After being driven away from family Thanksgiving by intolerance, Eden takes a chance on reuniting in the hopes of achieving a television-quality holiday.
By Eden Lane
For some people, Going home for the holidays can be as sentimental as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, but for many LGBT people it can be a source of family drama. I learned that the hard way one year when I made the trip home for Thanksgiving with my boyfriend only to be informed that he was not included in the invitation because it was “just going to be family.” Since both he and I had family in the area, we reluctantly agreed to spend most of the day apart.
When the day arrived, as I was helping my mother set the table, I counted more places than I had expected. That is when I learned the truth: the “no-boyfriends” restriction had not been placed on my young female relatives, several of whom would be bringing theirs.
I was faced with a decision: Let it go for the sake of the holiday or confront the intolerance. I chose the latter. Though I was vibrating with hurt and anger inside, I calmly informed my family that if I was not welcome to share the day as fully as the rest of them, I wouldn’t share it at all. Then I left. I often wish I had quoted Harvey Fierstein and exited like Bette Davis. Oh well.
So I was somewhat conflicted about returning to family Thanksgiving years later after transitioning. I’d be
returning as both a married lady and mother, and I wondered what it would be like to sit around the family table: Would my daughter be treated differently? Would my relatives respect my marriage? Would they refer to me by the right name and correct pronouns?
Despite these reservations, my husband, daughter, our three dogs and I packed up to drive over the river and through the woods — well, technically, along the interstate and back — to the Midwest.
We arrived at my grandfather’s home a few days before the holiday. It was a chance for us to readjust to the rural rhythms and for Grandpa to get acquainted with my husband and daughter. Some family members dropped by for short visits — which seemed like a good way to warm up before the big dinner. Though it all seemed idyllic, I couldn’t help but wonder if the big day would live up to my best hopes or my worst fears.
Dinner was to be held at my cousin’s farmhouse. The dairy farm with its over-100-year-old house made for a perfect family holiday setting. My cousin would be cooking the turkey and ham, but we’d all bring something to the table: Grandpa baked his famous pineapple upside-down cake; my daughter had helped me make a rich, creamy dish called Princess Potatoes that we reserve for special occasions.
We arrived a bit early — partly to help with setting up and partly to avoid “making an entrance” that drew all eyes at once. For many trans people, social situations can trigger insecurities. Concentrated attention can feel like the gaze of judgment.
Soon, the house was bursting with family, and this was no solemn, quiet celebration. It was buzzing with conversation and laughter. Rather than designate a kids’ table, all the generations were mixed together. Food was passed and stories were shared with gusto, and before long dinner was complete, and people had drifted away from the table to continue chatting, play games or nap.
I ended in the kitchen with some of the other women, chatting, packing up leftovers, doing dishes. That’s when I had a moment of realization: After all that time I’d spent fearing rejection, there I was, surrounded by my female relatives in the most traditional of circumstances and feeling only love and fellowship with them. Together, we had created a beautiful holiday like the ones I’d had growing up before I’d been driven away by the drama. I’d finally gotten the Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday of my dreams.
Eden is the host, creator and producer of In Focus with Eden Lane, a weekly program celebrating arts and culture on PBS-KBDI in Colorado. She has recently appearanced on CNN and Entertainment Tonight and was profiled by People as “America’s First Transgender Television Reporter.”
Last modified: July 27, 2017