Q: I'm going to visit family for the holidays, and they're mostly neocon Republicans and none too pleased with my being gay. I don't want to sever ties with my family, and Christmas is usually my only visit, but I'd love to be able to stand my own when the inevitable, 'well, being gay is your choice...' stuff comes up. Any suggestions?
A: Though your family is “none too pleased” with you being gay, it also sounds like you are none too pleased with them being Republican. It's almost like you are all school children who get along most of the time, but then oppose each other once you get out on the football field. The problem is not your
family's opposing views, the problem is that you personally are outnumbered.
If you try to come back with a marvelous factoid, break out into a Lady GaGa song, or angrily shake your fist in an eggnog-induced rage, you will probably do little, if anything, to change their opinion. Most likely, they will only see you as defensive and perhaps a little nutty. After all, everyone else agrees with them, right? Well, at least everyone else in the room. They would tackle you every time. Besides, you can't fight intolerance with more intolerance -- it only fans the flames.
Research shows the very best way to change someone's attitudes about gay people is for them to get to know one personally. Makes you feel a bit like an object, doesn't it? Really, it's the opposite. By letting them get to know you better, you are becoming more of a human being rather than a cardboard cutout in tight-fitting clothing.
So, rather than coming back at their statements with zingers, it is better to realize they reflect discomfort and curiosity about your lifestyle when all of their reference groups (church, family, Fox news anchors...) say how wrong it is. Rather than opposing them on the football field, declare a time-out and open up the floor to questions. Try to answer what may sometimes be inane and ignorant inquisitions as non-defensively and compassionately as possible. Let them get to know you the human being underneath the homosexual (I'll refrain from making the obvious joke here in order to respect the seriousness of the holiday season).