Confessions of a Teenage Run-a-Gay or “How (Not) to Go Home for the Holidays”

The tiny Santa chocolates, plastic menorahs, and occasional Kwanzaa cards at CVS had been informing you that the holiday season was approaching, and for those of us still in college, you knew what that meant — soon enough you’d be “going home.” For a long time. Some of you were packing up early, waiting eagerly on the steps for the mini-van to swing up with glowing parental units inside. And then there you were, at home, or perhaps there you still are; sipping leftover eggnog, biting the heads off stale festive cookies and recycling the ol’ Yule Logs or doing whatever it is people do with whatever a Yule Log is.

But perhaps some of you, like me, were not exactly waiting outside with your shoes shined. Perhaps for you it was leftover family-dramz from Thanksgiving when Grandma got drunk and insulted your um, Figgie Pudding (whatever that is). Or maybe it’s something more serious like repercussions of longstanding family animosity. Maybe you just get a little uncomfortable when you have to individually explain to all your aunts why you don’t have a boyfriend (but you’re so pretty!).

But for me, this winter break meant it had been exactly one year since I came out to my parents. And as detailed in my post about visiting my Filipino homeland, it didn’t go so well. That being said; although I’m unlucky in the “family acceptance” area, I’m very lucky in others — like that by some work of homosexual magic, most of my friends at school are gay or otherwise inclined. Furthermore, by some work of Al Gore Interwebz magic, ALL of my friends on the Internet are gay or otherwise inclined. It’s something of a gay bubble, but it’s our gay bubble, and it’s where I live most of the year, and I love it. We’ve all watched each other go through phases of coming out to friends, to school/work communities, and of course, to parents.

Of course it’s completely thrilling/inspiring/#autobeautiful to hear the success stories of tears and hugs and overall love and acceptance, but that’s not necessarily how it goes for everyone. Negative reactions can range from a general disapproval (don’t let them tell you that, it’s not for them to approve!) to silencing to outright hostility.

But hey, don’t worry about it, the Internet’s got your back! (For what it’s worth) Listen up: Dr. KC Danger in her infinite wisdom has your back. I feel your pain and I want to soothe it. And for those of us who really can’t sit through another serious parental talk about their ‘sexual preference’ over this holiday break, my empathy for your situation has led me to outline a guide on how to survive the holidays based on the incredibly dramatic wording of the Seven Stages of Grief and what I learned over my holidays this year.

(Did I learn anything over my holidays this year?)

1. Denial

Symptoms of Denial Include Forgetting Pants

What? Winter Break isn’t coming up soon! What are guys packing for? What do you mean ‘Why don’t you have your bus ticket yet’? My finals just finished, what, four days ago? Winter Break is—oh shit, it’s tomorrow.

Probs no one else did that, but that’s how I accidentally ended up with a $45 bus ticket back to New York. I learned that no matter how determined you are to not have to deal with any sort of coming-out or closeted tension, refusing in your own head to go home actually doesn’t do anything except jack up your travel price and make packing REALLY DIFFICULT (I ended up with a suitcase full of v-neck t-shirts, a pair of boxers, and no jeans). (Luckily I’m not a big “pants person.”)

This ends up creating tension ’cause it basically sends the message that you don’t want to be there. And though that is/was true, it’s not helpful when attempting a smooth transition.

This was gonna be my second college winter home, so the dynamic had shifted from, “I wonder what it’ll be like to be home?” to “Well, shit, this is what it’s gonna be like at home,” and settling into that was just kind of an unsettling feeling. I tried to remember that this is all temporary … and in the matter of just a few weeks, I’d be on a bus/train/plane/covered wagon/$45 unicycle.

And I could’ve just gotten my shit together, gotten everything taken care of early and spent my last couple of days at school straight up (gay up?) chillin’ with the hom(o)ies. But I didn’t. Did you? I hope you did. I didn’t. I mean; I really didn’t.

