Sur­ro­gate fam­i­lies and hol­i­day blues

Ash­leigh Atwell is a queer les­bian writer and or­ga­nizer born and raised in At­lanta, GA.

GA Voice - - Out in the Wild - By Ash­leigh Atwell

The hol­i­days have al­ways been a time of re­flec­tion for me. I think about what I did and didn’t do with my year. For many peo­ple, that’s par for the course, but for me, as some­one who suf­fers from de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, it can be ag­o­niz­ing. I pore over ev­ery mis­take, missed op­por­tu­nity and hurt that came with the past 365 days. The win­ter brings us less sun­light, and for peo­ple with pre­ex­ist­ing men­tal con­di­tions, this can be dev­as­tat­ing.

So­ci­ety loves to wax po­etic about help­ing peo­ple with men­tal ill­nesses when some­one de­cides to shoot up a build­ing, but I rarely see peo­ple make an ac­tual ef­fort. I suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness and there have been plenty of times when I’ve felt as if friends or fam­ily didn’t no­tice me or my pain. On the flip­side, I have been guilty of be­ing too self-cen­tered

De­cem­ber 11, 2015

to no­tice friends who are strug­gling. Check­ing in can make a hell of a dif­fer­ence and can be as sim­ple as send­ing a text mes­sage or tak­ing some­one out to lunch.

De­spite this mis­ery, I am aware of how lucky I truly am. Liv­ing in my mother’s house as I ap­proach my thir­ties isn’t an ideal sit­u­a­tion, but at least I have a home to go to. I know of too many peo­ple in my cir­cle that can’t go home be­cause their fam­ily isn’t ac­cept­ing of their sex­u­al­ity or gen­der pre­sen­ta­tion. I know peo­ple who still go home and tol­er­ate abu­sive be­hav­ior for the sake of blood ties. Like most LGBTQ peo­ple, I am so thank­ful to have a cho­sen fam­ily, but a void is cre­ated when blood fam­ily is abu­sive or dis­tant. I have my nu­clear fam­ily but am dis­tant from oth­ers for a myr­iad of rea­sons.

“I have my nu­clear fam­ily but am dis­tant from oth­ers for a myr­iad of rea­sons. Nonethe­less, it hurts. We have to ac­knowl­edge that hurt so we can be­gin to heal or at least be gen­tle with our­selves.”

Nonethe­less, it hurts. We have to ac­knowl­edge that hurt so we can be­gin to heal or at least be gen­tle with our­selves.

Ad­di­tion­ally, this year has pre­sented a spe­cial set of cir­cum­stances if you’re a per­son of color. Some in­di­vid­u­als in this coun­try are at­tack­ing Latino folks and brown Mus­lims (or peo­ple who “look” Mus­lim), and any­one else who can be deemed a boogey­man by this in­creas­ingly xeno­pho­bic so­ci­ety. The trauma in­ten­si­fies if you’re black. This has been a trau­matic year to be black. Black bod­ies are un­der siege, and when we’re not duck­ing bul­lets, clubs or fists, we’re run­ning from mes­sages that tell us our ex­is­tence is a bur­den. Our hair is rea­son enough to get us fired—that is, if our names don’t pre­vent us from be­ing hired in the first place.

We must ac­knowl­edge our pain to move for­ward. It is im­per­a­tive to our heal­ing. Your cho­sen fam­ily can be a great tool in that ac­knowl­edge­ment, be­cause some of them are prob­a­bly deal­ing with the same is­sues. Gather them, have a great talk and an even bet­ter cry, then cel­e­brate. Cel­e­brate your re­silience. Cel­e­brate your magic. Cel­e­brate your ex­is­tence. Cel­e­brate the fact that you’ve sur­vived an­other 365 days.

I be­lieve some­one some­where needed to read this mes­sage. It is a love let­ter, if you will. I am so grate­ful that I have been given this op­por­tu­nity and look for­ward to in­spir­ing thought and piss­ing folks off from now on. Happy hol­i­days, ev­ery­one.

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