#DrewsViews: Holidays While Queer
by Drew Adams
The holidays can be rough for queer people in a lot of ways. First, there’s money: A 2016 study showed that one in four LGBTQ people didn’t have enough money to feed themselves or their families at some point during the year. For trans people, the numbers are especially bad, with double the poverty rate as the general population (among trans people of color, the poverty rate gets as high as 43%). The holidays can get expensive, so it’s hard for many LGBTQ people to participate and enjoy the season.
A bigger issue than money at the holidays is how many queer people don’t have support from family. Studies show that having a supportive family creates better outcomes for LGBTQ people, especially youth, but even today, many people struggle with families that range from barely tolerant to totally hostile. For many queer kids, they must choose between living their truth and being with their family, and that’s an especially heartbreaking choice during the holidays. For others, they simply don’t have a family to spend the holidays with at all.
So how can LGBTQ people cope with this tough season? Here are a few tips to make the yuletide gay in the best way.
- No family support? Have Friendsmas! Here’s the thing about family: you don’t choose them, but you DO choose your friends. One study showed that LGBTQ youth with little to no support from family still had lower levels of distress if they had a strong and supportive peer group to turn to. So if you have the chance, spend time with your friends during the holidays. Make a big meal together, watch cheesy movies together, or go look at lights together. Whatever you do, do it with someone (or many someones) who appreciate you for who you are. As RuPaul says, “We as gay people get to choose our family and the people we’re around. I am your family. We are a family here.”
- Do a Secret Santa exchange instead of buying gifts for everyone. When money is tight, it can be hard to imagine how you’re going to get everyone a present. The answer is, don’t. Get your friend group together, put everyone’s name in a hat, and let each person draw out a name. Now everyone has one person to buy for, and everyone also gets a gift. Plus you get the extra fun of wondering who your “Santa” is. This is by far the most economical way to exchange gifts when you have a big social circle but not a lot of money.
- Make your gifts economical and heartfelt. There are lots of ways to get creative without spending a ton! If you’re a solid cook, bake cookies or brownies and give them as gifts. Everyone loves baked goods. You can also go cheap-but-thoughtful by buying a mug from a discount shop and putting a few packets of cocoa mix into it. Add a candy cane, and ta-da, you’ve got a very nice gift! If you’d rather do something a little craftier, make your own body scrub to give! You can get several small gifts out of this recipe:
- Mix 2 cups of granulated sugar with 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of almond oil or coconut oil.
- Stir it together well so it’s not too greasy and is nicely soft.
- Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil (you can use any scent, but peppermint is such a holiday thing).
- Mix the oil in really well.
- That’s the entire recipe!
If you want to make it look pretty for gifting, divide the mixture into two bowls and add a little bit of red food coloring to one (mixing it in really well) for the red-and-white peppermint look. Layer the scrub, back and forth between the two colors, into a low-cost container. I recommend a mason jar or pretty plastic container from the dollar store. Just like that, you’ve got a thoughtful, handmade present that people actually like.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you need it. No matter your situation this holiday season, you are not alone. If your area has an LGBTQ outreach, check in with them and see what holiday plans they have in the works. They might have programs or services available that could help you. You could even lend a hand with the preparations if you feel up to it. If you’re isolated from options like that, practice some self-care in your own home by reading, taking a soothing bath, chatting with others online (again with the support from friends!), watching funny videos, or whatever helps keep you on track. And of course, The Trevor Project is always there, 24/7, if you are considering harming yourself (you can call 866–488–7386, or go to thetrevorproject.org to text or chat). The holidays can be emotionally and financially draining, but we can get through it together!
About the Author:
Drew Adams is a transgender high school senior from Ponte Vedra, FL, who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. He serves as his high school GSA’s president and raises money for Northeast Florida’s LGBTQ youth outreach, JASMYN, to which he also donates food, toiletries and school supplies. Nationally, Drew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Drew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.
Additionally, Drew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Drew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.