When I was younger, my family always celebrated Christmas together. I have brothers that are much older than me, and despite the various relationships that they were in, it was an understood rule in the family that they were coming home to our house for the holidays. I never knew any different.

As I grew older and had a home of my own and a partner, we were faced with the decision to go to her parents’ house or mine. We chose to each return to our respective families alone. After only one year of doing this, we decided that we would not spend another Christmas apart. After all, just because we are gay and not married our need to spend the holidays together is the same as everyone else’s. The decision on our end was easy. The hard part was telling my mother that I was not coming home because I was choosing to spend Christmas with my partner’s parents.

Despite her love and acceptance of my girlfriend, this was not an easy conversation to have. And, yes, there was some bitterness and jealousy that my mother simply could not hide. Regardless, at that point in my adult life, I had to make the decision because my partner was a priority and I did not want to be without her.

We were lucky. Many gay persons in committed relationships return home, leaving their partners behind. This “tradition” at the holidays is an unfortunate one that many still willingly practice. Some are reluctant to bring their gay lover home to meet grandma and grandpa; after all, nobody wants to send nana and papa to an early grave by introducing them to your partner (a.k.a., the “roommate”.) So, in order to spare them, and yourself, you and your partner go your separate ways for the holidays, both returning to the lives you left behind a long time ago. And the lying continues.

Inevitably, these separated couples spend every waking moment on Facebook posting status updates, texting their partners, and sneaking in a phone call or two, while everyone else sits around jabbering on and on about their lives — the grand kids, the thankless jobs, their routines — all the while wondering what their loved one is doing. And they think about their partner each and every time grandma asks if there is a “special someone” in their life. The answer, of course, is “No, grandma, I’m just too busy at work, and dating is not on my priority list.”

Sound familiar? Those of us in the LGBT community have all been asked this question, and we all have excuses that we use to tell them why we are “just not interested” in dating.

It is very sad that after some couples have been in a relationship with each other for many years, sharing the same bed and often a mortgage, that they still cannot admit to their families — the grandparents, the cousins, the nieces and nephews, and, especially, dad — that they are, in fact, gay. We all know that mom already knows. After all, she birthed us.

Come on people. You sleep in the same bedroom as your “roommate.” Do you really think your parents and the family do not know? You are truly kidding yourself if you do. Own up to the gayness in you and bring that partner home. Be proud. Do not allow your family to dictate who you spend Christmas with.

If you decide to bring your partner home and it is not welcomed, don’t go. Spend the holidays in your own home with your partner, your tree, your animals, and be merry. It is the right thing to do, and after all, that’s what you want to do anyway.

If you do not stand up for your right to be with the person that you love during the holidays, you will never truly be free or happy.