Assisted Loving: Guess who's coming to Christmas dinner?

By Ginger Manley | Posted: Thursday December 1, 2011

Dear Ginger,

My brother’s son is gay, and he’s bringing his new husband to Christmas dinner at my house this year. I don’t mind him being gay, but I wish he would visit alone. I think the young children in our families will be confused, and I don’t know what to say.

Albert

Dear Ginger,

My partner of 30 years and I have recently come out to all our friends and family, and we’re looking forward to the first-ever holiday season when we can actually hold hands and show our love just as our straight family members do. I don’t know why we waited so long – our children all said they had known for years, but the time didn’t seem right for us until now.

Rebecca

Dear Ginger,

I’m a single gay male in my 60s, and I’ve never had a long-term relationship. I’ve always dated younger men, and this isn’t working out so well for me now. When I think about the upcoming holiday season, I feel only pain and sadness. I’ve never come out to my biological family, but I’m pretty sure they know I’m gay. I just don’t think I can spend another Christmas dinner alone at the table looking at their families and marriages without falling to pieces. What can I do?

Nathan


Dear Albert, Rebecca and Nathan,

Wow, you’ve given me lots to chew over with these great questions. Let’s start with a few assumptions. First, I’m assuming that all of us are related to someone who is gay or lesbian or, if not related, then we work with or live in a neighborhood with someone who loves a person of the same gender. Research tells us that about 10 percent of the population fits this category. Second, let’s assume that every single human being longs to love and be loved – cherished – by some other person, no matter what our age. Third, let’s assume that today no one, including very young children, is ignorant of the fact that there are many, many kinds of families – married straight parents with 2.2 kids; single moms and dads raising kids on their own; adult children with their children living in homes with parents, three or more generations under one roof; families living in mansions and families living on the street or in shelters; families in which there are two mommies or two daddies raising kids together. In other words, there is no right or wrong way to be a family today.

Albert, in the words of my young friends, “get over it.” Gay marriage is legal in many states now and probably will be in more before long. At least they’re not “living in sin” like so many unmarried straight couples who co-habitate. And I am pretty sure your young kin will be very comfortable with whatever their relative’s relationship is as long as he tells funny jokes and still helps them believe in Santa – and he will, won’t he?

Rebecca, many congratulations on a young love which has matured and now is able to be celebrated openly and with joy. I wonder what you would have said or done had one of the children confronted you earlier. My hunch is you would have denied it since you said you weren’t ready to open up until now. I think this is one area that is so difficult for straights to understand – a same gender relationship is almost never a choice, at least not a conscious choice, and there are almost always huge amounts of agony taking place inside and outside the gay coupleship.

Nathan, I totally understand your sadness when you feel so isolated and different at the dinner table. I wonder why everyone is so invested in keeping the secret of your gayness. Do you think your family would ban you from the gathering if you acknowledged what you’ve told me? Maybe they would, but would that be any worse than the way you feel today? And further, I wonder what has gotten in the way of you having a long-term relationship? Some gay men – and also straight men – spent their youth chasing after improbably young-looking mates, but not so much for long-term relationships as for some internal ideology. The culture of youth has taken many of us Boomers hostage and when we look in the mirror today, if we are truthful, none of us is as young or as cute as we once thought we were. So I think you may need to make a total attitude adjustment if you are to find someone better suited to your age. Many relationships can sustain a seven or eight year age difference, but beyond that seems to be like two separate generations, and each one may have trouble understanding the other one after the newness wears off.

The guests at the first Christmas were a diverse bunch – foreigners, rich, poor, unmarried with child, young, old – and most of us today can benefit from adding some diversity to our lives. If you have gay or lesbian kin, embrace them. If you are gay and in a relationship, give others a chance to accept you. They may not understand or even support you, but most of the time they will not stop loving you. If you are not in a relationship but want to be, then you are just like many other seniors who are single by divorce or death – or maybe you have never met that one right person. There are others out there who have similar wants and wishes. It’s never too late to find the love of your life. Celebrate this loving season and practice safe sex!

NOTE: In January and February, Ginger Manley will lead a course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Vanderbilt. To be held at The Temple on Harding Road on Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31; Feb. 7 and 14 from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., the course is called 'The Journey Through Aging and Sexuality.' For more information or to register, please call 615-343-0700 or e-mail norma.clippard@vanderbilt.edu.

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