.  It’s okay to just say no to a question and then change the subject to something you do want to talk about.  In this way, you can still connect more comfortably.  Also, it’s a good idea to tell a friend that you may need their support via text during your family visit.  Allow yourself small breaks if you need them.  Remind yourself that this moment will pass and that your family may become more understanding and supportive over time.

For supportive allies:  Consider ahead of time how you may support your LGBTQ+ loved one around other family members who may not be as supportive.  If you’re hosting the party, perhaps it would be a good idea to lay some ground rules with relatives about what topics would best be avoided at the family gathering.  (Only if it’s safe to make such a request – we wouldn’t want to out anyone in this way.)  Maybe you and your LGBTQ+ loved one could have a code word together that they could express to you when they need some supportive help?   It’s also a good idea to consider what family traditions your family engages in and see which ones may need to be adapted a little to help your LGBTQ+ loved one feel more included.  If that’s not easy to do, then maybe it’s time to introduce a new family tradition instead.

It would be wonderful if the holidays actually went as smoothly as we would like them to go.  Most everyone has good intentions.  Most everyone wants to connect lovingly with their families and friends and be able to authentically be themselves.  Who knows?  Some families may even be able to do so without a hitch!  If your family is one that doesn’t, though, we hope that these suggestions help LGBTQ+ youth and young adults as well as their allies during the holidays.  Remember the importance of also creating a chosen community family as well, for additional needed social support.  If you would like to connect with LGBTQ+ peers or with other strong allies, please check out our Events page and see what upcoming free group or event would help you do just that! Kaleidoscope wishes you and your family safe and happy holidays!

About the author

Bryan Scheihing is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides individual, group, and family therapy support with the Kaleidoscope program as well as working in the community to promote positive institutional support of LGBTQ+ individuals.  He has dedicated his professional life to helping provide affirmative support to members of the LGBTQ+ community by promoting awareness, acceptance, empowerment, and equality while also helping individuals realize their potential and achieve their goals.  Interested in receiving Kaleidoscope services?  Contact Bryan at bscheihing@thehelpgroup.org.