Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Letting Aunt Betty Feel Awkward This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, Let Aunt Betty Feel a Little Awkward…

The LGBT community has a ton to be thankful for from the past year. But we also have a long way to go. And believe it or not, putting down that forkful of stuffing for a minute and just talking about yourself (if you can) this Thanksgiving can make a huge difference.

We've all had those Thanksgiving dinners where Aunt Betty decides this is the perfect time to discuss a year's worth of ailments and medical treatments. Well, you know what? If she can talk about her podiatrist, you can talk about your partner.

The fact is, while you're scarfing down mashed potatoes and staying silent while everyone else at the table is freely speaking their minds, you're missing a golden opportunity to make real, honest progress by talking about your life, and the things you care about. It's okay if Aunt Betty feels a little awkward at first, it's important for her to know that someone she loves cares deeply about LGBT equality. And the more we all talk about what's important to us, the less awkward those conversations will become.

Today some LGBT people can't be open about who they are. But if you do feel comfortable, speaking openly and honestly about your life with your loved ones is one of the best ways for all of us to move forward together.

Are you going to let Aunt Betty feel a little awkward this Thanksgiving?
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Why this is really important.
In 2008, we did a study of people who said their opinions on LGBT issues were more favorable than they were five years prior. Of those who were now more supportive of LGBT equality, four out of five cited personally knowing someone who was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as a primary reason.

The more comfortable you are talking about your life, the more comfortable other people will be standing up for LGBT issues with their friends and co-workers. Maybe Aunt Betty will speak up and use you as an example the next time someone at her office speaks out against marriage equality.

What about straight allies?
If you're a straight ally, there are a lot of perfectly natural and easy ways to talk about how important LGBT issues are with your friends and family. If politics come up, you can talk about where various candidates stand on LGBT issues. If you're watching the 49ers/Ravens game, you can talk about how Baltimore linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo has filmed multiple videos in support of marriage equality. If you're talking about the year in TV, you can talk about how great it was to see Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars, and the attention it brought to the transgender community. If you're talking about movies, mention an LGBT-themed film you saw, like Beginners, or J. Edgar, or even the last Harry Potter film. (Dumbledore!)

What are you thankful for?
2011 was a banner year for the movement towards LGBT equality. The number of same-sex couples who can get married in the United States doubled when New York legalized marriage equality. Gay men and women are now legally allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. Millions of people "went purple" around the world to show support for LGBT young people on Spirit Day. Chaz Bono brought unprecedented awareness of the transgender community when he was picked to compete on Dancing with the Stars. Numbers came out showing that in the past decade, the number of same-sex couples who have adopted children in the United States has more than tripled, from fewer than 6,500 couples to nearly 22,000.

The Bottom Line.
At GLAAD, we try to amplify the voices of the LGBT community in the media, so that people in households all across America have a better idea about what it means to be LGBT. But there's no substitute for getting that info firsthand. Talking about our lives with our loved ones and family members is vital to advancing equality. It doesn't just put a human face to an otherwise politically charged issue. It puts YOUR face on the issue. And to people who care about you, that really matters.

So go ahead and tell your stories. Be true to who you are around your loved ones this Thanksgiving. And even if Aunt Betty feels a little awkward this year, she'll be greeting you with open arms and asking you for info next year.
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