Former boy band member’s public coming out helped show one family that their own gay son wasn’t really all that different, after all
When I lived in Iowa, my friends and I invented Gay Christmas. For many of us it was a chance to celebrate with our chosen family, since so many of our biological loved ones still struggled with our sexual orientations.
Gay Christmas was a blast. We exchanged ridiculous gifts like an apron that made the chef look naked and well endowed. We cooked tons of food (in said apron) and drank profusely.
Most importantly, we knew we were loved unconditionally at Gay Christmas, and no one was judging us for who we were. We could be ourselves so we could truly celebrate.
Gay Christmas was the best.
I was never banned from my family Christmas like a lot of my gay brothers and sisters were. But after I blurted out "I’m gay" to my father following a family trip to New York for Christmas, the holidays were fairly awkward for about five years.
My family wasn’t pleased, so Christmas at home was pretty depressing. That is until Lance Bass graced the cover of People Magazine with the quote, "I’m gay," screaming on the cover.
The July 2006 article was the impetus that ended years of denial after I came out to my family.
Bass’s interview helped my parents realize I was not a mentally ill oddity destined for hell, as the Catholic Church had taught us, but rather I was just like a member of a boy band.
They realized coming out is hard when you’re in a boy band, just like the challenges I faced coming out to a Catholic Italian family. There are a lot of variables to worry about — like a career, how our fans would react, and how our families might handle the pressure.
"He’s just like Joe," my dad said to my mom as he handed her the issue of People. It was progress.
That Christmas, after Bass’s public revelation, my dad said to me, "You know if you ever have someone special in your life, they are welcome in our home. Do you?"
I did. My current partner and I were together for three years at that point.
My dad and I never discussed my personal life after I come out to him so many years before. It was his wish to pretend I never said anything.
Thankfully, Lance Bass saved Christmas for me that year. He gave my family the understanding they needed and Dad gave me the window to fully disclose myself — the window that I had been waiting for for so long.
I no longer celebrate a separate Gay Christmas. My family Christmas and Gay Christmas have merged.
In part, the tradition is over because my friends that I celebrated with have moved to different states, as I have.
More importantly, Gay Christmas isn’t necessary any more because my family treats me with the love and respect that I always wanted.
My parents became the advocates every gay child needs. They love my partner and welcomed him into the family with open arms. They are looking forward to our wedding this summer. They even lobby their representatives for legislative equality.
It took a long time to get to this point, but it was worth it.
I have a lot of friends who are still struggling with their families. The holidays can be tough when you’re not fully understood or loved for who you are.
As an LGBT community, we are resourceful, though. We make family when we need to and celebrate with each other when no one else will celebrate with us.
But even as so many of us have already found our families or reconciled with those we were born with, there are so many in our community who need to know they are loved.
Perhaps Lance Bass hasn’t had the chance to save Christmas for you or someone you know. If that’s the case, then have a Gay Christmas.
All you need is two parts ridiculous, three parts kitsch, one bottle of vodka, and a few people who don’t care if you’re just like someone from a boy band. It may just be the best Gay Christmas ever.
Joe Mirabella is a longtime gay rights activist now serving as the Washington state community organizer for Join the Impact. He is a regular contributor to several blogs.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 25, 2009.