2. Guilt

Perhaps you felt guilty for resenting having to go home so much. But it’s your life, right? I mean… family obligations exist… and guilt and denial are real. Sure, maybe you’ll hypothetically disappoint a few people, but in the end it’s you who’s living your life, right? And it’s not your problem if they can’t accept you for who you are, and if this non-acceptance hurts you. But see my parents are (were?) footing the bill for my college girls cruisefest education, so perhaps I owe them a smile, or a compromise, and this is where the guilt begins…

Right, but this isn’t about me. This is about you, and how to survive the holidays, which are almost over. Actually this article was due two weeks ago when it would’ve been really relevant and useful. I was going to tell you that if you’re thinking that you were blowing things out of proportion and you should just suck it up; that well, as a doctor*, I’m here to tell you this probably isn’t true.

“But listen, compromise and reason don’t really work. Well, at least in my experience. The best you can do sometimes is to agree to disagree.”

Yes kids (I’m doing my doctor voice now): The most you can do in these situations is to try to understand where they’re coming from. You don’t have to agree (obviously, because they don’t agree with you), but making the effort officially means “doing everything you could,” thereby rendering you guilt-free for the holidays!

3. Anger and Bargaining

But what if you’re still pissed? It’s easy to feel trapped and frustrated and totally out of control, which is a lot like feeling helpless. Sure you’ve memorized that Bette Porter speech where she God-schools her Dad about being gay and are prepared to get all Itty Bitty Titty Committee on any parental hostiles that get in your way.

But listen, compromise and reason don’t really work. Well, at least in my experience. The best you can do sometimes is to agree to disagree. As the great Will Smith once said, parents just don’t understand. Will Smith also said to “get jiggy with it,” and you should do that too. But first you should realize that parents do not, in fact, understand if they’re not willing to. And it’s not your job to make them do so.

4. Depression and Loneliness

So in high school, there were always these one or two kids who you knew were gonna get out of town and never come back. And might I just say it’s awesome being that kid…when you’re out of town. But eventually the cruel realization hits: college means a one-month long banishment from campus, and maybe you’re just not as cool at home as you are at school. Apparently you can’t just go around being the Fonz(ette) forever, and so it tends to get kinda lonely during the holiday season.

‘Cause listen: I’M GAY, and I was gay when you knew me, but now I’m not sorry, and no one needs to tell me it’s okay and that I’m okay and that high school doesn’t really matter, because I always knew those things. It’s just that now I believe them.

But this is about you! And hey, YOU! Don’t worry, the Internet is here for you! Just kidding, kind of. But really, you’ve got resources. As Kate Hudson told that little rock journalist kid in Almost Famous, when you get lonely, you can just go to the record store and visit your friends. Don’t stay in your house (unless you’re on the Internet) and besides, there’s wireless, and hanging out by yourself isn’t too bad, right? It gives you a lot of time to make gay eye contact with that cute girl at the coffee shop. Eh? Eh? Yeah, I see you there.

And you know, if that doesn’t work out you can always just hop a plane and fly to Texas, where your friends actually literally ARE at the record store. Take it from someone who was really uncool in high school, there are always more people for you to meet. Or maybe there are old people doing new things that you wouldn’t mind meeting again. So let me know how that goes, kids.

5. The Upward Turn

Once New Year’s is over, you know you’ve made it to the home stretch. What seemed like forever is now probably somewhat manageable week or so. And whatever, that two-day hangover should probably kill some time anyway. The point is that you’re getting out of there. And soon. I know, I know, you’re reaching the point where you just can’t hear your dad awkwardly try to discuss the credibility of your ‘sexual orientation’ again. And soon you won’t have to pull any strange nonsense about having ‘sleepovers’ with your ‘friends’ who ‘should totally be allowed to sleep in your bed.’

Or maybe — maybe just maybe! — shit is gonna get b-a-n-a-n-a-s and maybe you can’t even take your own advice.

Did you have an upward turn? Is that happening for you now? It didn’t happen for me.

5a. Here’s where I lose you.

Actually two weeks ago, when as aforementioned this article was due, and could’ve been useful and helpful to a lot of people (maybe even me), it was becoming very apparent that my parents’ house was not really somewhere that I could live. Not even for two weeks.

