The holidays can be a tough time of year, especially for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer, queer, intersexed, agender, asexual, and ally community who experience homophobia during holiday gatherings. We all need to feel physically and emotionally safe, to feel connected within relationship. If these elements are not present or lacking in family gatherings, individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community can feel especially vulnerable to rejection which can exacerbate underlying mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
It can be difficult to navigate the complexities of disclosing your true identity to family who may be less than supportive. Not feeling fully seen or accepted by not having your identity acknowledged or affirmed makes it difficult to feel loved. The decision of how and when to come out is a personal decision that often involves time and space to prep the conversation, process information, and educate.
Remember that you don’t have to give explanations for who you are. If you have any concerns about spending time with family this holiday season, you may need some additional support from friends, allies, or a helping professional. Afterall, the holidays are meant to be a celebration!
If you find yourself experiencing distress and not feeling accepted during holiday gathering, it can be helpful to shift the focus on self-care. Taking care of yourself sounds simple enough, such as getting adequate rest, eating healthy, and exercising regularly although often suffers during times of increased stress. In addition, to self-care, here are some additional tips to remember that all focus on SELF!
• Set boundaries for yourself. It is OK to say no, especially if a particular situation feels emotionally unsafe.
• Know what you want to be able to communicate and use opportunities to practice.
• Learn to be comfortable with advocating; self-advocacy skills can help prioritize your needs and recognize their value.
• You get to choose what you need and how you respond during holiday gathering. For example, do you change the subject, challenge a different perspective, educate, or remove yourself from the situation?
• Embrace all parts of yourself—the imperfections and all; then offer yourself kindness.
• This area can be difficult to practice, especially considering frequent microaggressions that occur within the LGBTQ community.
• Take time to love yourself without compromising your own needs/ values.
• If family cannot or will not accept you, find a safe space to feel supported. There are many great community resources that can help create a new sense of “family”.
• Try sensory-soothing activities such as petting a cat or dog, listening to music, or taking a warm bath when feeling overwhelmed.
• Activities such as writing or reaching out to a friend ca also help soothe when feeling emotional.
• It is OK to be LGBTQIA+! I love the rainbow as a beautiful visual with different colors represented together.
• Try positive self-talk using affirmations to overcome internalization of negative emotions.
• Seek a therapist who practices affirmative therapy to validate and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. CARE Counseling has many great options.
I wish you all the best during this holiday season and hope that you feel accepted—a true sense of belonging this year.
I will leave you with a quote by Brene Brown on True Belonging:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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