If you’re lucky, you have a queer aunt. You know, the one who is super-fabulous, brings her longtime “roommate” to family gatherings, and says you can always crash with her in case of emergencies. When it comes to queer aunts — I have been truly, truly blessed.
I have three incredible queer aunts who have shaped my life in so many different ways and they definitely all give life to what it means to be the fun and supportive aunt. My mom is one of eight siblings and my dad is one of five. So obviously, there were bound to be some nods to the LGBTQ community in there. Just purely based on numbers, you know?
Every holiday season as a young and totally closeted queer, I naturally gravitated towards these aunts. They’re fun, tell embarrassing stories about your parents you’d never hear about otherwise, bring the cool gifts (not the matching PJs), and are always the wildly outspoken ones. Awkward family stuff is bound to come up during this time of year, and it seems to me that the queer aunts handle it best. They don’t sugar coat things or hide their feelings under passive aggression. Instead, they just say “Hey Rosie, you need to stop yelling at everyone. It’s OK if the turkey is going to take a little longer.”
I have such a special place in my heart for these aunts because not only do they hold it down for all of us throughout difficult or awkward family times — but they also have been through the ringer with their own family shit so they totally get it when you need someone to vent to. I remember when I came out to my mom, she immediately called both of her sisters who are queer. Albeit, my mom outed me to half my family without my consent — she was able to process my coming out with my aunts in a helpful way that allowed her to come back to me with more compassion. I’m forever grateful that my aunts were there for her in that moment.
This past Thanksgiving (or National Day of Mourning), I went upstate to spend the long weekend with my favorite (sorry other aunts) aunt Amie. She is a badass environment scientist, activist, and teacher. And since my early 20s she’s consistently been there for me — from my coming out, my first breakup, to finding me a bed when I moved and was sleeping on the floor, to helping me with my dog, and being there for me to process my complicated relationship with my parents. She has so much love emanating from her spirit and is forever giving to the world, even when she’s down. She’s got feminist pins aplenty, loves to wear lime green, and is always up for a new hiking adventure.
The thing about amazing queer aunts is that they have the kindness and tenderness that aunts have — while at the same time being unforgiving and completely badass (all queer women are badass). And let us never forget! They are the ones who paved the way for us queer millennials!
I remember when my aunt Jenny brought her trans boyfriend to a family wedding and she just went about her goddamn life (as she should) with her super dapper and hot partner. There were definitely some family members who starred too long or made hushed comments behind her back but she was just showing up to her nephew’s wedding living her honest life. Everyone else got a plus one, and so why shouldn’t she?
Our queer aunts are the ones who showed up to Christmas dinner with their longtime “roommate” and you’d see them making out in the hallway when we were 8-years-old. For they are the ones who did everything they could to make gay OK in our families. And they continue to show up and hold it down with the rum punch every holiday season — even though they most likely have dealt with some serious hardships in our families to get to a point of acceptance.
I wanted to write this ode to the queer aunts because of that simple fact. They don’t have to continue to show up to these horrid family get-togethers. They probably don’t want to fly all the way from San Francisco every year to spend another Hanukkah with stuffy relatives talking about the weather and sports. (Ugh).
I think that they continue to show up for us.
The queer aunts come so that the queer cousins, nieces and nephews can feel solidarity within their family. They show up so that the younger generations know that their life doesn’t have to be a white-picket-fence suburban bore. They come to family gatherings to tell their exciting life updates and stories. They are there as an example that life is expansive and we aren’t limited.
I know that hearing about my aunts living in San Francisco and NYC and San Diego was crazy inspirational for me. I got to visit them in my youth and it was an affirmation that life was so much bigger than my miserable high school in a farm town. They showed up to my birthdays with jewelry from their recent work in Peru or London. They would send me life-changing books that challenged my thought process.
The queer aunts nurture in different ways than parents do. They find ways to push you outside of your boundaries for growth, while still being there every step of the way with love. I hope to someday be the badass queer aunt giving sage advice and opening up a safe space for my nieces and nephews to vent about their parents or relationship struggles.
Until then, I’ll just keep on hiding in the corner with my queer aunts and laughing at everyone’s hideous holiday sweaters. Through all the family get-togethers, basking in our shared, wonderful, queer energy.