“So I bought a plane ticket and left without warning, effectively teaching me that yes, at 20 years old, you can still be a runaway (runagay?). Even if you’re the kind of runaway who is crying in an airport terminal.”

So I bought a plane ticket and left without warning, KC Danger style, effectively teaching me that yes, at 20 years old, you can still be a runaway (runagay?). Even if you’re the kind of runaway who is crying in an airport terminal.

The immediate issues weren’t even about me being gay, actually. It may have come up once or twice in a different form, as my dad called it, my ‘activism’. Mostly though, it was big fights with bigger undertones. “Your grades fell because you were too busy with your activism (…in bed.).” Or “You’ve been spending too much time (making out with) your (girl)friends!” Or one of my favorites, “Why are you wasting time (being homosexual) on the Internet in class?”

Basically, no matter what’s going on, gay is always in between the lines. So when my parents told me that I would have to transfer schools and live at home idefinitely unless I could 1000% guarantee my school wouldn’t pull my scholarship (and who am I to guarantee that anyway), I realized that my own upward turn was about realizing I couldn’t be at home, not for two more weeks or two more years. And upon reflecting on my life as Lil Kim played softly in the background, I realized that all these things are scary and strange, but, for me at least, they’re worth the price of my gay.

So I bought a plane ticket, packed up, and 12 hours later I had fled to an undisclosed location for the sake of feeling like myself again.

I just can’t believe I forgot to pack all my underwear.

6. Reconstruction and Working Through

Well after one of my notorious shorts-as-underwear weeks, I finally made it out to buy some good ol’ fashioned boy briefs today, so that’s the first step.

The second step seems to be the ongoing process of realizing that I have no idea what the hell is going on. And although spontaneous, bizarre, hazy trips to Mexico in the middle of the day wouldn’t necessarily be counted as ‘constructive’…eh, it happens. I may have my PhD in Lesbian Bromance, but when it comes to things like feelings and my family, I am not so good.

7. Acceptance and Hope

So this final step has turned into acceptance that I have no idea what I’m doing and hope that trying to figure it out won’t land me in Mexican prison homeless or jobless or back at my parents’ house.

But really kids — other than that, surviving the holigays is really just a crap shoot. Like, maybe you’ll upward turn yourself through the three and a half weeks. Or maybe you’ll decide within the first five days that it’s just not worth it and hop a plane (eh, see what I did there?) across the country.

Or maybe you’ll find something in between. So basically you can seven-step-coping process this all you want, but it’s probably not going to be what you’re expecting because each family seems to manufacture its own special brand of holiday cray cray (holi-cray?).

If I had a PhD in Home for the Holidays, I would have more for you than this late article and the suddenly re-relevant memories of how different this August was from the August before it and subsequently why this Christmas didn’t work out as planned. This time when I left home for school in August I didn’t even go to school, I went to Manhattan to play with my Auto-friends. And then I got to school and I realized right away how as far as it goes with my family well really we just fucked it up, this thing.

My parents always saw their lives secure & prosperous, without lesbian daughters or heartbreaking arguments or silent stalemates. We should have been sad to see each other go then; instead I think we were relieved. That relief was comforting, and it was still, and seeing each other again two weeks ago was, quite frankly, terrible. How does that thing happen? That thing where your life wasn’t what you wanted or expected or believe? Does that happen to our unhappy, middle-aged parents or does that happen to us all?

So here’s the deal. Here’s the thing that no one’s telling you, and it’s something I’ve been telling myself over and over again and perhaps just now — YEAH RIGHT NOW — I finally believe it: it’s your life. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Here’s the thing Tegan Quin/Tyra Banks have always told you: sometimes you just gotta model through it. People’s views change, yeah, but I just didn’t feel like sitting around and waiting for that to happen with my parents.

They said you’d go to college, and you’d come back, but you’d never really come back. I think I’m going a little farther this time. Unless something silly happens like the earth deciding to stop spinning, days. will keep. passing. And one of those days, you’ll be back where you belong, having a gay ol’ time. And until then I’ll be hoping for the best, and sending you postcards from the road.

