Spectrum: Surviving the Holidays 101
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, spending the holidays with family can bring up mixed emotions, but there are ways of coping
Columns / December 9, 2019
“If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.” This lyric, from the perennial Christmas classic “Home for the Holidays,” relays a popular idea that is frequently reinforced throughout the holiday season. However, for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, the truth is a lot more complicated. Whether it’s due to a parent who continually misgenders you, an aunt who prods a little too deep into your dating life, or a grandfather who is overly comfortable dropping the other f-bomb after getting a few eggnogs in his system, the idea of spending the holidays with family could be more likely to bring up feelings of anxiety or fear rather than anything warm and fuzzy. Fortunately, there are methods of surviving the holiday season with such family members that don’t involve running for the hills – or using your entire home as a stand-in for a Yule log.
The first and arguably the best method I would suggest is knowing your boundaries ahead of time and making sure they’re as clear as the crystal ornaments on the tree. For example, it’s always a good idea to have a list of answers prepared for any unpleasant questions you know will be asked. “I’ve just been busy with work,” or “I’d rather not talk about that,” are always good answers to the dreaded “Are you seeing anyone?” question. It’s good to have responses ready as well for topics that you will not get into under any circumstance.
You are not under any obligation to talk about any transitioning processes you are undertaking. If it is something you are comfortable with and feel confident doing, you are more than valid to stand up for yourself and what you believe. If your family tries to tell you that you are being rude for doing so, remind them that Christmas is a time to spend with family and, whether they like it or not, that includes you, which means you have just as much of a right to express your opinions as the relative who thinks that Maxime Bernier would have been a good prime minister. Some relatives may not like this, and I would only recommend this if you feel safe to do so, but most will leave you alone for the sake of maintaining family harmony.
If all else fails, it’s always good to know who you can rely on for support during what can be a stressful time. Chances are, you have at least one relative in your family who is either a reliable ally or is LGBTQ+ themselves and therefore understands your pain. Make sure you stick close to these people throughout the holidays in order to reduce the stress of being there in the first place.
If no one in your family is supportive — in which case, I extend my sincerest condolences — make sure you have a friend or a group of friends you can either bring with you or have on speed-dial in the event you need a quick getaway. If your family can get violent or toxic, you should always, always put your safety first, no matter what the conventional holiday wisdom says.
And if you’re the one hosting the family get-together, definitely keep the booze locked up and out of sight. Trust me, your sanity will thank you.