It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
There are a lot of people for whom it’s true but for many of us, the holiday season brings unusual pressures and can be the most difficult time of the year. Not all challenges of the season are exclusive to queer folx but there are some that have a unique flavor.
For queers who have left the fold, being away from the limitations and pressures of family (and sometimes hometowns or communities) have allowed us to discover, embrace, and love ourselves in ways we couldn’t before. While this is true of many cisgender, heteronormative people, it can be a particularly key piece of development in the queer human. Without the scrutiny from our families we can date who we like, kiss our loves, dress, speak and BE our true selves. Away from religious or social community, we have the space to examine the standards we’ve been handed. Moving away often allows us to meet people who feel like us, look like us, and love like us.
The expectation that we go home for the holidays may represent a critical set of choices: Do I go home? Can I bring my favorite person? Will they be welcomed in the same ways as my heteronormative relatives’ favorite people? Can I dress in accordance with my gender identity without risk? Will I be safe physically, mentally, or emotionally? I love my core family but my drunkle makes everything miserable. Is this the year he actually hits one of us in a rage about his fag nephew? What, really, is the cost?
It’s important to note that these questions aren’t just asked by college-age kids. Sure, there has been a shift in some places which has allowed many queer kids to be embraced as who they are from the outset but one quick glance at the news and in particular, the comments on the news* shows the hatred and vitriol we face is real and is ugly. Queers from nine to ninety-nine face this dilemma annually.
Then there is the secondary question we ask if we’ve decided the juice of family and familiarity is worth the squeeze of risk and vulnerability. Can I be myself? Think about that for a moment. I am going to visit the people who are supposed to love me unconditionally and I have to ask Can I Be Myself? What are the conditions of my return? How much do I have to pretend to be straight, cisgender, non-transgressive in order to receive this love? Then we circle back to the initial question… is it worth it?
And what are the risks involved in not participating in family festivus? The risk of rejection is equally real no matter which we choose. Does not going home mean missing the things we do love about the season? Do I choose to avoid my drunkle and risk missing my grandmother for her last year? Will I lose what financial, material, or emotional support I do get? And what will I do with myself? For many of us, the weight of being alone for the holidays seems heavier than the weight of family pressure right up until the moment we remember why we left in the first place.
And that is the crux right there. The Catch-22 of going home to risk being miserable or staying away to risk being miserable.
I’m a solution-focused kinda guy and this is one of the most frustrating places to be. When there isn’t an obvious solution to the problem. Move on to Queering the Holidays Part 2 for thoughts on how to move through the season with grace while minimizing risk and opening up to joy.
*All comments sections should come with content warnings. DO NOT read them if you’re feeling the least bit fragile!