Thanksgiving, and Those Who Cannot Go Home

Around the holidays, I have to strike a balance between allowing myself to feel the emotions that I always do — that, if I go home, some of my opinions, experiences, and identities are not welcome in conversation — while also recognizing that my situation could be much, much worse.

I have friends that cannot go home for Thanksgiving. Across the nation, thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — feel the same way.

I am the sort of future physician who will never be shy about talking about gender and sexuality with my patients. I am certainly the sort that will actively seek out these conversations, considering how often Q folks experience discrimination and harassment in medical situations. And I realize that being this sort of physician means that will often have to hear stories of rejection, harassment, or even violence by family members — all directed at a patient because of the gender of their partners or the gender in their souls.

And that’s going to be hard. Not just because of my proximity the situation, but because of my visceral and unshakable conviction that humans beings should be able to live their most authentic lives without the world telling them they are a perversion. It seems so simple — if someone isn’t hurting someone else, leave them be — but it is, apparently, not simple.

And so families are split up over single letters: the absence of an “s” in a set of pronouns, the presence of a “z” — whether regarding the person in question or the people that they date.

And so, yes, I am allowed to be disappointed when I go home for the holidays and don’t feel comfortable saying what kind of free clinic I work at (one that tailors care to Q folk). But I also take time to remember the people who don’t show up to Thanksgiving at all. I think it’s important that we all take time to remember, so that — when errant comments come up at the dinner table, or legislators propose laws that would limit protections or rights of Q folk — we feel compelled do something. We must, always, do something.

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