Last year, GLAAD partnered with Mitchell Gold, editor of the anthology Crisis, to urge folks to share their stories with friends and family during the holiday season.
That’s exactly what my family did this year. Our big annual holiday dinner included the usual grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with three of us openly gay grandchildren.
In preparation for our big meal, my mom added one task to her list of things to do - to call everyone coming over for dinner and let them know we were having two special guests: my brother and my cousin’s partners. To my mom’s surprise, everyone was just fine with the inclusion of our gay family members. I wasn’t too surprised, though. I work for GLAAD, and every day I get to see examples demonstrating that our work is making a difference in eliminating homophobia.
As part of being GLAAD’s Central Region Media Field Strategist, I work to ensure media coverage of our community in the region (which includes my family’s home base, Ohio) is fair, accurate, and inclusive. Going into the holiday season, I knew that my extended family has been seeing more and more images of gay and transgender people in the media regularly, and that these positive portrayals are inevitably playing a role in changing their hearts and minds.
My grandma’s reaction to the news that two new members of the family would be joining our holiday meal was amazing. I know how important the media advocacy work we do here at GLAAD is, but it hit home for me as I watched my grandmother simply smile and say, “That’s great. You know this guy on one of my soaps, he’s gay. I love all my grandchildren, this doesn’t change anything.”
Towards the end of 2008, GLAAD commissioned a poll from Harris Interactive, the results of which told us that if someone knows a gay person, they are more likely to favor legal protections for our community. In fact, 19% of survey respondents reported that their feelings toward gay and lesbian people have become more favorable over the past five years. The number one factor for this change of heart was knowing someone who is gay or lesbian.
I firmly believe that the fact that my brother, my cousin, and I have all come out to our family, coupled with the fact that my family regularly sees fair and accurate media coverage of our community has made all the difference.
Not only have we built up a great group of allies in our extended family, but we’ve paved the way for any future family members who may be gay. They will be comforted to know that Grandma loves Luke and Noah on As the World Turns, and that openly gay folks are welcomed to our family’s holiday meal table every year.
Please feel free to share your story from the holidays in the comments section below.