Holiday seasons are known to be highly emotional and sometimes feared, at times.
This holiday season, in particular, approaches with a lot of mixed feelings for us all. For myself, on top of the usual basket of joyously large emotions, sits a wondrously dressed cherry on top for this will be my first holiday season as an openly gay man. Missing my sons and ex-wife is one thing, facing my southern family is another.
I guess I should start this off with saying the fact that this holiday season won’t be filled with huge family gatherings should decrease the stress.
But the downside is that the family gatherings that do happen will be a whole lot more intimate. No hiding on the couch in the corner sandwiched between the grandpa that only mumbles the occasional incoherent string of words and the aunt that’s too cynical for anyone to enjoy. Pure intimacy. Vulnerability. Full exposure, well besides the mask.
Everyone I’ve met in the gay community has something in common and that’s the pressure of family. Some are now considered abject and deplorable, while others may get an equally hurtful passive shoulder from their loved ones. Whatever the struggle is, we all have the same struggle together and until recently have I begun to truly respect this struggle. It’s also only recently that I’ve learned the best approach to this struggle. One that fortifies my best gay self through the hard times, and the holidays: Gratitude.
A few days ago I was involved in my first hate crime and it was at my own front door. But, it hasn’t left me with fear, or anger really. Instead it filled me with gratitude. It also showed me this holiday season will be a cinch if I continue to tap into gratitude rather than fear.
The event left my heart throbbing but also amazed at the strength of the men and women who walked before me in our community and who went through so much worse. I’m so profoundly grateful for their sacrifice and hard work. In the face of threats and discrimination fueled by the thorns of hate and carried on the shoulders of ignorance they have continued to rise and rise and rise so that it has now become so rare that a man in the South only got threatened once in a year since coming out.
How amazing is that?
But it is also sad.
It shows me that we still have a lot of work to do. Instances like this need to be eliminated. If I were not a sober-minded, clear-headed, confident gay man the words that he used may have destroyed me. I used to walk through life on the brink of suicide in addiction and something like that could have set me over the line. Thank God this didn’t happen when I was in this weakened state because if it did, I may be another one of our communities’ sad statistics.
According to Trevorproject.com each act of hate against an LGBT person increases the chance of suicide by 2.5% and seeing that we are already nearly five times as likely as our heterosexual peers to attempt suicide we don’t have room for a 2.5% increase.
We must continue to carry the torch that our predecessors lit. They have gotten us so very far, but if we stop now, we may only enjoy this seemingly luxurious spot of equality for a short flicker longer. So for this holiday season, may gratitude protect us and may progress strengthen and encourage us to stoke the fire’s in our heart's hearth.
My Best Gay Self is a column by author, speaker, fitness coach and LGBTQ addiction and wellness advocate, Mark Turnipseed. He is also the Owner and CEO of Integrity Endurance, a network of personal trainers with the goal of fighting the opioid crisis through fitness. Visit www.markaturnipseed.com to learn more/contact or to find his book "My Suicide Race: Surviving the trauma of addiction, recovery and coming out."