What you can do

Coming out (again) this Christmas

Whether you’re older and suffering from loneliness, are facing ridicule from family members at the dinner table or have been made homeless for being who you are, Christmas can be a difficult time for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.

For me, it’s a double-edged sword. I love the festive season. And I love my small (and slightly chaotic) family.

But I still haven’t come out to my Grandma. And there’s no time of year where that feels more apparent than Christmas.

My Grandma is a woman after my own heart. She drinks her morning coffee with a (separate) demitasse of brandy, refuses to use ‘lightly salted’ butter because it “doesn’t taste of anything” and was once on television showing Anne Diamond how to paint and create ‘your very own Fabergé eggs’.

I love her like a second Mum and she loves me like a (first) son, and from a young age, it was her who I’d often turn to for advice or help with things.

But as I grew older and unbeknown to her began to date boyfriends, as oppose to the girlfriends she’d met in the past, I felt less and less able to talk to her about my personal life and the things that matter to me the most.

For a start, there’s work. When I told her that I work for ‘an equalities organisation’, she asked whether I work with many gay men in my role. Wondering whether this was an inroad, and whether she was waiting for me to tell her the she-must-know-this-but-will-act-surprised-regardless-truth, I said ‘I do indeed.’

Why did she ask? Because, despite ‘not being homophobic, and having lots of gay friends’ (apparently), she worries about me being ‘very bonnie’ and ‘easily influenced’.

If only she could see me at G-A-Y on a Friday night . . .

From that conversation, I became filled with guilt. How can I work for an organisation where we empower individuals to share their stories and embrace their freedom to be themselves when I still can’t come out to my 88-year-old Grandma?

Since then she’s not asked much about work. And not once asked about girlfriends, my love life, or anything in between.

Instead, we have broken-record-repetitive conversations about Whitechapel, the weather and when I’ll next be coming to visit.

Which I’m sure she finds as boring as I do.

Just like she did when I was much younger, I want my Grandma to help me steer my Bridget-Jones shaped love life off the wrong side of the road. I want her to tell me that Mr Right is out there somewhere, Mr Wrong doesn’t know what he’s missing and Mr Right Now is only after one thing. And that sometimes, that’s OK.

I want to tell her about the work I do at Stonewall and what an important organisation it is – and for her knowledge of all things L, B, G and T to extend beyond the lesbian couple that run her local butchers, and Julian Clary.

My Grandma lives in a small bubble, in a small village, where LGBT is an acronym that could mean anything. Everything she understands about lesbian, gay, bi and trans people is informed by a prejudice construct of the society she grew up in. When being gay was illegal, and considered a mental illness.

Rather than use those things as an excuse to not say anything, for fear of ‘rocking the boat when she means well’, I should be honest with her and use our own relationship to enrich and correct her understanding.

And I might hand her this blog, as an early Christmas present, to do just that.

Who knows, it might lead to her and her gal pals organising and bringing their demitasses to the first ever Bembridge Pride.