Heading home for the holidays can be draining. Sensitive conversations about sex, gender, and sexuality often pop up, and can lead to awkward moments and potentially hurt feelings. If you’re preparing (logistically and/or emotionally) to spend the holidays at home, we have some strategies to help you out:
Make A Self Care Plan (Or Two)
Where, when, what, who? Emotionally prepare yourself for who you’ll be seeing when. Have an idea of how and when you can take some space, even if that means just retreating to a private sleeping area. Plan, also, for how to leave if you need to cut your visit short. It’s okay if that happens! Your needs are valid.
Decide on some intentions for the visit. Are you going to entertain hard conversations and try to change minds? Or are you just trying to survive the weekend? These are both legit goals. If you are willing to entertain conversations, think them through carefully. Come to terms with the possibility of failure.
Be Ready To Respond
We all have that family member of a different generation, political affiliation, or cultural background who makes a comment that leaves us cringing. For those moments when you’re ready to scream and you can’t think because you are so mad, we’ve done the thinking for you:
Grandpa John: I still love Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and Bill Cosby.
What you want to say: Those men are trash.
What you actually say: Personally, I can’t watch their shows anymore without feeling sick. And I know a lot of people who feel the same way. Do you think that you can separate your moral opinion of a celebrity or comedian from their work?
Cousin Alex: What Kavanaugh was accused of doing wasn’t that bad!
What you want to say: Only the worst, most disgusting thing that anyone could do.
What you actually say: Can you tell me why you think that? Any alleged sexual assault at all seems bad to me.
Grandma: You know, I met a transvestite the other day.
What you want to say: Oh grandma, that's so transphobic.
What you actually say: Grandma, I would really love it if you wouldn’t use that term. I know you don’t mean it in a bad way, but lots of people use that word as an insult. That word is offensive to some people. Nowadays, we usually say “transgender person” or “cross-dresser” depending on the circumstance. Who was the person that you met?
Uncle Fred: Seems like everyone is “trans” now. These kids need mental help.
What you want to say: Whoah, I can't believe you're so close-minded.
What you actually say: Yes, isn’t it great that transgender youth are more free to come forward and be open about their identities? I’m happy to be living in a country where we are moving toward having more open minds and acceptance. Don’t you think everybody deserves to be who they are?
Loved one: Yeah, but most of those stories of sexual assault have no proof behind them.
What you want to say: Right, because large numbers of women reporting the same experience don’t count as “proof.”
What you actually say: I’m interested to hear why you think that. Most of the women coming forward now were threatened or intimidated into silence in the past, so forensic evidence is hard to come by. But when multiple women say the same thing, I’m inclined to believe them. What does “proof” mean to you?
If you have the mental bandwidth, try to use these challenging conversations as opportunities to practice your active listening. Even if you don’t agree with what your family member is saying, you can still extend them the respect of listening. By demonstrating that you care about what they have to say, you empower them to follow your behavior and extend the same courtesy to you. Plus, some people need to feel completely understood before they can open their mind to another idea.
Don’t Forget To Breathe!
Literally and metaphorically. Take space, take breaks, get outside.
Find Ways To Enjoy Yourself
Remember what you love about your family, and lean into those enjoyable activities and dynamics. Avoid activities and dynamics that make you anxious. Suggest activities like movie nights, ice skating, or board games that focus energy on something besides open conversation.
Be extra nice to yourself after a long day of hard communication.
O.school's Take Home Toy Kit:
- The Starlet—This "vibrator" uses air pressure, so it's small and quiet—perfect for when you're a guest in someone else's home!
- Water-based lube samples—small and portable, water-based lube won't stain sheets!
- Massage lotion—to unwind after a long day.
- Erotica—if you don’t fancy getting caught watching porn by your parents.