The holiday season is tough for anyone who struggles with mental illness, chronic illness, and the all-too frequent occurrence of identity policing from one’s extended family. To be a person with multiple marginalized identities during the holiday season is, in my experience, to feel like a moving target that has to simultaneously walk on eggshells and try to avoid being hit. Due to the frequent erasure of bisexuality, even in communities that strive for inclusivity, coming out as bi in a world where many devalue and disregard our identity is a challenge.
Our identities as bi and queer are often associated with shame, riddled with misunderstanding as far as the general public is concerned, seen as a “phase” or a temporary youthful indiscretion, and in many cases completely ignored or erased. Thus, seeing extended family members who may hold one or all of these views about bisexuality can be a huge source of stress. This is especially true when generational differences, political differences and religion are involved.
As such, the concept of coming out to my Abuela and Abuelo is daunting and terrifying. This December, I’ll be in Puerto Rico for almost a month staying with my family there. I’m not as worried about being out to my younger family members, who I am sure will stumble across this article in due time. I know that’s an age bias on my part that I recognize and need to work on; there are plenty of people in their 80’s, like my grandparents are, who are all in for equality. I need to give my own grandparents a chance to accept me, even though it might be daunting.
I do not live in Puerto Rico, where almost all of my dad’s side of the family lives, though I can glean from resources and talking to my primos/as that conversations about LGBTQIA+ rights are fairly taboo, and perception of LGBTQIA+ people is not always overwhelmingly positive. I think many of us who are latinx have to grapple with bridging the gap between culture and sexuality. I only specify latinx folks because that’s where my experience is. I imagine that for most POC, there is always a cultural/racial factor to other parts of our identities. It’s a lot to balance, and there’s a brilliant piece that covers what I’m talking about in much greater depth here.
My Abuela is happiest when she is creating something for other people whom she has invited into her home. Whether she’s creating environment, food, conversation, or just expressions of love, she thrives off of the presence of her family. My Abuelo, who has just recently undergone treatment for stage 4 colon cancer, is a natural born comedian. He strives to make people laugh, even if they’re laughing because they are uncomfortable. That said, both are very traditional, very Catholic, and may not be too keen on the idea of their granddaughter dating people of all genders.
In some ways, I struggle with my identity because I am terrified that my abuelos will be disappointed in me, will believe the stigma and stereotypes over my experience. Being closeted creates additional stress during the holidays, especially for folks whose homes will not be safe for them if they come out. I’m quite privileged to know that I’ll have a safe place to live regardless of what happens, and that the large majority of my family is on my side. That said, even visiting extended family and friends around the country causes me some stress. I am always self-editing, hiding, diverting attention away from me, etc. I’m a really high-anxiety person, and that just gets worse with the pressure of Western culture’s “holiday cheer.”