LGBT Christmas Survival Guide 2019
Published: 19 December 2019 Tags: By LGBT Foundation
Christmas is many things, but one thing it should not be is unhappy. For those who are fortunate, Christmas is built on a secure foundation of warm, pleasant memories, each year as inviting as the one before it...but for many the occasion and its associations are less positive. Either way, here’s some advice and links to services that you might find useful.
By James Harris
Love wrapped up: Thoughtful gifts help remind us what we mean to each other; a hand-made token of a shared memory, something bought but transformed by personal touch, or something practical that shows you care about their needs. Not all presents must be crafted from toilet roll tubes and homemade glue...one small gift will do. You might find the one you put a bit of yourself into is the one you most enjoy giving, the one they most remember getting from you.
Be yourself: Don’t feel you can’t be open about who you are in case you ‘spoil’ Christmas; this predicament is forced upon us, not brought on ourselves. There’s a point when censoring what we say or monitoring how we dress/behave causes us so much misery, our own needs take priority over keeping the peace. If the festive period provides a safe opportunity to express what you’ve been holding in for so long, let it out; under such pressure it’s not your problem to worry about upsetting things. Plus, you might find your announcement/rant/award-winning LGBT rights speech clears the air and ends up saving Christmas.
Festive Activities: If conversation risks leading to interrogation (e.g. “so why aren’t you married/why haven’t you got a boyfriend/girlfriend yet??”), silly Christmas games can be a useful distraction. Watch TV and chat about it. Go for a short stroll (hopefully with the crisp crunch of fresh snow underfoot.) These activities are still sociable, and act as a buffer, allowing you to interact indirectly, easing the pressure of direct communication, enabling you to say things you might otherwise be unable to say face-to-face.
Simple game ideas: https://www.partydelights.co.uk/christmas/christmas-party-game-ideas.aspx
(Or make up your own!)
Forced Family Bonding: Your relationships with family may be strained due to not being out, or being out but not accepted, therefore you may be reluctant to spend time with them…but unable to avoid it. For many this is only mildly uncomfortable, but some people suffer from abusive family members or partners and being stuck with them over Christmas can be particularly distressing. Support is available here: https://lgbt.foundation/how-we-can-help-you/domestic-abuse
Although, it can also be an opportunity to put our differences aside and have fun together, to reach each other while defences are down; Christmas is a time for forgiveness after all, when we’re given permission to pause, play and put on hold. However, if reconciliation is too big a Christmas miracle to hope for, or a temporary truce isn’t an option, minimising family interaction to avoid conflict may be the wisest approach.
Friends are the family we choose: You may need to spend Christmas Dinner with friends, a friend’s family, or others in a similar situation; it may not be ideal, but it’s still better than spending Christmas alone or in unsupportive company. Family may be fundamental to Christmas, but family can be found in friends and those who share our experiences, just as much as relatives.
Get involved with a Christmas choir, charitable gift-giving initiative, local community-based organisation, or volunteer with us at LGBT Foundation: https://lgbt.foundation/volunteering
Lonely this Christmas: Members of the LGBT community – particularly older LGBT people – are significantly more likely to be isolated and struggle with depression. Dark evenings and early nights can lower mood, many people/services are less available, and the perception that other people’s Christmases are ‘better’, can make us feel worse. If you know someone who might be vulnerable to feeling abandoned and neglected, consider paying a passing visit or contacting them to ask how their day is going; a small gesture reassuring them they’ve not been forgotten, goes a long way.
If you have no-where to go or nobody to talk to, our Helpline service is available:https://lgbt.foundation/helpline
Embrace your inner Grinch: Don’t be pressured into making a big deal out of Christmas if you don’t want to. As long as you don’t deliberately or unnecessarily sour the mood for others, and you’re not robbing yourself of what would otherwise be a joyful experience, be as grumpy, unsociable or bitter as you like! Don’t force yourself to feel festive, but keep your door open to the Christmas spirit just in case it chooses to visit. And remember, much of what makes Christmas special is achievable throughout the season or even the rest of the year, so don’t feel you’ve missed out if it doesn’t go as well as you wished.
Ho ho host from Hell: Hosting Christmas Dinner doesn't mean you get the only say in how Christmas is done. The host’s main job is to make people feel comfortable and ensure their guests are free to enjoy themselves; it isn't a special Christmas edition of Come Dine with Me (the film crew in your kitchen is purely coincidental.)
Merry Christmas? Free-flowing alcohol, suspended ban on daytime drinking, frustrating relatives…if you are struggling with your alcohol consumption, the festive period can be a particularly testing time of year! It might not be realistic or fair to ask others to stop drinking for your benefit but preparing for a potentially tempting situation can help. We offer useful services here: https://lgbt.foundation/substancemisuse
STIs don’t migrate for winter: The festive period encourages us to relax the rules, but unsafe sexual behaviour can still have lasting consequences, even under the mistletoe. Find sexual health advice here: https://lgbt.foundation/sexualhealth
Practice your pleased face: Unfortunately, just because the LGBT community has its own particular set of Yuletide challenges, doesn’t mean we’re spared the more general quandaries: “I mean, it’s PERFECT! – You didn’t, err, by any chance…keep the receipt…?”
Whoever you are, however you identify, and whatever this time of year means to you, LGBT Foundation wishes you a sincere and heartfelt Happy Christmas. Though it might seem otherwise, there are people who care, and understand your struggles without you needing to justify them. If enjoying Christmas isn't an option this year, we are here to help you get through it.