The Thanksgiving Balancing Act

| November 27, 2017 | 0 Comments
photo credit: ☂☂It's Going To Rain!☂☂ Our First Thanksgiving In Our New Home! via photopin (license)

photo credit: ☂☂It’s Going To Rain!☂☂ Our First Thanksgiving In Our New Home! via photopin (license)

The holidays are supposed to be about connection. You connect through food, through tradition, and through your family, whoever you might be celebrating with. But how do you balance holiday obligations and your own sanity?

The first connection is already a lost cause for me. A combination of sensory issues and pickiness means my Thanksgiving dinner is usually one slice of dry turkey and maybe a salad if I’m feeling particularly adventurous. My mom felt so bad for me going to bed hungry this year that she brought a plate of mac and cheese for me to eat so I wouldn’t starve. But I’m used to being ostracized for this; after all, not eating the same foods diminishes the holiday cheer and camaraderie, so I’ve gotten used to keeping my mouth shut in more ways than one.

The second connection isn’t much for me, either. Thanksgiving might be an American tradition, but as far as I can remember the holiday has always felt a little forced. Call me unpatriotic, but I don’t see the joy in celebrating the genocide of millions of Native Americans by my ancestors who wouldn’t have even survived without their help. I’m not even allowed to watch the parade or the dog show, arguably the best parts of Thanksgiving, because my entire family loves football with a passion I never quite understood.

So I guess that just leaves me with the third factor: family. For a while this was okay. The benefit of living far away from your relatives is that they don’t remember how annoying you are, and they’re always excited to see you the few chances they get. But since coming out as transgender to my parents, who aren’t particularly thrilled about it either, visits with my extended family have become an elaborate act where I have to bite my tongue to avoid giving anything away while still maintaining my mental health and overall sanity. For a few times a year I have to grimace and introduce myself as my deadname while dodging compliments like “pretty girl” or “beautiful”. After three years of introducing myself as Charlie, it’s difficult to switch back and meet new people with an old version of myself.

It’s an ironic consolation, but I know I’m not the only one who feels that way during the holidays. Extended family visits are a minefield for LGBT people which requires a lot of heavy censorship and misleading statements. It’s painful and sad to have to lie to your own blood, the people who are supposed to love you no matter what, because you know that their love has conditions. At a certain point it becomes more important to take care of your own mental health rather than going through the motions everyone wants to see, but it’s hard to find that thin line and make a compromise that will only make everyone unhappy. My family wants to see me, but they only want to see the version of me they’ve created and held in their minds.

Perhaps after I leave school I’ll have the excuse to do my own Thanksgiving, with grilled cheese and wine, but I know that my family will be upset. If I continue to go, even after taking hormones, I might alienate myself even further, but I know for sure that avoiding the celebration will make a lot of people disappointed in me. My parents might operate on a minimal-guilt policy, but the way they say “It was so nice to see you this Thanksgiving” makes me doubtful that I could get away with leaving without a heavy dose of feeling like I let everyone down.

For this year, at least, I made it through, with some gritted teeth and forced smiles (and let’s be honest, a few glasses of wine). At least for now, the dilemma is behind me. But every year around November I’ll have to ask myself the same question: what do I value more, my mental health or my connection with my family?


featured photo credit: Arlene Abisha Thanksgiving via photopin (license)

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Category: featured, Food and Travel, Reflections, Social Activism, Thurman Thoughts

Charlie Scanlan

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Charlie is a journalism major in the College of Communication.

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