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Navigating the Holidays While LGBT

With end-of-year holidays fast approaching, the pressure to reunite with families builds. For many people, it’s one of the best parts of the holidays. But for some, it can be a source of dread — especially if your family isn’t tolerant of you.

If you’re in the latter group, here’s a list of ways to not only cope with seeing family but to make it to the new year better than ever.

I’m thinking about using the holidays to come out.

First off: congrats! Coming out in person can be really nervewracking. If you’re considering this, you probably have spent a lot of time imagining your family’s responses. If you haven’t come out to any family members, one way to test the waters is to see how they talk about other LGBT people. Bring up (or make up) a story about a coworker, classmate, or news story and listen for their reactions before you give your own.

If you have any family members that are openly LGBT, maybe consider reaching out to them before making your big decision. See how their immediate family (if different than yours — say, a cousin or parent’s sibling) reacted — some people hide their true reactions around family to keep the peace.

If you have any worries that even one member may disapprove, it is up to you how to proceed.

Is it someone you rarely see? If you don’t mind rude comments or impolite staring, you can quickly ignore the discomfort.

Is it someone you’re financially dependent on? If you have any inkling of worry that they may withhold funds from you, you might be better off not telling them.

Is it more than one member? Would you feel outnumbered or cast out? Then it might be in your best interest not to make it public. Coming out to anyone is always a bit uncomfortable, but if the thought of it makes you truly worried for yourself, it’s a sign that this season may not be the right time.

I can’t come out to my family, but I’m out to others. Holidays feel like a step back.

Your safety and comfort should always be your first priority. If you know your family will disapprove, hiding that aspect of your identity may be important to your overall comfort. Although you will be uncomfortable being assumed cis and/or straight, it could be more uncomfortable to be among people who would otherwise react poorly.

Remember that any ‘retreat to the closet’ is temporary and not a mark of personal weakness, but the mark of an intolerant society. You are not any less LGBT for considering your needs rather than being out to everyone all the time.

I’ve come out to my family already. They don’t support me, but I have to see them anyway.

Ah, the difficulty in knowing you can’t be the most honest with the people who are supposed to be the most trustworthy and kindest. If this is you, you’re far from being the only one.

Like with any advice about family, the best decision is up to you because you know them best. Your options are to not talk about it and maintain the peace, or to bring it up frequently so they can’t ignore it without totally ignoring you.

If you feel your best decision is the first, one way to cope is to pretend that it’s not really you attending, but the version of you they want to know. This is usually what happens in intolerant families anyway — regardless of what you tell them while coming out, they will just see you as they know you, not as you know yourself. The ‘you’ that attends family Christmas is just a persona for safety.

Though doing this may feel like conceding your progress of being out and proud, consider the circumstances objectively. It may be better for you to preserve your mental health by avoiding fights rather than to keep correcting them, especially if you fear them becoming violent in any way.

I’ve decided to not spend time with my family because they don’t support me, but I don’t want to be alone.

This is one of the hardest decisions an LGBT person has to make: whether to keep fighting for authenticity or mute it for conformity. If you have had multiple conversations with family and exhausted all your options, you can’t change them; that’s up to them. It’s hard to always act in your best interest, but in the end, it will be for the best.

Try to meet up and celebrate with friends if you can. If you don’t have anyone you can see in person, make it a day to celebrate yourself. Do things that make you happy and that you want to do.

It’s hard not to compare your holidays with others, but remember that, though you might be missing out on meals with family members, you can be true to yourself. I’m a firm believer in found family — that is, the idea that family comes from a circle of people supporting and loving each other rather than only related by blood. Develop your found family, even if it’s just a pet. Creating a home for yourself where you can feel welcomed is more important for your self-esteem longterm.

However you celebrate this holiday season, regardless of how you may feel, there is always a community that supports and welcomes you. Reach out to local LGBT organizations, friends, classmates, coworkers, or others you feel will do more than tolerate you. Remember to be kind to yourself, and remember that you deserve to feel loved.

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