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For a lot of folks, autumn and winter begin seasons of holidays and celebrations. By the time this is published, likely some of these will have passed: Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Samhain…

(Sorry y’all. Hopefully, this is helpful for folks in the years after it’s written too.) Regardless of identity, a lot of folks dread obligate interactions with family or faith traditions that we’ve grown up with. For LGBTQ+ folks, the holidays can take on an added dimension of dread and stress that impacts mental health.

With that said there are some, hopefully, important tips I’d like to provide for folks who have to engage with non-affirming spaces and people during holidays.

First, though, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Going Home for the Holidays when LGBTQ+

Over the years a lot of queer folks have processed complex feelings of guilt around not wanting to return home, and I am asked some form of what I call The Holiday Question:

Is it bad that I don’t want to go home? To celebrate X holiday?

Sometimes they’ve been surprised by my uncharacteristically direct answer:

No. It’s not bad. You’re not bad. You owe nothing to people or traditions that hurt you.

That being said, it’s often not that simple. Perhaps there’s a favorite aunt or sibling you want to see. Maybe you’re a student and staying in your residence hall is not an option during longer breaks. Perhaps the stigma of spending a holiday alone feels unbearable. Whatever your situation, I hope the following tips are helpful.

4 Tips to Get Through the Holidays when LGBTQ+

Photo of a BIPOC woman smiling and holding her phone to talk with someone on a video call. This represents how it can be important to stay in contact with friends and allies during the holidays. 1. Don’t lose contact with affirming people and spaces

It can be easy to feel like you’re bothering your friends and allies during the holidays, but it’s good to talk with them beforehand about continuing to stay in touch.

Is your therapist available for an appointment during the holidays? It never hurts to ask. If they’re not, I recommend keeping at least one of these on your phone:

2. Have your cope ahead plan ready

When I worked in university counseling centers, this was a routine part of my work during the late fall semester. Before you visit home make a list of books, movies, shows, or podcasts that you can “escape” into if need be.

This can be harder to do than you think once you’re there and things aren’t feeling great. Have your list ready to go at least a week before you head out. I encourage folks not to populate this list with random or aspirational reads (By all means, tackle Carl Jung’s Liber Novus in its original German if you’d like…. but I strongly recommend some backups.)

Consider what sorts of media leave you feeling “held”, reassured, amused, or engaged. It’s likely your imagination was the companion that kept you company all the holidays before. And it is still one of your greatest tools.

If you don’t have an e-reader and can’t afford to buy books, but have a phone I’d recommend the Libby App!

3. Limit time to the best of your ability

Moving towards the holidays consider how you might set a time-limited framework with family.

Do you need to be back early for a club meeting? Is there a work deadline that you need to meet? While I’m not encouraging duplicity, I think it’s more than okay if you need to ensure you have such a deadline beforehand.

4. Subtle & strong gender affirmations

Photo of a family dinner during the holidays, where they are looking and smiling at someone who is taking a photo. This represents how it can be hard to be yourself and feel comfortable when visiting family.Trans, non-binary, and gender queer folks have an added layer to consider if they’re not able to present congruently in front of family. Being deadnamed and misgendered is distressing at the best of times, but can be even more so in familial environments.

If you’re in a position where it’s not safe to be yourself, consider subtle and strong gender affirmations.

What this looks like can take many forms:

  • Even if your outer layers of clothing can’t be congruent, can your underlayer of clothing be so?
  • Affirm yourself mentally and deliberately, even if you can’t do so out loud.
  • (Temporarily) Adopt a different framework and take them off the pedestal: Your family and religious leaders don’t define your reality or worth. I promise. Can you find a way to find amusement or even pity for the people who make under-informed comments? After all, how might you feel towards someone who can’t seem to remember someone’s name or appreciate the wonderful expanse that is gender? You never need to condone microaggressions, but it can be an act of self-care and preservation to change your relationship with them for a while.

Y’all, I meant to talk even more about reclaiming holidays as LGBTQ+ in the event that you choose not to engage with old places and traditions, but I risk this turning into a book. If this is an area that you’re needing more support around, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a provider leading up to the holidays.

In the meantime, just know that you are already good and already whole.

We see you. Happy Holidays.

LGBTQ+ Therapy in Baltimore, MD

Photo of an LGBTQ couple lovingly looking into each other eyes, with a Christmas tree in the background. This represents how LGBTQ therapy can help you feel better and more prepared to face the holidays.Have you been experiencing anxiety about going home for the holidays? As an LGBTQ+, do you fear you can’t be yourself around your family? Are you concerned that spending time with them will bring on negative emotions?

Our therapists are experienced in helping with “coming out” anxiety, and processing sexual orientation and gender identity. We provide therapy especially dedicated to your LGBTQ+ experience and needs, and also gender affirmation care. Reach out with any questions.

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About the Author:

Brandon Muncy

Therapist (LCPC)

Brandon specializes in gender affirmation care for trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming clients. He’s also experienced in LGBTQ+ identity development, men’s issues, and relationship/marriage counseling.

In his free time, he enjoys archery, running, learning ASL, and playing the violin (poorly).

Read More About Brandon

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