By Dr. Laura McGuire
Happy holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Blessed Yule to all! With all of the hustle and bustle of these magical winter festivities, it seems impossible to feel alone. Yet, as queer folks, many of us often do. Sometime between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the feelings of loneliness and isolation begin to creep in. If we are single, have strained relationships with our families of origin, or are struggling with our identities, these feelings can be crushing. Mix in the endless scroll of seemingly picture-perfect couples and families celebrating together on your Instagram feed, and you’ve got a recipe for the holiday blues. But don’t dismay! Below are some common issues queer folks experience during the holidays, as well as some suggestions for troubleshooting each. Your spirits don’t have to drop just because the temperatures do!
I don’t enjoy the spiritual traditions of my past.
Church not your perch? Temple not your cup of tea? As a child, these places may have been your home away from home—places you frequented all year or highlights of your holiday experiences. The songs, decor, and rituals once gave you feelings of comfort and joy. For many in the queer community, however, coming out either altered or destroyed this feeling of peace—especially if we weren’t well received for speaking our truths. Family may be pressuring you to attend services that now leave a bitter taste in your mouth and anxiety in your heart.
The good news is threefold. One, you do not have to incorporate religion into the holidays. Simply celebrating the winter season and the passing of another year is good enough—no deities required. Second, there are many churches and temples that are LGBTQ inclusive. If participating in religious services is important to you, but you crave a more queer accepting space, Google on “open and affirming” churches/temples in your area. Third, there are religions such as paganism that are already inherently open to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Pagans celebrate Yule, the winter solstice celebration. Research Yule celebrations in your area, or check out Unitarian Universalist churches, which celebrate the holidays from a perspective inclusive of all religions.
I feel pressure to see my family and they don’t accept me.
Despite what Norman Rockwell sold us, family time during the holidays is not always a fairytale of love and joy. In the LGBTQ community, it can mean dealing with questions like “Why don’t you have a [opposite-sex partner] yet?” or being told our partners are not welcome in our family’s home.
If possible, try to avoid any activities and events that are not in your mental health’s best interest. You have every right so say “thanks, but no thanks,” and excuse yourself without any guilt. Ask family members you do like spending time with to hang out separately. And if you have to spend time with famenies (family enemies), try and find neutral topics to discuss. Be firm about things you aren’t comfortable sharing and make predetermined excuses if you want to exit early.
I hate everything right now.
Okay, okay, I get it. All of this advice may seem like a load of baloney. You don’t relate to any of it. One of the common falsehoods I hear about the LGBTQ experience is that, as soon as we come out, we magically have a huge fabulous community and are never alone again. This, sadly, is not true. Many people come out, become ostracized from their families, and do not feel they fit in to the queer community in their area.
If this holiday season is just way too much for you on all fronts, my suggestion is to get away. Go to Hawaii. Get a plane ticket to a place you have never heard of. If that’s too expensive, get in your car and drive three hours in any direction. Go camping or stay in a hostel. If you can’t bear being alone, volunteer at a shelter for the holidays. Look into local LGBTQ centers, as they often have holiday celebrations you can attend. I promise there are other people who feel unloved and alone right this minute. Reach out and connect with them. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Above all, create new traditions that feel good to you and embrace them for years to come. Happy holigays, everyone!