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Katrina is a 23-year-old grrrl splitting her time between her great homeland of New York City and Washington DC. She loves activism and hates sleep, which is convenient because neither of those things really allows for the other anyway. She thinks that slang is rad. As a math equation (with words, because she is bad at math), Katrina would go as such: writer + riot grrrl = wrioter grrrl. When not manifesting itself as a mathematical equation, Katrina’s life usually reads out like a lesbian coming-of-age novel, though sometimes she wishes it were more like a bad 1950s lesbian pulp fiction story. Also, she really, really, truly believes that the revolution is upon us. Come read her rantings about it on her twitter and blog!

Contact: katrina[at]autostraddle.com

katrina has written 64 articles for us.

55 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    “maybe you’re just not as cool at home as you are at school”
    Although I don’t feel particularly cool at school I am definitely cooler there than here.

    Also, does everyone get that urge to just buy a plane ticket and leave? Because I’ve actually seriously thought that through a couple of times already this break. Until I looked up prices to where I wanted to go and realized I have 0 dollars. I guess I will just have to live vicariously though you katrina.

    Really really awesome article=)

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    1)When I came out to my mom, she began sobbing, threatened to kill herself and then said, “What was it Vik? Was I too butch for you?!” Everytime I replay the horror of my coming out, I remember that line because it is so priceless and hilarious and (in retrospect) a wonderful gift of crazy she bestowed upon me. (BTW, my mom was a big fan of jeans and black cowboy boots and she drove an el camino – so yeah, she was way more butch that I have ever been or will be).

    2)As a parent, I read articles like this differently than I did before having kids. This makes me want to do the right thing for my kids, makes me want to be supportive and loving as they find their way in the world. Fuck, life is hard enough – I don’t want to be one of the hard parts. So basically, now I want to take you in and knit you some pants and bring you milk and cookies.

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      parents say SUCH AWKWARD things in reaction to their children coming out! it’s like ‘well i know this is supposed to be a devastating moment for you, but i can’t help but crack up at your use of the word ‘activism’ in regards to my sexuality.’
      i’m also so glad to have a parent’s point of view on this because so many times i feel like we have to question who we’re supposed to be as opposed to what would make us happy. and i think what happens too much is that parents get so caught up in what they hoped for their children to be that they forget the most important thing to be is satisfied with their own lives, however that may be. obviously my statements are just a bit biased, but basically what i’m trying to say is that you just filled my heart with love and hot chocolate and yule logs.

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    When I came out to my mom/family it was over Thanksgiving break of my freshman year at college. Now, during Christmas break of my sophomore year, my parents asked if I was considering gender re-assignment surgery. That’s what I get for being really really gay.

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      OMG, my parents asked me that too. But it was because I left a novel lying around that I was reading called Sex and Other Changes. And maybe also partially because I’ve recently bought a pair of legit men’s long johns. But hey, it’s winter and they were 4 dollars.

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    well on the plus side, if you’re in mexico, i kinda feel like you could just pursue your career as a Dr. and get gay married and things. I dont even think they make Drs wear pants in mexico… just a lab coat and some boyshorts and you could be giving physicals to the chicas!

    also I totally think the tiny dorms and crappy food will be waaay better than having to clear my search history after gay-ing up my firefox… it’s a trade off

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    So, this probably wasn’t the intended effect of your article at all, but I’ve been thinking for quite a while now of not finishing grad school and applying for a working holiday visa to Australia or New Zealand instead. But I’ve been feeling guilty about abandoning a program that just sent me to France for a year (even if last year did suck so hard I lost 20lbs from stress) with the explanation of “I’d rather work for minimum wage scooping dog shit off the street than kill myself for a degree I’ll never use”.

    But hearing (seeing? I was reading out loud in my head anyway…) “it’s your life. You have nothing to be ashamed of” for the 1000th time may have finally been the last push. I shouldn’t be afraid of disappointing a faculty I can just as well never see again when younger and wiser young homos have dealt with much tougher familial guilt trips.

    And that’s how Autostraddle made me a drop out.

