Winter is here, and for many of us, that means visiting relatives and spending time with family members who may not necessarily understand how to embrace the very fabric of our gender or sexual identity, let alone the extreme peril Trump’s election means for our future. Many members of the LGBTQ community experience anxiety during the holidays. From the simple act of gathering around a table to eat, or a tree to open gifts, to feeling the obligation of purchasing a gift for that slightly racist or homophobic family member, concern for the respect of our sexuality and gender identity can take a toll on our mental and physical health as we prepare for spending time with our family.
“Let’s face it, the LGBT life is still not tolerated, and it’s unacceptable in certain areas of the world unfortunately,” shares Kelley Jacobs, a Baltimore native. “It is extremely difficult at times to frequently endure the kind of emotional, mental, and physical abuse we experience in our lives.” When family members mirror the same social rejection the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis, the holidays can swiftly become a season of depression, hurt, and fear.
Kelley, who identifies as “an independent, tough femme type of fella” describes their relationship with their family: “A few of my relatives are copacetic with me, and they’ve accepted me for who I am, and my lifestyle; however, other relatives have no clue regarding who I am today, nor did they care to know about me back in the day unfortunately.” In what can only be described as the true spirit of the holiday season, Kelley says that “it’ll be wonderful if more people would take the time to truly understand the hardships within the LGBT community, as well as understand the way the community is constantly enduring hatefulness on a consecutive basis.” But what can LGBTQ persons do when that family doesn’t understand these hardships, and doesn’t make the effort to understand?
Ashley McKinley, who identifies as male, has created a family of his own: his friend circle. “My holiday plans are to hang out with friends which have became my family. We are going to the movies and out to dinner for the holidays.” Ashley continues, “Some of my family don’t like the fact that I’m transgender so I refuse to be with any of them during the holiday season.” This kind of self-care takes strength and resolve, but ultimately leads to self-preservation. Setting boundaries with family members such as this may be the best way to take care of one’s mental and physical health.
“This was the first time in a few years in which I wasn’t invited home for Thanksgiving because of my gender identity,”shares Ashley, who wants people in his situation to know that “there are people around you who truly care about you.” Finding and creating that family within our social networking system is an integral part of taking care of ourselves this holiday season.
Start by logging on to LGBTQutie and adding to your social circle. Reach out to friends you know many not have family to go back to during the holidays. Make plans to spend time with the people that love and accept you for who you are, how you identify, and who you love, and stand strong. Ensuring your gender identity and sexuality are respected this holiday season is infinitely more important than spending time with people during a holiday that has been largely commercialized around a widely circulated lie regarding a mythical man in a red suit. If that’s the reason most people get together, what’s the big deal anyways?