I Don't Want To Attend A Homophobic Family Wedding—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek,

I came out late in life as a lesbian. My parents ignore that I am lesbian, they don't support me, but they don't bash me either. Six years ago when I married a woman, my parents offered very little support. Now, my Dad tells me he has never seen me so happy.

My older brother was awesome, my other brother really hurt me. He and his wife went to their daughters' volleyball game instead of my wedding. My parents backed him up on it. His 2 older kids over 20 who could have attended my wedding, did not. He never told me congratulations or anything nor did he tell me he wasn't coming. My Mother informed me that he wasn't coming. He calls it " a lifestyle choice", even though I explained to him that I no longer have a death wish since living my authentic self. My brother loves me, just not my "lifestyle choice." He doesn't understand that it isn't a choice. I guess it is a choice, I chose to be happy instead of hating myself.

His daughter is getting married. I don't want to attend the wedding, not as a payback; for other reasons. It will be a Baptist wedding, full of homophobics, and my wife and I will feel stressed and self-conscious if we attend. The other guests will probably be uncomfortable if we are there too. I pass for straight, my wife does not. I could go by myself, I will still be stressed and feel like a fake. My parents and brother will be disappointed if I don't go. The wedding is only for one weekend, and it will be a really big wedding. Should I just suck it up and go? This situation is stressful for me. My wife says she supports me whatever I decide: we both go, only I go, we don't go.

Adele, Texas

Newlyweds slicing cake
A stock image shows a couple of newlyweds slicing their wedding cake. Psychologist advice Adele from Texas on her dilemma. Getty Images

Life is too short to live the way others want us to live

Charnell Neptune-Darby is a Psychotherapist that has clinical experience on a range of obstacles including: intergenerational family issues, such as domestic violence, childhood sexual and physical abuse, complex trauma with both children and adults, behavioral issues, anxiety, and depression.

Hello Adele,

I'm sure this journey hasn't been the easiest for you, and there has been some challenges. One of the things that I've noticed is that we put our families on such high pedestals. Thinking that because they are our families they'll understand us, or they'll be our anchor for acceptance. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. So it's hard to navigate through that. We often aren't provided the tools or coping skills to help us through those different emotions and disappointments. So my first advice is to explore coping skills, affirm yourself daily and admire your authenticity. A lot of the time we don't give ourselves enough credit and what you've overcome has made you stronger. The fact that you can live your truth and be your true self is a wonderful thing.

Adele, always remember you are not a mistake and nor are you living a "lifestyle". You were born this way and be proud of how far you've come. Life is too short to live the way others want us to live. My second advice is to be consistent, and continue to be the kind and loving individual you are. Don't stop being yourself because of others uncomfortably. Other individuals sometimes are uncomfortable because they don't understand. By being consistent in who you are people will see you displaying your truth and will learn how you want to be treated.

Lastly, Weddings are supposed to bring joy, light, and love. Ask yourself these questions, how would your niece feel if you do not show? What would that do to your relationship with your niece if you do not show up? How will going to this wedding make you feel? If you do go to the wedding what will be your limitations and boundaries that you can establish? How will you take care of yourself if you decide not to go?

The More You Reflect On What You Want, And Are Honest With Yourself About Your Boundaries, The Better Things Will Go

Chloe Carmichael - Psychologist and author of Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating

Dear Reader,

I admire your thoughtful approach to a family situation. I've offered a few ideas below, with the caveat that you are the expert on your own situation-- so please feel free to modify my ideas however you wish, or create an entirely new approach-- whatever is best for you! It seems to me that you have three basic options:

1. Decline to attend. From your letter, it sounds like this is the option you want to take, but you're afraid that doing so will escalate tension. In my experience, doing things we really don't want to do (especially when we have good reasons not to, as you do) actually increases tension in the long run. If you wish to decline, you could send a warm note and a nice gift, with as much or as little information as you wish regarding the reasons for your decline (anything from "Sharon and I would love to celebrate your wedding, but we know the fact of our relationship could cause more waves than we personally would like to weather; so we have decided to decline" to simply "Sharon and I won't be able to attend."). Since you said the main reason for your decline is actually your desire to avoid the other guests more than feelings towards your brother and your niece, you might consider extending an offer to visit the weekend before the wedding-- but only if you actually want to. Even if the invitation was sent only to you, I would still mention your wife-- you are married, and your decision explicitly includes her.

2. Attend without your wife. Honestly, this feels like the least palatable because it would be an accommodation of bias against your wife. When people are married, they become a social unit. If you break that boundary because of the bias of others, you might end up resenting others for a choice that actually you made. So if your spouse isn't welcome somewhere, you have every right to be upfront about citing that as a reason for choosing to decline. That doesn't have to be framed as you creating conflict-- if needed, you can explain the conflict is actually coming from whomever is barring your spouse. Although your wife has expressed support for you even if you attend without her, your letter seems to suggest that this option doesn't feel right to you personally-- and I don't blame you.

3. Attend with your wife. From what you said, this doesn't sound like an option that appeals to you: It sounds like you aren't especially keen on attending the wedding in the first place, and dealing with the bias of other guests feels very stressful to you-- and you're under no obligation to do it. However, if you decided that you actually really wanted to attend the wedding and allowing the bias of others to sideline you from doing so would ultimately feel disempowering to you, you could certainly RSVP yes for both you and your wife. If your plan is to attend as a couple, I would make it clear in your RSVP so that there would be no surprises at the wedding. If you do decide to attend as a couple, you may want to determine your boundaries in advance regarding any potential remarks from other guests. Feel free to see my blog on family holiday gatherings for some ideas.

Once again, I want to compliment your thoughtful approach to this situation. The more you reflect on what you really want, and are honest with yourself about your boundaries, the better things will go-- no matter how you decide to proceed.

Take care and wishing you well.

Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" gathers experts to advise a reader on an issue they're having in their personal life. If you have a WSID dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice and your story could be featured on Newsweek.