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      Best decision I ever made was walking away from a half finished degree (and my parents overbearing expectations) and hopping a plane to New Zealand. I’m a student again now and sometimes I feel old but I’m pretty sure that the two year school hiatus did more for me then any class EVER will. The horrid tanlines I had from being forced to wear “proper shoes” while picking kiwi fruit were so much better then the carpel tunnel I have now from writing papers! HAVE FUN.

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      yeahhhh! viva la revolucion!
      it looks like i’m about to become a dropout as well, which is actually what i had been hoping for all semester since it didn’t seem like anything but a waste of time to be busting ass for a degree that i didn’t even know if i wanted and my parents insisted i needed.
      maybe it’s naive and cliche or whatever, but i just feel like you only get one shot at making your life what you want, so why burden yourself with imagined obligations?
      good luck!

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        I’m a gonna get serious for a minute…I grew up in an uneducated family. By that I don’t mean that my family is stupid, I mean that I was the first one to go to college. My parents felt very strongly about what I should major in so that I could have a “stable” job – whatever that is. I was a kid and didn’t know what I wanted and assumed my parents knew what was best for me so I got the degree they thought I should get even though it didn’t feel right.

        Now I work in a field I hate at a job I hate for people I hate. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row to go to graduate school to see if I can change lanes and salvage something when all of this could have been avoided if I had the courage to walk away.

        If/when I do have kids I’m going to strongly suggest that they not go to college right out of high school so that maybe they won’t repeat my mistake. I should have taken time to figure out who the hell I wanted to be.

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          I was the first (and only) woman in my family to go to college. I am the only person in my entire family to have a Master’s degree. I was brought up to be a very practical person. Now, I have a stable job with benefits that pays me decently…and I hate it. I wish that someone would have encouraged me to write and pursue music and art. After reading all of these comment, I have decided that I should quit my job and open a Home for Wayward Autostraddle Interns.

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        I’m a softball player, I’m used to ridiculous tan lines! Bring on the kiwi fruit picking! :D

        Thanks, Jen, for sharing- it really helps to hear from someone who has been there and made the choice.

        And Lucia, I will take you up on that promise, be warned! :P But it will likely be a year by the time I’ve finished up teaching here and saved some $s at home.

        Looks like we could totally start an Autostraddle Dropout Support Network. :P If none of us find work outside of school, maybe we could combine our expertise and start marketing our own line of boyshorts.

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          Seriously, on the final draft of a letter to my advisor. And shitting myself a little bit over it. :s

          Giving some of these comments a reread has helped.

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    “maybe it’s naive and cliche” – Yes and yes.
    I had an older sister, also gay, a dropout and a runaway at about your age. Her running away was the start of her downward spiral. I’m not saying that you’re likely to follow that path but watch every “adult” decision you make as of right now. Your “shot at making your life what you want” may go miserably out of control. My sister’s drugs, alcohol and lack of money (she couldn’t get a job she wanted without a college degree) were all nails in her coffin.
    Best of luck though. You’ll need it.

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      I’ve watched people spiral down a destructive path too, it’s a horrible way to lose someone and I’m very sorry for you and your family. But I do appreciate you sharing your story- it brings up some important points.
      It’s important to find some way to keep yourself grounded even when you feel like everything you expected or hoped for is up in the air and must change.

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    this article hits home with both the Guilt and Loneliness.
    i have to be happy to visit the family because they’re financing college, regardless of the fact that i am infinitely happier when i’m away.
    and i’m definitely much cooler at school than at home.. sigh.
    well, only two weeks to go for me.

    and good luck being a run-a-gay, i hope things work out for you.

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    When I was in school the holidays felt awkward. Like I was coming back to a place that wasn’t “home” anymore. “Home” was my dorm room and had been for a while. Since I hadn’t lived at home since before my senior year of HS. Half the time I went to my GF’s parents house for the holidays which was even more awkward because A) not being mine B) them not knowing we were dating.
    Also,
    Reading this on the bus today I turned to my Step mom and said “thanks for being awesome and having a completely different reaction to me coming out that my mom did” My mom’s reaction was ” were you abused? and you will grow out of it” I love my mom I just cannot stand her.

