How to handle that homophobic relative this holiday season!
By Christine Siamanta Kinori
It is that time of the year when we bring out our Christmas lights, practice our carols, and kids remind Santa that they have been good. However, for many LGBTQ+ individuals, Christmas can be a difficult season. For many, the imminent interactions with toxic homophobic family members are not only draining but also infuriatingly unavoidable. This is especially stressful for LGBTQ+ youth who have nowhere else to go this winter.
The holiday season can be triggering for queer individuals, who are already more likely to suffer from anxiety and seasonal depression, because they must deal with rejection and stigma from those closest to them. Family reunions become a painful reminder of feelings that they don’t belong. Even when they choose to avoid these family reunions due to passive or even overt homophobic sentiments and rejection by family members, they still end up feeling lonely or sad that their family can’t accept them as they are. We are inundated with messaging that we should be home for the holidays, and this can make things even worst.
For many LGBTQ+ people, the worst part about visiting family during the holidays is the awkward moment when they have to introduce their significant other as “close friends” or “roommates.” This can make them feel less than and also understandably invalidate their partner and their loving relationship. There is also the usual question of “who are you dating?” For those who are not out to their family, this is one tough question that can be difficult to navigate. They always have to be on guard not to slip and say something wrong or present themselves in a different light from what their families expect. Some go as far as changing how they dress and talk so they can fit into the characters their family thinks they are.
The second hardest thing for some LGBTQ+ people about spending time with their family is politics. Political conversation always finds a way to sneak up during a family meet-up. It is especially divisive to hear family members supporting anti- LGBTQ+ laws and sometimes it gets heated and personal. In the end, many LGBTQ+ individuals decide to spend the holidays alone because they feel safer than being in the company of their families.
It can be a sad and lonely time for queer people who can’t reconnect with their families during the holidays, but most of them have learned to adapt by focusing on themselves. No matter the situation, here are some tips to help during this festive season.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH YOUR CHOSEN FAMILY
The reality is that you are not alone! There are many LGBTQ+ individuals who also opted to not go to their family reunion. If you have friends in the same situation, it may be fun to spend the holidays together and do fun activities instead of staying at home. They may not be your direct relatives, but they may understand you better and love you as your authentic self.
STAND YOUR GROUND AND BE ASSERTIVE
If you are forced to be with family, feel empowered to speak up when someone says something disrespectful or hurtful. You can be gentle while also establishing firm boundaries without being rude or spreading further toxicity. It can be as simple as saying, “that comment is actually hurtful to me, please don’t say that.” Be mindful of micro-aggressions and do your best to not let it get the best of you.
KEEP IN CONTACT WITH YOUR CLOSE FRIENDS
If you decide to go home, let your friends know that you might need emotional support or just someone to listen when you vent. Remind yourself that there are people who love you for who you are and keep them close to help you when you feel overwhelmed.
TAKE BREAKS FROM YOUR FAMILY
If you have to spend the holidays with your homophobic family, it can be helpful to find moments when you can be alone and recharge. It is good to remove yourself from the triggers to avoid being overwhelmed. Take a walk or a run- just do something to relax and ease up any building tension.
REMEMBER TO LOVE YOURSELF
Whether you need to chant a self-acceptance mantra or talk yourself up in front of the mirror- do it! Don’t let anyone make you feel like there is something wrong with you or trigger internalized homophobia. I listen to Epiphany by Jin from BTS and Promise by Jimin whenever I need to remember to love myself. Find out what works out for you and keep your head up!
Don’t let anyone take away the holiday spirit from you simply because they refuse to accept who you are. At the end of the day, the best version of yourself is the real you. It is their loss that they are missing out on knowing you! Reclaim the holidays, be happy, and spread joy- isn’t that the true meaning of the holidays anyways?
About the Author:
Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.
Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.