Going home for the holidays and being with the family can be stressful for many people, but it can be even tougher for LGBTQIA+ folks. While you may be totally comfortable with who you are and have worked hard to be mature and have a sense of self-worth, dealing with certain family members may result in feelings of disappoint and rejection. Family members who have a lack of understanding or aren't accepting can be really difficult to handle, especially considering they are the people who are supposed to love you the most. Although tensions may be running high and there are certain conversations you may be dreading, these four tips can relieve you of some the stressful situations you find may yourself in.
1. Set Aside Time For Self-Care
This may sound obvious, but practicing self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself year round, and especially during the holidays. As LGBTQ+ poet and cultural icon Audre Lorde famously wrote, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." It can be as simple as reading a book, taking a walk, meditating, having a glass of wine, or just putting time aside for you to do things that make yourself feel good.
When you're home, this might not be easiest thing to do, but one option could be to stay in your room a bit longer so you are able to have adequate space. You could also offer to run an errand so you can get some alone time and even do something else for yourself while you are out so you can feel ready to face the world. During the holidays, it may be tough to get that "you time" in, but make it a point to give yourself the care you need.
2. Set Personal Boundaries
Setting boundaries is a crucial aspect of healthy relationships with anyone. When it comes to your family, though, setting those boundaries can sometimes be more difficult. Because they are family, they may feel that you owe them or they are entitled to an explanation for where you are in life, the current relationship you are in, or about your sexual or gender identity. The fact of the matter is, you don't owe them that. While it may be important for your family to understand you, you do not have to defend your choices or who you are. If you find yourself getting into a stressful conversation over the dinner table about a partner, your sexual or gender identity, or another topic you don't want to address, simply change the subject. If Aunt Helen starts to grill you about your sleeping arrangements with your significant other over the holidays, for example, commenting on how delicious the food is or bringing up a previous happy memory from another holiday will often be just enough of a shift to change the conversation and hopefully help you get your holiday back on track.
If you are still uncomfortable, it may be helpful to take that person aside later on when your guests have left and express how you feel. Using language like "I felt that when you brought up x it was inappropriate and made me feel uncomfortable" can help make the conversation go more smoothly; approaching the interaction calmly and respectfully can help illustrate the point and highlight the boundary you are trying to set.
3. Anticipate Some of the Touchy Topics That May Come Up
One part of making the trip home may be mentally preparing yourself for potentially awkward or upsetting conversations. If Uncle Bob is a conservative Republican who has posted on Facebook in support of Donald Trump's ban on transgender individuals in the military, anticipating some of the things that that may come up during your trip home for the holidays can help better prepare you to respond accordingly — or not at all. Trying to visualise some of the conversations that may take place and having an answer prepared or simply remembering to take deep breaths can help you to keep your cool. Although you may be all about engaging in discourse, you probably don't want to feel like you have to defend your identity, beliefs, and choices when you are simply trying to enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie. Preparing a simple statement that reinforces who you are and shuts down hateful rhetoric around major topics in the news or just planning to say "we can agree to disagree" can help get the dinner back on track and save your sanity.
4. Have Your Bestie on Speed Dial
Alternative kinship is deeply important in the LGBTQ+ community. While you can't pick your blood relatives, you can pick your friends and those whom you choose to call family as an adult. It's vital to feel heard, and during the holidays, it may be vital to have your best friend on speed dial. Make it a point to check in with them throughout the day and vice versa. Having a friend to vent to can help alleviate some of the stressful situations you may find yourself in, and it may help you work through them in another way.