The holidays may be a time of joy for some, but for others, it can be a time of acute stress. No matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s synonymous with going home for the families—but what if that isn’t an option? The idea of family is complicated for anyone, but can be even more so when you’re queer.
For those of us who cannot or do not go home for the holidays to spend time with our biological family, there can be some erasure of the holiday cheer. But that doesn’t have to be the case. More and more queer folks are taking the holidays into their own hands, choosing to instead spend the holidays with their chosen family rather than blood relatives.
If going home to spend a few weeks with your bio family isn’t an option, that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in some holiday cheer. Here are a few reasons why spending the holidays with your chosen family is the right move to make:
It’s not worth your health
Spending the holidays with your bio family can have serious effects on your health, especially if they’re not supportive or welcoming to you. LGBT folks are 3 times more likely than straight folks to experience a mental health condition directly connected to the stress of coming out and lack of support from immediate family members. Returning to these places where rejection and even violence is more likely to happen in response to your coming out can, understandably, heighten anxiety or stress.
Choosing not to spend the holidays with your bio family can be practicing very necessary self-care. It may suck, especially if you know that you’ll be disappointing others’ expectations of how you should show love and care to your family. But choosing your health over fulfilling others’ expectations is important.
Emotional labor and burnout are too real
Even if you were fortunate to be born into a loving, progressive household, there’s still the very real chance that you’ll have to do some teaching to a (well-meaning or not) family member who just doesn’t get it. Whether you’re talking about your sexuality, the election, or any other emotionally heavy topic, know that you’re not a horrible person for not wanting to engage in that labor. Emotional burnout from heavy expectations of labor is all too common, especially for marginalized folks. If the weight of your burnout is too heavy for you to truly enjoy the holiday magic, it might be worth considering other ways for you to celebrate the holidays.
Building (and strengthening) community ties outside of the bio family
Blood family is important, but it isn’t everything for everyone. Think about it: we all have people in our lives who we aren’t related to by blood but have played a significant role in our lives. Whatever role these people play, they deserve to be celebrated as well… during the holidays, but beyond as well.
We love the holidays because it’s a time to focus on being grateful and reflecting on the things that truly matter. These relationships – whether we’re celebrating people who are related to us by blood or circumstance – are included in that. Taking time to celebrate and give thanks to them this time of year honors them in a way that is only fitting.
Being a little less lonely
No matter where your turn this holidays season, it seems like there’s nothing but happy, smiling bio families. And for anyone that doesn’t get to “go home” for the holidays, this can be tortuous to constantly run into. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Spending the holidays with your chosen family means that there’s a bit more freedom in being openly emotional about the hard things that you may not be able to share with your biological family. There’s also far less pressure to constantly be around people all the time, which is good if you’re more introverted or need more alone time than usual during this time of year.
There’s no shame in feeling sad, or lonely, or angry this time of year. But your chosen family can be a much-needed source of support that you didn’t realize that you needed.
Creating your own traditions
The best part about spending the holidays with your chosen family? Without the pressures to follow a specific kind of traditional mold, that means you’re free to create your own traditions. The freedom that comes along with that can be liberating, and the really help you all get into the holiday spirit.
How are you and your chosen family spending the holidays this year?