It’s happening again. It’s that time of year where we gather around a table, be it among family or friends, to reconnect, catch up, and have terse conversations about politics. As a lover of psychology in all its forms, I personally have a complex relationship with the holidays. I’m also aware of all the unique family dynamics that can make them so painful for many LGBTQ+ people. Many of my clients dread holidays.
I tend to get asked a few common questions around the holidays: How do I put up with my homophobic relatives? How do I cope with having to be back in an environment where people knew me before I came out/transitioned/identified a certain way?
Quickly Identify Queer Allies
These include: ambiguously lesbian aunts, Gen Z cousins who haven’t yet learned hatred, family dogs, cats (they are generally disdainful of mean people￼). This is about comfort, not politics. Find them. Cling to them.
Fabricate an Alternate Identity
When your nosy relatives ask about your life, tell them that you’ve since become a mariner/covert agent and your life belongs to the sea and security now, rendering their question irrelevant. Scowl through dinner. This may sound blithe: The underlying theme is that your life is your own and nobody’s business unless you choose to share.
Redirect Any and All Conversation Back to the Food
Bon Appetit has prepared you well for this moment: if someone gets a little too intrusive about things you’d rather not divulge, say something like, “I wasn’t sure Carla Lalli Music of Bon Appetit could make crispy potatoes work as a holiday side but now that I’ve tried it myself I’m fully on board.”
Stay Home and Get Food With Friends
This is fine. If you, like many LGBTQ+ people across the country, are being expected to put yourself in a place where you know you’ll be subjected to being misgendered or homophobia, then entertain the idea that maybe they don’t deserve your presence.
Keep Your AirPods in
Music calms. That is all.
Maintain Your Support Network
The reality of the situation is that being around people who make you feel worse about yourself (regardless of their intentions) is a difficult thing to endure. Let some of your close friends know about your situation and let them know you might be reaching out if things get overwhelming. Reminding yourself of your identity outside the context of people who may not “see you” as you are can help you get through this brief, frustrating window of time.
Remember Your Progress Isn’t Going Anywhere
Even if you love your family dearly and the holidays are “fun,” it can still be stressful to put yourself back in an environment that reminds you of the version of yourself before you came out or realized who you were. It can put you back in your old shoes and make you feel like you’re that person all over again. Your hard self work isn’t being erased. You’re just in a challenging space. So try to put those fears to bed, accept that being “home” can be confusing and anxiety-inducing, and make yourself a second plate. Stay at a hotel if you need to. You’re going to be just fine.