Queer for the Holidays

[Image description: Drawing of a rainbow with “A Queer Ol’ Christmas!” written above it and a Santa hat.]

By Amelia A. J. Foy, Ellanora Lerner & Keira D.
Art by Emily Bourne

The holiday season is a daunting time for a lot of LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ youth. This, sadly, won’t surprise a lot of people reading this: if you are queer, you know how difficult this season can be. This joyful, celebratory time of the year can often feel anything but, because, unfortunately, we don’t all have an environment in which we can celebrate at home, where we will likely be this season.

In this article, we’re going to talk about our festive experiences. This is for you: every queer person who will have to spend time listening to casual homo/bi/transphobia being tossed around over the dinner table, who will shy away from conversations about relationships, or who won’t be around their families at all for these reasons. You are not alone, you never have been nor will be. Us LGBTQ+ people have survived and endured so much for millennia - and we have found small pockets of happiness amongst it all, with people like us, in supportive family members and friends and in hope. Keep safe this festive season.

[Image description: a drawing of an individual wearing a pink jumper with wavy long hair and dreamy brown eyes; text surrounding them says ‘please don’t misgender me’.]

Ellanora: Being Out with Family

I am incredibly lucky to have a family in which I know I can be myself and more than anything else I want to express my gratitude - on behalf of myself to my own family, and to all the other people who make their LGBTQ+ family members feel comfortable during the holidays, even when they don’t know they are doing it.

But that’s the thing. My family doesn’t know that they’re doing it because I have not come out to my extended family. And I am not planning on doing so any time soon. Partly because it is scary, partly because it is difficult, mostly because I don’t feel like I have to or that I should have to.

And while I am happy with my situation as it is, it can make the holidays weird. Because most of the time I am more or less out. Not only do the majority of people in my life know about my sexuality, but many of my friends share this identity with me. During the holidays this normal occurrence is yanked out from under me. For a few weeks each year I am not out anymore, I am the same person I am the rest of the year but the people around me don’t know about one of the major things that makes up who I am.

Of course, this is not an experience unique to the holidays or unique to LGBTQ+ people. But this situation is particularly significant to me because of the importance of my family in my life. This family and the traditions we have are a big part of who I am. And it is weird that they do not know about or understand some of the other biggest parts of who I am.

I am grateful for this family who has given me the childhood that has shaped me, and I am grateful for those who have helped give me the other things that are important to my identity, and I am grateful for the opportunity to someday create traditions that reflect everything about who I am.

Amelia: A Chosen Family Christmas

[Image description: a drawing of five funky individuals, colourfully dressed, holding hands and hugging; text surrounding it reads ‘spending Christmas with my chosen family'.]

Since I came out at 14 and was told bisexuality is a phase, my sexuality has been “swept under the rug” topic. There’s an unspoken understanding that I am, shockingly, still bisexual, but it’s not something that is brought up. There’s no “so how is your girlfriend?” (who I have been dating for almost four years) - they know, and they ask about her by name, but never is it highlighted that I’m in a committed and long-term relationship. And I am at the point where I don’t expect there to be.

But it could be worse, and I know this. I have friends who can never come out to their family. Friends who don’t know what will happen once they get in a relationship. I’m incredibly lucky I can be out, and proudly so when I’m not at home.

These friends are what us queers call a “chosen family”. I’ve done a post on them before. This festive season, we’re going to spend New Year’s together - away from home pressures, in a space where we can be who we are, talk and joke openly, and bring in 2019 on a high. We’re going to have our version of a family Christmas dinner (even though none of us are practicing Christians) and watch the fireworks. Have that warm, sweet holiday season that we all deserve but can’t find at home.

I’m so excited for it. I hope you all find at least one other friend like you to do this with - even if it’s just a chat at midnight on New Year’s, reminding you that you aren’t alone, and that this coming year has so much untapped potential for change. That things do change and you won’t always be where you are right now.

Keira: Not Wanting to Rock The Boat

I’ve only ever formally come out to one person in my life - my mom, four years ago. Since then, I assume that she’s told people in my family, but I couldn’t honestly tell you if that was just my dad or if my whole six uncles and aunts (plus kids!) know. Much like Ellanora, I don’t believe that I’m obligated to have any formal coming-out talk with any of them, mainly because I don’t think heterosexuality should be the default assumption, but also just because I don’t see them enough for it to directly impact me.

I love both sides of my family, but my parents both came from large groups of siblings from which they were the only ones who really split off from the larger group, and the holidays are the only real time I spend time with either side. I guess that, deep down, some part of me doesn’t want to accidentally ruin these gatherings by bringing up my gayness, just in case my image of family holiday ideal of twice-baked potatoes and board games galore is shattered.

I know in theory that both sides of my family are liberal, but I still default to referencing my girlfriend as a friend when I bring her up. It’s just not worth the trouble, and I’m kind of ashamed of that.

The grandparent I was closest to passed away this year, so this will be my first Christmas without her, and I really did hope I’d be able to come out to her at some point in her life. I didn’t. Like it or not, I made the choice to avoid any kind of vulnerability with my family, and I have to make peace with that. Although I’m closer to some of them than others, news travels fast, and surprisingly enough, my family has become more conservative as the years have passed. We had one estranged Tr*mp supporter, now my cousin has started to swing conservative, and I don’t know if coming out to my family would help or hurt that progression.

The bottom line for me is that Christmas is one of my favorite times of year, and I’m too scared to jeopardize my chance to make positive memories. I’ve chosen to be uncontroversial until absolutely necessary, but eventually that will have to change. I can’t wait to show up in ten years with a girlfriend and less internalized insecurity about my sexuality, to ring in the holigays with the people I care about most.