The holiday season is full of joy and happiness across the world. For billions of people, this is the time where life starts to slow down. It’s a time for reflection and coming together with your community. For LGBTQ+ folks, this can look a little different than the nuclear family archetype and I’m here to share with you a variety of themes on what being LGBTQ+ can look like during the holiday season. We’re gonna be hitting on a variety of topics, so buckle in.
Family & Community
For the last 26 years mom, dad and I have a tried and true formula for the holiday season, particularly on Thanksgiving. We wake up early and cooking commences around 7-8 am. All of us tune into the Macy’s Day Parade, followed by the National Dog Show. After the Best in Show category, we get together for a traditional Midwestern feast; turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, rolls and cranberry sauce. During the induced food coma, it’s time for the first of three NFL games, where we nap through most of it. Waking up with a cup of coffee, it’s time for a card game of Hand & Foot. (A version of rummy.) It’s been a 26-year Blankenship tradition and for the first time in over a quarter-century, I’ll sadly be missing out.
This holiday season, will be with the chosen family in my new community of San Antonio. A gaggle of gays (about 10 or so) and one of their 70-year-old mothers that is bound to be the belle of the ball. This is 2021’s chosen family and while I’m saddened to miss out with my parents, new traditions will be made.
The word ‘community’ means something different to everybody. For me, it’s like-minded people I enjoy spending time with. Those I trust and make special memories. The word can have a variety of contexts; the town you live in, your workplace, or your place of worship. Community though has a particular context for those special in your life and especially your company in the holiday season.
Blood family is the common answer that people will spend some of their holiday season with, but for many LGBTQ+ folks, it’s the chosen family that joins in the special memories. The holiday season, especially for LGBTQ+ people can bring up unwanted trauma and sadness. It can bring headache and remembrance of a lack of acceptance from blood family. There are countless examples of LGBTQ+ individuals rejected by their families, asked to not attend family functions and certainly not to discuss their ‘lifestyle.’ The holiday season can be paralleled with religious trauma, rejection and people that don’t accept people for things they can’t control.
The Spirited Debate
Would it be the holidays without a spirited political debate? Many of us have stories about the crazy uncle that believes in mole people or that the Earth is flat. Jokes aside, their opinions can be much worse and it’s difficult to resonate with those that live in what feels like a different reality. Regardless of opinions, try to be respectful to everyone and don’t be afraid to step out of a conversation if need be. If you decide to engage, empathy and trying to find common ground can be a better way of having them see your perspective than talking over each other.
A Time to Reflect & Say What You’re Thankful For
Being authentic to who you are is one of the most difficult things to process. No matter your gender or sexuality, everyone grapples with authenticity. If you’re LGBTQ+ and able to be out and proud, be thankful for those that came before you to allow you to do so. It wasn’t long ago it was universally rejected in the United States for being LGBTQ+. Sadly, 70 countries still criminalize LGBTQ+ acts.
Many of us still deal with unaccepting family and friends. Our society teaches us through a variety of ways, both conscious and subconscious, that being LGBTQ+ is a negative trait. From an individual perspective, gays and lesbians can deal with internalized homophobia, which is unwelcome feelings of not being comfortable with their sexuality. This can lead to gays and lesbians feeling lesser than their straight counterparts. Trans and nonbinary individuals often deal with gender dysphoria starting at a young age, which is the desire to be the opposite gender.
So when you’re at your next holiday gathering, take a moment to be thankful to Martha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Frida Kahlo and millions of other LGBTQ+ people that weren’t afraid to be themselves when it was far less accepted.
Invite that New Out of Towner and Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out to Friends You Won’t See In Person
This is a big one for me. My first year outside of Florida during the holidays will be difficult. I’ll miss my old community of chosen family just as much as my parents. Sometimes for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’d invite friends to join my family. Some of those friends didn’t necessarily have family in town to celebrate. That courtesy is now being offered to me.
Make someone feel appreciated by calling or texting them that you’re thankful they’re in your life. It doesn’t have to be on a specific holiday, any time will suffice. Keep that friendship going with affirmation that they are appreciated by you.
LGBTQ+ or Not, Don’t Be Afraid to Donate or Volunteer!
Is volunteering or donating a selfish act? It’s quite the oxymoron when you think about it. These actions release dopamine and endorphins that cause happiness and positive feelings. It’s a controversial take on altruism, but don’t be afraid to look at ways that you can make yourself feel better while giving others a better holiday season.
There are dozens of volunteer opportunities over the coming weeks that’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy. Here are a few:
- Clarity is asking for support for their kids by joining their Giving Tree. Donate toys or support their holiday initiatives through Amazon.
- Meals on Wheels has seen a dramatic increase in asks since the pandemic started and is still in need desperate need of drivers.
- The Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio’s Annual Make a Wish campaign asks for a $30 donation to make children’s wishes come true.
- You join San Antonio Oasis’ nursing home/assisted living holiday program by providing company to an elder.
Don’t Forget to Love Yourself
No matter who is around you, make sure to take a moment to love yourself. This pandemic has taken a major toll on all of us and we’re making it through another year of unpredictable obstacles. Be proud of who you are and what makes you unique. When you have a moment, take a look in the mirror, smile, and say ‘I love you.’ I guarantee it’ll make your day better.