The holiday season is upon us once again and for most of the world that means coming together in fellowship and joy. Making memories that will last a lifetime. Seeing friends and family that we may only see once a year. For most of the world, we look forward to the holiday season. For the transgender and gender nonconforming society the holidays often can be filled with feelings of dread, despair, fights, tears, sadness, hangovers and loneliness.
For those of us who have transitioned or are nonbinary this can also include wondering how grandma will respond when she sees you either with a new haircut, masculine or feminine clothes, sporting some sweet sideburns, binding or enhancing your chests, maybe a new hairdo or rocking your best makeup and having your eyebrows on point.
It can mean a time where you endure the odd and/or disapproving and confused looks from your parents every time a family picture is suggested or you take an outing into your community. It can mean listening to questions that are really more comments about your appearance, thoughts, and feelings. It can be a time, if you are in school, where you count down the days before hitting the books again.
For those of us not in school, it can be a time where you count down the hours before you can go home, which preferably is several hours or more away from the scrutiny that is your family.
For most all of us in the transgender and gender nonconfornining community we will have to endure deadnaming and repeated misgendering. Usually with a half hearted apology at best or at worst not even an acknowledgement towards our own feelings of discomfort at our own treatment.
For many, the holiday season has lost its magical appeal and now, just sucks. So with all that can suck around the holidays, how can one make it through and maybe even enjoy it a little.
You're not alone out there although it can seem like it at times. If you have friends in town, make plans to hang out with them. Come up with an emergency code you can send out to your friends, much like you would if you were on a blind date that you wish to be rescued from. Make sure the Internet is working where ever you are staying and that there is a cell phone signal.
Are there family members you get along with? If so, reach out to them. Explain your trepidations about the family gathering and ask for their support if things start to get awkward. You can offer to run last minute errands to minimize your time around toxic people, much like you did when you first got your license. You can always show up fashionably late or have a prior engagement that you need to leave early for. If that's not an option then sleep in late or goto bed early. After all, all of this travel has worn you out.
For those of you out there who are trying to mend fences or find a peace with your family, instead of avoiding them or drowning your discomfort with spiked eggnog, then disregard the above list and consider the next few paragraphs as food for thought.
Getting along and feeling accepted by family is one of the hardest things to do for many of us, which is ironic since family is supposed to be the one group of people where we should feel accepted and loved.
Ask yourself, what type of relationship would you like with your family? Where is your family at in regards to accepting your authentic self? Is there anything else you can do to garner acceptance, sharing something personal or maybe a favorite news article?
One of the best ways to try and heal the wounds, and move everyone forward, is to sit in the discomfort, avoid going on the defensive, and honestly express how you are feeling and what you’d love to see happen with the family.
If someone in your family starts going on the defensive then first take a step back, do not engage them because this will only fuel them in their attitude. Nothing can be resolved when there is yelling and the projection of uncomfortable feelings at you. Next, remind yourself that any hurtful words being said are not really words directed at you, they are the individual’s own fears, confusion, and anger that is just getting tossed at you even if it doesn't feel like that.
Just like people who advocate for LGBTQ rights, we have to advocate for love in our family. If we stay silent or allow them to walk all over us, we’ll never be able to move forward or it will be a more painful process to do so and we'll be left wondering if we did enough advocating for ourselves. Just remember that you are loved and you are valid.
Build yourself a support system either within the community or outside of it and reach out to them if need be. Don't ever think that you are being a burden because you're having a rough time. Believe me, they would much prefer you reaching out versus holding back. In some ways, these friends are your family as well, your chosen family. There are plenty of people out there who won't reject you and who love you, always remember that in someone else's eyes, you are beautiful and looked up to. So bind that chest, sport those sideburns and your best masculine outfit and show off those whiskers on that handsome face. Or if you're like me, show off your contouring skills, rock the colored mascara and where your best sparkly twirly skirt and show the world the real you, the happy you, the best version of you possible. Happy Holidays!