What Happens When A Lesbian First Brings Her Girlfriend Home For Christmas

by Zara Barrie

I'm 22 years old, and while out at the bar, I drunkenly invite my jaw-droopingly gorgeous girlfriend to come over for the holiday. She enthusiastically agrees to come.

A few weeks later, when it's finally time for Christmas dinner, I'm sober and having regrets.

For tonight's holiday festivities, my mother has ordered a long banquette table and decorated it with elephant statues, massive crystals, antique candelabras, and peacock feathers.

We're having between 25 and 30 guests, including new divorcees, wild British eccentrics, and hard-nosed Republicans who have never seen a lesbian couple in their lives. They all know I'm gay, and besides the occasional stereotypical question about when I'm going to cut my hair off and stop wearing dresses, my family is very open-minded.

My mom proudly wears her AIDS awareness pin on her one-shoulder Norma Kamali dress. My dad worked in the cosmetics industry where his number one clients were gay men. My sister snuck me into a gay bar in Boston when I was 13. And once, when I accidentally repeated the word "fag" to my mother after reading it in a book, she freaked out on me.

"Never, ever, ever, EVER say that word again!" my usually passive mum shouted at me, English accent clipped and proper. “People have called Uncle Peter that terrible bloody word, just for being gay. It's a dreadful word."

I came out to my mom at a casual Italian restaurant in Florida. Because I was never home anymore, my mom thought I was on drugs, but really I was spending every night at my new girlfriend's apartment. (I figured having my mother believe I was drug addict was worse than her knowing I was gay.)

About three-quarters of the way through a bottle of champagne, the words spilled out of my mouth.

"Mom, I met someone. A girl.”

My liberal, fashionista, Londoner mother nearly fell out of her chair. She asked me over and over again if I was "sure." I told her I had never been more sure about anything in my entire life.

Eighteen, and really, really sure.

It was awkward between us for awhile. On the outside, she supported me. She did every textbook thing a mom to a gay child should do. She researched lesbian sex on the Internet. She asked me questions. She reminded me she loved me no matter what. (She also told my dad behind my back when I asked her not to.)

But deep down, I felt I had disappointed her. She had a neat little vision for my future: Spend a few years dabbling around in acting and modeling, marry a rich guy and have children on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Instead, I opted for a life of pouring my guts out on the Internet, having sex and falling in love with women, making my own money, and living alone in a six-story walk up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. (At least I got the neighborhood right).

My version of the Manhattan dream.

I love this life. I really do. But nobody in my family has ever actually seen a piece of it. And the night I bring my girlfriend to dinner for the first time, they're going to.

My brother is bringing his new girlfriend home from LA, but it's not the same. Everyone is so excited to meet his girlfriend, Sasha that I'm acting like I'm just bringing my new best friend.

My girlfriend Shay* arrives to my house 30 minutes early, looking androgynous and chic as hell in black leather pants and a starched white shirt. My palms are sweating.

Little by little, the guests start to arrive, and Shay and I both inhale wine like it's going out of style. We're usually all over each other — we're that kind of newly out young couple that can't keep their hands off of each other, finally free of the burden of pretending to be straight for our whole lives. But tonight, I try to water down my affection toward her. I don't want to throw my "sexuality" in everyone's face.

Meanwhile, my brother Blake is three whiskeys deep and all over his girlfriend. I realize everyone is talking about "Blake's new girlfriend" and are just referring to my girlfriend as "Shay."

Around 9 pm, Shay puts her hand on my knee in front of everyone. I gaze down at my lap. Even though I'm drunk and my vision is hazy, her hand looks perfect against my black lace stockings.

Maybe it's the bottle of champagne I've consumed. Maybe it's because love really is a more powerful force than fear. Maybe it's because I'm starting to not give a f*ck. But I start being as affectionate with Shay as my brother is with Sasha. I put my arm around her and begin to aggressively call her my girlfriend.

I realize that the more comfortably I display my affection toward Shay (even going so far as to kiss her on the lips in front of the whole fam), the more comfortable everyone else becomes.

The reason they were hesitant to refer to Shay as my girlfriend wasn't because they were being judgmental and bigoted — it's because they were following my nervous lead. This was all new to them, too.

The more my family saw Shay and I together, acting like typical loved-crazed 22-year-olds, the less mysterious the whole "lesbian thing" became. They realized love is love, and we're all the same.

This is when I decided that the best thing I can do as a queer girl is to just be comfortable with who I am.

If this is your first time bringing your queer love home for the holigays, don't worry. It's totally okay to be nervous and for your family to be nervous. What's new is always a little jarring at first.

But I don't think you need to water down your love to make others feel comfortable. That's not your job. Visibility is what will eventually make people comfortable, anyway. And if family members throw dirty looks in your direction, that's really not your problem.

Hold your partner's hand with all the confidence and pride in the world, and most likely that pride will be contagious. Most parents are just going to be happy to finally see you happy. Even the most conservative parents have surprised me.

Even if the night is a disaster, take comfort in knowing that in this country, in this fine year of 2015, LOVE F*CKING WON. And will continue to win.

This year's family Christmas party, clearly not giving a f*ck.