There’s no place like home with your queer family.
November is here and that means being bombarded with messages about the importance of the heterosexual nuclear family everywhere you go from radio commercials, to the card aisle at the grocery store. There is a lot of cultural pressure to have plans to go “home” for the holidays to be with your “family” but what if the family that raised you isn’t very nice to be around? What if, as a lesbian or queer person your family of origin is downright toxic/abusive/dangerous? For many of us, that’s very much the reality, and the family that matters most to us is the one we have chosen. I believe one of the most wonderful things about being an LGBTQ person is the cultural normalizing of creating our own family. Don’t have contact with your biological family? No problem! You get to make your own family that loves and accepts you.
According to a recent study, 44 percent of millennials see their pets as “practice” for human children. I won’t even go into my annoyance about people who get pets and discard them when they have kids, but I would bet that LGBTQ pet parents might skew this study, because for many of us, our pets aren’t “practice” kids, they are the only kids we will ever want/have. For as long as I can remember, animals have always been an important part of my life. Growing up in an abusive home, my dog was my best friend, and as a teenager coming out was gay, my dogs loved me unconditionally even when all the humans I was related to were abandoning me. Pets have a way of being there for us in ways, and at times that people just cant be.
I became homeless in high school after I came out, and my first Thanksgiving on my own I was 17 and it was rough. I had been invited to have the holiday dinner with an adult friend, her husband, young children and their friends—all of whom were straight and married. I remember being at their table surrounded by people, and feeling completely alone. The only good thing that night was that I had brought my dog Mercury who was just a couple of months old at the time. Sitting at the table I realized that what I really wanted was to be with my dog, and other queer folks. My dog and I left right after dinner and went home to our little rented room. I learned something important that night, figuring out how to reclaim the holiday wasn’t just about not being alone, it was also about finding ways to make my own family, and my own queer traditions. Making holidays cute and social and fun for my pets helps me feel grounded, it’s actually what led me to this place where I could conceptualize queering and reclaiming holidays in my intimate relationships.
Despite everything awful happening in the world, and in the US, I have a lot to be really grateful for and this column, and my connection to LGBTQ community are at the top of my gratitude list. I’m really looking forward to a little queer thanksgiving at home with my partner and our dogs and cats, with a day-trip visit to queer family later that weekend. I know that this is a hard time of year for a lot of LGBTQ people, many of us who are estranged from biological families and I’m sending lots of love to everyone who is struggling. Please know that you aren’t alone in this struggle and that you don’t have to feel guilty for however you want or need to take care of yourself during this time of year.
I would like to empower you to spend the holidays with whoever you love most Want to eat Tofurky hiking in the woods with your dog? Please do that. If you want to spend the day riding your horse? You should do that. If you want to spend the day trying to rescue feral kittens? Please do. If you want to spend Thanksgiving watching Netflix in bed with your cat? Reorganizing your fish tank? Playing with your rats? Do it! You don’t owe the people who raised you anything. You definitely don’t owe them your presence ant their transphobic, homophobic holiday table.
From my queer family to yours—Happy HoliGAYs!
About the author:
Sassafras Lowrey is a straight-edge queer punk who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Hir books—Lost Boi, A Little Queermas Carol, Roving Pack, Kicked Out and Leather Ever After—have been honored by organizations ranging from the National Leather Association to the American Library Association. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com.