The holiday season is often billed as the most wonderful time of the year, but that can be a hard sell for some in the LGBTQ+ community.
Whether estranged or disconnected from family, or forced back in the closet on a trip home, many queer people find the holidays to be filled with more dread than delight.
And it’s no wonder.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report, 67 percent of LGBTQ youth (aged 13-17) report that they’ve heard members of their family make negative remarks about LGBTQ people. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people face higher than average rates of homelessness and struggles with mental health across the country.
So we’ve compiled a few tips for how to help ease the stress points that seem to pop around the holidays. Take a look.
1. Don’t blame yourself
Let’s start with a quote from Brené Brown: “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
If this season is hard for you to get through, you have to start cutting yourself some slack. It may seem easy to go a negative space, but you have to avoid blaming yourself for your family’s perception of your identity — and any lack of connection to them that may have followed as a result.
It is impossible to control how anyone in your life will receive or accept you, so don’t let the strength of your familial relationships dictate your self-worth. Because it’s not fair to you.
2. Know your triggers — and avoid them
You and only you know what triggers may upset you around this time of year. They can be as small as a cousin’s Instagram story from home, a rerun of a favorite holiday movie, or stumbling onto old family photos — but those little things can add up and hurt you.
Take stock of what things might upset or trigger some emotional reaction in you when it comes to your family. Then, make a plan to avoid as many triggers you can. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a great place to start.
3. Lean on (or work on building) your chosen family
Sometimes there is no better family than the one you choose yourself, because they have decided to keep you in their life exactly as the person that you are.
Having those kinds of loved ones surrounding you can be remarkably powerful and can help you heal some of the scars estranged family may have left in your past. As queer people, we know that family is much more than a blood relation. Plus, you get to take control of who gets to access your precious time and energy — putting you in the driver’s seat of all your relationships.
Haven’t exactly settled a chosen familial network around you yet? Don’t worry. The holidays have a way of bringing people together, as cliche as that may sound, and can prove to be the perfect time to work on connecting to those you already have around you … and perhaps turn those friendships into something more meaningful.
4. Spoil yourself
You don’t have to be made of money to indulge yourself, especially when it comes to the little things that put a smile on your face.
Bake your favorite holiday treat. Get a manicure. Snuggle up with a good book and a glass of wine. Introduce yourself to some new TV shows — like these ones with incredible LGBTQ characters!
Do whatever makes you happy and de-stresses you. You’re worth happiness, anyway you can get it. Don’t forget that!
4. Give back in your area
Few things can lighten a mood better than giving back to the causes that mean something to you — and that giving back doesn’t have to mean giving money.
Consider volunteering somewhere in your community. Who knows? Your life’s new passion or your new best friend may just be a few philanthropic hours away.
5. Give yourself something to look forward to
If the present seems too overwhelming, then start looking to your future and plan a trip.
It can be to that new art gallery that just opened up down the block, or your dream vacation thousands of miles away — that doesn’t matter. Set your sights on somewhere you’d like to go and make actionable steps to get there.
Before you know it, your mind is on what’s next and not what you’re going through right now.
6. Remember you are never alone
Last, and certainly not least, remember that you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Look into therapists and schedule a consultation to see if they’re right for you. Talking about the trauma of estranged family with a licensed professional can help you move into a life free from that pain you’ve held so closely.
If you need more immediate assistance, contact The Trevor Project to talk to someone right now at 1-866-488-7386.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, nor is it a cure-all for what you may be going through in your strained family relationships, … but it can help you navigate the emotional rollercoaster that is the holiday season. One merry and bright day at a time.