Note: This letter is written mostly as snark, but partly as a genuine list of concerns families have on both sides of coming out. I found that when I stopped trying to gently explain things and just started pointing out to our family just how ridiculous some of their concerns sounded to us, they began to understand more that our lifestyle choice didn’t have to be a lifestyle change for them, that we were still the people they raised to be responsible adults, and that we weren’t going to destroy our extended families with our poly laser vision. Maybe don’t print it out verbatim, but feel free to use it as a rubric for conversation.
Dear Friends and Family,
I have chosen to be open with you about my family and how we choose to live. This honestly means that I trust you to at least not condemn me, though I hope you’ll try to open your heart and accept my extended family even if you do not understand how or why we have made these choices. I understand that this may be unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable territory for you to navigate, so I will do my best to give you some helpful highlights to make this holiday season enjoyable for us all!
1. My partners are people, not aliens or monsters. They have lives, families, and personalities of their own. Try having a conversation. About anything, really. You don’t need my mediation.
2. My partners are not made of glass. See above.
3. My partners are not homewreckers. See number 1, and see my husband/wife/etc. That smile? That means we’re still happy together and that this is a mutual decision we’ve made.
4. Remember when I went to prom and you met my date at the door cleaning a shotgun and interrogated him until he had sweat through his cummerbund? Don’t do that. We’re all adults now, and the fact that these are people I love and value alone should convince you that they’re good people.
5. There is no need to tiptoe around our children. They know exactly what they need to know, that they have a family full of people who love them and that there are presents to open. I assure you they are more concerned about the presents than who sleeps in what bed with whom.
6. You don’t need to buy us all gifts. Don’t worry, this is not a scheme to get more stuff. If you want to include us all, and we hope you do, you can give us something we can all use! Or feed us. We LOVE that.
7. We don’t care if you say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or Hi. Just be nice, and smile.
8. There is no need to worry about us acting inappropriately at your gathering…unless it’s that kind of gathering. The important thing here is that we’re people, not animals. Those manners we’ve exhibited for years? Didn’t disappear when we chose to love more than one person. Let’s add to that that we won’t discuss our sex lives out loud if you will promise the same. Lookin’ at you, Grandma.
9. I understand that members of our extended family may not understand our relationship situation. If they question you, tell them whatever you feel comfortable saying. It’s not integral to our household that you use titles. When I introduce my family to people who might not be poly-friendly I simply say “this is Jane”. Jane knows she’s my girlfriend. People who have asked me know she’s my girlfriend. Let Aunt Gertrude make her own assumptions. People do it all the time for all kinds of ridiculous things. Again, see that part about acting appropriately at a family function. We have this covered.
10. Please don’t feel like you can’t ask any of us questions or trust us not to make the entire family name look like a circus. I’m still your son/daughter/etc, and we are all family. We want to share these celebrations with you, and we are thankful to be included as a family.