Opinion: Home for the Holidays
The holidays are quickly approaching, without regard for how much money is in your pockets or how much love in your hearts. While many people look forward to congregating with family, for others, the pomp and circumstance of the holidays bring anything but joy. For many LGBTQ people, the holidays aren’t magical moments that become nostalgic memories but rather, painful reminders of childhood trauma. Surviving the holidays can be tough. Many are often faced with being alone or being surrounded by extremely homophobic family. This can be taxing when all that’s desired is to be loved and surrounded by love this season.
For most of us, our daily lives are filled with people who care about us and support us mentally and emotionally. Our lives are spent with those we have chosen to be our family—those who serve and support who and how we are. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time shattering old beliefs and teachings and rebuilding our belief systems with things that we know to be true. However, the holidays put us in situations where we have to explain—and sometimes defend—our realities and beliefs to people who are not supportive and often hostile. No one wants to expend their energy in that way, especially during the holidays.
So what can you do to ready yourself for the holidays, no matter where or with whom you spend it? Dr. Michael LaSala, a licensed social worker, psychologist, and contributing writer of Psychology Today created an ABC plan for survival. Here is an adapted version of that plan.
A: Acknowledge, Accept, Avoid
Acknowledge who and how your family is. Prepare ahead of time for potential conversations or arguments. Accept them for who they are and avoid owning whatever they say that doesn’t serve you. Acknowledge yourself and your feelings and if necessary, make an exit. It’s okay to avoid toxic people and situations. You can’t control others, but you can control yourself and your response to nonsense.
B: Boundaries, Decide to Bounce/Be Gone
If your parents send their secret weapon—your favorite aunt, cousin or any other family member that you hold dear to your heart—to convince you to show up for a holiday gathering and you decide to go, set boundaries. Let family members know which conversations and topics are off limits and and that you will leave without explanation or apology if they decide to bring them up. If these boundaries can’t be established and agreed upon, set the boundary to not attend. If you have to travel, set a boundary of staying at a hotel or a space conducive to your mental health. Go where you decide to go, and surround yourself with people that appreciate who you are, not who they want you to be.
C: Compassion, Cognizance, and Clap Backs
Ground yourself in compassion for yourself, and toxicity that comes your way will repel itself. When family becomes overwhelming, be reminded that you deserve the best of all things and you are responsible for making sure that you have it. If you have chosen to maintain a relationship with your family, be cognizant of who you are and where they are. Not everyone will appreciate your light or respond positively to your high vibrations. That isn’t your problem.
Because you are cognizant of where your family lies in terms of beliefs, respect, and boundaries, you’ve had time to prepare to defend yourself with clap backs. Now, Michelle Obama told us, “When they go low, we go high,” and most times this works. But sometimes, nothing makes us feel better when being talked about and picked on than a glorious clap-back. If your super religious aunt likes to say, “Being gay is a sin—get into God,” clapping back with “Just like your five baby daddies got into you?” is more than enough to shut her up and make anyone else think twice before trying to speak to you like that again.