Somewhere, someone out there is wrestling with what going home for the holidays means for them now that they have come “out” and everything has changed. Have you ever returned home after being away for a long trip and thought just how good it was to be home? That’s what I want to talk about.

Like many of you, for me, going home for the holidays does not include the family of my origin, but rather includes those whom I now call family. I came out at the age of forty. I had been the unhappiest hetero-wannabe in recorded history. After my second divorce, I knew I could never go back to that dark hole again, and I decided that I would either be happy with a woman of my dreams, or I would be alone for the rest of my life. Either option scared the hell out of me. There was a lot at stake; my siblings, my Dad, my children, my friends, my faith, my future. There was a price to being “out” twenty years ago including never being legally married again, never being able to kiss the person I love in the open or to hold hands as we walked. But throwing caution to the wind, there really was no other choice; I came out and started to explore my new world. I have never looked back!

So after twenty-one years now, here is how things stacked up for me. My Dad continues to be the first place I ever found unconditional love. My siblings, all three of them, no longer honor our birth connection, and neither does my son. My daughter is faithful, and we always joke about how good it is for her to be the only child. My faith has never let me down and grows stronger day by day, I’ve even found a wonderful faith community where literally everyone is celebrated and where I can grow and serve. Two years ago, I married the woman of my dreams. Who would have ever expected that could have happened? We’ve been together seventeen years now, and our plans for the future are exciting. On top of all that, I was able to make a wonderful career out of serving my new community as an HIV/AIDS nurse, and I have a whole new circle of friends who are not only friends, but my new family.

I’m not saying that losing most of my birth family was easy because it wasn’t, and I know some of you are going through that pain this Christmas. So, what I want to say to you is this, have faith that your new life will unfold in beautiful ways, that is what happens when we live in our own truth. Give the process and yourself some time, and never stop moving forward; p.s. If you’re standing still, you’ll get stuck. Never doubt that the family you make will be in every way real family. Stand tall in knowing who you are, and celebrate that. Find others that celebrate who you are; they are your family now. You’ll know who they are because you will feel that feeling of how good it is to be home when you are with them.

To all my readers, but especially to those who are hurting, may you find home for the holidays, and may it feel really good!

Debbie Anne is a public-health nurse with the Frederick County Health Department. She has been awarded a Governor’s Citation for her work with Marylanders living with HIV.