Gay at Christmas: How to Cope when Family Rejects you

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Christmas is meant to be a time of love and joy with family, but it can be tough when your own family rejects you for being true to yourself.  During the holiday season, we’re inundated with images of happy, traditional families, which can make you feel like a failure if your Christmas doesn’t match that ideal. But many LGBTQ+ individuals have no choice but to spend Christmas with families who don’t accept them. Research indicates that one in four gay people will experience hurtful comments from a family member over Christmas, and this rises to one in three for trans people.

Despite living in the 21st century, some families still prioritize hatred over their own LGBTQ+ relatives, whether they’re a son, daughter, brother, or sister, and this situation can be incredibly distressing.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to spoil Christmas and mean you can’t have fun. Here are some simple tips on how to make the most of the festive season when your family isn’t making it easy:

Take a Break When Needed

Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where confronting bad behaviour or tough conversations seems daunting. In such cases, it’s perfectly okay to simply step away. If you feel comfortable doing so, speak up, but remember that it’s also fine to excuse yourself from stressful or upsetting situations. Head to the bathroom for a brief moment, take a short walk around the block, offer to help refresh drinks, or run a quick errand to the store. You can even simply express that you’re tired or not feeling well and retreat to a quiet space. If things become unsafe or overwhelming, don’t hesitate to leave. Your physical and mental well-being should always come first.

Prioritize Self-Care

Dealing with difficult or unsupportive family members can be emotionally and physically draining, so it’s crucial to be kind to yourself. Take care of your physical and mental health by maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough rest, and engaging in regular exercise. These practices will help you handle the stress that comes with challenging family situations and enable you to be your best self around them. Make time for activities you enjoy, whether it’s watching your favourite TV show, reading a good book, attending a yoga class, or playing the guitar. Engaging in such activities can help you recharge, reduce stress, and boost your mood.

Consider practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation, journaling, or taking a soothing bath to reduce stress and stay grounded in the present moment. While it may be tempting to use alcohol or recreational drugs to relax around family, be mindful of their potential negative effects. Alcohol can worsen anxiety and depression, while recreational drugs can harm your physical and mental health, as well as hinder effective communication with family members.

Establish Boundaries and Plan Ahead

While you can’t control your family’s behaviour, you can anticipate potential triggers. Identify topics or individuals that tend to upset you the most and plan ahead. Set clear boundaries about which subjects you’re willing to discuss and prepare responses for potential confrontations. Talk to friends beforehand for strategies to change the subject or politely decline certain conversations.

Have a backup plan in case things go south, such as access to transportation or nearby accommodations if you need to leave abruptly. Consider coping mechanisms, like breathing exercises or texting a friend when things get overwhelming. It can also be helpful to determine in advance how much time you’re willing to spend with your family. Set specific departure times or opt for shorter visits instead of extended ones. Staying with a friend or booking a hotel can provide additional personal space and comfort. Preparing for triggers ahead of time can reduce unnecessary anxiety and stress during family gatherings.

Take Control

Realize that if someone can’t accept you for who you are, they don’t deserve to be part of your life. Instead of feeling rejected, choose to reject those who won’t accept you. By taking this step, you reclaim your power and self-worth. If the entire family is against you, it is okay to skip family Christmas. Make it clear to the family why you are doing so and inform them you will not be putting yourself through the difficult situation anymore.

Create Your Own Family

You can’t choose your blood relatives, but you can surround yourself with supportive friends who love you for who you are. Friends don’t judge you based on who you love or how you identify. While this isn’t a solution limited to Christmas, nurturing these friendships throughout the year will ensure you have a loving support system when the holiday season arrives.

Focus on What You Have

It’s difficult, especially when your own parents reject you, but remember there are many things in your life to be thankful for. Even if it’s just having a roof over your head and electricity, cherish what you do have. What you concentrate on grows in importance, so fill your thoughts with positive aspects of your life to prevent negativity from taking hold.