What’s Love Got to Do With It?

There are so many indicators that remind me that winter is coming: The evening sky dims darker much quicker, the leaves tone down to browns and yellows, the Starbucks cups turn into a glowing red… And with this transition comes “cuddle weather.” So maybe it’s the weather letting me know I’m single, or maybe it’s the pictures on Instagram with my friends and their significant others, or my family asking me yet again “So have you found your future Mrs. yet?”

Anyway, yes, relationships are on the mind.

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And what I’ve been commonly hearing recently, probably due to those dreaded get-together family holiday parties coming up, is the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” And I don’t mean because some people have quite literally forgotten how to formally introduce someone. I’m talking about how you introduce your partner who is of another culture to a family that is less than accepting.

It would be a lie if I said racism, prejudice, and cultural judgment are dead. Even though families aren’t as traditionally oriented as they were 10 or 20 years ago, there’s still a value placed among families to date within “our own.” We see this in the interaction of parent to toddler with remarks like “oh what a cute little toddler, you’re going to find a beautiful Latina for a bride one day!” “I can’t wait to see you married in a big beautiful Christian church one day!”

It’s in this multicultural, socially evolving world we live in where we experience people completely different from ourselves. There’s this clash between personal and family life where I hesitate to link together. In this sense, my question has often been: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” When you’re a queer Latino brought up in a traditional Catholic household that’s bringing home someone completely different, there’s a little embarrassment to say “yea… all those racist, heterosexist remarks… that’s where I come from.”

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And to be fair, yes, families of color that were oppressed had to learn that it was only safe to date amongst the same color. There are valid reasons that some families reinforce these ideals, also seen in religious pedagogy of finding the ideal partner that understands what values we’re supposed to follow. And it’s unfortunate that we often use the excuse: “well it’ll just be easier to date someone Christian/Asian/the opposite gender (if you’re sexually fluid and not strictly interested in only one gender) because it’ll ‘fit’ better.”

Realize that an intimate partner isn’t a piece that’s supposed to fit into your puzzle. They’re someone who will offer romantic companionship and be a person you can connect to in ways you can’t with your family. When my sister brought home a Japanese young man, my parents were initially surprised, and let down when they asked “is he at least Catholic?” They went through a phase where they partook in some offensive comments while he was in the other room. But after a while when it was clear that he made my sister genuinely happy, they realized he was part of the family already and they could not reject him without rejecting my sister. THEN I politely taught them why the language they used is not acceptable.

So to answer the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” Tell your family about your partner before-hand, and do the same with your partner. Wear something nice, ask your partner to do the same, and then ask your family to do the same. Know that each person in that room loves you (or at least really likes you and it might turn into something even more serious later on) and bring together your family and personal lives.