Home' LOTL : JanFeb16 Contents great-great-uncles once wrote in “A Visit
From St. Nicholas” (better known as “’Twas
the Night Before Christmas”). The new
house means a Christmas tree and a me-
norah and, best of all, a big dining room
table where we can entertain guests.
Christmas will be our unveiling of the
house. For the past decade, we have gone
elsewhere for this holiday—my sister’s,
her brother’s. They were lovely holidays,
but they never felt like our own. This year
will be like our first Christmas together,
16 years ago—intimate and magical. And
It was Christmas when I was banished
from my parents’ house. I had been re-
vealed to be a lesbian when I was expelled
from my all-girls high school for being a
“bad moral influence” on all the other girls
(even though no one thought to dismiss
the lesbian teachers who had been there
since my mother was a student, more
than 20 years earlier). That Christmas was
fraught and angry, and my mother, who
always sat me next to her at the end of the
table because I was left-handed and she
didn’t want me jostling other guests, had
slapped me in front of everyone and called
me a name unprintable in any newspaper
I left home. I was exiled. It would be
more than 20 years before I would again
be at a Christmas with my parents.
Many LGBT people have stories like
this. Perhaps not as violent, perhaps more.
But many of my LGBT friends have families
from whom the truth of their lives must be
at best withheld, at worst hidden.
These are the margins within which
many of us live. It is not a comfortable or
an easy space.
In the years when I wasn’t speaking
to my parents, I created a holiday for the
dispossessed among my friends—the les-
bians who had been banished from their
families of origin or for whom going home
was too painful, too emotionally disruptive.
Those were lovely holidays, as the photo-
graphs show. We were convivial, we were
loving, and most of all, we were safe.
And yet, at the time, I know I was
struggling. Some years, I felt lost and
depressed and empty—I felt as if I would
never have the kind of family that straight
people had. It took me a long time to re-
alise that we all make our own families,
and none looks quite like the next. The
Rockwellian holiday we all grew up trying
to emulate was no more or less real than
my holiday table packed with lesbians.
As I contemplate this Christmas in our
new home, I think about how important
it is for us, as LGBT people, to be safe at
the holidays, to understand that we must
create safe spaces for ourselves where
we can be loved unconditionally. Loved
unconditionally the way we are supposed
to be loved by our families of origin, not
made to feel like outsiders looking into a
world we can never truly be part of.
Not everyone will walk away from those
families, the way I did for more than 20
years. Not everyone can or even wants to.
But what we must do is consider ourselves
first. Black radical lesbian theorist Audre
Lorde called self-care a revolutionary act
for lesbians, and she was right. We are
often trying to fit ourselves into the spaces
others make for us, and the fit is often dis-
comfiting at best, painful at worst.
When Pope Francis visited my city in
September, he spoke about diverse fami-
lies. He said there was often the “throwing
of plates.” He alluded to his own conflicts
at home—he was partly raised by his
grandmother, his abuela.
The pope also said about families, and
the metaphor of family, “ In my own home,
do we shout, or do we speak to each other
with love and tenderness? That’s a good
way of measuring our love.”
I would add this: Do we make a safe
space for ourselves and those we love?
Because more than anything, LGBT people
need to feel safe, respected, held in that
love and tenderness the pope spoke of.
I want my new home—our new home—
to be a space of love and tenderness, a
space of safety from the outside world,
which is still so rife with homophobia, big-
otry, and of course, misogyny.
I want our new home to be open to
our friends, our lesbian family, as a place
where they can feel safe and loved.
To make a safe space for ourselves
doesn’t require a new home. Lesbian femi-
nist poet and theorist Adrienne Rich wrote,
“ There must be those among whom we
can sit down and weep and still be count-
ed as warriors.”
This holiday season, make a safe place
for yourselves. Make Christmas a day for
which you can truly give thanks. Make
Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice—whatever
you celebrate —a holiday of invitation to
love and tenderness, to sharing and giv-
ing, to weeping as warriors, for we are all
warriors, those of us who are
Other, those of us who are on the margins.
We will be happy this Christmas, with
our lesbian family in our lesbian home. We
will open our door and welcome those we
love. And we will send them back out into
the world—the straight world that is still so
unwelcoming of us—shielded by that love
and tenderness. Because that is the mea-
sure of our love for our lesbian family and
our lesbian selves—for which we
I LEFT HOME.
I WAS EXILED.
IT WOULD BE
AGAIN BE AT
lotl.com • Lesbians On The Loose Magazine
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