Being part of the queer community, for me, means sharing the highs and the lows with one another. Rejoicing together when someone makes official their unity with a loved one. Celebrating the birth or adoption of a much-anticipated family member. Commiserating over breakups, heartache, and lost love.
Yet one of the times we are most needed as a community is in supporting those who, because of their sexual identity or gender orientation, have become estranged from their family. Christmas can be a particularly painful time. Whether you’re facing full estrangement, enduring the achingly hurtful ‘we love you in spite of who you are’ attitudes, or not ‘out’ and feel like you have to hide an important part of your identity from those in your family, for many in our community the holidays can be some of the most difficult days of the year.
On top of everything else, there’s a lot of pressure to really ‘do’ Christmas. From sickly-sweet tv adverts through to workplace Secret Santa, avoiding The Season is a mission. The good news is that you can take control of your own little bubble, and I’ve taken the liberty of putting together some pointers on prioritising your own wellbeing during the festivities – with the addendum that one size really doesn’t fit all, and what works for one person may not work for another, but that above all else you should feel free and able to do or not do Christmas in your own valuable way.
So, without further delay:
Go Your Own Way: No matter what John Lewis want us to believe, there’s no ‘right way’ to do Christmas. If you do want to take part in the festivities, then now is the time to start creating your own rituals and traditions that aren’t linked to triggering or difficult memories. Go out to a local pub for Christmas dinner. Go hiking in the mountains. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Spend the day in bed surrounded by your go-to take away and enjoying your favourite horror films; it’s up to you, because this is your Christmas.
Opt Out Completely: Of course, you don’t have to stick your stocking up or put out those mince pies if you don’t want to. Whilst people will, I’m afraid, look aghast if you tell them you’ve no plans for Christmas (and, inevitably, invite you over to take part in theirs), you don’t actually have to treat the day differently to any other. It’s a day off to get through that ‘to do’ list you’ve been avoiding for so long. Oh, and make sure you stay off social media, because that’s the last thing you need when you’re just trying to get the fuck on with things.
Lean On Others: Seriously, it’s okay to reach out and ask for what you need right now. If you would like to spend the day with other people, make sure you let them know; put some feelers out on Facebook, take a look at local events happening during the holidays, and drop a line to anyone you think might be in a similar position. As part of the Gender Equality Network I ran, we used to make sure someone was always on hand at Christmas to talk, and a number of us would run an ‘open house’ on Christmas day. Honestly, those drop-ins were some of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.
Self Care, Not Self Destruction: Tempting though it may be to curl up with that bottle of Christmas liqueur and gorge yourself on advent calendar chocolate, it’s not going to make you feel great. Alcohol is a depressant (I say as I sit here nursing my second glass of wine this evening) and not eating properly will make you feel lethargic and slow. Instead, prioritise self care. Take a nice bath, make yourself some hearty comfort food, and get an early night. You’ll wake up feeling better and more able to face the post-Christmas world.
Usual Service WiIl Resume: If all else fails, keep reminding yourself that the Christmas period will soon be over, and the New Year well underway. At some point soon, everything will be back to normal – save for the fact that you might be able to pick up some banging bargains in the January sales!
[This article was originally published in DIVA’s December 2017 issue, but then re-posted on this blog on 22/01/18. Read my latest column in DIVA, on sale now at divadigital.co.uk]