Let’s face it, for the most part, our parents, family members, family-friends, and/or raised-guardians don’t all have the same beliefs as us. And, in the grand scheme of life and healthy dissonance, this makes for great validation regarding why it is that we believe what we believe when we believe. Values change. And this is certainly the case in my situation. As I’ve grown older, I have found some nice solidarity with friends and loved ones who share a similar pause when going “home” for the holidays (this is the same pause one might experience when a family member starts debating an article or thought on any form of social media). It’s not easy. And there will be times when topics, incidents, and issues are brought up, and all you want to do is remove your human rights cap and keep your mouth shut. Hell, sometimes I don’t even pack the metaphorical hat.
But my fellow social justice warriors, there’s something you must know… even though the holidays are fast approaching, it is now more essential than ever that we have these difficult conversations. You see, when you (we) remove that social justice cap, we push pause on any progress or dissonance which might be lurking somewhere within the almost-conversation (or debate, dialogue, argument, etc.). And I will be the first to admit that this is terrifying, frustrating, and altogether annoying.
I know the feeling of cringing while hoping your cousins or siblings don’t use, “that’s gay,” or, “fag.” More so, I am always conscious of how I’ll be perceived when/if I have to correct them when they do use this language. And, of course, it’s not always a selfish moment. For some, it’s that moment when the family refuses to acknowledge that Aunt Whitney’s “roommate” is actually her partner. Because Aunt Whitney is a lesbian. And Aunt Whitney deserves to live open and free. But, Aunt Whitney is the whispered about family member, and at times it’s easier for you to just let Aunt Whitney fly solo – after all, you have your own battles to fight, right?
Perhaps it’s Ferguson. And perhaps your entire family is walking around on eggshells anytime, “Black Lives Matter,” and, “I can’t breathe,” appears on television or news. Black lives do matter. Talk about it. Be open to challenging privilege and oppression. Be open to educating and empowering. Most likely, you’re not alone. And while I could go on with fifty more examples, religion and the ever-changing belief systems of young adults can also be a point of contention for many. Believe whatever you want. Be ever-changing. Stand up for yourself and articulate your growth. Your growth matters.
Let’s pause here for a moment (and if you have an Aunt Whitney or Aunt Whitney-adjacent, text her now…she – whoever “she” is for you – needs that support, and she needs the affirmation that someone out there accepts she and her partner as family…this validation is essential).
Outside of being a general warrior of all things just, the holidays can also be a compromising moment for all those electing to use the season as an opportunity to come out to family and friends (and, “come out,” as, whatever, whoever, whyever). Whereas it’s easy to weep with joy over hidden cameras revealing phenomenal reactions of parents on the receiving end of their child’s coming out, not all processes are hugs and happy tears. In fact, many are the exact opposite. And furthermore, many leave open wounds and heartache many years following one’s actual coming out.
Each year before the November & December holidays, I try send a tweet reading something along the lines of the following:
“The holidays are often a time where individuals come out to their family and friends. If someone comes out to you, thank them and love them.”
And I believe this with my entire being. You may be one of many or you may be the only person someone comes out to. Receiving this information is a compliment, and more times than not, you are being told because someone believes you to be someone who cares about them and supports their authenticity. They see you as a warrior, and someone who will fight for and with them. And the truth is, my friends – a warrior is a warrior, is a warrior… regardless of context. It’s not easy. And let’s be honest, unless you have the rare ability to let things roll off your back, there will be times where you need some sense of reprieve this holiday season. And that’s absolutely okay.
Also note, believing in and fighting for social justice and human rights is exhausting. And draining. And frustrating. And while the anxiety certainly goes up for many of us this time of year, please equally remember that this type of work and passion is also rewarding. Huge wins can come out of the dialogues you are gearing up for this next few weeks. Some will take time, and others will seem completely hopeless. But if I learned anything this past year, it’s that dissonance is learning, and the learning will occur as long as you are courageous enough to take the first step.
Will you continue to advance social, human, and societal rights and justness? Do you have the courage to speak up, step in, and intervene when you know something is not right? And finally, can you keep your ‘cool’ when you’re standing isolated, solo, and/or alone?
Press on, march on, and more importantly, fight on.