Growing up, Thanksgiving was always one of my most favorite holidays. Not because of the fictitious stories we were given as kids — how together the indigenous and the white people sat around and ate corn. But because: 1) it’s Fall and seriously this is my favorite of all seasons. 2) It had been our biggest family gathering of the year, much like a family reunion, and everyone turned out with their best dishes. Of course, not everyone’s “best dishes” were actually something you’d want to put in your mouth.
At Thanksgiving, family members would travel from all over the country to be together. I’d play with cousins only that one time a year, and we would lease an entire church to use the kitchen and set up tables in the cultural hall. There were over 100 of us, all related. I loved it!
But, things change.
It’s been a long time since my entire family came together like we did when I was growing up. I know I’m not the only one who can say that. Most people have stories of this one aunt or uncle who was a racist or another who would drink too much or another who everyone was warned to just not talk about certain things around. But … they’re family so you just tolerate and put up with it all. Personally, I don’t remember having any stories like that or family members who were problematic. Our gatherings are some of my favorite childhood memories. But then, I was a kid and honestly, all I remember is good food and play.
You see, as we get older and learn to love ourselves more — realizing just what amazing individuals we are; start thinking for ourselves; and expanding our world views — we began to form beliefs of our own. We also come to realize that just because we share the same DNA with someone, we don’t automatically share the same beliefs. For me, feeling quite liberal in comparison to other family members isn’t anything new, but to the degree, we differ in our beliefs over the past few years has been sadly, disappointingly, surprising.
For instance, I didn’t realize I was related to flat out racists. By that recognition, I also didn’t know some who share my DNA thought those closest to me were “degenerates” considered to live lives not deserving. Most disappointing was the realization that their beliefs of superiority were held just as strongly as my beliefs for equality — and for equally as long, if not longer.
The past few years served only to confirm our differences and led me to feel more convicted in my beliefs that ALL people regardless of gender, sexual expression or orientation, or relationship configuration, or race, or age, or social/economic status are deserving of respect, kindness, food, shelter, healthcare, education, and on and on. Unfortunately, the past few years also served to confirm the beliefs of those opposed to such thoughts on equality.
At the time of this writing, we are two weeks away from the election and there’s still no predicting the outcome. It’s weighing on many of us. Whatever the outcome, I hope this Thanksgiving we will come together strong and resolved to make the world better. I hope we recognize the need to relieve toxic people from our social sphere, related or not, and come together under a banner of support and love for our fellow humans.
It is my hope that we can share a day of food and laughter with others, even though the gatherings may be small, in a positive spirit of hope for the future we have the power to create.
So what does all this Thanksgiving talk have to do with sex anyway? I mean, I am a sexologist, and this is supposed to be a sex column. Well, as a sexologist, I’m also a mental health provider and, as such, I believe my work includes advocacy and social justice. To be honest, an unsafe social climate can do a real number on one’s libido. An unsafe social climate can prevent people from mutually supporting one another during a time we need it most — and well, that’s just not sexy or sex-positive.
This year, regardless of our election results, I am grateful that I can look out to this wide QSaltLake audience and see genuine love, support, and laughter. And that is better than any family gathering.
Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist with a private practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at: [email protected]