A Queer Guide to Christmas
There’s no shortage of festive articles or gift-wrapped online content at this time of year, so I’m taking a minute to slot into the crowd with something that may provide a little bit of support to those who find Christmas a challenge.
If you, like me, feel you don’t really fit in with the social (and perhaps financial) expectations that Christmas often brings, then this one’s for you. That’s not to say other queers don’t love Christmas—many do—but for some it’s a challenging time.
Dealing with Family
If your family is awesome and supportive of you, make sure to get plenty of Polaroids for the fridge. But not everyone is ‘out’ to their family or has one that accepts their identity, meaning some of us may have to leave our true selves at the doorstop when we visit for Christmas. It more than stings. But take stock that it might not always be like this, especially if you’re young right now and struggling to come out.
A time full of small talk with distant relatives often makes Christmas feel like a very heteronormative trap to me. Friendly queries of ‘any new boyfriend?’ from my grandmother become more than just draining; they become hurtful. Like me, Christmas is probably your time off from the day job and usual routine too, so it’s important to make sure it’s not all about using up energy to put on a face. Try to schedule some time to meet or talk on the phone with someone who you are out to, so you can let your guard down and relax. A day trip, long walk, or dinner with a close friend is a great way to have down time to feel more like yourself.
As well as instances of erasure or microaggressions that are often unintentional, Christmas also means encountering loud political viewpoints different to those I usually surround myself with at other times of the year. To counteract this, I like to make sure my friends know it’s a tough time for me and I keep my phone nearby, so I can escape to a bathroom and rant to my like-minded group chats. It may sound silly but knowing my friends are in my pocket really helps. As I’ve gotten older, I now also have to put self-care before rising to bait—especially when I know a disagreement is something I won’t win or something that’s too close to home. Survival is resistance, as Audre Lorde said.
This one is for anyone anti-capitalist. Presents are great, don’t get me wrong, but one of the things I hate the most about Christmas is the financial pressure and commercialisation. I worry about the monetising of happiness and increasingly, about single use plastic… I’m being the Grinch now, I know, but we all find ourselves giving or receiving bits that someone ordered online just to tick a box. If you know you’ve got something you’re not going to use, instead of feeling guilty about waste or letting it sit in the cupboard forever more, donate or remake them into something new! Instead of lashing into the Boxing Day sales (and this is only for those privileged enough to do so—we all need to wear clothes, so if they’re cheap, go for it) you could donate to an LGBTQ+ charity like Mermaids.
If you’re feeling particularly gross about the excess, you could also find somewhere to volunteer during the holidays. Call up your local soup kitchen to offer a hand or make a food bank donation. Lots of people volunteer at Christmas and almost any family or friend group would respect this as a reason to bow out of a social engagement.
Or maybe you’re sad because you haven’t gotten any presents or don’t have anything to give—remember that giving your time is the biggest gift of all (especially if differences are difficult for you to overcome), or perhaps decide to buy yourself something if you can.
"Scrap the guilt and acknowledge that you are dealing with something super unfair."
There are plenty of religious queers and plenty of devout folk who are entirely devoted to supporting LGBTQ+ rights. But for many, what Christmas represents is essentially rooted in oppression. This is one of the main tensions for me. Travelling home for Christmas often means feeling forced into traditions I’ve escaped all year round. Be it church, thankful prayers, or even just seeing that damn nativity scene set up… I think expecting family to meet you halfway is reasonable with these things, especially if they are people who are likely to be good for you in other ways. I don’t partake in any Catholic celebrations with my family, but I don’t chastise them or make a scene when they do and I get plenty of feminist books as gifts in return.
It’s important to acknowledge that you can only fight as much as you’re able to, so if explaining that you’re no longer attending these things is out of the question, take some time to recover afterwards by reading a queer-friendly book or watch a movie (Carol is always on at Christmas and is on Netflix now, though it’s a tear jerker…). You could also choose to check in or follow with a positive source online (I highly recommend queer wedding accounts on Instagram, go!). And like I said before, your situation may not always be this way.
Coming Out at Christmas
A lot of people come out at Christmas. Be this because it’s a time when everyone finally has some time off together, because you’re studying abroad and wanted to do it face-to-face with family, or simply because people seem in a more approachable mood than usual. It’s one of the most popular times of year for having this kind of chat.
If this is something you’re considering, you might want to read some of these coming out and self-care tips Ampersand published earlier this year by clicking here.
You may also want to consider that for you or your family, Christmas may not be the best time of year to come out. Perhaps your mental health is taking a toll from winter, or perhaps your parents are under extra financial pressures due to the festivities; do what suits your situation, not what you hear on the grapevine.
Go Easy on Yourself
If you need to take long morning lie ins or lots of quiet time, allow yourself to do so and try not to feel guilty. If you need to cut a visit or trip short and blame it on transport or work or even a bad headache, do what you need to do. If you’re in the same house you’ve been in all year round facing the same prejudices and you need to get a weekend away, consider staying with a friend at some point and telling your family it’s for a festive movie night and catch up.
Most importantly, try to go easy on yourself and don’t push too hard. Scrap the guilt and acknowledge that you are dealing with something super unfair. But most of all, remember that this time will pass very soon, and there are plenty of people (like me!) out here rooting for you.