With the holiday season upon us, family is more often on our minds. Our family is the first web of relationships, the first community we encounter through the tangled experience of growing up. Family gives us our first framework for how to understand the world, what values and actions to prioritize and how to relate to other people.
If you came out of a childhood that was difficult to survive or have spent your adult life dismantling the worldview your family taught in search of a more life-giving perspective — or if you came out of a loving, supportive hetero/cis centered upbringing — you may have needed to reimagine what family means as you created your own.
Nurturing a family is challenging, relentless, meaningful work. And LGBTQ families experience still another level of responsibility in addition to the basic routines and demands of family life. That’s because, of course, the personhood of LGBTQ individuals is assaulted daily. Sometimes as a result of hate speech and the experience of being treated as a perpetual outsider. Other times, simply by being erased or ignored as members of the human community — not represented in the literature assigned in school, advertisements in magazines, on the forms filled out before a healthcare visit, or basic signage on bathroom doors.
This adds to the LGBTQ family’s plate the more critical need to be a safe haven where each family member can show up as their full and true selves in a way they may not be able to experience outside of family life. Add to this the LGBTQ family’s never-ending work of building inroads and blazing trails within the hetero and cisnormative dominant culture, expanding and deepening what family looks like amidst clumsy questions, suspicion or disbelief from your child’s teacher, other parents, colleagues or your pediatrician.
None of this is easy to do on your own. It’s true what they say that raising a family takes a village. As a faith leader, I work and long for a day when every LGBTQ family finds a spiritual community that can hold them through the twists and turns, ups and downs of family life.
Many LGBTQ people may never feel safe attending a religious congregation. Religious leaders have been among the most vocal naming anyone outside of the approved heteronormative, cisgender norm as an immoral threat to community. It’s understandable if religious institutions are not the first place LGBTQ families turn when searching for the community that will support and nurture them through the demands of raising children and caring for elders in a complicated world.
But perhaps there’s still hope for finding spiritual community. I understand spiritual community to mean the place you can go that will remind you of what matters most. Spiritual community is the group of people who will witness the seasons of your life, weathering with you the times of heartbreak and loss, celebrating with you the times of wonder, joy and discovery. Spiritual community is the place that will constantly reawaken your awareness of your interdependence with all existence and the effect your actions have on other people and the earth. Spiritual community calls us to live by the standards set by love and compassion.
However you seek or stumble upon spiritual community, remember this holiday season that none of us were ever meant to navigate life’s journey alone —that’s doubly true when it comes to the internal and external demands of LGBTQ familyhood.
Wherever you are on your own journey of meaning-making, individually and as a family, my prayer for you this holiday season is that you find a spiritual community that can hold you through it all.
Blessings to you and yours!
Rev. Eve Stevens serves as one of the ministers of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte.