Acceptance and support can make all the difference for LGBTQ people, especially at the holidays.
Post submitted by Becky Ross, HRC Human Resources Director
Christmas is a great opportunity to gather together and celebrate our families and loved ones. I love this holiday: the lights, carols, food, family, decorated trees, cookies, stockings hung on the mantel, the Nutcracker Suite, the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack -- all of it.
A special part of each Christmas is when I decorate our tree and hang the ornaments, many of which hold special meaning either because of how old they are or because of who gave them to us. I have a beautiful ornament from HRC that says “Love is Love” to remind my family of our strongly-held belief in LGBTQ equality. This year my husband and I will celebrate Christmas with my mom, my brother and my new sister-in-law.
It hurts me to think that some of my LGBTQ friends don’t get to celebrate Christmas with their families of origin. I love that many of my friends and colleagues have “chosen families”: people who love, accept and affirm them even if others don’t. I watched a beloved family member suffer until they finally came out as transgender, and each day I’m so proud of them for living their truth and finding their center.
Research has found that approximately forty percent of transgender adults consider suicide, often impacted by rejection from family and friends. This means acceptance is so vital and can literally be the difference between life and death. This statistic haunted me for a long time after my family member came out. I’ve seen some of our more distant family members turn away from our trans loved one.
It’s important for me as an ally to support my family and community in big ways and small. I speak up even when it’s uncomfortable because it’s important that I push past that discomfort. Our LGBTQ loved ones have spoken up about who they are -- sometimes at tremendous risk to themselves -- for years. Allies, who do not face the same risks, need to be visible in our support.
I have gained so much from LGBTQ people: a much broader understanding of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender norms. A deeper awareness of the damage that can happen when people are forced to hide parts of themselves. I’ve been shown love, patience and taught a true appreciation of Mariah Carey. I’ve been called out when I needed to be, and I’ve become better at my job. LGBTQ people don’t owe straight cisgender people any of this. We allies have a huge responsibility in making space for conversations where our LGBTQ siblings feel safe to be themselves.
It’s Christmastime and my relationship with Christianity is, in a word, complicated. But my main takeaway from Christianity is that Jesus taught to “love thy neighbor.” There’s no way that excludes LGBTQ people. I believe this beyond a shadow of a doubt -- not just during this holiday season, but all year long.