Ah, yes. The holiday season—you know what that means: delicious food like mashed potatoes drenched in golden butter that seem to radiate light on the kitchen table; sweets such as fluffy sugar cookies, fudge brownies and peppermints; the laughter, the cheer, and of course, the family.
Family hugs, family kisses, the baby cousins running around the table who never seem to run out of energy; the aunt that hugs you a bit too tight and for a bit too long; and the expected family remarks such as “You’ve gotten so much taller since the last time I saw you” and “Oh, so you’re studying English.” While holidays toward the end of the year may appear to be a wonderful chance to reconnect with family members, it can also be a time of anxiety, fear and panic, especially for those part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Regardless of what you celebrate, the holidays can be a sensitive and troubling time due to abusive, unaccepting or homophobic families. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to not have had to hide my sexuality at family gatherings. But for many other individuals, that is nowhere near their own holiday realities. Whether it be having to hide your identity around your extended family members, referring to your partner that you brought along to dinner as a “friend,” or dressing in clothing that you normally don’t wear to avoid comments from others, it can be stressful and oftentimes, traumatic.
Nowadays, people will post pictures with close friends from their “Friendsgiving” or “Friendsmas” parties during this time of the year. But for the LGBTQ+ community, those gatherings away from home can hold a much deeper meaning. A chosen family is a group of people you surround yourself with and consider to be your family outside of blood relations. They care and support you, and they are there as a net to catch you when you fall. For LGBTQ+ individuals, their chosen family may be their only sense of a loving home, especially with LGGTQ+ individuals making up 40% of the homeless youth population.
While I have not had to face the hardship of rejection surrounding my sexuality, I have had the pleasure of meeting a group of individuals I would consider my chosen family. And as we celebrated Friendsgiving during break and laughed over vegan stuffing, I came to realize how so many other LGBTQ+ individuals may be alone or in desperate search of finding a place to stay over the holidays.
It’s not fair that so many people have to count down the days until their family holiday parties in fear knowing that they may be rejected. The holidays should be a time of love, positivity and joy.
If you know someone who is dreading returning home or who may not have a home to go back to all because of their identity or sexuality, invite them over to your own gatherings. Remind them that they aren’t a burden or in the way of anything. It’s important to remember that the holidays aren’t always festive and merry for everyone.
So, if you are struggling with an unaccepting or abusive family this holiday season or have nowhere to go, know you are not alone. Know that you are supported and have so many resources around you that are more than welcome to help. It may seem like the world is crumbling at your feet as the snow gently falls outside, but there will always be a group of people out there who are welcoming you home with open arms and would love to include you in their family.
If you are in need of help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
Criss Text Line: Text START to 741-741
UNO Counseling and Psychological Services: (402) 554-2409
For after-hours emergencies: (402) 554-2409 and press “2”
UNO Queer and Trans Services: 116 MBSC