Post submitted by Michael Toumayan, former HRC Senior Religion and Faith Program Manager
The holidays are upon us and many different traditions abound. While it is important to recognize and appreciate joy during the holiday season, we must also take time to be mindful of the struggles and stress that many LGBTQ people experience this time of year. Sometimes it might take a little creativity, but it is especially important for LGBTQ people to find ways to tap into the spirit of the holiday season.
The story of Hanukkah reminds us how every person can be a light amidst the darkness, offering an opportunity to remind ourselves that resilience is a powerful force.
As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, they remember the joy of welcoming and creating family and drawing nearer to God’s love and promise.
Kwanzaa is about remembering, reaffirming and reinforcing the bonds that connect African Americans to all people of African descent, reminding us that, with faith in ourselves and in a larger vision of freedom, we will find the strength to persevere.
No matter how you celebrate, HRC offers tips to not only help you celebrate, but also get you through a time that can be difficult for LGBTQ people:
1. Don’t let anyone steal your joy.
Whether or not you consider yourself spiritual, this is a time for you to find joy on your own terms. If things get difficult, have strategies for holding on to your joy. This could be a friend on speed dial or getting outside for fresh air. Whatever brings you life, choose that. You are stronger than you think.
2. Remember who you are and your values.
If you’re dreading going home for the holidays, before you pack your sword and shield, remember that the holidays are temporary. Remain steadfast in your own beliefs and know that you are a loving person who deserves to live unapologetically as your unique, wonderful self, regardless of what anyone has to say about it.
3. Family is still family, just like love is still love.
Family life is constantly changing, and it can mean so many things to so many people. While for some, blood may be thicker than water, unconditional love takes hard work and a lot more strength than just being sticky enough to keep relatives together. So many LGBTQ people build chosen families who accept, affirm and love us as we are. Whether you’re choosing to spend your holidays with your family of origin or your family of choice, remember that unconditional love is what makes a family.
4. Don’t force someone to enjoy the holidays.
In 2019, at least 24 transgender people and gender non-conforming people have been killed. The total number of deadly mass shootings in the U.S. comes out to an average of one every 15 days this year. Grieving this time of year can be harder than other times. Supporting someone who is coping with tragedy or loss during the holiday season doesn't mean trying to make them feel full of holiday cheer. Instead, your goal should be to accept whatever holiday experience they want. No menorah lighting? Fine. Do they want to skip midnight mass this year? OK. The best thing you can do is follow your loved one's lead.
5. The holidays are a reminder that God loves YOU.
Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, each holiday is filled with a story of a miracle. It reminds us of God's steadfast love for each and every one of us, including LGBTQ people. Remember that you are perfectly created and remind people that God lives in all of us and loves each and every one of their creations.
6. ‘Tis the season of giving.
Many of us are particularly driven to be charitable, especially around the holidays. If you feel inclined to direct some of your holiday-season away from the malls and into the pockets of a community that could certainly use it, consider donating to incredible causes and organizations helping LGBTQ people. Visit shop.hrc.org for a holiday gift that will help power the fight for LGBTQ equality. You can also help kids learn to be proud of themselves and show them you will love them just as they are by giving them books from Welcoming Schools’ list of inclusive books.
These tips aren’t just for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, but for all holidays and time spent with family, whether it be during Ramadan, Easter or Passover.
Please remember that you are loved and your community is here to support you. From all of us at HRC, we wish you a joyous holiday season.
If you need other resources do not hesitate to call The Trevor Project’s hotline at (866) 488-7386. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.