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Loneliness, family and being LGBTQ+ during the holidays

Well, it’s mid-November, and that means the holiday season is upon us. It seems like the holidays start earlier every year. Some stores started putting up decorations and playing Christmas music even before Halloween ended. And while I’m happy for the people who love the holidays, who enjoy going home to see family every year and have their hearts filled with warmth and cheer every time they hear sleigh bells or Nat King Cole’s effortless croon… to be honest, these past few years I’ve found the holidays to be exhausting, lonely, and just a drag overall.

To be fair, this not going to be a hate post where I just crap on Christmas for being too commercialized and manipulating people’s sense of nostalgia and belonging for profit. I could write that kind of post, but I don’t really want to, because for most of my life I loved Christmas. Some of my favorite childhood memories were going to my grandparents’ house, enjoying a hearty home-cooked meal with loved ones, and opening presents first thing in the morning as Christmas carols hummed quietly on their antique radio. I genuinely appreciate the spirit of the holidays – that feeling of coming together, giving gifts to people you care about, and appreciating what you have in life. It’s a beautiful thing, and we need more of it in this day and age.

But I’m queer, and that complicates things. My family doesn’t accept me. When I came out as transgender back in 2015, they told me that I shouldn’t come over for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore. Apparently, me being there would make my grandmother cry and my uncle fly into an uncontrollable rage. I had known these people my entire life, and all of a sudden they didn’t want anything to do with me unless I continued to present as male. So I was faced with an incredibly unfair choice: pretend to be someone I’m not and hope that maybe my family will treat me as an actual human being again, or stick to my guns and lose my family in the process. I chose the latter.

It hasn’t been all bad for me, though. My mother and my cousins (who are closer to my age) still accept me, and I’ve been able to spend some holidays with them or with some of my similarly estranged LGBTQ friends. Traveling is easier, and there are a lot fewer exhausting political arguments at the dinner table. But still, when all my friends end up going home for the holidays to see their families, or when I see all those commercials and holiday specials about people having the time of their life with their loved ones, it makes me feel lonely, because I will never get to experience that with my own family ever again.

This is doubly complicated for me, though, because my grandfather died on New Years Day, 2014. He was admitted to the hospital on December 26th due to a heart attack, and barely survived into the new year before passing at the ripe old age of 88. My feelings about my grandfather are… complicated, and probably warrant another blog post entirely, but it sucks to have a day where everybody is supposed to be happy and celebrating be a reminder of one of the most tragic events in my life. Most of the time I don’t even go out for New Years anymore.

Even with all of this, the holidays can be stressful and depressing regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity. Shopping for gifts is expensive, time-consuming, and a perfect recipe for social overload. As an atheist, the forced religiosity is stifling. Seemingly every store and coffee shop in America switches on a playlist of the same 10 songs repeated for 2 months straight, and let’s be honest, most of those songs are terrible. If you work in retail, your life is an absolute nightmare for 2 months, minimum. Oh, and if you complain about any of this, even a little bit, people call you a Grinch.

I hate being this down on the holidays, which many people associate with love, peace, and happiness. But between struggles with family, financial issues, and being bombarded with unrealistically saccharine images of what holidays are supposed to be like, I find this season to be incredibly depressing. I’m not sure what the solution to this is – I’ve tried to practice self-care and spend time with friends and chosen family, but it’s hard not to be overwhelmed when everything in our society is telling you to be happy this time of year and you just feel miserable.

Can’t they at least wait until December to start all of this shit?

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