Act #347: Love: It's what's for Christmas.
Last weekend my husband, my son, and I spent our annual holiday mini-reunion with some dear friends in a picturesque mountain cabin in a small Western North Carolina town. There were a total of three families - ours, another family of four, and a same-sex couple. We spent two blissful days catching up on each other's lives, eating beautiful gourmet crepes, taking in a town Christmas parade, feasting on home-cooked meals, and playing board games in front of a roaring fire place. There was a moment that I just sat back and took in just how completely happy and content I felt being surrounded by my closest friends and family. THIS was precisely what the holidays were about.
And just as the tunes of chestnuts roasting on an open fire came on Pandora, I looked over to my gay friends, hands clasped in front of that roaring fire..... and I felt like an insensitive, holier than thou, privileged idiot. THIS was what the holidays were about for me - straight, married, with child, and perfectly accepted by society. While the warmth and joy of family and friends during the holiday season is always just naturally bestowed upon me, it occurred to me that maybe those things didn't come so easily to my non-straight friends. In just one weekend, I came to the grave realization that these are the things that I take for granted every December.
1. Sharing body heat with your spouse at the town's Christmas parade. While my friends may have snuggled under a blanket and clasped hands in the privacy of our cabin, they did not do so while standing in the streets of that small town Christmas parade we happened to walk up on. The temperatures were in the 30's and I wrapped myself as close to my husband as I could. We even shared a kiss or two as we watched our son make a run for the candy. My friends stood next to each other but did not share any outward signs of public affection. I've had other gay friends who have told me that it's just not worth the stares and judgment - especially when you are in new environments, you just don't know how accepting those around you might be.
2. Feeling completely surrounded by love and acceptance at the family Christmas table. As I complain about herding my family around to fit in all the family Thanksgiving celebrations, at a minimum, I'm always with my husband and son as we visit with his mother and grandmother, and then my parents. My gay friends split up every Thanksgiving day and Christmas day - because they are not "out" to their mothers. Because at different points in their lives, directly and indirectly, they've been given clear messages that their moms could never accept the fact they are gay.
3. Getting into the Christmas spirit by throwing coins in a red kettle. I have a multitude of options to feed my conscience every holiday season by donating to charitable causes. My friends however, are faced with the decision on whether or not to give to groups they might actually support, but whose donations are funneled through organizations that publicly denounce them.
4. Playing with your six-year old nephew without having to explain your relationship status. Over the weekend my son couldn't get enough of his favorite uncles. It was reported to me that at one point he asked them if they were married (they've been together almost 4 years) and when the nature of their relationship was explained to him he said, "I get it. It's like husbands with no wives."
5. Re-living the magic of Christmas through the eyes of your children. My friends want children and are exploring the possibility of becoming foster parents. They have a loving and solid partnership, wonderful jobs, and they have a natural knack with kids (way more than I do). Like I said, my son LOVES his uncles. But they can't just go out and start families without pondering how that would impact the fact that they are both not "out" to their mothers. How could they bring a child into their lives without ever being able to take him/her to grandma's? And since they are not able to legally marry in our state, how would they protect their family if something were to happen to one of them?
So over the next few weeks as you take in all the magic and wonder of the holiday season, please also take a moment to reflect on the fact that there are countless others who can't easily and seamlessly share in that joy. Luckily, my friends, like many of my other gay friends, have been able to form wonderful and warm "chosen" family communities who have loved and embraced them exactly for who they are. Happy holidays to you, and may love find it's way to the hearts of every mother, every bell ringer, and every small town parade Santa.