Donald Trump: Greg Allen/Invision/AP. Turkey: Shutterstock.
Picture this: Your hands are shaking. You were about to pass the casserole dish to Aunt Emily when your bones freeze over.
Someone at the dining room table brought up Donald Trump. “He’s gonna make American great again!” hangs over the Thanksgiving.
What do you do? Do you call out the offending relative? Stay silent? Talk to Aunt Emily about her latest divorce?
The holidays are always challenging for queer people if, like me, they come from a family that doesn’t really agree with them on sexuality, gender identity, or politics. Now that we’re staring down the barrel of a Trump presidency, the self-righteousness of the conservative uncle, grandma, or cousin is only going to be worse to stomach.
But mitigating the damage of a Trump presidency starts with these people—your conservative family. They were the ones that elected Trump, and if progressives are lucky, they can be the same ones who hold him and his administration accountable when the really bad laws start passing.
Like a national religious freedom law. Or a Muslim registry. Or literally anything else Trump has ever said before clenching victory earlier this month.
Of course, every family is different. I’ll be sitting down Thursday with a Deep South, blue collar conservative family that I came out to about five years ago. They voted for Trump—I didn’t. Hopefully, these tips can apply to you whether you are out or not about your sexuality, your gender identity, or your progressive politics.
1. Talk about how you will be impacted personally.
Older, conservative relatives like to claim (or progressives like to believe) that at a certain age, they aren’t going to change their minds. That’s not true. A willing family can come around, but you have to be patient, open, and personal. On politics, my father and I talk circles around each other. But the one thing that stops him in his tracks? Reminding him that he has a gay son. A son who could get thrown out of a store because someone wanted to exercise their “religious freedom.” A son who is afraid.
For some families, you are the only face they have when thinking about LGBTs and other minorities in this country. That’s tremendous pressure, but if you take that role seriously, you can change people. You never know how the course of four days could change the course of the next four years.
2. Don’t let comments on race, gender, or religion go unchallenged.
That word, “unchallenged,” is important. I don’t mean start calling your great-uncle a racist over the green beans (even if it’s true). I mean respond every time you hear a policy—like deporting immigrants or registering Muslims—that is clearly based in fear. Calmly bring up historical wrongdoings, like the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Talk about your immigrant friends, co-workers, or neighbors; talk about how they might be spending their Thanksgiving with children frightened by how Trump could break up their family. Whatever you say, say it, and say it in a way that reminds your family not that you’re the brainy, wacky liberal, but that there are other families out there gathered around tables just like yours. What would your uncle or cousin or nephew say to them if they were sitting right there?
3. Don’t feel pressured by other progressives.
Social media is a scary place these days. The news your friends share—fake and real—punches you in the gut every time you check your phone. Not to mention all those Breitbart shares your mom keeps tagging you in. It is easy to get caught up in the swell of revolution that lives online, where LGBT progressives can rail endlessly against Trump supporters, defriend them, or call them out uneducated, xenophobic fiends. And maybe that’s what this country needs. But if that’s not you—if that’s not your family—don’t try to be that. The term “social justice warrior” is a badge for some and an insult for others. And if that’s who you need to be for your family, do it. But the people you admire on your Facebook won’t be sitting next to you when that turkey comes out of the oven. Only you know your own family. React in a way that is meaningful to them.
4. Stay sober.
At some point, after dessert or just out of exasperation, someone will break out the liquor and suggest drinking away the arguments. Don’t do it. You may think you’re smarter or more eloquent or less anxious with a few shots in you, and that will certainly make you better at arguing. It won’t. Trust me, your conservative relatives already have an image in their head of who you are. You on alcohol will likely only feed into that image.