My family parties from Thanksgiving through New Year's. I'm Jewish, my spouse is Protestant ( though neither of us is particularly observant ), and my family of origin has always celebrated Thanksgiving as our biggest family gathering, which means we start with turkey and pies at the end of November and don't stop making merry until we raise our champagne glasses on Jan. 1. This year, the first night of Hanukkah was also Christmas Eve, creating a combined celebration the likes of which we hadn't seen since the great Thanksgivukkah conjunction of 2013.
The holidays may stem from different traditions, but share a theme of hope and of light in the darkness. That message seems particularly poignant right now as we head into a year that ushers in a new federal administration and an era of uncertainty for LGBTQ people and our families.
Will the new administration try to take away the rights of LGBTQ people and families? Rumors aboundbut while we can't predict the future, we can do a few things to prepare for it. Here's what's on my list.
Be as out and visible as we feel we safely can. No matter what happens over the next fouror eightyears, LGBTQ people aren't going anywhere. We are neighbors, colleagues, relatives, and friends, and must continue to remind people of our presence. No need to always wear "Dad 1" and "Dad 2" T-shirts or bedeck your baby stroller in rainbows ( unless that's your thing, in which case have at )but being active in our communities and talking openly about our families and identities can do a lot to spread understanding. We should temper this with an awareness that our children may sometimes wish to come out about their families in their own timebut setting an example of openness can help children become similarly comfortable, I believe.
Make sure our legal ties are as secure as they can beincluding getting second-parent adoptions for children even when both parents are married and on their birth certificates. In an October legal memo on behalf of four married lesbian couples petitioning a New York court for second-parent adoptions, Lambda Legal explained that even when both spouses are on the birth certificates, there have been and could be times "in which the parentage of a child born to a married couple ( same- or different-sex ) or conceived using assisted reproductive technology has been litigated." Earlier second-parent adoptions could have avoided this entirely, they said.
Stand with people of marginalized groups not our own in whatever way they may need our support. Be generous, too, to those in need, through monetary donations, contributions of goods, or offering your time, either to individuals or charities. It remains unclear what the impact of the new administration will be on those most vulnerable in our society, but a little extra effort to help them can't go amiss. Same goes for our environment and the organizations working to protect it.
Support the publication of quality, LGBTQ-inclusive, diverse children's and young adult books and other media, by buying them, supporting Kickstarters and other funding efforts from independent publishers, requesting them from local libraries ( and encouraging the libraries to stock them if they are not in circulation ), and spreading the word on social media. If you have the talent and time, too, write your own tales!
Stay informed by reading respected and reliable news sources both mainstream and nicheand crosscheck facts across several sources to avoid spreading misinformation. Take the time, too, to occasionally read niche news sites or blogs that focus on identities not your own. I've found this is a great way to gain perspective, and I hope it helps me be a better ally.
Continue writing and calling our elected officials about issues that matter to us. USA.gov is one easy way to look up federal, state and local officials and their contact information.
Talk with our children ( if they are old enough ) about their ongoing feelings around the election and the incoming administration. I know my son hears things from classmates and sees headlines that could be frightening. I want to assure him that not everyone thinks the same way, that we do have a system of checks and balances, and that his family will be here for him no matter what.
I have been thinking this week, too, of a line from the Talmud, the compilation of Jewish oral law, which says, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." There is much that needs tending in our world, but no one person can do it all, especially when raising a child is one of those things. We must strive for balance as we work to make a difference.
Even if you have not been celebrating either Christmas or Hanukkah this past week, perhaps you will find similar inspiration in your own faith. And if you are not a person of faith ( or even if you are ), perhaps other stories and myths from our human heritage will also provide insight and hope for the coming year. Personally, one of my New Year's resolutions will be to reread Harry Potter for exactly that reason.
It may not be the easiest time to be part of an LGBTQ family in America, but we have lived through tough times before. However you celebrate the season, may you and your families find joy, light, and hope for the year ahead.