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    i am way uncooler at home. or maybe my friends in cincinnati are all 100% straight and i feel like i’m in high school again. either way, katrina you are a brave brave girl. please be safe at least until i call you and and say “happy new year.”

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    It would be very intersting to read a follow up article a year, two years or 5 years from now to see if running away was an act of courage or cowardice. Only you know your current reasons for running away. If I read correctly between the lines, you come from a loving family that just don’t know how to handle your sexual preference and they don’t deserve how you’ve treated them.
    You write very well but maybe you write too well that you buy into your own rationalization for your actions. I think I’m the only one here who feels very sad and afraid for you.

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      So I am just replying to this from my own personal experience with “running away”… I don’t think either my parents or I deserved how we were treating each other BEFORE I put a lot of distance between us. I had no interest in anything they had to say to me and did not respect the opportunities they wanted me to take advantage of. Sometimes you just need to make a go of it on your own, make your own mistakes without someone tossing their advice and expectations at you all the time. I don’t really see much of anything cowardly in stepping out and doing your own thing. It’s pretty damn hard to let down the parents who have given you so much love and support for all of your life, but for me, it needed to happen for me to get anywhere good at all.

      Also, I kind of had to do a double-take at the part about the loving family who just don’t know how to handle her sexual preference part (preference, really??) – because seriously?? is simply accepting their inability to handle her sexual orientation really what you are implying she do? Would that be the proper way to treat them, in your opinion? Just curious.

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        There are no simple solutions to fixing broken relationships with your parents who have no clue how to handle homosexuality. I just wanted to point out that there is another side to this story that we’re not privy to. I do agree that there is nothing cowardly about stepping out and doing your own thing but that isn’t always the same definition as running away.
        It’s good to hear that it worked out for you and I agree that some people need to make their own mistakes. I do hope things work out like yours did in this case.

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    Somehow missed this during the holiday craziness and limited internet connection.

    Geez, this hit way too close to home. I cried.
    I’m still in my senior year of high school but I’m seriously contemplating very prematurely dropping out of college (aka not even applying). I don’t want to take my parents money if it means paying guilt visits over holidays. I love writing and I want to teach someday but I don’t know if it’s worth my self-respect and sanity. I don’t think I’d make it. Things are tense as it is. All hell will break lose when I come out/they find out.

    On the bright side I wouldn’t mind being a bartender or lowly techie for a bit.

    So blah, that’s my life (maybe). Anyway, I hope you’re doing okay.

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    Only 7 days until I have to leave school and my new girlfriend to go home for three months because I can’t afford to live here over the summer. Only told my parents I was bi a couple of weeks ago, havn’t really spoken since, this will not be a fun summer.

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    I kinda wish AS would do another “how to cope with the holidays” thing for people without the prospect of a good holiday. (Me: my parents phone briefly once a year, and my sister won’t let me near her kids to avoid possible exposure to Gayness. That’s what I get for sneezing glitter, I guess.)

    School is ending, and I can hardly wait for it to be back again.

    So. How to cope when you don’t have a big gay bubble to hide in? Or do you have any advice on bubble-building?

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      The internet is really your friend on this one (I have a family that is actually incredibly chill, but I have no friends there and no close friends at college. Like, at all.). As weird as this may sound … tumblr is a great place to talk to people who care about what’s going on and don’t mind talking to you when you need it.
      It’s not a 1-1 substitute for in-the-flesh human companionship, but it definitely helps ease the loneliness.

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    “And you know, if that doesn’t work out you can always just hop a plane and fly to Texas, where your friends actually literally ARE at the record store.”

    Are they really? Because I got moved to TX a year and a half ago and I have exactly zero close friends and am miserable as hell here …

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    I ditched out on the whole summer by taking an internship over 6000 km away in Germany. I thought it would be easier to come out to my mom over skype, but no…even being this far away, the pain of rejection, it’s excruciating. What more can you do to cope when you’re already as far away as you could basically be? Does it ever get better?

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