While Thanksgiving and Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year for some, for many queer and trans folks, it is anything but. From navigating conversations about your identity, to the intentional jabs certain homophobic uncles often make at your expense, prioritizing wellness over family ties might be the way to go. The great Audre Lorde tells us that self care is in fact an act of political warfare, and for that, sometimes someone might get a little hurt if you decide to center your needs first.
So how do you decide to stay or go, So what does self care look like? It’s about giving yourself agency in where you put your energy. It’s about how you choose to protect your physical, emotional and mental health. It’s about asking yourself, “do I have the capacity to take on this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, having conversations I may not truly want to have?”
Here’s where you can start:
If You Want To Go
If you think you want to make an appearance this year, have what I like to call a “self care plan.” Said plan can be as simple or as detailed as you need it.
Think about starting a text thread with other queer friends so that you can message them for encouragement or to vent throughout the day. Another method: looking for opportunities to dodge that one problematic family member that you may not have the energy to entertain. Ask when that family member might arrive so that you know when it might be time to leave before they arrive. Remember, your plan should center you and the things you find vital to your existence as a LGBTQ individual in your family’s presence.
As you begin to detail this plan, remind yourself that self efficacy and practicing self care begins with knowing and understanding your own limits start and others’ end. Having real conversations with yourself about the ways you are feeling in the presence of family starts with you asking: Do you feel safe around them?
It also means asking yourself what you plan to do if you begin to feel unsafe.
This can also mean asking yourself what you do and don’t want to open up to them about. While it seems that the holidays are usually the only time that family is interested in understanding both gender presentation and sexual preference, you have the right to shut down the conversation. If you decide you are comfortable having a tough conversations with your family on this day and making it a teachable moment, fantastic. But remember that self care is about you and you only, so feel free to give them the gift of a free Google search.
If You Don’t Want To Go
Having a self care plan can also be as simple as you opting out of visiting your family and staying home to protect your queer energy and its power. Yes, some of your family might try to guilt trip you into coming or gaslight you into blaming yourself for ruining the festivities. However, know that you are not the keeper of their joy and you have every right to stay home*.
As our queen Oprah says, “No” is a full and complete sentence and does not need an explanation, especially if they aren’t helping pay for you to get there. But even if they are offering to pay for your travel, that doesn’t mean you owe them your attendance.
While centering your emotional and mental wellness during the holidays can often be extremely difficult, taking time to acknowledge your own well being is something we as queer people don’t do enough.
Self care is about knowing the difference between when you have affection to give and when you don’t. It is about giving that affection back to yourself instead of giving it to those who won’t return it, who often don’t give it to you in return.
Whether you decide stay home and protect your queer magic or walk into the party in full glitter eyeshadow, you deserve to enjoy the holiday season just like anyone else in your family. It also means that you have full autonomy to protect what little bit of peace that you have. The last thing you should have to do is fight in a space where love should reign supreme.